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Reliable, high quality, no-nonsense butchers

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  • SxCx Sep 6, 2007 06:27 AM
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As someone who just wants a plain, unaltered cut of meat to prepare, I grow tired of seeing so much fridge space in "boutique" butcher shops being taken up by kabobs and steaks coated in gloppy marinades. I understand that many folks don't want to fuss with their own seasoning, but for the rest of us, it usually means fewer options and hopeless predictability. Even Cumbrae's, arguably the city's finest meat establishment, choose to crowd their cases with half-prepared dreck. I don't mean to sound harsh, as I'm sure it's delicious, but it's also not what I'm looking for.

Where are the butchers that simply put out a good, diverse selection of quality meats for the cook to take home and do what they please? European Meats in Kensington and Whole Foods both come to mind, but any others?

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  1. There's a small butcher shop on the north side of Baldwin quite close to Augusta. It's basically a small storefront with a largely-built older man working the store most of the time. He DEFINITELY knows his meat, and it fits the bill for a no-nonsense butcher shop. There isn't a spot of anything but meat in the place (no sausages, pre-marinated products, etc.). Give them a try.

    I'm sorry I don't know the name.

    1 Reply
    1. re: xtal

      Max and Son's. The current butcher is Solly, the son.

    2. You should look at Vince Gasaparro's on Bloor at Shaw. Good quality, well stocked, and if there is something you want in particular they'll get it for you. I can't say enough about the quality of their chicken, ribs and beef products (a couple weeks ago we had a top sirloin for the first time upon their recommendation and it was magnificent). Also - these may be the nicest guys in town!

      3 Replies
      1. re: Delish

        i second vince gasparro's - it's my first choice for lamb.

        1. re: Kasia

          Yes - their lamb is great, too! So are all their pork products (tenderloins -mmmmmm) and they make a killer chicken sausage!

          1. re: Delish

            i third them for everything - ribs,chicken,sausages are great as well...
            and yeah, they are the nicest guys

      2. You didn't mention if you had a preference for anywhere in town... so I'll give you two - one east, one west. :)

        When I lived in the west end, one of my faves was Rui Gomes on Bloor near Ossington - a good straightforward Portuguese butcher which also carries an interesting (smallish) assortment of Portuguese and Brazilian groceries.

        Now that I live in the east end, I've started going to Mister Greek Meat Market on Danforth east of Pape (not be confused with the Mr Greek chain of restos). Smallish shop, so their selection isn't necessarily on par with European or Rui Gomes, but what they do have is excellent, reasonably priced and the guys I've been served by have always been knowledgeable. Their prepared souvlaki is excellent, as a bonus.

        2 Replies
        1. re: tartiflette

          Doesn't help the OP who is in the west end, but I will plug for Ellas on Pape south of Danforth. Definitely real butchering going on there, if you want it and they don't already have it out they will go to the back and you know, actually butcher for you.

          We've had some issues with Mr Greek not wanting to chop/trim lamb stew meat for us (obviously we understand that they weigh & we pay before they trim, but they have no problem with doing it at Ellas...) but I know other people who are very happy with them.

          1. re: julesrules

            The guys in Ellas are nice, My only criticism is they don't have bacon... because "Greek People don't eat a lot of bacon" ... which may be true, but it's sad, since, the day I went in to look for bacon, they said I was at least the 3rd person in that day looking for bacon.

        2. I haven't been in about 10 years, but there used to a place called Bloor Meat Market Ltd on Bloor in Bloor West Village. They still had sawdust on the floor and wrapped the meat with paper and string. They had this little teller window where you paid, and a little old lady would live in there with her stacks of coins. It was quaint, the service was great and the meat was good.

          Does anyone know if this is still around? I'm no longer in the area.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Jean Georges

            They are still there. I actually just moved to that area and Bloor Meat Market was recommended to me by a friend. They no longer have that 'quaint' atmosphere anymore. I didn't end up buying anything but the place was busy.

