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Steak - Not Cumbrae's, Healthy Butcher etc....

I am looking for some great cuts of steak. Primarily N.Y. Strips, Top Sirloin etc.....

I know all about Cumbrae's, Healthy Butcher etc.... but that's not what I am looking for. I can impress enough with my cooking capabilities that I don't always need a name brand butcher and price tag to back it up.

European Meat in Kensington is out of the equation. All of Kensington is. So that leaves me with St. Lawrence Market (I usually go to DeLiso's for filet but never other cuts), Loblaws, Dominion.

I don't mind spending a little extra but I want to find the best taste and value for my dollars. The Downtown core is preferred!

Where do you shop and what do you recommend?

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  1. I'd try the Certified Angus counter at the Queens Quay Loblaws.

    10 Replies
    1. re: embee

      Is that just the Loblaws that you frequent or do you recommend that counter in particular over other stores? Coincidentally, I was eyeing some steak at the Certified Angus counter in the St. Clair West Loblaws yesterday but I hesitated to purchase anything as I wasn't sure about the quality/taste. I'm usually an Olliffe's/Cumbrae's girl and I'm just not that familiar with supermarket quality meats - not meaning to be a snob (Lord knows I could save some $ in this department) but I'm always hesitant to buy inferior meat. Do they sell any meats that are either organic or organic-ish (i.e. not certified but free range, hormone free)?

      1. re: peppermint pate

        Store location was based on "downtown core" comment of the OP. St Clair W should be fine. I assume you know what to look for in a good steak. They often have them. "Certified Angus" is a brand name, and the quality falls somewhere between USDA Choice and USDA Prime.

        I prefer rib on the bone, and even the awful Leslie St store sometimes has ribs that are beautifully marbled and nicely cut. They will usually (though not always) cut to order if you aren't happy with what's on display. I don't generally buy strip loins.

        The steaks they sell could use more age. I hold them loosely wrapped in the fridge for at least a week, and sometimes more. It does make a difference. I haven't had any problems with mold or spoilage, but YMMV.

        As to the Oliffe/Cumbrae comparison, you really can't compare. I've had Certified Angus steaks that were more flavourful, and more tender, than 45 day steaks from Cumbrae's. If you choose carefully, the odds aren't bad, and the cost is about 1/3 for a comparably sized steak. However, I also shop at Cumbrae's and, less frequently, at Oliffe. There are days when nothing looks worth buying, so I don't buy.

        Organic-ish? No. Also, Certified Angus is normally American meat. They do sell chickens that are labeled "free from" a bunch of additives (Dominion calls these chickens "traditionally raised"). I believe that Canadian standards for poultry farming exceed those in the US. I can't say anything about the beef. The US allows growth hormones while Canada doesn't. I don't know the status of the imports.

        1. re: embee

          Thanks a bunch for the informative response. I also prefer a bone-in ribsteak to all other cuts. I've never thought to try aging any of the meat that I've purchased. On your last point re: growth hormones, then, are you saying that all Canadian-raised meat is hormone-free?

          1. re: peppermint pate

            My understanding (which may be incorrect!) is that growth hormones cannot be used in Canadian raised meat. I don't know whether this means US beef imported into Canada must be hormone free.

            It also appears that poultry raising practices are better here. We have not had the "assume all of your chicken contains salmonella" problem common in the US. It is much easier to get a decent quality air chilled chicken here than in the US. The "free from" (Loblaws) and "traditionally raised" (Dominion) chickens are of obviously superior quality, but make no "natural" or "organic" claims.

            "Natural" and "organic" labeling is very hazy to me. Cumbrae's makes no "organic" claims for the meats they sell, but seems to be directly involved with animal welfare. Oliffe makes no claims at all. Rowe Farms is neither "natural" nor "organic", but has somehow come to be viewed as such. Much of the certified organic product sold in Toronto doesn't taste very good.

            Antibiotic use is another hazy area. The issue seems to be the use of antibiotics as growth stimulants or as a necessity under the worst of battery raising conditions. I believe (again I'm unsure) that giving antibiotics to a sick animal is considered acceptable.

