El Rey Toronto: Mexican Bar Serves Brunch 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 Toronto 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 Street west and south down Kensington Avenue”

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.

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 

El Rey Toronto first opened its doors in the Spring of 2016, with 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.

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

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Nordic Shrimp Ceviche with jicama, cucumber, leche de tigre avocado puree.
Nordic Shrimp Ceviche with jicama, cucumber, leche de tigre avocado puree.

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 Brunch

El Rey Mezcal Bar launched its first brunch service in October, 2019. The best Mexican brunch in Kensington Market is available Saturdays and Sundays, from noon to 4pm.

El Rey’s Head Chef Rodrigo Aguilar has pulled culinary inspiration from central regions in Mexico like Veracruz, Hidalgo and Michoacán, as well as Yucatán state.

“We’ve been a part of this community for over three years and with the consistent weekend crowds in Kensington and the positive feedback from our guests, it was a natural transition for us to extend our offering to brunch,” said Aguilar. “Building this new menu gave me the chance to approach my cooking from a different angle and showcase more of the flavours and techniques of Mexico that I love,” says Chef Aguilar.

El Rey offers the best Mexican brunch in Toronto's Kensington Market.
El Rey offers the best Mexican brunch in Toronto’s Kensington Market.

El Rey Toronto Brunch Menu

Chef Aguilar’s mix of traditional and modern Mexican brunch dishes includes Sopa de Tortilla, Chilaquiles and Caballero Pobre, a fried brioche bread served with ice cream buñuelo crisp, strawberries, and cocoa nibs.

The majority of the dishes on El Rey’s brunch menu are available as vegetarian or vegan options. Toronto brunch lovers can also enjoy Mexican-inspired cocktails such as classic tequila muddled Paloma, Michelada and Batanga.

  • Sopa de Tortilla: guajillo chicken soup, tortilla crisps,pico de gallo, jocoque, queso fresco, avocado
  • Huevos Cazuela: scrambled eggs, carne seca, sofrito, charred jalapeño sauce, tostada
  • Enchiladas: crispy chicken tacos, creamy morita sauce, queso chihuahua, jocoque, pico de gallo, avocado
  • Chilaquiles: totopos, charred tomatillo sauce, avocado, jocoque, queso fresco, pico de gallo, fried egg
  • Tacos de Aporreadillo: scrambled eggs, carne seca, aporreadillo adobo, refried beans, chihuahua cheese, avocado, roasted morita salsa
  • Tamal Oaxaqueno: chicken filled banana leaf wrapped masa cake, mole sauce, jocoque, queso fresco, pico de gallo.
  • Coctel de Frutas: cantaloupe, watermelon, banana, strawberries, jocoque and hibiscus yogurt, granola
  • Caballero Pobre: fried brioche bread, tres leche, rompope soft serve ice-cream, buñuelo crisp, strawberries, cocoa nibs

El Rey Mezcal Bar

Address: 2a Kensington Avenue Toronto, Ontario M5T 2J7

Website:

  • Opening Hours:

Price Range: $$

Cuisine: Mexican

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