            1. re: Jean Georges

              Funny you mention them, as I live in the area as well and they're a prime source of my frustration. I know they're catering to the upper crust who just want something quick to throw in the oven, but it bothers me to know they could be so much better. I asked about special ordering a pork shoulder and they actually encouraged me to try somewhere else. Apparently my request was too exotic.

              1. re: SxCx

                So SxCx, what butcher in that area do you go to?

                1. re: camp1980

                  Despite my griping, I will stop into Bloor Meat Market on occasion if I need something I know they'll always have (see above). But beyond that, I don't really have a regular place here. I haven't lived here long but I've been meaning to check out some of the Ukrainian places like Kingsway Meat and so on.

                  1. re: SxCx

                    just drive east to Gasperro's at bloor/shaw - they'll hook you up and their meat is all around better than BMM in my humble opinion

                    1. re: SxCx

                      Kingsway Meat is ok. Just don't ask for anything by the name of the cut, but by what you intend to do with it - "shank? what? oh, goulash!"

                  2. re: SxCx

                    pork shoulder is available at a few of the european butcher shops in the bloor west village. i buy mine at kingsway meats on the rare occasions when i do pulled pork. bloor meat market doesn't sell pork shoulder because its one of the cheaper cuts and they didn't have much of a market for it anymore. i'm suprised someone didn't suggest another place to get it, they normally do if they don't carry something.

                    1. re: mikaylao

                      Summerhill Market will special order it in for you, all you have to do is ask them.

                    2. re: SxCx

                      I have to agree with you. The service at Bloor Meat Market is terrible. I went one day, looking for picanha and they succeeded in making me feel bad for asking if they carried something out of the ordinary! The guy was mumbling under his breath and glaring at me. I wanted to complain to the owner... but HE WAS THE OWNER!!! My worst butcher experience ever.

                      Now I go to Medium Rare where the service and meat are amazing.

                  3. I like Brandt Meats in Mississauga for their meats and factory fresh wurst. Also several good meat shops in the "food zone" east of Kipling, north of the Queensway.These places are decidedly light on the value-added items you deplore.

                    1. The Healthy Butcher on Queen West. You always find every cut of meat there since they are one of the few shops in the city dealing only with whole animals, and not boxed meat. Unfortunately, they're pricier than the other names on this blog, but that's because they're selling all Certified Organic meat. Sometimes the meat is a little lean for my liking, but if you ask one of the butchers to cut you a well marbled cut, they will usually come back with a AAA or Prime. I've been to one of their butchering classes which was awesome - they butchered 2 Lambs and an Elk in front of a small group of people and explained everything along the way. They have classes on beef and pork as well. See: http://www.thehealthybutcher.com/Live...
                      It's worth going to one of these classes just to get an understanding of all the cuts and visually understand where they come from in the animal. I couldn't believe how impeccably clean they're work area was.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: peterpiper

                        Hey peter, I was going to take one of their "classes" but since you just watch and don't actually come home with any meat, I couldn't justify spending $80 for it, although I'm very interested in observing it...their classes net them $800.00 and then they sell the cuts in the shop no doubt, didn't add up for me, am I missing something?

                        ..the make your own sausage one however, sounds great, all hands on and you bring home your links...

