Exploring the Toronto Underground Market

[T]rying to find the Toronto Underground Market (TUM), tucked away in the stunning Don Valley Brick Works Park, was like trying to stumble upon a secret society.

Entering the concealed Evergreen Brick Works building down the slopes of the park, the line was quite large for an event only celebrating its first birthday. Surprisingly, for such a large celebration of food cooked by professional home cooks and budding entrepreneurs, there is hardly any information to be found on this recurring event. Some people may be turned off by the lack of blog posts showing off drool-worthy photos and delicious-sounding descriptions, but like a secret society, TUM left everything to the imagination.

This tactic seemed to pay off, as the crowd was delighted to discover all the different vendors all in one place. Normally, these types of small dishes would only be found in food trucks or in the kitchen of an excellent home cook. The atmosphere was highly energetic, as everyone was excited to chow down after waiting up to half an hour in line.

Some of the largest lines were for Rock Lobster Food Co., a lobster-based company out of Midland, Ont. that also has a lobster shack in Kensington market, and Royal Tree Beaver, a self-proclaimed company cooking “Canadian-Canadian” cuisine. At Rock Lobster, the lobster roll was heavenly: the bun was sweet, crispy and warm while the lobster was fresh and the perfect texture to compliment the chewy bread. These, at only $4 each, were selling like hotcakes, especially with the lobster bisque sold out. Speaking of hot cakes, at Royal Tree Beaver, the butter chicken and waffles was the hot item on the menu. After a long wait, the butter chicken was definitely worth it. It was spicy and creamy, and not too sweet, which is a definite determiner of high quality Indian cooking. The waffles soaked up all the velvety-smooth sauce, leaving you with mouth-watering bites of hot spiciness and fluffy waffle.

As for everything else, there was a hot delicious pork bun filled with spices and sweet potato from Redboxx Gourmet, a fantastic piece of cayenne maple bacon candy from Leonard Pig Candy that was too mind-blowing to even describe, free samples of milky sea salt caramels from KEO Confiserie, and some crazy “coffee pop” from Manual Labour Coffee. Apparently, they drip coffee over ice, which removes a lot of the bitterness and adds a natural sweetness. Then, they mix it with sparkling water. Strange, but really refreshing.

With some dessert in hand (s’more, red velvet and oreo brownies with chocolate chip banana bread blondies) and some rock climbing to do, I leave the park feeling special, like I was chosen to be a part of this magical food experience. In reality, I did have to pay online for the tickets. Yet, with a TUM stamp on the inside of my wrist like a stamp from a wild club night, and the scary steep cliffs as initiation, I really did feel like part of an exclusive society.

Their next event is happening Saturday, October 20th.