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Sep 11, 2008 09:18 AM

Stratford - What not to miss? Markets and More

Hi CHers,

I will be heading up to Stratford within the next few weeks (on a Sunday). I will be catching an afternoon play, but was wondering if anyone had any insights into "must-sees" and "must-dos" in the area. I have browsed the other posts related to Stratford, and they mainly focused on where to dine. Any suggestions on which markets would be the best ones to visit earlier in the day when I arrive? I was browsing the Stratford website: http://www.shakespearetotheshoreline.... and found a listing of markets and things to do, but I need help in narrowing it down because I will probably only have a few hours and would like to make the most of it. It will be my first time to the area, so all suggestions are welcome. Also, please suggest items that I should purchase at these items, as I am always looking for a food find. Any suggestions for little stores in Stratford that have speciality food items would also be appreciated.

As well, judging from earlier posts, I was leaning towards Pazzo Pizza. Any suggestions on the best way to secure a seat? I'm not sure if it will be busy at this time of the year. I'm looking for something in the modest price-range, and this seemed to fit the bill.

Need help in planning my day!

Cheers and thanks in advance.

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  1. Hey Bokchoi, my husband are going to a play too on Sunday and will be planning to dine at Pazzo Pizza as well!

    I looked up where to eat on here and this place sounded good, can't wait to try their pizzas!! I was wondering about securing seats as well, hope someone on here can let us know if we need to make reservations or not! :)

    5 Replies
    1. re: sasgirl

      Yes, let's hope someone out there can help us. Hope you have an enjoyable time - report back once you're back.

      1. re: BokChoi

        My review for Pazzo. Made a reservation for 12 noon, got there and there quite a few tables available so reservation wasn't needed. Ribboy is right, do not go before a show ... pizza took forever to come! Another table hadn't gotten their pizza and it was already 1pm (show starts at 2). Luckily we got ours on time.

        Pizza was really good, got the Marco Polo (roast chicken, sundried tomatoes, fresh basil)...nice thin crust, got the whole wheat option. My husband got one with spicy sausage and goat cheese, liked his a lot too but was expecting sausage to be spicy but wasn't spicy at all.

        1. re: sasgirl

          sasgirl - good to hear the pizza was a success. Thanks for the prompt review. How does the whole wheat compare to the regular (you didn't mention the husband getting whole wheat as well) - did the WH version contain honey?

          Did you check out any other purveyors while you were there?

          1. re: BokChoi

            My husband had the regular crust, he hates whole wheat. :) Regular crust was good too but my pizza was smaller than his, don't know if it was because of the crust or because mine was not custom made.

            Didn't have time to check out any other purveyors! We usually stick around in Stratford for a couple of hours after the show but this time we couldn't ... had a 17 month old son waiting for me at home! :)

            1. re: sasgirl

              Thank you sasgirl. Maybe it's just me, but I find that often times when you ask for the 'healthier' option, they also tend to think you want less of everything because one is on a diet. Strange how they equate the two. It's almost like how it's so difficult to find non-fat yogurt, that is NOT sugar free. Just because you don't like fat, doesn't mean you want to ingest sugar substitutes.

              Thanks for the review

    2. Hi, not sure what's wrong with using the website? They seem to accept reservations that way: Or they have a toll-free phone number too.

      I went on a Sunday a couple of months ago and was able to phone in a reservation for dinner a few hours before in the middle of the afternoon. I think most of the crowds disappear by Sunday.

      As for the Farmer's Markets, I can't really help. From the website though, it doesn't look like too many of them are open on Sunday? Or perhaps I am reading it wrong. The meat at the Best Little Pork Shoppe looked really good and was very tempting but I wasn't in a situation where I could buy raw meat products.

      Also, even though you decided on Pazzo, I recommend the Sun Room as it's a place with a nice decor, hilarious hostess(/owner?) and the food is very good and won't break the bank either. You can check out their website here:

      Hope you have a blast!

      3 Replies
      1. re: d00n

        Thanks d00n.

        I didn't want to tie myself down with an exact time reservation. Just wondering what time I should show up that is less busy. I guess the best way to guarantee a seat is to actually make a reservation though, so you're right.

        Most markets were only open on Saturday, but a few were open daily - mostly farms. Not sure where else to look - ie if there is another source out there / another market not listed.

        Sun Room was another one on my list. I will look into it. Thanks for the advice, d00n.

        1. re: BokChoi

          if you are in a hurry don't bother with pazzo, last time i was there i left half the meal in order to catch the play and i had planned way ahead...service can be hit amd miss big is good though....

          1. re: ribboy

            Thanks for the advice ribboy. I intend to head there after the play for dinner. So no rush for our party at all. I cannot wait to try the pizza.