            1. re: embee

              ..what a ball of wax, who knew eating safely and with a conscience would require so much effort! Hopefully with the popularity of these ideals there will be some kind of universal (and clear!) standards set in place to follow. Right now I feel like I have good intentions, but don't know when it is ok to buy organic (or whatever label & $$ hike something is given) or the ol'standard products, since I do prefer just or don't find it necessary to buy all organic stuff.

              Sheesh! I just want to be healthy, enjoy food and avoid supporting cruelty whenever possible...

              1. re: embee

                Thanks again - and yes, it is quite confusing. As far as I know, and I may be incorrect but this is what I've been told when asked, all of the meats at Cumbrae's and Olliffe's are drug-free (not sure about in the case of illness, as you have suggested), grain fed and, where applicable, free range. In other words, I believe they meet the criteria for "organic" but aren't certified as such.

                1. re: peppermint pate

                  ..I do know that becoming certified is a lengthy process, the practice can be in place for years before getting the official stamp...

                  1. re: embee

                    Hormones cannot be used in Canadian meat. So if a label say hormone free I wouldn't by it on the principle that they are misleading the consumer by selling their product as special. All Natural or Organic means is that they are not fed antibotics on a regular basis to prevent disease. However, after speaking with a good friend who use to help his father run a chicken farm for 30 years told me that if one chicken in the coop gets sick (which is quite often) all chickens are given antibotics. The same goes for free range. All this means is that the door to the coop is open and if the chicken chooses to go out is does. If it doesn't it doesn't but can still be labeled free range. Based on your comments I would shop at any of the three you mentioned above because they are not making any false claims. I think why our meat and chicken look and taste better than the US is because of government regulations put in place. The inspectors are very diligent and the quota's are government controlled. I don't know about the regulations in the States but I think their chicken looks grey.

          2. grace meats (college and grace) has fabulous dry-aged ribeye that you don't have to break the bank for. used to live nearby, and was never disappointed.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tuqueboy

              I have been shopping at the Loblaws at Christie & Dupont since it opened....the Butchers there are terrific...they know us well and they never fail to deliver the BEST steaks/roasts! If they don't think the 'meat' on display in their counter is something we would like they will tell us that and they will 'cut' for us. I buy Beef Tenderloin steaks for me and a NY Strip for my husband, same goes for a Standing Rib. I couldn't be more pleased and would never think of changing...( must admit that the Store is currently undergoing a major renovation and shopping has been a bit of a drag (everything is being moved around etc) I will keep on shopping in the 'chaos'...just because I like the store and the employees.

            2. I got some ribeyes from Sobey's the other day (Sterling Silver). They were nicely marbled and tasty. There's a location on Front St. near Sherbourne.

              2 Replies
              1. re: grandgourmand

                Yes I always find the Sterling Silver stuff to be pretty good in the Sobey's...

                1. re: BloorWestie...

                  I'll take Sterling of Black Angus anyday!

                  Black Angus
                  3277 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M8X1E2, CA

              2. Diliso's generally has as good a price or better than the grocery chains. I look frequently and this doesn't change. When there's a sale at Loblaw's, I'll buy from them as their cuts are more generous than the other majors. Yes, you can always get the butcher to cut for you, but why bother if you can just point? However, Loblaw's generally sell AA and Sobey's sells AAA so pick your poison.

                For outstanding steak from a butcher without paying highway robbers for it, it's St Jamestown Steak and Chops every time for me. You know the expression "everything taste good"? I think they wrote that with this place in mind.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Googs

                  Is that the place cradled next to some sandwich bar/deli? I went once, but was in a hurry so didn't take in the details.

                  1. re: grandgourmand

                    St Jamestown Steak and Chops and St. J's Deli are one in the same. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I could walk in blindfolded with a clothes peg on my nose and I would still come out with great stuff. Go in and take your time. It may be small, but they make the most of the space.

                    1. re: Googs

                      Thanks for the tip.
                      I live near the Danforth, so we drove down to Steak and Chops to take a peek.
                      If i didn't already have 3 chickens in my fridge and 3 lbs of ground lamb waiting to be shaped, i would have walked out with an armful of steak.

                      His ribeye and NY strips were phenomenal. Talked with the owner and he took LOTS of time to proudly show off his cuts.

                      The chicken breasts were huge and juicy and very well priced.

                      none of his cuts had lots of fat on the exterior - that's what drives me crazy about most butchers. you're paying for the fatty trim or chunks of fat left on chicken.
                      The prices were great, the selection is not huge but its definitely not limited.

                      there's no way i would buy a steak from a grocery store over what St Jamestown Steak and Chops has to offer. I can't wait to actually try one of the steaks to see if it tastes as good as it looks.

                      1. re: atomeyes

                        You're quite welcome. They do. They most certainly do.

                2. Vince Gasparro's Meat Market, Roxton and Bloor, just east of Ossington. He sells to Grace, buys, preps and retails some of the best meat in town. Go in, tell them what you want, discuss cuts and cooking and go home happy. And pick up some of the lamb sausage while you're there, it's most excellent.

                  1. It's not downtown, but I find Costco to have the best taste and value. Their ribeyes and strips are fantastic.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Davedigger

                      I was invited over for dinner to a good friends the other night and Costco strips were on the menu, I have read about how much people like them on here and was eager to try them. They were cut nicely and were quite tender, but the flavour wasn't there, I like just salt and pepper on a steak cooked rare and found that these only could beat Healthy Butcher or Cumbraes by price...certainly not ethics...

                      1. re: Recyclor

                        Those strips are AAA from Alberta, finished on grain other than corn, mostly barley. I have asked before, on these boards, for information about the ethics of raising and finishing beef in Alberta.

                        Any takers, this time?

                        1. re: jayt90

                          I wish I could tell you more jay90, I just know the basics and personally I am torn over the whole debate...

                          1. re: Recyclor

                            Me too! I want to believe that beef and chicken is well handled in Canada on a mass production scale (not much hope for pork!) but there is not much good informaton.

                          2. re: jayt90

                            Are you asking to debate the ethics of Alberta beef finishing practices, or just looking for info related to the matter. If it's the former, no comment. If it's the latter:

                      2. I love the Kansas Cut NY Striploins...

                        They are a bone-in NY striploin that is uncommon to see and usually is impressive on its own

                        The bone adds a nice flavor

                        On;ly place I know where to buy them though is Cheese Boutique

                        1. We have always gotten good Rib steaks at Dominion and Loblaws. I wait for a sale and get the butchers to cut them for me from the small end of the roast and 1.5 inches thick for grilling.

                          1. Not sure what you want here. You say you want top quality and are willing to spend but you don't want to shop at two of the best butchers in the province. Why not?

                            Maybe try Olliffe's or Whole Foods instead.

                            And how well you can, or can't, cook has no bearing on the quality of the meat when you buy it.

                            1. You can count on certified angus to be good, top quality. If you ever see a cut labelled "Sterling Silver" buy as much of it as you can afford. It's the best currently available to regular folk in Canadian grocery stores.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: stapler

                                I can't completely agree about "Sterling Silver". I've had very good restaurant steaks labeled as such. However, I find the Sterling Silver products sold at Sobey's to be quite unremarkable.

                              2. It's not downtown, but worth a quick subway ride. Bloor Meat Market, between Runnymede and jane, south side of Bloor. They are vociferous about the advantages of their USDA select, nicely aged 4-6 weeks and the happy customers seem to bear them out. Biggest sellers seem to be the strip loins but my crowd prefers the flavour of the rib-eye and I'm a fan of the bone, so it's rib steak for me. Salt and pepper and nothing else.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: johnnyd

                                  I have to second Bloor Meat Market, impressed by their steaks and they even have bison available. Whitehouse on Bloor, east of Royal York is also another option.

                                2. OK, so my interest in trying out a few of these alternate spots has been peeked...I have spent up to $20 a piece for thick sizable NY strips or rib-eye's at the Healthy Butcher, I want to try Grace or the one listed as a supplier of theirs on Bloor, how much will I be paying for their premium products?...how significantly less is it?

