A guide to fantastic Filipino fare
A foodie trip to Bathurst and Wilson, T.O.’s official Little Manila
The Filipino slice of T. O.’s diverse, multi-ethnic population is one of the city’s largest. According to 2011 census data, the category for Tagalog and other Filipino languages is ranked fifth among mother tongues in Toronto, with over 37,000 who speak it at home.
Understandably, such a large community is spread across the city with pockets of FilipinoCanadians in Mississauga, Scarborough and downtown. In 2015, the City of Toronto granted the Bathurst and Wilson area the official nod as our Little Manila.
Among the concentration of Filipino businesses in the area, especially the stretch on the north side of Wilson, west of Bathurst, this is one of the easiest places to crawl through a representative spectrum of Filipino food.
Here’s our guide to what to eat in Little Manila.
DA BEST FILIPINO BAKERY
The boastful name is a sharp contrast with Da Best’s modest interior and selection of comforting, homestyle pastries. Spanish bread, with doughy white exterior and butter-andsugar filling, best epitomizes this simple idea (and is even better if you get it to go and warm it up at home). The hopia ube with a purple yam interior is flashier but just as comforting. 365 Wilson
The outdoor grilling station in front of their neighbour, Cusina Lounge, is a mouth-watering preview for Jollytops. Pork in adobo sauce is one of several bright spots from the steam table here. Friendly staff are happy to make recommendations to help pare down the large selection. The absolutely massive spring rolls are also a highlight. 288
Wilson Ave., 416-633-9233
Named after the national flower of the Philippines, this spot has a busy, convivial interior that feels more like a decades- old community hall than an eatery. Despite the clubhouse atmosphere, the staff is welcoming and friendly with newcomers.
Every restaurant should copy one idea from SV’s playbook: two of their specialties, the pancit Sampaguita and fried chicken, are both available in a smaller size so that sampling a variety is less of a task. The former is a rich, satisfying, kitchen sink–style take on a stir-fried dish that includes both glass vermicelli and yellow Shanghai-style noodles plus a hodgepodge of shrimp, a trio of meats (chicken, pork and beef ) and vegetables. Meanwhile, the duo of sauces — one sour and spicy, the other sweet and umami-laden — is the chicken’s strongest feature. 322 Wilson Ave.
This northern outpost of FV Foods, a Canadian–Filipino mini chain, possesses a large counter of hot food options with a roster of staples in addition to daily specialties. Monday, for example, will always see pork menudo being dished out: a comforting dish of pork and liver stew in tomato sauce. Spring rolls and fried banana will sate the less adventurous eater.
However, the wide array of imported Filipino products and sweet baked goods is where FV really shines. Leche puto, a light, rice- based flan with a sweet topping, is a specialty. The pichipichi, or sticky rice cakes are multi-coloured eye candy, and the maja mais has a sweet custard studded with summery corn kernels. 280 Wilson Ave., 416638-2700
Clockwise from left: FV’s spring rolls and fried banana, their pichi-pichi, Da Best’s hopia ube