      2. Right, Stratford is a lovely town and you'll have a great time regardless. You don't say when you are going to be there, but on the weekend of the 21-22 this month, Savour Stratford is having a street festival with chef demos, farmers, etc.

        The only place to eat in Stratford is Rundles. End of discussion.

        However, it is expensive. So your alternatives are: The Old Prune or Bijou. Everything else is average and ordinary. Pazzo is fine but v. average. Cute atmosphere. Pizza fine. But at Rundles, the Old Prune or Bijou you will have a meal that will blow you away.

        I rec that you make a picnic and eat it on the banks of the river overlooking the theatre. It's a nice spot.

        9 Replies
        1. re: stapler

          Thanks for the suggesitons, stapler. Where do you suggest I get the ingredients for said picnic? Any recommended purveyors? I will actually be there the 22nd of this month - thank you for the recommendation. I am so glad I made this post.

          I just checked the prices - seems a bit steep and unlike the street festivals here in Toronto: . Would you know if they have individual sample tickets for purchase or if you can just browse without paying the $55 entrance fee? We will be attending the afternoon showing, so we will be missing much of the festivities during the day, but would like to try and squeeze in a tour/tasting. Some of my acquaintances do no drink for religious reasons and by choice - so I understand the $55 includes unlimited samplings of alcohol. The ticket pricing structure does not seem to allow for flexibility in this matter.

          Too bad I miss the Saturday - that appears to be a more budget-friendly event.

          Rundles and Bijou were on an earlier list of mine, but I was vetoed by my dining companions due to the price.

          Thanks in advance.

          1. re: BokChoi

            OK not sure about the ticket pricing for the festival, but I do know that a bunch of chefs and farmers are collaborating and it's probably going to be a lot of fun. Sorry I don't have any more info about ticket pricing or browsing or indiv tastes...for a picnic there was a place on Ontario St, I believe, that has lots of goodies. You could also probably get some take out from any rest and head to the river. I believe there will also be some live music going on to make you day even better. Enjoy!

            1. re: BokChoi

              Years ago when I lived in Stratford I used to get killer sandwiches from York Street Sandwiches. The way it used to work was that you would get a checklist and pick and choose what you want on your sandwich, lots of options. I think that they have grown in recent years, so you might have even more to choose from.
              Also, not sure if it is open on Sundays but you can get some good old cheddar at great prices at the Bright's Cheese Outlet in Shakespeare.

              1. re: cheesymama

                I second the delish sandwiches at York Street Sandwiches. They're right by the water too~!

                1. re: cheesymama

                  Thanks to you both for the York Street Sandwiches rec. Cheese outlet sounds great as well! Thanks

                  1. re: cheesymama

                    There's also the pie shop beside the Cheese Outlet in Shakespeare that's quite good. Lots of savoury and sweet pies.

                    There's also the Kitchen Connoisseur on Ontario Street in Stratford- selling spice blends, jams, olive oils, etc,

                    Check out this link, too:

                    1. re: phoenikia

                      Thanks for the link, phoenikia. Very useful. I'll try to check them out.

                2. re: stapler

                  Stapler - I wholeheartedly disagree with you. We ate at Rundles about 3 years ago and it was probably the worst dining experiences we have ever had... at any price point, never mind Rundles stratospheric reach. The service was terrible, extremely unattentive with copious amounts of attitude. The menu was uninspiring, boring actually. When I go to a fine dining establishment I like to search out unusual ingredients, interesting prep and presentation.This restaurant offered none of that. I still remember that my wife ordered chicken and found it nearly inedible. The staff didn't care and did nothing to resolve the issue.

                  Let me assure you, we are not fussy eaters and have dined at virtually every restaurant in Stratford. Some have been stellar, others OK but without a doubt Rundles was the worst. The only reason it stays in business is that the tourist trade is suckered into thinking they're receiving a fine dining experience. NOT.

                  I do agree, however, with your recommendations for The Old Prune or Bijou. Enjoyed both of these very much. The tasting menu at the The Old Prune was excellent and Bijou has a very unique atmosphere with a market fresh menu. Very different from each other but both provide an enjoyable dining experience.

                3. I was not impressed by Rundles on my last visit.

                  I prefer Bijou: The choices are on a chalkboard each day, and there's the option of a 2 course or 3 course prix fixe. They focus on fresh market cuisine. I found the flavours to be interesting and the dishes to be well executed.

                  The 2 meals I've had at Bijou were more enjoyable than any of my meals at Rundles, the Old Prune or the Church.

                  Any of the meals I've had at more casual restaurants in Stratford (the pubs, the Italian places) have been pretty forgettable or disappointing. Mind you, I haven't tried the chip wagon on Downie Street for a while- that could be a possibility;)

                  1. Fantastic pork products at the Pork Shoppe in Shakespeare. Fantastic ribs, and the Ayrshire bacon, a smoked loin wrapped with side bacon, is truly a work of art.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Snarf

                      Thanks Snarf and phoenikia for the recommendations. I will hopefully have a great experience tomorrow.
                      I will report back once I return.