                        1. re: Recyclor

                          Ya Recyclor, I thought the exact same thing at first.. but I left very satisfied. And since that time I've also been to their sausage making class - which for $50 you do take home sausages and is probably the most worthwhile "cooking" type class around. I've taken some classes at other places where there was no shortage of individual equipment and you take home stuff - like at Dish or Calphalon - but you're looking at $130 minimum cost. For the $80 butchering class, there was a very limited number of people (unlike the cooking classes at other places that ram in a lot more) and very intimate setting with their head butcher (Ryan I believe), another butcher, and Mario (the owner). Although you don't take home anything, the amount you learn about meat just by watching and askign questions justifies the 80 bucks easy. The class I went to was butchering lamb and elk, and during the class Mario was grilling up pieces of lamb and elk and cured stuff they made in house and I got to try different cuts that I normally wouldn't try, a couple of sausages and they had made this dry-cured lamb sausage which was out of this world. They don't even sell it in the store, it's just something the butchers are playing around with -- these guys really have a passion for what they're doing. When I took the sausage class, Mario and his wife Tara ran that class and I left with the same feeling - both of them really believed in what they were doing and what they were selling. Who woulda thunk it... Mario used to be a lawyer and Tara used to be a banker - I think what they're doing now really suits them. I'm probably the pickiest meat eater around and used to be (and still am) a Cumbrae's fan... and a lot of my friends like me have switched over. I still visit Cumbrae's, but Healthy Butcher is closer for me and i enjoy going there just as much. But to get off this rant and go back to your original question about the cost of classes, try going to one of their sausage making classes - my wife and I had a blast and for $100 together we took home probably $30 worth of sausages.

                          1. re: peterpiper

                            ..thanks for the response, looks like I'm in! I will start with the sausage class, and I'm sure my curiosity will overwhelm my frugality (is that a word?) and I'll be seen at the butchery one...thanks again for the advice...

                            1. re: Recyclor

                              A friend of mine took the sausage class and raved about it. And the value of the experience and the actual take-home product easily justify the price of 50 dollars.

                              1. re: Recyclor

                                I agree with everything peter said about the Healthy Butcher... Ironically, I was at the pork butchering class last night and it was great. I especially agree about what peter said about their passion... notice all the other butcher shops on this thread (Vince Gasparo and the like) have been around for years and the butchers we typically like dealing with have been butchers for 40 years - it's refreshing to see such young blood in this dying trade. And chefs have taken advantage of it as well - Mark Cutrara apprenticed at healthy butcher for several months and just recently opened his new restaurant Cowbell - he's butchering animals at the restaurant as a result of his new found knowledge! I also hear Scot Woods was apprenticing at healthy butcher and is due to open a new restaurant. I think the Healthy Butcher has been open for around 3 years, but its impact in T.O. has been huge. You'll like the classes they have for sure.

                                1. re: LizRothstein

                                  ..thanks Liz, I appreciate you thoughts....

                          2. re: peterpiper

                            Don't get me wrong, I love the healthy butcher and everything, but the last time I was there I asked for 4 chicken breasts and it came to $39 something. I told him to put it back. There is no way I'll pay that amount for organic meat.

                          3. I have to say, that although I agree that Cumbrae's has lots of marinated items on offer at the same time they have almost every cut of meat you can image available. And if by chance you don't see what you're looking for, just ask and they will be more than happy to help you out. We were wanting an entrecote steak a few weeks ago and they were quite pleased to oblige. In fact, I think they enjoyed doing it for us.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: millygirl

                              Oh I don't doubt they could get anything I'm looking for with a bit of notice. My frustration is shops that don't routinely stock less "conventional" items like short ribs and even chicken thighs. It's all breasts, New York strips, or marinated/seasoned stuff. When I'm heading home from work trying to brainstorm my dinner, it would help to have places in mind with a less tiresome variety.

                              Thanks to all who have contributed thus far, by the way.

                            2. Cumbrae's, Oliffe, Meat on the Beach, Nortown, Royal Beef, and others that sell the seasoned/semi prepped stuff all cut meat to order. The counter staff don't always know the possibilities (Meat on the Beach staff is especially dense), but there's usually someone around with real expertise, and it is usually possible to custom order. Grace, Pusateri's, Bruno's, and Cheese Boutique are other possibilities. You just need to ask for what you want. If you want something unusual, just remember to call in advance.

