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Toronto Suddenly Has a New Craving: Syrian Food

TORONTO — The interior of Soufi’s, a fast-casual restaurant in downtown Toronto, is tailor-made for Instagram. There are white subway tiles, vintage photographs, a chalkboard menu and a selection of bric-a-brac assembled by an owner, Jala Alsoufi, a recent architecture and psychology graduate. The barista (her younger brother, Alaa) even sports the scruffy beard and Blue Jays cap favored by food-service workers along this hip stretch of Queen Street.

But Soufi’s offers hints of something more unusual than just a place to get lunch. They include the sinuous melodies of old Arabic pop songs, the whiff of sumac and za’atar in the air, and the yellow-and-black T-shirts the staff wears, proclaiming, “From Syria, With Love.”

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Until recently, Syrian cuisine hardly existed in Toronto. With just a few hundred families, the Syrian population was too small to support a restaurant scene. But over the past two years, following the high-profile resettlement of more than 50,000 refugees in Canada, the Toronto area — where over 11,000 of them live — is experiencing the green shoots of a Syrian-food boom.

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