                      1. re: BokChoi

                        hey bok choi did you think you would get so much advice?...bett not..i would agree the york street sandwich palce is good as the is pork shop in shakespeare..just beford you get to stratford..for a coffee check out ballicks (sp) there is one in toronto..good coffee and located in the heart of the town..enjoy

                        1. re: ribboy

                          Thanks to everyone for your input on this thread. My Stratford trip, though, got off to a rough start as one member of our group (the driver) could not leave until much later than anticipated! This shifted our schedule completely as we lost about 2.5 hrs in the morning that would have been the only time we could have used to explore Stratford before our 2PM play. Very disappointing, but alas, things happen and one has to modify plans as necessary.

                          So, unfortunately, we headed to St Jacob's on the way to Stratford for the Sunday market, as we heard great things - unfortunately, I found the Sunday market to be a waste of time and not worth the drive. Just a caution for others heading that way on a Sunday. There were not many purveyors and their selection was also quite limited and pricey. They did have some great looking grapes and vegetables/roots though and if I could keep them in the car all day, I would have picked some up.

                          Mixed Fruit Baskets:
                          Fresh BBQ turkey Legs:
                          BBQ outside:

                          The food stalls inside the pavilion, however, were quite subpar, serving greasy, microwaved food. The only saving grace was a refreshing glass of fresh lemonade being sold outside.

                          Meloui Lunch:
                          Cabbage Rolls/Perogies:
                          Egyptian Food:

                          We arrived in Stratford around 1:30PM and tried to get through the food fair, which I misunderstood to be only Saturday as per the website, but was actually running all weekend. In retrospect, I should have just headed there straight away and had lunch there instead. Alas, hindsight is always 20/20. Since there was no time before the play was to start, I reluctantly headed to the play house.

                          The food fair was scheduled to last until about 6PM, but by the time we exited the theatre around 5PM, everything had been cleared away and packed up. This was saddening, but I had planned poorly. We rushed to see what was left and we managed to try the Apple Fritters ($0.65 each) and a Deep Fried Mars Bar ($2.25 each). The fritter was sweet and tasty quite light considering what they were. The batter was done quite well. The Mars bar was also a treat to try - I would probably never have it again, but after hearing so many things about it elsewhere on Chowhound (regarding US fairs and such), I just had to try it. It was exceptionally sweet with the gooey interior of melted caramel. A huge serving and quite a good deal at $2.25 IMO. I would recommend it if you have a sweet tooth and looking for something substantial.

                          Apple Fritter:
                          Deep Fried Mars Bar:
                          Inside Mars bar:

                          Then we tried to 'tour' the town - but everything was closed. The only store that was open was the Kitchen Connoisseur as mentioned by phoenikia. I looked around for a bit, and some of the sauces sounded interesting, but not typically my cup of tea. Thanks for the rec though.

                          Balzac's was open, as I think was what ribboy meant(?). Grabbed a nice drink there for a bit and rested. Same chain as the one in the Distillery District, so not a "Stratford" original (as I have had it, not that this was not the original location) unfortunately. But nice, nonetheless.

                          After looking around and realizing that nothing was open, we headed, defeated, to Pazzo. Great pies, no problem securing a seat - probably because it was a Sunday and the area seemed quite dead.

                          Started off with the highly touted Bruscetta. I would have to say that the 'crust' of the bruscetta was nice, though I was not a fan of the goat cheese beneath it. It was unlike any version I had ever had before (no tomatoes?), and the mushrooms were a nice addition, but overall, it was not a strong dish IMO.

                          We ordered an Italian Stallion, and created two pizzas: 1 was a green olive + artichoke, the other a roasted red pepper, bocconcini , roasted garlic and prosciutto. Great thin crust, lots of dusted flour which I found quite nice. Cheese was of high quality and the sauce was sweet and pleasant. Would recommend this pie highly for the area as I have had difficulty securing such a pie even in Toronto - though I am excited to seek out the famed Pizzeria Libretto version.

                          Italian Stallion:
                          Roasted Red Pepper Pizza:
                          Olive + artichoke:

                          Thanks everyone for the recs - I will hopefully head out there next time, armed with this thread (again) and things will turn out better. Perhaps it would be best to head there on a Saturday...

                          Cheers and Happy Eating!

                          1. re: BokChoi

                            BokChoi - nice to read your review, filled with nice detail and pic's. Yes it was Balzac's
                            that I meant, cool building and it beats horny tim's.

                            1. re: ribboy

                              Thanks for the suggestions ribboy, and the kind comments. Not a fan of the Timmy's - but tis cheap.