Here are the real hidden gems of Niagara Falls: international food markets. All are small businesses we hope never go under; all bring the flavours of farway lands that you can’t find anywhere else in the Falls. Whether it’s Japanese nattō, red Thai curry paste, Indian bay leaves, Chinese mooncakes or goat meat (yes, the only place in the Falls we’ve found goat meat is on this list), you’ll find them here. These are the kinds of spots we wish Niagara Falls had more of: richly diverse, independently owned and close enough that you don’t have to get on the QEW.
Thai Binh Asian Food
This unassuming shop, on Drummond just north of McLeod, stocks unique pan-Asian groceries you literally can’t find anywhere else in the city. Japanese soba noodles, Thai curry pastes, authentic Korean kimchee, Chinese moon cakes, all types of seaweed and various frozen meats (the only place you can find goat that we know of)—it’s all for sale on their jam-packed shelves and back room of industrial freezers, and they’re not the same generic supermarket brands you’ll find at No Frills.
Since South Asians are the largest visible minority community in the Falls, it’s not surprising that Patel Grocers is thriving on Lundy’s Lane. Yes, the FreshCo down the street at Kalar has an impressive selection of Indian snacks and basmati rice, but it’s nothing compared to what you can find at Patel, where handmade barfi, paneer, gulab jamun, rows of spices and 20-pound bags of atta flour fill the space. Add some hot prepared food and excellent pricing, and you’ve got a local mainstay.
Hidden beside a sushi restaurant down the street from the cereal factory, Niagara Kyo-Mart is unique on this list—their website has online shopping, they offer a loyalty card to frequent shoppers and their store is (no offence to Patel and Thai Binh) way better organized than the rest. But there are a few trade-offs for this strong brand presence: their offerings are a little slim, and run-of-the-mill items like soy sauce and instant noodles are clearly more expensive here. If you need a certain brand of Japanese tamari soy sauce, that may justify the cost, but the real reason to visit are all the things you can’t find anywhere else: matcha powder, red bean paste, rice seasoning, pickled vegetables and other uniquely Japanese products.
The best burek in the city lives here, at this small Balkan mart, tucked away behind an Esso gas station on Lundy’s Lane. Balkan Deli is the place for imported groceries from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Bulgaria and anywhere else in the southeastern region of Europe. Ajvar, fresh cheeses, house-made pastries and Turkish coffee are, of course, on order here, but Balkan Deli surprises with plenty of gluten-free options as well (such as almond and walnut cookies, which are conveniently gluten-free Balkan mainstays), as well as massive bags of organic flours. We can’t vouch for their sandwich selection, but the bake-at-home burek is as good as any burek we’ve had in the Balkans.
Elvis Victoria Deli
This Polish deli used to be Polindaz Place, then it became Victoria House European Deli, and now it’s called Elvis Deli, apparently, because the owner, we are told, also does Elvis impersonations. It’s a weird shtick, but we’re into it. Elvis (the deli, not the person or the impersonator) is a charming spot on Victoria Ave., run and operated by good people, and filled with Eastern European groceries and snacks. The pastries are hefty and delicious, and the dining menu offers cabbage rolls, schnitzel, fresh bread and salads.