Funky Latin eateries can be found all over town. Check these out.
JUMBO EMPANADAS (245 Augusta, at Baldwin, 416-977-0056) Once a subterranean take-away, Jumbo's authentic Chilean street food is now served in a modest cafe four doors down from their old location in the heart of Kensington Market. Snacks so sensational, they're sold at many upmarket eateries at much higher prices. Best: huge Latin turnovers known as empanadas stuffed with beef or chicken, hard-boiled egg, black olive and red pepper; take-home specialties like killer homemade hot sauce; vegetarian tamale-esque humitas; pastel de choco -- a sweet cornmeal mush upside-down pie rich with beef, chicken, egg, olives and raisins. Complete dinners for $7 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open Monday to Saturday 9 am to 7 pm, Sunday 11 am to 5 pm. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: four steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
TACOS EL ASADOR (690 Bloor West, at Clinton, 416-538-9747) Funky taqueria serving down-home Latin American street eats. Eat in at slatted wood tables and benches or take away an inexpensive nosh. Best: a humongous plate piled with thin pan-fried steak, mild tomato salsa, refried beans, rice studded with corn kernels and red pepper, and a salad of cucumber, multicoloured pepper and avocado; crisp tacos stuffed with lime-tenderized chicken, beef or pork; pupusas stuffed with cheese and bean-and-squash purée and topped with red and white cabbage slaw as well as sliced onion, jalapeño and chili salsa; house-made horchata, a creamy shake of sweet rice, pulverized peanuts, vanilla and milk. Complete meals for $12 per person, including all taxes, tip and an imported Mexican beer. Open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday to Saturday noon to 9 pm, Sunday 2 to 6 pm. Closed Wednesday. Beer only. Cash only. Access: low step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
¡CARAMBA! (394 Pacific, at Dundas West, 416-604-4844) One of Toronto's dreariest nabes comes to life with this superb Peruvian spot. What this modest eatery lacks in decor is more than made up for by substantial main courses big enough for two. Best: Potpourri -- skewers of grilled chicken breast and beef heart alongside grilled shrimp, sautéed calamari, tripe strips and turbot fillet served with cold sliced spuds; Plato Caramba -- an 8-ounce grilled T-bone topped with two fried eggs and sided with spicy chorizo, fried balsamic-marinated plantain and rice timbale; super-incendiary hot sauce -- chilies and green onion suspended in olive oil -- that turns up the heat on everything from bread and soup to salads and mains; cool things down with dessert Empanadas de Platano, sweet deep-fried plantains stuffed with soothing rice-pudding purée. Complete dinners for $30 per person ($12 at lunch or brunch), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open Tuesday to Saturday 11:30 am to 11 pm, Sunday 10 am to 10 pm. Closed Monday. Fully licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN