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What's "Not To Miss" at St. Lawrence Market (and nearby)

I'll be in Toronto in a couple of weeks for a conference, staying at the Intercontinental Centre. I have most of a Saturday free (except between about 10 AM and 1 PM), and am planning to go over to the St. Lawrence Market. Any particular favorite things to get there? Maybe something unique to the area?

I'm considering heading over there early in the morning, and picking up some delectables for my clients, whom I will see mid-day. Then, once done with the "work" part of the day at 2, I might just go back over there. This assumes there's enough there for another visit, considering that the early morning visit will be rushed.

I will be tied down at the conference for most of the other days, but will probably get to slip out for an occasional lunch or dinner. Any nearby suggestions? Or should that be another thread?

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  1. Perhaps after 1pm, you could try the italian sandwiches at Mustachio's (lower level). Some would say they're not the greatest, and I agree, but when I'm in the area, I have a chicken parmigian with eggplant, peppers, onions. The bakery that is on the lower level is just ok, imo. Depending on your tastes and how picky you are, you'll find a lot of good treats to pick up. It's a good thing you won't be there after 10/10:30, some things sell out fast.

    If it's mid-day treats you're looking for, then try the bakery either lower level or Future Bakery, upper level.

    1. Since you are there on a Saturday, you may want to head over to the North Market - it offers something a bit different than the usual market during the rest of the week. It's a farmer's market, so it's fun to take a look at. It's directly north of the St Lawrence Market across the street. You'll see street vendors in front. Do this first thing in the morning because stuff moves fast here. It will be almost empty by noon.

      I always grab a peameal bacon on a bun when I'm at the market - Breakfast Special. 2 slices of heavenly peameal bacon + fried egg + cheese. A heart-attack on a bun. Awesome. Not a fan of Mustachio's either - but they have long queues, so someone's gotta like it! Check out the produce of Shleffer's - they have some olives and other treats on display from the Mediterranean. Great cured meats (Serrano ham, Prosciutto Parma) - you can get some snacks there for your trek back to the office. There are several threads on the market elsewhere on CH - so just search around. They'll have many more suggestions and viewpoints. I honestly think you can get through the market in a few hours, even if you take time to look at all the goodies as it is quite a small market. But that could just be because I'm a local and have been going here constantly for over 15 years. As a tourist, I spent almost 2 full days in the Mercatto in Barcelona...

      Nearby - Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar. You can look up some reviews. Great food. Avoid Spring Rolls like the plague - it's just next door. The LCBO (liquor - not sure if you're from Ontario or not) is also next door so you can get some provisions while you are there. Bier Market is on The Esplanade nearby - you can search for that on CH as well. You're near the financial district, so it's almost devoid of good culinary finds. I find it very depressing when I head to work each day. I find solace at the SLM. It's the only way I survive in the Financial Core. It's a little slice of food heaven - a Utopia if you will.

      Enjoy your visit. Cheers and Happy Eating!

      4 Replies
      1. re: BokChoi

        Also nearby you can stop in for some Gelato at Solferino. It's about a 3 minute walk from the SLM west - on Wellington. Definitely one of the better gelato places in Toronto.

        1. re: BokChoi

          Photo of my absolute favourite item at the Market. Breakfast special at Carousel. Have not tried it since they changed the bun on me, but I hope it is still as good.
          photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

          1. re: BokChoi

            Picture: Great idea! I agree with you, bokchoi: not much worth mentioning (food-wise) close to SLM. But plenty there.

            1. re: lamaranthe

              Thanks Iamaranthe. Those sandwiches are addictive (and artery clogging).

          2. If you click on the place link below and scroll down, you'll see recent threads with comments and reccos about St Lawrence Market...

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            St. Lawrence Market
            92 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E, CA

            2 Replies
            1. re: JamieK

              Your best best is to wake up early and spend the morning hours there. The north market (across the street from the building that houses the SLM) runs every saturday from 5am until 1ish, and at the end hours, most of the good stuff is gone. In the north market you will find local vendors selling fresh fruits, veggies, lots of baked goods, meats, eggs, flowers, etc. Stuff here goes fast. I personally love going early to watch all the other dedicated customers. There is a nice hustle and bustle, without it being super-crowded.
              Across the street in the SLM building is where they sell the infamous pemeal, as well as great cheese, meat and fish. There are non-food vendors outdoors and scattered around, they usually set-up shop alittle later in the morning, so it depends what kind of experience you are looking for.
              Personally I could spend hours there. I absolutely love SLM!

              1. re: pancake

                It should be noted that many of the "farmers" market vendors at SLM's north market are not selling local produce. Unless its origin is marked local, it's likely just shipped from the U.S. I realized this when I started asking the produce vendors where their fruits, veg and herbs were from. It's disappointing and I don't go to this market for anything but cheese and sausages now.

            2. Hey Steve.

              Another vote for get there early on Saturday.
              I'd go to Carouselle bakery on the main floor of the south market first and get a sandwich. I prefer the peameal on a kaiser instead of the breakfast on a bun. Both are quality sandwiches though. You can't go wrong. It's unique to the area and is bandied about on other threads as being the quintessential Toronto food item.
              Head on over to the north market. Take a spin through there as mentioned above.

              Back to the south market. Sheflers will provide a great variety of "Delectables" and is one of my favourite shops there.

              There are a few vendors who have pepperettes and csabi. They're great muchie items while you stroll through there.

              DT

              1. Go to Eve's Temptations on the bottom level of the south market and try some of their blondies, or brownies. Whenever I have clients coming over I have a plate of them sitting out and people absolutely love them. They are the best blondies Ive ever had.
                http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/shopp...

                1. A personal weakness is the Indian Candy at the Caviar and Smoked Salmon shop on the Lower Level. These sweet bits of almost jerky-like salmon are to die for!!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: sashagroznii

                    I'm definitely going to try these the next time I'm at SLM; thanks!

                  2. There is a guy there that sells like a million kinds of mustard. I love mustard and he makes the best. Try the sweet and smokey, the fig balsamic, amazing maple, etc, etc. Dont leave St. Lawrence without at least 1 jar.

                    5 Replies
                      1. re: Davwud

                        I like that one too. Very good on pork roast!!

                          1. re: Davwud

                            their orange-ginger is to die for. or to die by.
                            zingy. teary. good.

                            1. re: eddielike2eat

                              Oh wow, I've never tried that one. Any CH'ers in TO want to organize a mustard tasting???????

                    1. In the basement check out the woman with the salt stall. Cool stuff. Also, at the very back of the basement there's a booth with candies from around the world. Good stuff!

                      1. I'd say the absolute best thing you could take back to the office from the market is a dozen, hot, soft, pretzel-like Montreal style bagels from St. Urbain. Fresh out of the brick oven, with some cream cheese. You'll never go back to eating "bread with a hole in it" again. :-)

                        I'm also a huge fan of the "A Tisket a tasket" jam counter in the basement. That guy makes the most amazing jams. A little pricey, but can you really beat Pina Colada jam made with real rum?

                        Also, Scheffler's Deli is pretty awesome too. I'm a huge fan of Spanish cuisine, and they have a good range of Manchego cheese and serrano ham (at a price of course).

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: currycue

                          In the north market there is a Tofu guy... excellent tofu. They have teryaki and other flavors as well and they make and excellent "movie" snack instead of popcorn. And they freeze really well. I have purchased numerous flavors and froze them and they tasted just as good dethawed. And there is a place in the south market their smoked bacon OMG on some whole grain, with fresh tomatoes and some "lemonaise" organic mayo yum.
                          And the spanish place when you walk in the on the left near the pub they have these roll things cant remember the name but they have a type of chicken puree in them. deep fried but really good. I concure with the Kozliks their fig mustard is excellent on sausages as well.

                          1. re: MiniMom

                            what place has this prized smoked bacon? I'm drooling already....

                            1. re: MiniMom

                              Ooh, forgot about Churrasco of St. Lawrence (Portugese-style BBQ chicken) good call! I think those are called rissoles. Their chicken sandwich is awesome. And massive!

