It was great while it lasted. For three years, Valdez brought a killer vibe, great patio scene, and of course delicious Latino street food to Toronto's King Street West. But recently, the restaurant that was the dream of Chef Steven Gonzalez was forced to close its doors. The slice of King at Portland that they occupied was slated for redevelopment. They do say that all good things must come to an end though, don't they?
Pretty sure they also say "onwards and upwards." Not content to permanently shut down the Latino Street Party that he had started in (let's face it) what is now Toronto's entertainment district, Gonzalez has a new plan. It starts by taking the party, on the road with a new food trailer dishing out delicious at key destinations like Toronto Taste, Cheese Boutique, The Stop's Night Market, and The Neighbourhood Festival by Luminato. You can be sure that Steven has other great stops lined up this summer, and you can follow the adventure at #GonzalezOnTour on Twitter . It's been a very different experience being on the road instead of a permanent kitchen, but all of it is part of building something new, and is being taken in stride.
Lemons, meet lemonade. Of course, this moveable feast is just an appetizer for what is on the way. I had the pleasure of encountering #GonzalezOnTour recently, just as he was on the verge of announcing what else was on the way. We gathered around the trailer to sample some of the great eats that the chef known as @Latino5Spice is known for. Salva Trucha (trout ceviche with avocado, coconut puree, pineapple and cilantro), Chaufa (duck confit, fried rice, edamame and tobiko), and churros with dulce de leche. Oh, and there was also the Andean Trail Mix for the ultimate protein snack (corn, spicy crickets, spiced amaranth). I thought I had eaten a dried chilli pepper of some sort when someone informed me that I had eaten a cricket. Which I wouldn't have knowingly done, but now I can say quite honestly that spicy crickets just taste....spicy. And are every bit as crispy as you would think, but in a good way.
Then, the news was dropped: the Latino Street Party will soon return to King Street West in an even bigger way. Get ready to welcome Baro to Toronto. Derived from the Latin American slang word for “barrio” (meaning neighbourhood), Baro will the new home of Executive Chef Steve Gonzalez at 485 King Street West. Spanning the dynamic cuisines of South America - Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil - this new venue will pick up where Valdez left off, but at the same time will be a departure:
Baro is where traditional latin culture and cuisine is reimagined with distinct modern flair, and becomes something entirely its own. Toronto has never seen anything like this.... showcasing a more refined menu, larger cocktail program, private loft event space and more! Baro will also feature a second floor lounge with a raw bar and a secret path to the much loved Escobar, a 2,200 sq. ft. loft event space for private and corporate events of all kinds and will eventually house a huge All-Season outdoor Terraza inspired by “Asado” - the legendary barbeque and rotisserie cuisine from Uruguay!
By bringing even more Latin American food to Toronto (which is precisely what he tells me our city needs more of), Chef Gonzalez invites you to #AwakenYourInnerLatino. If you want to keep track of what is happening with Baro, follow #BaroToronto and be sure to sign up to get an invite to the opening weekend.
- Photography by Jeffrey Chan, courtesy of Baro