Balam Toronto

Balam Toronto

Balam is a casual, colourful spot bringing a true taste of Mexico to Bloordale.

Just north of Bloor and Lansdowne, the playful restaurant is inside a converted house — and happens to be serving up homey and comforting flavours. 

Born in Puebla, chef and owner Alberto Hernandez Estrada is no stranger to Mexico's most popular dishes. He learned many of them, he says, growing up to the clatter of his mother and grandmother bustling about the kitchen at home.

Balam Toronto"We are based on traditional Mexican food," he explains. "There's no Tex Mex, no fusion. Everything is done here, by us. We don't buy any sauces or anything. We buy local and make everything."

Apart from imported candies and chilled bottles of Mexican Coke, everything else spied inside Balam Toronto was made by Estrada and his small team. It's an impressive feat, considering the size of the menu and huge variety of offerings.

Though the menu is tweaked twice a year, "to follow the weather," as Estrada explains, it always includes breakfast dishes, appetizers, and fan favourites, from chilaquiles and tortas to tacos, quesadillas, enfrijoladas, and more.Balam Toronto The team also has vegetarian options, made with nopales and vegan chorizo, and — for those with serious yens — sells its homestyle meats in kilo-sized containers, to take home.

Altogether, it's an approach that the community has embraced since the 36-seat restaurant opened, in May of 2022.

As the cooks in his family did before him, Estrada approaches meal prep in an unhurried way. It's a method that, in this modern day and age, can feel old-fashioned but (as abuelitas everywhere know), is the best way to coax maximum flavour from every ingredient.

Balam Toronto Here, daybreak is for shaping buns and patting buttery, vanilla-scented topping into house-made conchas. There's always something bubbling on the stove, and vivid, scratch-made aguas frescas follow the seasons.

With Guac & Chips ($12.50), a cinnamon-laced Horchata ($5.50) is a logical place to start.

Balam Toronto With a hint of lime, a smattering of onions, tomato and jalapeño slices, Estrada's guacamole is both chunky and smooth, with pops of spice to wake up dozy tastebuds.Balam TorontoSlow-cooked in an aromatic stew of dried chilies and spices, beef shank becomes tender and impossibly beefy. Stacked onto Quesabirria Tacos ($16.00), and served with concentrated consommé, it's drippy and savoury; a satisfying mess.

The menu's most popular breakfast dish, Huevos Rancheros ($14.50) is hearty enough to either suffuse diners with energy — or steer them directly to a midday siesta.

Balam Toronto Featuring four fried tortillas layered with sunny-side up eggs, a guajillo-spiked pool of salsa roja, the bite of raw onions, creamy avocado and beans, it offers a heady blend of textures and flavours in every bite.

A solid meal you should face with a strong grip and no hesitation, Pastor Torta ($18.00) takes the best elements of pastor tacos and layers them into a squishy telera bun.

balam torontoEstrada marinates pork shoulder for 24 hours, then grills it to impart smoke and texture. With onion and cheese, cilantro and juicy pineapple, the sandwich hits every flavour note.

balam torontoSoon, says Estrada, the team will open the restaurant's patio, for diners looking to overdose on masa under the sun. As for margaritas? With plans to secure a liquor license, Estrada assures those are also on the horizon.

Balam Toronto Balam Toronto is located at 584 Lansdowne Avenue.

Photos by

Fareen Karim 

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