                              1. re: currycue

                                Rissois. And ya, third that one, they are a great snack.
                                The chicken sandwich, I agree, is awesome. But I'm torn between that one and the fish sandwich at Buster's as to which I'd pick in a bind. However, the portuguese place is also home to some of the best custard tarts. Best dessert in the market, I think.

                                Scheffler's is great for a bunch of ingredients. They have some really good variety of deli meats, cheeses, condiments, etc.

                                Third, fourth or fifth the Kozlik's mustard suggestion. A great gift idea as well as for personal consumption.

                                1. re: grandgourmand

                                  Could you tell us more re location of Scheffler's in SLM? Thanks.

                                  1. re: lamaranthe

                                    Ground level (not basement) walk straight to the mid-back (starting point is front entrance off Front St) near the stairs. It's on the left side. It looks like this:
                                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                      1. re: Davwud

                                        Love it as well. Great selection of cured meats. I also get many of my cheeses from them. They also have farm fresh eggs, though I have never tried them. Nice samples on Fridays.

                                          1. re: JamieK

                                            Truffle butter, I picked up a small jar for about $10 once. Not the best quality, I'm sure, but one of those good pantry items to have. Whip up a nice pasta course in a bind.

                                            Also, I was at Black Hoof the other day. I was tempted to get the Jamon Iberico for $30. Not sure how much you got for that price, but I think I could do better at Schefflers and eat it at home. It's probably the same stuff.

                                            1. re: grandgourmand

                                              I tried Mario Pingue's Niagara prosciutto from there a few weeks ago. I really liked it. Tasted a little different than Italian prosciutto in way I can't quite put my finger on, but good.

                          2. I get the sandwiches at Paddingtons, in the market not Carosul since paddingtons cooks the meat fresh.

                            Alex's cheese farms has fresh cheese curds on Saturday mornings, but they sell out fast.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: smr714

                              I've had both. I find Carouselle better. I've always gotten it fresh off the grill with no problem.

                              DT

                              1. re: Davwud

                                Ditto. I have never had a pre-made order at Carousel. But then again, I always order the breakfast special, which is always made-to-order. Though I do see a small pile of pre-assembled sandwiches sometimes, but that is just during the rush and they are usually snapped up pretty fast (of the times I have been there). Add a touch of mustard from the mustard guy, and you're set.

                                Cheers!

                                1. re: BokChoi

                                  I've been known to go to Scheflers and get some cheese to put on mine.

                                  DT

                                  1. re: Davwud

                                    Nice.... my breakfast on a bun comes with cheese though, so it's gooey perfection already (not gourmet cheese by any standards, but comfort food all the same). I like the runny sunnyside up/fried egg that tops it all off as well. But it's a good idea - assemble your own Peameal Bacon on a bun. Maybe that's why you stick to the original, instead of the breakfast special. Unfortunately, I don't think I can get my hands on a freshly fried egg at the market... it just makes it that much more heart-attack worthy.

                            2. I echo the many rec's for an early morning visit to SLM. The Carousel peameal bacon sandwiches are a classic Toronto tradition but make sure you ask for a fresh one, not one of the premade. In the afternoon, I'd opt to explore somewhere else, rather than heading back to SLM. If you'd like to stay downtown, you could head over to the Distillery District, a restored heritage site with lots of cool buildings, cobbled streets, funky art galleries and - of course - more chow treats (Brick Street sandwiches and eccles cakes along with Soma chocolates and gelato will put you in good stead). Alternatively, you could head over to Kensington Market (possibly combined with Chinatown) - Kensington consists of half a dozen streets with lots of food shops, ethnic treats and a generally funky vibe that I consider one of the best spots in TO. Here you can enjoy a latte from Louie's, some Jamaican patties, empanadas, papusas, etc. If you tack on Chinatown, the options go on and on. You could also combine this with dinner at Torito, a most excellent Spanish tapas bar in Kensington where you will enjoy a lovely evening of friendly service and yummy chow. Have fun!