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: Recyclor

                                    So, I answered my own question by going to Grace last night after work, pricewise ny strips were 9.99/lb and rib steaks were 7.99/lb, compared to Healthy B that's almost half price. The quality of the meat seems to be pretty good & dry aged 41 days I believe he said, the cuts could be bigger & thicker but I didn't inquire -- I assume he'd prepare what ever you wanted. The service from what appeared to be the owner or at least head (or only?) butcher was OK, but I would have had to beat much info out of him, I chose one steak that looked good, he though it was a great choice, then I saw a much better beautifully marbled one and asked to switch it and again he responded the same way, happy to sell whatever he had, nice guy and all but....As for the meat itself and how it was raised and all, it is from Ontario and based on the fact Gasparro's supplies them (I will try their product directly next), at their shop just about everything is boasting some kind of "naturally raised" line, I figure ethically I can live with this option. All that is left is to actually eat them now and see if they live up to Healthy Butcher or Cumbrae's in flavour/texture....I'll post the results...

                                    1. re: Recyclor

                                      Update....I just went to Gasparo's, they as previously posted are not a supplier to Grace Meats, Grace apparenty is a large operation all of it's own. I would also like to correct an above comment of my own, Gasparo's beef is primarily Ontario, but they don't say anything further about naturally raised or anything, it is their chicken that is Free Run and I believe grain fed. So, I picked up a well marbled ny strip (to compare to the Grace one) for $9.99/lb -- dry aged for only 3 weeks but taste will tell, and a whole approx 5lb chicken for under $16 -- great price! and these birds are from the same supplier Cumbrae's uses...I will be eating the steaks tomorrow night, so i will post the results of what I prefer then...the only thing I'm stuck on is how to know in the case of beef if the animals were treated humanly, i f I can be sure that is the case, and the meat is as good as it looks, I don't see a reason to spend twice the money at "higher-end" trendy butchers.

                                      1. re: Recyclor

                                        The results...
                                        The chicken was great, I will likely only be purchasing them from Gasparro's from now on, I'd really recommend them. For the steaks, I liberally salt and peppered them, splash of olive oil and then pan seared a crust onto them and finished in the oven -- done to just under med-rare, overall the Grace strip was more flavourful and tender, I figure since it was aged longer. But, if Gasparo's will age to around 45 days I imagine they would be about equal, since their service was better and they were happy to discuss the products with me, and cuts larger and thicker, which is to my liking, I will inquire about aging. So, all in all 2 goods options, I believe them to be of high enough ethics and quality is there and the price is about half, though I still want to do a direct comparison to a Healthy Butcher steak since I recall it being so great...

                                          1. re: Googs

                                            ...sounds like I've missed something, maybe that explains why I was the only one persuing these!...though I still have to see if Gasparro's ages a better length of time, 3 weeks isn't doing it for me...

                                  2. Thanks to all for all the info and for those who actually went out on their own to try other places.

                                    I just brought home some NY Strips from Brown Brothers at SLM. They could have used some better marbelling but for a 16oz at $7.99lb that was pretty good. Probably grill em up tomorrow. They are aged 3 weeks (would prefer at least 4) but why not give it a try.

                                    A little off topic - stay tuned to www.hotsauceblog.com for a review of El Gaucho sausages.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: MindGrinder

                                      great post, mindgrinder. I was reading down the thread with increasing dismay that no-one was pointing out that cows are not all equal. Talking about beef without specifying breed, diet, etc. is like talking about apples without naming the variety.

                                      1. re: thug

                                        I agree that I didn't think of the type of cow other than I think Angus is highly overrated and prefer Sterling which is another type of cow. I've head Kobe steaks are the best but they are a little out of my price range. We have farmers that are now promoting Blonde beef. I think it has to do with what there feed as opposed to the type of cow.

                                        1. re: 02putt

                                          There is no breed or type of cow known as Sterling. It is the top 12% of AAA beef in Canada, which is similar to Certified Angus, the top 12% of beef with 50% Angus or black breeding content. http://www.sterlingsilvermeats.com/Pr...

