Any excuse to make my way over to Kensington Market is a happy one, so it was with pleasure that my sister and I ventured forth yet again to taste what the City of Toronto has to offer for Latin American food. I guess she's my #1 lady to taste these flavourful foods with, being the closest thing to an expert I have on hand.
Recently opened at 160 Baldwin street (on the west side of the river-like divide of Spadina), is Hot Beans, an all-vegan taco place place. No website yet! This little hole in the wall is easy to find with a nice big sign, but space is tight and I only hope they can put out some chairs and tables in the summer. There's just a corral of a counter with stools running along the upper level, and that was full. Mary and I wound up eating on a bench! No easy feat.
Mary ordered the spicy bean burrito with guac, her favourite anywhere. I was very excited for the tacos, especially the Jackfruit "Pulled Pork" Taco which I had already decided to have. Unfortunately that one was sold out, and instead my eye was drawn against my intent not to a taco, but to one of their specials, a burrito boldly called...
There's just one size for the burritos at Hot Beans, and that is LARGE. They're stuffed to near bursting capacity with filling. The Elvis, may he rest in peace, packed an extra hefty punch, worthy of the name. With generous amounts of starchy fillings like hash browns, tortilla chips, sweet plantain, and crunchy toasted coconut, I needed to be rolled up the stairs afterwards. Yes, I ate it all! It was insanely good, and for me combined some really unique flavours. Peanut miso sauce with coconut and mild banana? Interesting! There was also 'sour cream', which is actually made from cashews. I think there should have been more of both sauces considering how dry the fillings were. Even the plantain had a dryness. I'm used to my burritos moist, and kept spooning on dollops of the homemade hot sauce. It boasts a taste that's sweet like chutney, but with a kick in the teeth from habenaro. This was my first time trying tempeh bacon, and I was underwhelmed. It has nothing on the real deal, and while I like a few fake meats, this time I could have done without. It added nothing, really.
That red squiggle is actually the tell tale trace of hot sauce. Mary went for the milder non-habenaro hot sauce. That one isn't house-made, but is still good, packing a softer citrus-chipotle kick. A bit more predictable! All the regular roster of burritos come filled with garlic-annatto rice (google tells me that annatto is a seed from the Americas used to add natural yellow colouring, and a hint of flavour), pico de gallo, lettuce, "sour cream" and cilantro-jalepeno salsa. The Bean is, of course, the most basic of burritos. At Hot Beans they seem to really like putting plantains in things, and they're present in this big roll along with a hefty spoonful of brown beans. I like black beans for colour and flavour, but I had a few bites of Mary's lunch, and was not unhappy. I feel like maybe Hot Beans doesn't do the most 'authentic' burritos, but I've never been a stickler for authenticity- we're in Toronto. Let's explore hybridization in foods! What I really like about this burrito is the almost tropical undertone, something that reminded me of curry. Maybe it was the cilantro?
These deserts won't set you very far back! Even though they're in line with the large portions that are the trend we've seen from the burritos at Hot Beans, the lime coconut doughnut and peanut butter chocolate cookie only came to 2$ a pop. Hot Beans is already getting some decent buzz online, and I think it's largely fuelled by their original doughnut. Homemade from dough to dip, the thing is unique in Toronto. I found the dough dense and chewy, like good fresh bread but sweeter. Personally lime and dough makes a disconnect for me, so this wasn't my favourite. I can appreciate the experimentation a lot since I love a bold chef. The cookie is vegan too, of course, so it doesn't have the texture of a traditional cookie. I find it was more suitable to my palate. It's powdery, dense like dried out peanut butter, but is so satisfying somehow with bursts of dark chocolate. It's very crumbly, but Mary and I eat every crumb. She says what I'm feeling: "I will come here just for the cookies".
You can almost fool yourself into thinking they're healthy, too.
After this visit I know I'll be back to try Hot Beans signature tacos...and I'll make sure to have someone to split them with!