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Sep 16, 2008 08:09 AM

Meat, fish and chicken at St. Lawrence Market

How is the quality AND price of meat, fish and chicken products purchased at st. lawrence market compared to the chain stores (loblaws, dominion, longo's, AND T&T... actually, especially T&T)?

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  1. Wow, thats a really big question! SOME of the meat et al at the market is better and some of it really not as good. MOST of it is more expensive.

    Can you be specific? I don't know T&T' comparisons are with Loblaws and Dominion and Fiesta Farms.

    I have come to rely on Fiesta Farm (Christie, north of Bloor) as their butchers are responsive to personal requests. For example, I needed a shourlder of pork cut in a specific method for a 'mock porchetta' dish. They did that and remembered me when I went back. Also, FF charge less for the same cuts than most suppliers at the SLM.They are keen on using local suppliers and have a range of organic products...these are all things I used to have to go to SLM for.

    2 Replies
    1. re: LJS

      If you are shopping on a Saturday, you should go to the North farmer's market. For meat, Rowe Farms is excellent although their poultry is really expensive. While slightly less expensive, Clement Poultry is also very good and I have been shopping there of late. Both Rowe and Clement have chicken that has true flavour unlike grocery store product or worse something frozen from M&M. Go to Gaucho for sausages. They are the best. I haven't had a variety that I haven't liked. They are more expensive than the vendors in the south market but they are superior. Quite lean but they still have great texture and flavour. While you're in the north market, pick up cheese at either Monforte or Best Baa Farm/Ewenity as well as the Stirling Creamery butter. For fish, Mike's in the south market is great. I've had the dry scallops previously mentioned and they are better. We were given a free sample of a "regular" scallop to do a comparison when we cooked them at home. If you live in the west end, Mike's has an outlet in Etobicoke that is cheaper than SLM. Many of meat vendors in the south market are very good too. I like Whitehouse for things that are different such as game and cornish hens. They also have Berkshire pork. La Boucherie has fabulous thinly pounded provimi veal cutlets. De Liso has very good product as well. While more expensive, I think SLM is worth it. The smell in the fish and meat section as T&T is enough to put me off buying anything "fresh". I'll stick to packaged good there!

      1. re: Deborah B

        Yes, you have to get Stirling Creamery WHEY Butter

    2. So much better!
      I just moved downtown recently and am a convert to the St. Lawrence Market. After eating meats from grocery stores for many years, the difference is extreme.
      I find the quality and options at SLM so much better then chain stores. The sausages, the steaks, the semi-prepared items all trump anything I've found in the grocery stores.
      Prices vary, depending on the items. For example, I bought two large sole fillets for 10, a rib eye steak large enough for two (and pre-marinated) for 16, sausages at 1 dollar each, and chicken burgers (pre-made) at 1.50 each. Ground meat (with all types available) is very afforadable, and its nice that you can buy it in any quantity.
      The appeal of the SLM is everything you need can be found under one roof. The product is fresh, especially on saturdays, when the market is packed.
      The products from T&T are super cheap, but their steaks discolour very fast, and the quality overall seems poorer. I've had the same experiences at other grocery stores, but then again, their are some winners too. You can get some decent steaks and fish and grain fed chicken from grocery stores, but the overall variety and options that come with SLM cannot be found anywhere else in the city. Its worth at least one trip.

      1. As others said, quality and price vary from stall to stall and product to product, so you can't really make a blanket statement about the market. My personal experience:

        Fish: We buy all our fish at Mike's toward the back of the upper level. We've never been disappointed. Prices can be high depending on what you buy, but it's always fresh; they've never sold us a fillet with that vague "fishy" smell. They also seem to make some effort to buy and sell sustainably, for example they do not carry endangered Orange Roughy and they told me that their Talapia comes from Latin America, not China, which is why they sometimes sell out of it on Saturdays before the other stalls do.

        Meat: After mixed success buying meat at various places around the market, we settled on La Boucherie, on the left side of the market near the front and have been happy there ever since. Their chicken breasts are huge and reasonably priced, and have a much more satisfying "chickeny" taste than what we get at Sobey's or Dominion. I've also had delicious beef short ribs and pork chops from there as well, the latter being surprisingly cheap and nice and thick. Even their stewing beef seems to be of fairly high quality.

        Overall: the SLM is a great resource but you still have to shop smartly. Everything is not cheap; things that are expensive are not always better quality (although often they are!)

        1. Trial and error. I buy Filet Mignon at one butcher but my NY Strips at another. Same with Pork Chops. I buy chicken wings only at Loblaws. I find the SLM butchers to have really stinky wings. Also it helps to get to know the people that work there. There is a "regular" price structure and then the crowded "tourist" price structure. Its not steep but over time it can make a difference. Get there early as well. 8:30am on Saturday morning seems to be the cut off time for foodies and 905ers to make the transition of the SLM populace.

          2 Replies
          1. re: MindGrinder

            Hmmm. Rather then a time based "cut-off" i find that it helps to establish one's self as a regular at a place. For example, I go to Upper Cut for most of my meat and they will often shave a few dollars off the total. However, it also depends who I get there, as they won't all do that.

            1. re: bluedog

              I agree. If you go to the same vendor and they get to recognize you, many will round down the totals, throw in the odd freebie sample, or simply recommend other products that are similar to what you normally buy. In my opinion this is the best part of buying at the SLM rather than from an impartial part-time cashier at your local supermarket who just sees everything as a bar-code to scan. Saturdays in general are when you're least likely to get the best service, however, simply because the place is so rammed they're just trying to keep up.

