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Waterloo Region’s Dining Diversity: Around the World in Six Bites

Waterloo Region’s Dining Diversity: Around the World in Six BitesWaterloo Region’s Dining Diversity: Around the World in Six Bites

Shish taouk platter with felafel and pita from Almadina Woodstone Oven and Grill, Waterloo. Photo credit: Jasmine Mangalaseril

by Jasmine Mangalaseril

While hearty German and Mennonite fare easily pop to mind when visitors think of Waterloo Region’s food scene, those dishes are only some of what’s on our table. For more than two centuries, we’ve become an international community that’s home to more than 200 cultures. As a result, our restaurant scene continually evolves to provide a taste of who’s calling Waterloo Region home. With hundreds of restaurants dotting our area, here’s some of what you can find:

East African food at KW African Cuisine, Kitchener

KW African Cuisine is one of our newer African restaurants and a hidden gem. Rooted in Tilahun Grebremanian and Tsehianesh Tsegai’s Eritrean and Ethiopian culinary heritage, their menu samples popular and favourite dishes from around the Horn of Africa and beyond. You’ll find house-roasted coffee, spongey injera, richly flavoured vegetarian and meaty wots, and berbere-laced tender meats or stewed vegetables accompanying Nigerian fufu and Ugandan matoke. Their Kenyan ugali served with stewed kidney beans or braised meat (pictured) deeply satisfies.

Vegetarian and non-vegetarian ugali from KW African Cuisine, Kitchener. Photo credit: Jasmine Mangalaseril

Egyptian dishes at Almadina Woodstone Oven and Grill, Waterloo

For more than 30 years, the Almadina has been plating up Egyptian and Middle Eastern in KW. Flame-tinged skewers emerge from the charcoal grill (pictured). The shawarma is succulent and slow-roasted. Satisfying manaeesh and puffy pitas arrive still warm from their blistering oven. Fresh ingredients are used to make dishes the way Mama used to: stuffing and rolling grape leaves, massaging spices into meats, drenching baklava in honey. Their silky hummuses are not to be missed.

Shish taouk platter with felafel and pita from Almadina Woodstone Oven and Grill, Waterloo. Photo credit: Jasmine Mangalaseril

Lao and Southeast Asian fusion food at Choun Kitchen, Cambridge

Chef-owner Thanousid “Bobby” Chounramany draws upon his Lao heritage and love of creativity for Choun’s menu. Whether his team cooks long-simmered family recipes or newly created foods that fuse East with West, there’s a keen eye on fresh ingredients and balancing bright and rich flavours. You’ll find lime-spritzed nubbly Nam Khao (pictured), tender lemongrass chicken, bulgogi burgers, and youtiao transformed into churros. Rich and aromatic, with a rainbow of fresh vegetables, the laksa (pictured) will assuage whatever ails you.

Laksa with shrimp (top) and Nam Khao (bottom) from Choun Kitchen, Cambridge. Photo credit: Jasmine Mangalaseril

Latino and Greek dishes at Melina’s Grill, Baden

You’ll find a trove of scratch-made Latino and Greek dishes at Baden’s Melina’s Grill. Here, Mel Ioannou and Nathalia Zuñiga Ioannou provide the Old World and New World favourites they grew up on. Juicy, marinated souvlaki comes with lemony potatoes and savoury souvlaki and fresh veggies pile into pitas. Along with tacos and quesadillas, you’ll find generous bandejas from Colombia (pictured), Nicaragua, and Venezuela. End your meal with a housemade sweet: crumbly kourabiedes or tender tres leches cake.

Bandeja Paisa from Melina’s Grill, Baden. Photo credit: Jasmine Mangalaseril

North Indian cuisine at Saffron Indian Restaurant and Bar, Cambridge

Saffron is a Cambridge go-to to satisfy cravings for North and Central Indian dishes. Here, the kitchen creates vegetarian, vegan, and non-vegetarian dishes with good ingredients including housemade yoghurt and paneer. Long-simmered aromatic dishes can be made as placid or as fiery as you wish, and a variety of well-marinated kababs and naan come from their tandoor. Biryani and butter chicken are popular but their thick and creamy palak paneer is a treat (pictured).

Palak paneer, rice, and butter chicken from Saffron Indian Restaurant and Bar, Cambridge. Photo credit: Jasmine Mangalaseril

Uyghur food at Bogda, Waterloo

Waterloo’s University District is chock-a-block with interesting eating, but you’ll not want to miss Bogda. Their Uyghur cuisine is born of the Silk Road, mixing aromas and flavours found in Central Asia, China, India, and the Middle East. Tender lamb swims in the shorpa’s light, gingery broth; the korma lagman’s bouncy hand-cut noodles swirl around tomatoey beef and vegetables, and delicate dumpling skins gather around succulent meaty fillings. Here’s where you can find the iconic tohogoshi narin (aka big plate chicken, pictured).

Tohogoshi narin (big plate chicken) from Bogda, Waterloo. Photo credit: Jasmine Mangalaseril

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Jasmine Mangalaseril is a Kitchener-based promiscuous eater, adept home cook, and food writer. She is on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as @cardamomaddict.

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