La Bella Managua, photo by Ainsley Boyd

This summer, the Pan Am Games take place in venues throughout Toronto and the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region from July 10 to 26, and the Parapan Am Games follow from Aug. 7 to 15. Thanks to its rich ethnic diversity, Toronto’s restaurant scene boasts the varied cuisine of many of the 41 nations participating in the Games. Here are some top spots to get a taste of Pan Am spirit. 

Julie’s Cuban Restaurant 

Arrive early to score a table on the tiny patio at this popular hipster hangout tucked among Victorian-era brick homes on Dovercourt Road, off Dundas Street West. Or dine indoors, cantina-style, on tapas such as corn fritters and traditional mains like ropa vieja, a savoury shredded beef that will have you imagining you’re on the streets of Havana.

La Bella Managua

Bright blue and white table linens evoke the Nicaraguan flag at La Bella Managua on Bloor Street West, near Ossington, where chef Jesus Morales serves up comfort food such as yuccanadas, tender cassava flour empanadas stuffed with cheese and nacatamales, the beloved tamale of Nicaragua. Be sure to try a macua, a guava juice cocktail spiked with Flor de Caña rum.

El Catrin

With its large outdoor patio set in the trendy Distillery District, El Catrin may be your best bet for catching a glimpse of a sports celebrity or two. Not only does this stylish spot serve some of the city’s best fish tacos and Mexican cuisine, it’s also near Athlete’s Village, which will house 7,600 competitors and team officials during the Games. 

Arepa Café

Contemporary urban art and street snacks merge at this Queen Street West eatery where chef Eduardo Lee presides over a creative kitchen that turns out arepas, a grilled cornmeal flatbread stuffed with fillings in knockout flavours such as adobo roasted pork. A slaw of cabbage, carrot and chayote is a welcome side, and a rum limonada is the perfect summertime drink.

Simone’s On the Danforth

This spot serves up homestyle, traditional Jamaican fare like jerk chicken and roti, but you can also find less-common treats such as mannish water—a goat head soup finished with Scotch bonnet peppers that’s so invigorating, it’s considered an aphrodisiac. Don’t miss Simone’s back patio, a flower-draped hideaway where you can cool off with a chilled glass of house-made sorrel.