          2. I'm new to the SLM but so far I bought quails and fish.
            Quails were fresh, compared to the frozen in supermarkets, they were nice plump and juicy and so I figured it paid off and it did with flavour and all. $12 for 4.. in the supermarkets you could get 6 tiny little frozen ones for about $10

            When I bought fish I felt a bit ripped off because I bought a grouper fillet that came out to $21, it was big enough for two portions, normally I get my grouper for about $6 at Loblaw superstore near Scarborough Town centre, and about 40% smaller. However the quality must have been great at the SLM because upon cooking it was just wonderful, well worth it.

            I don't eat meat so I can't comment on that. But I think I would rather purchase my fish from the SLM from now on, I only buy for myself and when I can make it there on saturday it would be great to buy nice quality fish.

            17 Replies
            1. re: BamiaWruz

              I just can't bring myself to pay the SLM prices for fish anymore, so I generally go to Bill's. Same thing (or so I understand) but much cheaper.

              1. re: bluedog

                I find seafood expensive at SLM. However, the first meat counter on the left always has great steaks and prime rib. Better quality than T&T - same price.

                1. re: caitlink

                  There's little question that the three fish markets at SLM charge about 20-25% more for most of their fish and seafood products than other well-stocked fish stores across Toronto. But those SLM stores carry a wide, wide selection of fish fillets and steaks and, if you're shopping at SLM anyway, it makes little sense to make the effort to travel to a place like Diana's (in my view, the city's best, most wide-ranging and most reasonable, fish store). It'd be different if I lived near Diana's, in the city's east end, but I don't. So SLM fish it is for me, and I'm usually partial to Mike's, though the three SLM fishmongers have almost identical prices and quality.

              2. re: BamiaWruz

                It's always worthwhile to hit the market at about 3:30 / 4 pm Saturday when they put all the fish on special. They usually have trays of assorted fish but you can do a deal on almost anything. Prices are usually 25% - 50% off but a couple of weeks ago I got dry scallops for about 20% of the original price.

                1. re: Mila

                  Thank you, Mila, very useful additional knowledge!

                  1. re: Mila

                    we're talking dry packed scallops? which shop? my impression was that most people were phasing them out because chefs were noticing that most diners wouldn't know the difference.

                    1. re: pinstripeprincess

                      Yes, they were dry pack and amazing at Mikes. I can't believe people wouldn't recognize the difference. Great flavour and you can get a really good carmelization on them.

                      1. re: pinstripeprincess

                        Non-dry scallops have phosphates added, and are bloated with water. They won't take carmelization.

                        I can tell if I have non-dry scallops by tasting the liquid run off: it is horribly
                        bitter and chemical.

                        If chefs believe diners can't tell the difference, then they are sadly out of touch.

                        1. re: jayt90

                          diners can't. the majority of people in toronto wouldn't know the difference unless you directly pointed it out to them.

                          i spoke to fish vendors at SLM asking about dry scallops and earnestly did get the answer that there simply just wasn't enough demand for it, commercially or individually that they were considering pulling it all together. i'm glad that mike's obviously hasn't chosen that route.

                          1. re: pinstripeprincess

                            I just bought dry scallops from Mike's yesterday. I didn't think any of the vendors carried them, but they had a sign advertising them so it was an impulse purchase.

                            6 large for $17. An expensive dinner, but well worth it.. they carmelized beautifully.

                      2. re: Mila

                        To elaborate on Mila's point, the fish store across from Mike's also has trays on sale around that time for $10. They put an assortment of seafood on each tray - priced to move. Sometimes you would find salmon fillet, skate wings, cocktail shrimps - other times smoked salmon, tuna, bacon wrapped scallops, grouper and basically whatever will not keep for the following Tuesday.

                        Caveat Emptor - the quality is highly suspect though. You have to aim to cook and eat it that day/weekend, or else it's a no-go. The fish i pretty much borderline turning sour and it is not a pretty sight after 2 days. If you're going to cook it the day of, then it's fantastic for the price. You can feed a family of 4 for $10. I had a salmon pinwheel stuffed with shrimp there that was massive (over 2 lbs) for $10. I found it quite salty though. Another time I tried their smoked salmon and unfortunately, I would not recommend keeping that more than a day.

                        I have had a few bad experiences with some meat purveyors for their cheaper cuts of meat (ground beef, sale items) - be careful as many vendors sell AA meat. The higher-ticketed items are very nice though, and they have many exotic cuts (I am a fan of white house meats). For the budget conscious, I find T&T fits the bill nicely (for more Asian cuts of meat - such as flank steak, chicken wings, spare ribs, etc - though NOT for steaks). I roasted two ducks over the weekend that cost me $8.98 each (fresh and about 6lbs each). Steaks, I head to either Loblaws for their Angus (which is moderately priced), or even Costco. For a treat, I head to Cumbrae's.


                        1. re: BokChoi

                          i have been going to St L mkt since i was a kid and i now take my kids, even my 14 yr old will come....but it is more about the atmosphere, yes you can get fresh goods but by no means will you get a bargain unless it is late in the day and they are looking to unload. the selection from cheese, bagels, veggies, fruit, fish and meat..not to mention the sandwhiches second to none but it is not a place to save money...

                          1. re: ribboy

                            Off topic, but in the same vein...
                            My friend picked up packages of 2 huge organic chicken breasts at the Big Carrot the other day for $4.50. I never would have thought you'd get a deal there.

                            1. re: Mila

                              I once got a very good brand of vamilla bean pod for about $3.00 from The Big Carrot-I am accustomed to paying up to $12 for the same thing in the specialty stores. You just never know!

                              1. re: LJS

                                A belated thanks. I totally cashed in on your chowhound tip.

                              2. re: Mila

                                I want to go to the Big Carrot!!

                          2. re: Mila

                            Wow, i've been going all these years on Saturday for lunch. Never aware of the discounts. I will check it out the next time. Thanks.