El Rey Toronto: Mexican Mezcal Bar and Restaurant in Kensington Market

El Rey Toronto is ranked as one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city. The popular Mexican bar and restaurant in Kensington Market offers the largest Mezcal collection in Toronto.

The intimate bar at El Rey Toronto.
The intimate bar at El Rey Toronto.

El Rey Toronto

Remember that weekend back in August when the entire city of Toronto crushed through a heat wave? Folks waddling down Yonge Street like dehydrated ducks. Steam bursting off hot skillet fired pavement. Lord knows riding the subway must have felt like sweating helplessly in a crammed Russian sauna.

I spent days locked up at home working away, loitering in air conditioned luxury. One eventually gets stir crazy under these oppressive conditions so decided to pair the city’s hot sticky weather with a Mexican inspired feast at Chef Grant van Gameren’s newest spot to sip and nibble, El Rey Mezcal Bar in Kensington Market.

While perched on a stool overlooking the patio I gently held an ice cold margarita to my forehead as a bead of sweat ran from my eyebrows to the tip of my nose. My companion that evening was Dwayne Evens, a longtime friend of Chef van Gameren who first met each other during the early days of The Black Hoof.

The duo developed a fond friendship over their appreciation for organic farming. Over the years they would spend time working in Dwayne’s garden, foraging mushrooms, harvesting milkweeds and fiddleheads and tapping maple trees.

Today, Dwayne acts as van Gameren’s go to real estate guy, having recently assisted in the creation of Bar Raval and Rosalinda.

El Rey in Kensington Market

So why move into Kensington Market? Dwayne has lived in the eclectic hippy hood for 14 years and had been eyeing the El Rey patio location for many years.

On suggesting the location to van Gameren, “As most places in Toronto are long and narrow, restaurants and other businesses are limited in the type of layout they can have, but the facade here was the length of a corner building, providing a long, wide patio welcoming pedestrians from Dundas west and south down Kensington Ave.”

Mezcal muddled cocktails at El Rey Toronto's Mexican bar.
Mezcal muddled cocktails at El Rey Toronto’s Mexican bar.

The Bar at El Rey Toronto

Celebrated cocktail creator Owen Walker manages the El Rey bar program. The drinks menu features an evolving lineup of mezcal bottles, categorized by species and annotated with places of origin and tasting notes typical of their terroir.

If you’re not a spirit fan fret not! El Rey’s bar also offers a collection of local craft beer, Mexican brews, bottles of cider and imported Spanish wines.

El Rey Mezcal Menu

  • Agua Santa, Espandin
  • Bosscal, Durangensis
  • Marca Negra, Espandin
  • Los Siete Misterios, Arroqueno
  • Los Siete Misterios, Mexicano
  • Marca Negra, Dobadan
  • Alipus, Ensamble
  • Marca Negra, Tobala

El Rey Toronto Cocktails

  • Open Windows: tequila, mezcal, lime, pineapple, chili
  • El Nito: fino, mezcal, lime, pamplemousse, lime leaf, habanaro
  • Suspicious Minds: rum, cacao, campari, banana, lemon, cozy cordial
  • El Rey Paloma: blanco tequila, grapefruit, phonezone, peychauds
  • Margarita: tequila, cointreau, lime, salt
  • El Diablo: reposado, mezcal, ginger, cassis
  • Rosita: reposado, vermouth, campari, angostura
  • Oaxaca Old Fashioned: tequila, mezcal, orange, mole
Fritos con Salsa at El Rey Toronto.
Fritos con Salsa at El Rey Toronto.

El Rey Toronto Menu 

At El Rey you’ll find Julio Guajardo and Kate Chomyshyn running the kitchen. Fans of the Mexican feast will find happiness in Julio and Kate’s collection of bar snacks inspired by the culinary traditions of Oaxaca.

The duo met in 2003 at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Ottawa and in 2004 moved to Montreal to further their careers. Working around the city at spots like Tuck Shop, Comptoir and Le St. Urbain allowed Julio and Kate to hone their skills.

They soon recognized there was a lack of representation for Mexican cuisine and in 2011 founded LA CaTRINA, a paleta company inspired by the popsicles of Julio’s childhood. Julio and Kate travel regularly to Mexico, continuing to research and learn about the country’s varied regional cuisine.

Wild Mushrooms & Cheese Empanada at El Rey Toronto.
Wild Mushrooms & Cheese Empanada at El Rey Toronto.

EL Rey Toronto Snacks

  • Guacamole and Chips: garbanzillo, pickled cucumber, crispy chickpea
  • Marinated Cucumbers: arbol salsa, guajillo
  • Shishitos: macha salsa, chapulines, peanut
  • Empanada: rajas polblanas, queso, burnt onion crema
  • Chayita: masa dumpling, morita salsa, requeson, poblano pico de gallo
Nordic Shrimp Ceviche with jicama, cucumber, leche de tigre avocado puree.
Nordic Shrimp Ceviche with jicama, cucumber, leche de tigre avocado puree.

EL Rey Toronto Tacos

  • Beef Brisket: ancho adobo, crema, peanut
  • Al Pastor: grilled pork, pineapple relish
  • Crispy Squid: tamarind, coconut, slaw
  • Sinaloa Chicken: avocado, crispy onion, chipotle-tomatillo salsa
  • Chiles en Nogada: poblano, cauliflower, pomegranate, salsa nogada
Boca Negra with oaxacan chocolate, strawberry mezcal foam and toasted candied pumpkin seeds.
Boca Negra with oaxacan chocolate, strawberry mezcal foam and toasted candied pumpkin seeds.

El Rey Toronto Hours

Sunday and Monday: 3pm-12am

Tuesday to Friday: 5pm-2am

Saturday: 3pm-2am

El Rey Toronto Reservations

2a Kensington Avenue

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