By Bree Duwyn
Pow Wow Cafe, home of the Indian taco, is adding to Toronto’s diverse food scene with a taste of tradition and indigeneity.
Growing up in Orangeville, Ont., chef Shawn Adler, owner of Pow Wow Cafe, first fell in love with cooking in high school. After a few years of experience working for various restaurants, Adler attended a two-year program at Stratford Chefs School.
At 23, Adler opened his first restaurant in Peterborough Ont., named Aasmaabik’s Bakery and Bistro - Aasmaabik being his name in Ojibway. This began a culinary adventure for Adler as he opened another handful of restaurants, including The Flying Chestnut Kitchen in Eugenia, Ont.
After selling a few of his restaurants, Adler decided to try out the culinary scene in Toronto. Known for its diverse array of vintage shops, cozy restaurants and colourful art pieces, Kensington Market delivers a multitude of cultures, making it the perfect place for Pow Wow Cafe to open its doors in October 2016.
Adler wanted to bring Indian tacos, differing from regular tacos because of the use of fry bread instead of tortilla shells, to Toronto and got the inspiration for their Kensington Market restaurant through his experience catering at various powwows.
A powwow is an Indigenous ceremony filled with dancing, singing (featuring drum circles) and feasting. It is a cultural and spiritual experience that encourages community gathering and celebration.
“I love catering because it poses a challenge. I like it because it’s often in a barn or the fields. It’s cool to create a field kitchen and do things other people can't do,” said Alder.
Adler holds pride in the originality and value of Pow Wow Cafe’s food, including their famous brunch that has people lining up out the door on the weekends.
“This cuisine is not a trend, it's here to stay,” said Adler.
Pow Wow Cafe also supports the Kensington Market community by sourcing their produce from shops within the neighbourhood, as well as Indigenous suppliers.
The restaurant keeps the ingenuity of Indigenous food alive through a variety of dishes based around fry bread. This includes their extensive brunch menu that features eggs, oatmeal and more.
Adler’s plans are to further expand Pow Wow Cafe and continue to expose people to Indigenous cuisine.
“I knew in Toronto, there wasn't anyone doing cuisine like we were doing,” said Adler, “So I found this location and the rest is history,” he said.
You gotta try this…
Being someone who thoroughly enjoys food, I am always ready to try out new dishes. After being welcomed by the pleasant staff, I felt comfortably at home inside the cozy restaurant.
Adler advised me that the Indian taco topped with beef was the best choice if I wanted to enjoy a traditional experience.
The taco begins with sweet, melt in your mouth fry bread and beef chili topped with cumin sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce, shredded cheese, jalapeños, cilantro, sprouts and flowers, including calendula and pansies.
It was incredibly filling and delicious, not to mention wonderfully plated. All the elements of the taco went great together, producing an abundance of flavour and texture. The traditional beef Indian taco is definitely a perfect meal on a chilly day.
If you're not one for beef, Pow Wow Cafe also offers a chicken shawarma and seafood Indian taco. For any vegetarians, a red lentil coconut curry option is available.
The restaurant changes its menu often to offer various sensational combos of Indian tacos, but the traditional beef taco will always remain. It's definitely worth taking a trip to Kensington Market or stopping by Pow Wow Cafe whenever you're in the area to grab an authentic Indian taco or try their famous brunch.
Pow Wow Cafe is located at 213 Augusta Ave. and is open seven days a week.