                                          Blonde beef is a lean breed from France, just the opposite of a true stocky Aberdeen Angus cow.

                                          1. re: 02putt

                                            Whether Kobe (or Wagyu, as most of this beef here in Toronto is not authentic Kobe) steaks are the best is really a matter of preference. I spoke once to one of the top butchers in Toronto who said, for his money, he'd rather have a Prime beef steak, and that people want Wagyu because of the cachet, the wow factor, and the extravagance of it all, not necessarily the taste.

                                      2. I'm ITB though right now the focus is in the US.

                                        One challenge with beef is that it's hard to know what's actually on your plate, other than the grade or sometimes a general sense of origin e.g. Alberta. While marbling is important, flavor and texture can also vary considerably by breed, growing region, diet, age of cattle, the particular husbandry protocols of the rancher or lot operator, and the aging technique (if any) used by the butcher.

                                        Another challenge is that your taste buds and priorities are unique – you may prefer one combination to another (as you might prefer some wines or apples over others) or really only care if the beef is from a local farm.

                                        My recommendation is that you find a retailer that sources from a single ranch or group of ranches that work under the same protocols. Since you're okay with St. Lawrence Market, you might try Kerr Farms beef sold by Witteveen. I have not tried Kerr Farms beef but they seem to have a good program. They work with several ranchers who raise “exclusively Angus breed” (note: it’s very rare to find 100% Angus, but that’s a whole other discussion). They have good husbandry practices, e.g. no added hormones, antibiotics, animal by-products, and I believe their finishing diet is fairly specific and consistent.

                                        Caveat given your comments about aging times: neither the Kerr nor Whiteveen sites say how long the meat is aged or how, which probably means it's been wet-aged a few weeks at most. But if you try it and like it, you’ll likely have a far more consistent experience than with other retailers (esp. grocers) who purchase from multiple sources or programs.

                                        My preference? I absolutely prefer beef from producers who use low-stress management techniques and specialize in a specific breed and diet. Bonus points if they use a grass-only diet. My current favorite is 14-day dry-aged, grain finished Charolais from a fabulous ranch in Colorado, but it’s a pain to get over the border. I also know that I generally do not like wet-aged corn finished Certified Black Angus beef – the US or Canadian program - I find it bland.

                                        If you want some other thoughts on how you might narrow the field, let me know. From your blog, you might have some ideas for me, too!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. I know this is a "where to find good steak downtown" thread. Seems all the "brand name" butchers are downtown. I am currently living in Newmarket but am planning to move back to Markham or to Richmond Hill soon. Can any one recommend some good butchers located in or near these areas? I'm looking for a butcher shop that offers high quality Porterhouse & t-bone.

                                          Right now I'm only buying from Loblaws. And the quality of meat there is "respectable". but not the best of course. Usually not enough if any marblization in their cuts. And they never carry Porterhouse.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: LBrown8

                                            As I mentioned in your other thread, call Bruno's in Richmond Hill:


                                            9665 Bayview Ave (VillageGate Plaza
                                            )(905) 737 - 4280

                                            If they don't have a porterhouse, they can probably have one cut to order for you. I find the quality of the meats there excellent.

                                            1. re: TorontoJo

                                              Second Bruno's. It has easily the best meat in Richmond Hill (Sue's on Major Mack has a good selection as well, but I find Bruno's to be better quality).

                                              You'll pay for it, but you will get what you pay for. It's our "go to" for special occasion meals at home.

                                              1. re: FrankD

                                                As I replied to TorontoJo in my other thread I will go check out Bruno's. Used to live just behind the plaza. Never bought meats from them for some reason. Hope their cuts are as good as you guys say.

                                                Btw...where is "Sue's"?

                                                Costco's??? Never would have thought they would carry good quality meats. Always assumed they sold subpar products so I assumed their meats would be so as well. Guess I'll have to give them a try too. Do all locations have NY Strips, T-bones and Porterhouse?