                              Note that Royal Beef's meat other than the beef isn't noteworthy and the best stuff is seldom on display. Nortown doesn't sell pork, and there are times at Grace when nobody working speaks English. Cheese Boutique is staggeringly expensive. But they all sell good-to-excellent quality plain meat.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: embee

                                Royal Beef's pork is pretty good, we have found. But as embee says, just not on display. You have to ask Gord (a guy who knows his stuff) at the counter what you want. We often get pork loin rib ends for the barbecue, cut extra thick, and they are excellent. We just baste some teriyaki or whatever and the meat always turns out moist and juicy and tasty.
                                Also, Royal Beef provided us with some great lamb shanks in the past.

                                -----
                                Royal Beef
                                1968 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4C, CA

                                1. re: embee

                                  I am most certain that any of the staff at Cumbrae's and Oliffe would be hard pressed to not know of a particular meat or cut. One other spot not mentioned would be Summerhill Market, they have excellent meat and extremely knowledgeable staff. We've bought beef there many times and it is just as good, if not better than Cumbrae's.

                                  1. re: millygirl

                                    Kensington Meats (in Kensington Market) is a good standby. They have more in stock than they display - it's in their fridges. And they have good relations with various nearby farmers - so they can usually get whatever you want fairly quickly. Nice to support a small business. They know their stuff.

                                    1. re: bellywizard

                                      I don't recall the name of this one, it's on the East side of the street in Kensington that goes N/S and leads directly to European, I have never bought meat there, they often have furry goats in the window. They have caul fat, which I once had a hard time finding in a pinch on the west side of town...pre-healthy butcher I think it was though, they probally have it around too now...

                                    2. re: millygirl

                                      The counter staff at Cumbrae's isn't dumb, but most of them don't know much about meat cuts. However, they will get someone from the back to help you out. Although I do patronize Oliffe (we just had amazing lamb burgers from Oliffe tonight), I can't speak with certainty about the staff.

                                  2. You should try The Steak Master in Etobicoke. This small shop has a very basic, but well selected line. All beef is well aged and marbled. Most customers get their steaks cut to order. Chicken is always fresh, some cuts are dry- spiced, not marinated. Sausages are made on premises ( chicken , lamb , breakfast, Italian etc.) excellent back ribs, beef burgers, bison burgers.
                                    They are located in a little plaza on Bloor Street, app. 1 km West of Kipling Ave. ( not to be confused with Dundas Street, which is 1 block South of Bloor)

                                    1. What about the meat counters at places like Bruno's or Nunzio's? The Bruno's I go to always has a nice selection of unaltered meats and cuts. Even their kebabs are unseasoned and unmarinated. I find the butcher there helpful and friendly.

                                      -----
                                      Nunzio's
                                      1605 Bayview Ave, Toronto, ON M4G, CA

                                      Bruno's
                                      1560 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4T, CA

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: JamieK

                                        Don't know about your Bruno's, but the one in Richmond Hill (Bayview, just s. of Major Mac) has all kinds of marinated meats, kabobs, etc. I still think they're the best place in Richmond Hill for meats - and they have plenty of plain steaks, chops, racks, etc. - but I think the existence of the prepared stuff is what was making the OP angry.

                                      2. I've lived in several different neighbourhoods in Toronto over the last 25 years, and without a doubt, I've found Uppercut Meats in St. Lawrence Market to be the best I've ever shopped at. They do have a section of pre-made kebabs and such, but their selection of freshly-cut meats do not suffer for space. Prices are good, and the products are restaurant-quality. The staff have always been helpful, and if you don't ind waiting a few extra minutes, they are happy to vacuum seal individual cuts if you're stocking your freezer for the week.

                                        1. Carrol's, Thornhill Farmers Market, far north east corner, if they're still there. We moved away four years ago but they supplied our meat treats in another life.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: DockPotato

                                            Still there: http://www.stuartcarroll.ca/contact/c...

                                          2. Norton, mostly their store at The Promenade. They have the marinated types but they have wonderful fresh meat, unaltered.

                                            1. Always found Bruno's to have good quality, but for a step up I would try Oliffe by summerhill or in the westend look for Absolutley fine foodsin the Kingsway, also Stuart Carroll's in north Toronto.

