Warm days around Toronto’s Kensington Market are for enjoying some of the city’s best frozen treats, whether it be a cute ice cream bar or all-natural homemade frozen yogurt topped with tasty sweet garnishes. Vegans rejoice; many of these shops scoop and spin vegan ice cream. Kensington is made for snacking on the go, so stay cool and explore the Market with a treat in hand. [Image credit: iStock.com/AbElena]
Sweet Olenka’s is a family-run business operating its third location out of Kensington on Augusta Avenue. You’ll find desserts, confectionaries and an ice cream shop serving ice cream bars, sandwiches and homemade, creamy scoops. Sweet Olenka’s is notorious for its selection, including vegan flavours like dark chocolate, strawberry and cookies n’ cream. Don’t miss out on the chocolate-dipped treats in flavours like vanilla, salted caramel, chocolate and raspberry, all prepped and ready for the taking. Neighbourhood favorites include the specialty ice cream bars in both the heart-shaped banana and turtle brownie and the silky smooth birthday cake varietals.
Grk Ygrt is Kensington’s top spot for all-natural and homemade frozen yogurt. With a list of combos like the lemon meringue pie (which tops frozen yogurt with lemon curd, graham crumb and meringue cookies), this ain’t no basic fro-yo spot. You can also build your own frozen yogurt with fresh toppings like cookie crumble and trail mix, chocolates and fresh fruit. The space is modern and cute with a colourful set of patterned steps out front and warm counter service.
Toronto’s original vegan and gluten-free bakery hosts its second location in Kensington Market, and they’ve upped their sweet treat game with vegan and gluten-free soft serve. It’s classic machine soft serve, with your choice of chocolate, vanilla or twist. Bunner’s also has a counter service system, making it the perfect grab-and-go spot. The bakery is bright and airy, with pink and white accents keeping it neat but playful. The ice cream itself? It’s the stuff vegans rave about, creamy and light, cool and fluffy, with the perfect price tag, just $3.50 a cone and the option to a-la-mode any of their treats with a generous swirl of soft serve for $2.75.
Cosmic Treats is a vegan restaurant and dessert bar serving up gluttonous twists on comfort food classics. The café is modern and cute with sleek furnishings, orange chairs and banquet seating. Their super creamy, cashew-based vegan ice cream is homemade and a well-kept secret in the market. The Far from Pedestrian Sundae has two scoops of homemade vegan ice cream, your choice of sauce and toppings and is finished with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. Other specialties include the banana split and the cupcake sundae. You’ll find a ton of the frozen dessert variety here; on top of ice cream, Cosmic Treats also offers seasonal gluten-free soft serve and soy-based frozen yogurt.
Hibiscus is a friendly, family-run café known for its fantastic, homemade dairy-free ice cream and gluten-free cones. Made with coconut milk, homemade mung milk or almond milk bases, these ice creams are perfect when paired with one of Hibiscus’ sweet crepes. You’ll find classic flavours like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry as well as matcha, black sesame, almond chocolate, pear and pistachio.
Kekou Gelato house is located in the bustling Baldwin Village, and serves gelato with an Asian twist. Kekou is a minimalist space that let’s their exciting flavours speak for themselves. You’ll find green tea, ginger milk, jasmine tea, black sesame, green bean coconut and avocado banana with chunks of banana and flakes of coconut in every scoop. Everything is made in-house and tastes remarkably fresh. Stop by and let their friendly staff hoist samples on you; this ice cream is worth tasting.
Seven Lives Paleteria serves up Mexican frozen treats – for both the booze- and sweet-minded – out of its bright shop on Kensington Avenue. Take the horchata con tuna; a magenta prickly pear is served with tequila sorbet in a glass of cold horchata (yup, we’re drooling too). Paletas flavours include strawberry and cream, lime and kiwi, and watermelon. To boot, there’s vegan soft serve on offer. Bright turquoise walls, ceiling flags and a pink tiled counter make this spot refreshingly tropical and cute and a killer place to cool down with a sweet treat.
Eative is a modern gelato and sorbet shop that makes instant treats with liquid nitrogen. It’s a process to behold; in the shop you’ll find a row of purees and milk bases, and an elaborate mixing system that pumps liquid nitrogen up from under the counter. Once combined, a mixer spins the liquid into a frozen consistency. Flavours are unique and foodie-oriented like maple bacon, acai and youngberry, sweet lavender, moss mocha and pineapple basil. Toppings match the elevated decadency and include caviars, floral powders, candy, syrups and nuts.
If you haven’t sampled an authentic Mexican paleta yet, stop in to the newest concept from La Tortilleria, a paleteria and patio in the heart of Kensington, right below their Mexican tacqueria and market. If you’re a little lost here, paletas are tropical treats from Oaxaca, Mexico, traditionally served out of street-vending cart. Basically, they’re gourmet Mexican popsicles (that’s right, this ain’t your everyday ice cream shop). The Emerson-bulb sign of this subterranean spot is hard to miss, and it’s one of 2016’s most prime patios in the neighbourhood for a sweet cool down or a slushy margarita.