                                                1. re: LBrown8

                                                  I don't think I've ever seen T-bones or Porterhouses at any Costco location. I think the standards are strips, rib eyes, and tenderloin tips. Rib steaks (bone in) have been making an appearance around the weekend recently. They're all Canadian AAA.

                                                  I love Costo's rib eyes!

                                                  1. re: Davedigger

                                                    Davedigger. I just bought striploin at the Etobicoke Costco and they are labelled USDA choice.
                                                    I haven't seen Porterhouse cuts at Costco either.

                                                    1. re: tasoid

                                                      They use USDA Choice in the summer as a sub for Can. AAA if the supply is short, but it is well marked.

                                                  2. re: LBrown8

                                                    Sue's is on the south side of Major Mac, between Yonge and Bathurst (one light west of York Central Hospital). A good selection of prepped meats (marinated, kebab, etc.), along with better than standard produce.

                                            2. I agree Costco has great meat and the prices are hard to beat. Beef is AAA and Canadian. Steak-wise go for the rib only. On weekends in the summer they tend to have rib with the bone in. The strip is too lean thus not enough flavour but still great if that is the cut you like.

                                              Regardless how good the steak is bottom line is to cook it properly - high heat to get a sear and season - just salt and pepper. Jus is acceptable but not required really.

                                              One thing I find better than salt is to marinate it in a combo of oil and soy sauce (oil to help sear and to limit the amount of soy that the meat will absorb). The soy also helps with caramalization. Then it's cats iron pan or bbq. If you have a super hot high end oven broil is great too.

                                              1. The aged striploins at Whole Foods are beyond amazing. They also have the best chicken. I live close to a Rowe Farms and it pains me to write this, as I would prefer to support local. Not cheap, but those Whole Food's steaks are as good as any steak I've ever had...and I've had Dario's beef in Chianti.

                                                Rowe Farms
                                                912 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M, CA

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: Greeneggie

                                                  I'm not sure which Rowe Farms you live near. I'll assume you're downtown westside and truly do wish to support local. If these are both true, try Gasparro's Meat Market or Sanagan's Meat Locker. Nobody needs to shop at Whole Paycheque.

                                                  If this isn't your 'hood, please share your coordinates.

                                                  Rowe Farms
                                                  912 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M, CA

                                                  1. re: Googs

                                                    Hey googs, I live near Leslieville, but I've been to Gas and Sana and have had some great beef there. For some reason W.F. has really great steaks...which they don't always carry. It will be two weeks 'till they have this particular aged Angus again. I feel like staking out the joint so I can follow the supplier back to the well-head.

                                                    1. re: Greeneggie

                                                      Oh yes, I understand it's hard to find a good butcher in Leslieville.

                                                      Closer than Whole Paycheque and very definitely a great butcher, provisioner, and deli is St Jamestown Steak & Chops at Parliament & Winchester. I shop there regularly and am always pleased.

                                                      Perhaps a Hound closer to your home can help with finding someone nearby.

                                                      St James Town Steak & Chops
                                                      516 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M4X, CA

                                                      1. re: Marumari

                                                        Sanagan's is awesome for all meats.

                                                        1. re: jamesm

                                                          I've been buying 90 percent of all of my meat products here for about six months now and I love them!

                                                  2. I've had good meat at Fiesta Farms. Loblaws does good meat - we have had some really nice steaks from the one on Dupont and the one on St. Clair.

                                                    Fiesta Farms
                                                    200 Christie St, Toronto, ON M6G, CA

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Arcadiaseeker

                                                      Agreed - I picked up two tenderloins and two Rib steaks last weekend at St. Clair Loblaws and they were fantastic and reasonably priced.

                                                    2. I'm going to get scolded for this but I'll say it anyways. If on a budget, I've actually had some really good bacon wrapped Fillet Mignon's from M&M meats. Yes, M&M meats! Full of flavor and very tender. I find the Healthy Butcher steak not impressive. It has given me gut rot twice and I find it tough and gamey. I am on a budget so we usually get our meat on the group coupon websites and go to the Butchers on Yonge St. just north of Eglinton. Everything from the Butcher has been nothing short of wonderful all round.