                                              cheers
                                              brian13

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Brian13

                                                I second Bruno's. It's convenient to me so I go there often. They have good cuts on offer and, I know contrary to the OP, the prepared ready-to-cook items are fine. Tonight we had their chicen cordon blue. Good as always.

                                              2. White House Meats at the St. Lawrence Market for sure.

                                                Many also swear by St. Jamestown Steaks and Chops.

                                                1. In a shop that is new to me, I would ask a butcher (or experienced meat cutter) if they cut from the whole or half carcass. If they don't, they will be selling boneless cryovacked meat, even if is wet aged, and only limited, expensive cuts.

                                                  But if they have the carcass, they can prepare really good shoulder, shank, tail, cheek, hanger, or skirt cuts for me in a few minutes. Cumbrae's will do this, and they are eager to help; otherwise some of these fine cuts will go into hamburger or sausage.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: jayt90

                                                    I know I'm late, but that was a very good post jayt90, thanks. :) I'll try to remember that

                                                  2. I've been visiting a butcher near bloor and ossington called O Nosso Talho - I've been going there because it's close to me and has lots of meat options. So far the cuts and prices have been ok (thought I do not know a lot about cuts of meat)
                                                    Does anyone else go hear or have an opinion on the place? AM I missing a better place around the corner?

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: bacchus_is_watching

                                                      The prices at O Nosso Talho are better than almost anywhere else. The meat is honest and good value therefore. However expensive cuts like Filet(tenderloin) aren't generally avilable. As many say above, St Lawerence market has a selection of high quality butchers. My preference is for "Upper Cut" located in the centre.

                                                    2. I'll second JamieK's Royal Beef reco.

                                                      Founded by Paul Estrela and his wife Carmen, the place is a gem. Paul passed away a couple of years ago, but Carmen still makes great homemade slaw and potato salad in the summer, and they carry fabulous fresh ricotta (and canoli's!!!) on the weekends. They carry a very good selection of cheese, olive oil and other pantry staples. Not enormous, but carefully chosen.

                                                      Great cuts of meat, and they'll happily do custom orders. They give very good advice, as well (thanks to Paul, I now put a bit of their chaurice (? Portguese?) cured sausage into my turkey stuffing, to great effect).

                                                      And they do smart stuff, like cutting the meat off the bone of a prime rib roast, and tying it back on for cooking. Makes it easy to stuff, and very easy to carve.

                                                      Very good people.

                                                      1. I have to share it with you now. ...

                                                        I have been frequenting Marcelleria Venezia for about a year and have been consistently impressed with the quality of meat, level of service and reasonableness of the prices.
                                                        They are located just west of Ossington on the North side of Bloor. ( 906, Bloor St. West.).
                                                        They are not a full range butcher, rather specialising in Italian cuts - Scallopine, Osso Buco (sp?), veal chops, melt in the mouth lamb, veal tenderloin (where else can you find that?), some goat, chicken etc.
                                                        Very personalised service - they have allowed me to watch exactly the joint I want removed from the carcass.
                                                        If you have a particular piece of meat in mind, give them a couple of days advance warning and they will have it for you.

                                                        In summary, an honest, old fashioned, high quality butcher and yet not too expensive, specialising in Italian cuts.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: AzulH

                                                          I can never remember the name of the place but I often find myself at a place on Dundas near Dovercourt on the North Side. It has a great large selection of meat at fantastic prices. Excellent short ribs, beef and lamb shanks, pork butt, rabbit etc...a good old school operation.

                                                        2. Max and Son's is now closed. The shop has been taken over by a couple of chef's. Its called Sanigans meat locker. An excellent selection of meat and poultry mostly from ontario farms.

                                                          Tried a Berkshire pork rack on the weekend. Excellent quality and flavour. by the way, none of it is marinated in anything, but they have a few tips and ideas for you if you're interested.