                              1. i really like that store across from that jam place where you can try every single sauce and salsa they sell .. don't think they make it all themselves but you don't usually get to sample so hard elsewhere!

                                1. just a random thought .... is there seafood/meats at the north market on saturday mornings?...

                                  i'm looking particularly for live/fresh oysters (any and all types) ... are there any recommended places from the SLM....or would i have better luck getting them somewhere else altogether?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: msprnt

                                    The north market has fresh meats but no fresh fish. Rowe farms and a few other butchers are around.

                                    South market has a bunch of fresh fish places - one does have fresh mussels, lobsters and oysters I believe. It is just as busy in the south market, so turn around and quality are not a problem. The fish/seafood from the south market is great.

                                  2. I reccomend you venture 10 minutes east of the St. Lawrence Market on front street to the Distillery District on Parliment and Mill st. There you will find Soma the best chocolate shop in the city . They grind the cocoa beans for some of their chocolates right there. Also in the Distillery there is one of the best Pastry shops which I think has only been open a few months called The Sweet Escape Patisserie. They make the best macarons and homemade ice cream, also tons of cupcakes petit desseets and savoury food

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: bike_girl

                                      I had the s'mores bar at Sweet Escape. Marshmallows were fluffy, like eating clouds in my mouth!!

                                      1. re: bike_girl

                                        this is a late response, but I would like to pipe in for Soma Chocolates! I haven't been to the store, but recently one of the coffee shops here has been importing their small bars. WOW!! The spicy one it is called the Dark Fire or something like that is absolutely fabulous. I'll clearly have to make a trip to the motherlode. A couple of TO trips coming up soon I hope!!

                                      2. Thanks for all the replies. Just to follow up, the North Market was great, with lots of lovely produce, some of which was laid out in very artistic patterns. So was it just a great season, or do the long days in the northern latitudes account for the beautiful (and huge!) produce?

                                        I picked up a bag of nice bell peppers outside, and also bought a slice of smoked pork chop (Kassler) from the place near the front with all the pigs heads in the case. Very good.

                                        Got a mini-loaf of red-pepper cornbread for the next day’s breakfast at one of the bakery tables, chatted with the honey guy for a while, and then wandered across the street to the South Market. Wow – this place makes Los Angeles's Grand Central Market look sad.

                                        Since I’ve never had a Montreal bagel, I of course had to try St. Urbain’s take on it, especially after following the recent thread. I had a sesame one hot out of the oven, and sorry, but it was just so-so. Seemed underdone and gluey; not even equal to a toasted Ess-a-Bagel from NYC (which is barely average for an NYC bagel, IMO). I’m sure real Montreal bagels are much better, but that will have to wait till I make it there.

                                        Then on to Kozlik’s Mustards. Not really much of a mustard fan, but I do like a good sweet-hot, which they had. Some of the other flavors were interesting as well. They were also frying up some peameal bacon to sample with the mustard, so (having never tried it), I tasted a piece plain. Just not my thing, I guess – this influenced my decision to skip the recommended peameal bacon sandwich.

                                        However, my next stop was at Witteveen Meats, where they were handing out samples of maple-baked (or something similar) back bacon. Now that _was_ my thing and I bought a couple of slices. Too bad I didn’t have a kitchen, as it would have been good with some eggs.

                                        Then I had a plate of cheddar-potato pirogies w/browned onions. Excellent! Can’t remember the name of the place but it was very narrow.

                                        Picked up some baked treats for my clients at Future Bakery, stopped by Chris’s Cheese for a rather expensive slice of Beemster XO aged gouda, and called it a day. A great day. All the vendors were quite friendly, and I had a very nice time. Thanks again, everyone!

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: Steve Green

                                          The honey guy is so nice, he lets you sample almost everything and is very informative. I bought a jar of honeydew, good stuff if you're into the darker variety.

                                          Glad you had a good time!!

