Opening a take-away empanada joint in Kensington Market across the street from Jumbo Empanada must be like building your dream home next door to the Taj Mahal. No matter how lovely it is, the first thing everyone's going to say is, "Well, it's no Taj Mahal...."
Clearly, El Gordo (214 Augusta, at Baldwin, 416-205-9981) is no Jumbo Empanada. Yet while its Chilean turnovers may be smaller than those baked by Irene Morales over the way, they're cheaper than La Jumbo's ($2.50 versus $3.50) and come in more than 30 varieties, our favourites being minced beef with Korean kimchee and spicy Mexican chorizo with salsa verde. The meat all comes from El Gordo's cousin next door, Segovia Meat Market (218 Augusta, at Baldwin, 416-593-9904), a long-time Kensington fixture that makes nearly a dozen different types of Latin-accented sausage, including the alarmingly bright green Santiago Verde, with spinach, garlic, green onion and red pepper.
Bonus: besides selling cheap used bicycles, El Gordo also grills plates of Segovia's first-rate pork and beef ribs as well as its chorizo on a barbecue out front every weekend for five bucks a serving.
Up the street, La Palette (256 Augusta, at College, 416-929-4900) chef and co-owner Michael Harrington has been bought out by partner Shamez Amlani after nearly 15 years working together, first at Le Select on Queen, then at their very popular bistro. The split's amicable; Harrington and fiancée are off to Belize to open a B&B, the poor things.
Downtown's resto du jour Rosebud (669 Queen West, at Bathurst, 416-703-8810) has also undergone a shakedown. Like Elvis, Jason Cameron has left the building, leaving chef Rodney Bowers in complete control.
Though it's been shuttered for the winter, It's All Good (68 Wales, at Leonard, 416-504-0222), that undeservedly obscure café tucked away behind Toronto Western, has returned for a second season. Owners Nicole Sach and Ezan Shanta promise they haven't changed a thing, especially their Taco Tuesday mega-meal deal and fabulous daily salsa-fied tomato soup.