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You might not expect to find Chilean street food in Kensington Market, but Jumbo Empanadas (245 Augusta Ave.) serves it up quickly, piping hot and of course, in sizes larger than you’d expect. The jumbo-sized empanadas come in beef, vegetable or chicken ($3.99). We opted for the latter which was filled with flaky chicken, onions, peppers, an olive and part of a hard-boiled egg.

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Also on the menu are Humitas, Corn Pie and a fresh Chilean Salad ($4.50) made of lettuce, tomato, avocado, broccoli topped with an olive oil and cilantro dressing. The restaurant’s vibe is very laid-back and the staff is always pleasant and helpful. Long lines to place your order can form at peak hours, but everyone is patient since they know the food is worth the wait.

There are two particular things on the menu at Jumbo Empanada that keep us coming back again and again. The cheese empanada is a soft, baked shell filled with oozing melted cheese. And their homemade salsa is bursting with freshness, fairly spicy and totally addictive. We order a container to-go every time we walk by (small $3, medium $5, large $7). We absolutely guarantee you’ll never eat jarred salsa again.

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A hot, lazy Saturday afternoon in Manhattan brought me to Shake Shack, an all-American snack bar located in the lush picturesque Madison Square Park on 5th Avenue. Open since 2004, New Yorkers and tourists alike are lured by the mouth-watering menu featuring delicious burgers, Chicago hot dogs and cheese fries. For all you vegetarians, the ‘Shroom Burger ($6.50, shown above) is to die for. A crispy, fried portobello patty filled with melted muenster and cheddar cheese, topped with lettuce, tomato and Shack sauce on a griddled potato bun.

This can only be complimented with one of Shake Shacks creamy frozen custard milkshakes (described as “what happens when soft serve shacks up with premium ice cream”). Try strawberry or better yet, if you’re visiting New York, opt for the black and white flavour. The Shack even caters to four-footed friends with the Pooch-Ini, a chilly vanilla custard with a peanut butter biscuit topping.

As warmer days become longer, so do the lineups. Be prepared to wait… and wait…and wait, possibly an hour or more. It’s important to go with friends, it’ll help pass the time, or better yet check out the Shack Cam. A live look at what you’ll be up against. Seating is limited and a bird actually missed pooping on my burger but ask me if I would do it again and the answer would be “Hells Yes!”

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Here at Plato Putas, we strive to tell you about unforgettably good food, memorable eating adventures and worthwhile cuisine experiences we think are worth trying, or at least oogling at. Ideally our posts rank high on these three criteria.

Unfortunately, this post barely measures up to one. Brunch at Frank, the new restaurant at the Art Gallery of Ontario, was extremely disappointing. Don’t get us wrong, the AGO itself is a marvelous gallery with an impressive contemporary art collection and the Galleria Italia space is so stunning it literally left me speechless. But Frank was overpriced, utterly forgettable and worst of all, the food was bland.

I decided to take one of the parentals out for brunch, which is served on weekends from 11 am-3 pm. We shared two appetizers: house-cut frites served with lemon mayo and quince ketchup ($5) and arctic char gravlax ($14) topped with beets. The fries were more soggy than cripsy and the char was almost completely void of taste. Our main consisted of seafood pot pie served with a side of apple, fennel, snow pea slaw and fresh pea shoots ($22).

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The pot pie was disheartening because it contained mostly potatoes and leeks in a cream sauce, with the odd piece of cod and two tiny shrimps. Supposedly there were scallops in there too, but I don’t remember finding a single one. The dish also needed some serious salt, and frankly, it looked like baby food slotted between layers of phyllo pastry. Nothing makes us more upset than paying for a meal that looks like we could have regurgitated it for free.

Kids, the take-home lesson today is walk into Frank and check out the really cool Frank Gehry designed space and transparent floor-to-ceiling wine shelves. Then walk right back out, head left and go into the main entrance of the AGO, which is the main attraction. We hope this is the only time we have to say this; don’t let the food distract you.

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I’d like to think it’s only a matter of time before Trader Joe’s follows in the footsteps of Whole Foods and opens its doors in the great white north. But chances are this privately owned company is staying local for the time being. So as a temporary American resident, I’ll continue to reap the benefits and enjoy the food this “neighborhood grocery store” has to offer.

My latest Trader Joe’s obsession is the Edamame Hummus ($2.49) recommended by a cashier — a fresh alternative to the traditional chickpea staple. It has a wonderfully smooth, creamy texture and the burst of green is so much more visually appealing than boring beige. Feeling the onset of a snack attack? Pair it with the Veggie & Flaxseed Tortilla Chips ($2.39) which contain chips made of carrot & tomato, spinach & garlic and red beet & onion.

If Trader Joe’s products don’t suit your fancy, you can always get your money back with their hassle-free guarantee. No receipt or product required! I didn’t think it was possible to be so passionate about a grocery store. Romance is still alive everyone.

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Stepping out of a streetcar at Gerrard and Coxwell makes you feel like you’ve been transported to the colourful streets of Mumbai, minus having to dodge stray cows, walls of people and the blistering heat. Little India in Toronto is a special place. Shop for 24-karat gold, haggle for silks and saris or just dive into the vast assortment of cuisines. One of my favourite places to visit is Udupi Palace (1460 Gerrard St. East) known for its authentic South Indian food. The restaurant may look like a basement banquet hall complete with fluorescent lighting and stackable chairs, but no one goes for the ambiance. The staff is extremely friendly and the vibe exudes casual eating at its finest and most importantly, cheapest.

Udupi offers 15 varieties of dosas, ranging from $5 to $10. What’s a dosa you ask? Well, it’s a crepe made from either fermented rice or lentil paste. Attention gluten sufferers—this place is calling your name. The batter is ladled onto a greased pan and once cooked, is stuffed with vegetables or meat and rolled up into an impressively large crispy cylindrical or cone shape. Dosas are served with numerous side dishes including sambhar (peppery lentil stew), chunteys (mostly coconut) and Indian pickles to name a few.

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While at Udupi, be sure to save room and order the Chana Batura. The spicy chickpeas have a masala kick and the deep fried rotis, also known as pooris, are guaranteed to be fresh and fluffy. It’s like eating a cloud for the price of pennies. Heavenly!

Udupi Palace / 1460 Gerrard St. East, Toronto
416 405 8189 / Sun-Thurs 12-10, Fri & Sat 12-11