                                          1. re: Steve Green

                                            Hey Steve_Green, glad you had an excellent outing. Peameal bacon might just be a Canadian thing, eh? Growing up on the stuff - it just brings back good memories. Would agree the St. Urbain bagel in SLM is definitely below par - I have never enjoyed this version. I do not believe they are even related to the Montreal branch, but maybe someone more familiar can put in their two-cents. The best bagel in the market (IMO) is the one on Saturday at Carousel. They have a really fantastic Montreal-style bagel that is smaller than a regular bagel, but oh-so-satisfying.

                                            I try to avoid Futures at all costs, their baked goods always failed to impress (IMO). But could be just me. Hope the client enjoyed it.

                                            Cheers!

                                            1. re: BokChoi

                                              BokChoi, those bagels at Carousel are supplied by What-A-Bagel.

                                              1. re: Googs

                                                Thanks Googs. I didn't realize. Those are amazing Bagels. Thanks for the info.

                                                That's these guys right? http://www.whatabagel.com/about.html

                                            2. re: Steve Green

                                              Thanks for the reply.

                                              Mrs. Sippi doesn't get much out of peameal bacon either. In fact, she's called it "Tasteless" in the past. She eats it just fine. It's a great side to pancakes because you can sop up some of the maple syrup with it.

                                              I have had Montreal style bagels in the past and describe them exactly as you say. "Underdone and gluey" It's like eating a gooey brick.

                                              DT

                                              1. re: Davwud

                                                Now that I re-read it, you're right. That description does strangely sum it up in a phrase. Seems like I enjoy underdone and gluey though (if done right). Cheers!

                                              2. re: Steve Green

                                                the st. urbain's bagels at the market are definitely sub-par and inconsistent, though to give them some credit, maybe 40% of the bagels turn out okay. the true montreal bagel is not at all gooey . . . maybe a bit chewy, but only gooey if undercooked. at the st. lawrence version of the montreal's st. urbain's bagels (and this is coming from someone who subsisted on bagels alone for over four years in a row) the bagels are often gooey in parts . . . but the most frustrating thing is that almost half are malformed. at st.viateur's bagels in mtl, my fave, the bagels were always nicely formed, with an actual hole in the middle, not scrunched or crumpled or otherwise misshapen as are the ones made by the careless and not so skilful proprietors at the st. lawrence market . . . so say i . . . any agreement out there???

                                                1. re: gEnio2

                                                  Once I bought two st urbain's bagels, and both were half-baked, in my opinion.

                                                  1. re: gEnio2

                                                    I'm with gEnio2 on this one. In about a dozen tries at the St. Lawrence Market's way-station for St. Urbain Bagels, I found the bagels were underbaked about half the time - not quite inedible, perhaps, but certainly unpleasant eating, and for sure a bad batting average. Uncaring rookies seem to be manning the ovens. And there doesn't seem to be any senior person in charge of the operation. I've given up on the place, especially since they've raised their prices (yet again) without improving their hit-and-miss quality.

                                                    1. re: juno

                                                      what's the price now? i swear it's been 65 cents for a long time

                                                      I've always had the bagels on Saturday morning when they're fresh out the oven and they're always delish. I believe the owner Eddy is the one making the bagels every saturday and they don't seem underdone to me. Nice crusty exterior with nice doughy and chewy inside.

                                                      It's not a viatuer bagel but i would call it the best bagel south of bloor street when it's done right.

                                                2. Glad to hear the venture was successful. It's a great place for a Saturday morning.

                                                  In the area, but not part of the market is Hank's Cafe, which is a little oasis of gourmet culture in the area. It's on Church, south of Front, next to Jamie Kennedy's Wine Bar, and affiliated. Probably some of the best coffee I've had in recent memory, as well as artisinal pastries, sandwiches, and much of the prepped take out foods that are also at Gilead Cafe. Still mostly undiscovered, so you can pick up things very quickly as opposed to the lines at the various places in the market.

                                                  1. I agree that you must have the peameal sandwich and go to Solferino's for gelato - try the pistachio flavour and you will not be dissapointed.... There is also a place (i am bad with names) but it is along the east wall where they have every kind of stuffed olive imaginable which i highly recommend.

                                                    1 Reply