Not only is Toronto ready to welcome the athletes and sports fans of the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, but the multicultural melting pot that is our fine city ensures visitors from across the Americas and the Caribbean will find a taste of home.
Sink your teeth into the following restaurants, just a few of the many dining options perfectly poised to celebrate the culinary traditions of the visiting nations. For Canadiana-themed dining, check out our recent Dine Canadian story:
The Place: Copacabana, a Brazilian steakhouse, offers two Toronto locations including its three-storey Adelaide St. West site offering high-energy samba floor shows and aerialists performing in the mezzanine space between the main dining room and the top-level Beach Bar cocktail lounge. The sleekly designed interior exudes a clubby vibe. In warm weather, floor-to-ceiling windows open for a large covered balcony feeling. Food service is rodizio style, Brazil’s take on fixed price all-you-can-eat dining to encourage sampling of the 15 grilled meats on offer. The lower level eatery is all about Brazilian seafood. During the Games, the Beach Bar’s multitude of big screens will be tuned into Brazilian competition.
Culinary Signatures: Brazilian cheese bread and deep-fried bananas followed by Picanha Brazil, steak grilled over an open fire pit and sliced from skewers table-side. Caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail.
Capacity: Full venue buy-out for 350 seated with private capacity for 115 and 150 on the top and main levels respectively.
Pan Am Fact: In 2007, Brazil became the first country to stage the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games together. The 2015 Games will qualify athletes in more than 15 sports for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The Place: Located on an upper level, Los Colibris, meaning “the hummingbirds,” takes Mexican cuisine upscale in a gorgeous space where white linen service and elegant, decorative flourishes rule. Executive Chef Elia Herrera gives a polished twist to recipes handed down through generations of her Mexican family. Sister restaurant El Caballito is located on the main level offering a fun, casual atmosphere. Its street-level patio’s bar is tucked inside a shipping container and a food truck setup serves Mexican street food and snacks. The Mexican consulate and other groups have approached Los Colibris for event hosting during the Games.
Culinary Signatures:: Rajas Pablanos, chicken, corn and poblano pepper in a flour or corn tortilla, followed by Chiles en Nogada, poblano pepper stuffed with pork piccadillo, walnut sauce, poblano rice and seasonal vegetables. The La Palabra cocktail is a specialty, with blanco tequila, Aperol, lime juice, absinthe and thyme sprig.
Capacity: Los Colibris seats 150 plus has two private dining rooms seating 12 and 50. El Caballito seats 75 inside and 85 on the patio.
Pan Am Fact: Mexico City hosted the inaugural Parapan Am Games in 1999 and has been a three-time host of the Pan Am Games, a feat equalled only by Canada and Argentina.
The Place: Authentic Argentinian grill house Branca grills succulent meat over an open-coal kitchen barbecue or cooks sides whole on a spit in an al asador-style fire hut out back. A converted house in the up-and-coming Brockton Village neighbourhood of Dundas West, the resto is both homey and chic. Recessed lighting bathes the dropped ceiling and restaurant’s exposed brick in a golden glow. Food plating is complemented by rustic wood serving boards and traditional stoneware.
Culinary Signatures: Empanadas filled with corn, roasted poblano, gruyere and fontina and morcilla (blood sausage) to start. Follow with the Asado de Tira entrée, beef short ribs prepared in the traditional el asador style over live fire. A Pisco sour, pisco, fresh lime, egg white and aromatic bitters, is the must-try cocktail.
Capacity: Dining room seats 40 with full venue buy out. The patio seats 50 and is licensed for 100 for reception-style events.
Pan Am Fact: In 1951, Buenos Aires hosted the first Pan Am Games plus, in 1990, hosted the only winter Games ever held.
From Haiti With Love
The Place: Situated in the St. Clair West and Christie area, La Créole celebrates Haitian culture with a fusion of French Caribbean, creole and national cooking. The owners also operate Manje Kreyol Catering. A graceful gauze-draped ceiling with drop chandeliers makes for a romantically pretty room with back-of-house booths. Furnishings are easily reconfigured for reception-style or additional space. A small stage is home to live Haitian-style performances such as Creole jazz and kompa, Haiti’s national music. Plans are underway to host a Pan Am Games event.
Culinary Signatures: Marinad which are savoury beignets with spicy pickled slaw, and Akkra Neg Marron, a crunchy black-eye pea fritter. Mains include Le Griyo, seasoned, braised pork shoulder, and Pwasson La Creole, seasoned whole fried snapper. Go for the Le Zouk cocktail with dark rum, vanilla liqueur, passion fruit and fresh mint.
Capacity: Seating 75 for full buy out. A private section in back easily converts into a private lounge.
Pan Am Fact: Haiti has participated in every Pan Am Games since the event began, and is heading into the 2015 Games with hopes of winning its first gold medal.
A Taste of Peru
The Place: An Annex-University of Toronto dining mainstay for over 20 years, The Boulevard Café specializes in Peruvian cuisine, a mix of African, Spanish and Incan flavours. Terra cotta, gold and colourful artwork wash the interior of the charming two-level resto for a warm, vibrant aesthetic. The second-level offers alcove nooks and a fireplace. The street-level side patio, with its striped canopy, painted wall mural and overflowing flower baskets, is lovely.
Culinary Signatures: Croquetas de Cangrejo, grilled crab croquettes in tangy lemon and dill sauce. For the entrée, Parihuela, a spicy seafood stew with monkfish, clams, mussels, tomatoes, cilantro and wine. Try the Passion Tropical cocktail with gin, passion fruit juice and Cointreau.
Capacity: Seating 36 on the main floor, 42 up top and 60 on the patio.
Pan Am Fact: Lima, Peru is set to host the 2019 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.
The Place: The Real Jerk has been a part of Toronto’s dining scene since 1984 with a huge fan base following its move over the years from one location to another. Today the restaurant’s Carlaw and Gerrard St. home continues to be a magnet for Jamaican food lovers. A smaller Beaches location opened last year. Reggae music and emblematic red, yellow and green colours ensure a lively, true irie-like party atmosphere fuelled even further by a bar stocked with over 70 varieties of Caribbean and South American rum. Semi-private areas and a large private dining table for 12 accommodate groups. The owners are working on licensing the parking lot for steel pan music and television viewing during the Games.
Culinary Signatures: Begin with cod fish fritters and jerk shrimp, then order up jerk chicken or pork accompanied by rice and peas. Rum punch is the must-have cocktail.
Capacity: Seating 140 including a bar area that packs in 50. The Beaches location seats 40. Full buy outs available.
Pan Am Fact: Jamaica, and its Caribbean neighbours, not only have a large local community but are the teams to reckon with during the Game’s track and field competitions.