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Is there anything like Pret a Manger in TO?

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  • excel Nov 10, 2008 09:52 AM
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I've been living in the UK for the past few years and really enjoyed pret. The food isn't earth shattering but, it was good and reliable. I love the idea of grab and go and using as local as possible, pret seem to be doing it right. Is there anything in TO like that?

Thanks guys

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  1. Not familiar with Pret, as when I lived in the UK, grab and go usually meant fish and chips.

    Wanda's in the Kithen with Dinah on Mount Pleasant at Sheldrake does excellent prepared foods that you can reheat.

    Grilltime on Laird will either fully grill your food for you, or partially grill it so you can finish it at home, or simply sell you excellent meat and seafood at very good prices that you can cook yourself.

    Gilead Cafe sells different pre-marinated meats that you can cook yourself, as well as salads and desserts, and truly amazing breads.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Snarf

      I would second the suggestion of Gilead.

      Another similar company is Petit Fours. It is not a chain, like Pret in London. Nor are their prices as low (I remember surviving on Pret between lavish Indian dinners when I was there - that and Marks & Spencer). However, their sandwiches are not bad and they are conveniently packed 'to go'. Their fare is a bit higher-end when compared to Pret. I would liken Pret more to a 'grocery store'/'convenience store' experience, whereas PF is more of a 'grab and go bakery'. Just another option to check out if you are in the area. It is certainly not a destination place: http://www.dine.to/petitfour

      Pret Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
      Marks & Spencer: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

      I have heard good things about Sandwich Box, but have not tried it yet: http://www.sandwichbox.ca/sandwichbox...
      Another one I have wandered into, but not tried is a sandwich place on Bay near Eaton Centre - Fast Fresh Foods: http://ourfaves.com/toronto/places/Fa... This would be the closest I have found to the Pret Format. However, when in Toronto, I would rather spend $7 on ethnic food. In London, penny-pinching was more important for me.

      Cheers!

    2. I don't think there's anything really like Pret in Toronto. A few years ago, a place called Urban Appetite opened in Metro Hall - it was modeled after Pret (in fact, one of the owners had worked at Pret). The closest thing might be a place like Le Gourmand (few locations - Spadina and Adelaide, Yonge and Bloor and opening soon near Yonge and Eglinton) or some of the coffee shops around the city, selling coffee, pastries, maybe a granola yoghurt parfait and pre-wrapped sandwiches. I do think a place like Pret, if it could maintain the quality and get the locations right, would do quite well here. It's done pretty well in New York, I think (and there are certainly lots of other places like Pret in New York as well).

      2 Replies
      1. re: peppermint pate

        Urban is a copy of Pret A Manger, at least similar to the ones I frequented in Hong Kong. They have prepared sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads just like PAM. Their coffee is OK, but their espresso drinks are pretty bad. I'd only suggest their sandwiches. I like the portobello and goat's cheese on bagette.

        1. re: foxymoron

          Thanks for your reply and mini review...will definitely hit it up

      2. excel, I am familiar with the Pret concept and bought a few things from a Pret shop in Manhattan a couple of years ago. As far as I know, there's nothing quite like Pret a Manger in Toronto, where you can run in, pick up a freshly made, already wrapped/packaged sandwich or salad (using flavourful, all-natural, preservative-free ingredients, to boot) and be on your way in no time.

        For those of you who've never heard of Pret a Manger, here's a link to their website in the U.S.: www.pret.com/us

        1. Thanks for your replies guys. Snarf, I guess pret is more of a London thing not a UK thing. Although I'm pretty sure leeds and Manchester both had a Pret and EAT. EAT is just like a pret but a bit more modern, in terms of atmosphere.

          I'm really surprised that there isn't anything like pret in TO. It seems like a concept that would be perfect for this city, everyone here is on the go and seem to value a health meal. Any reasons why you guys think the prior attempt didn't work or why the concept wouldn't work here?

          I'm actually surprised there isn't more pret in the US either, I guess somethings just don't translate when you cross the "pond", although I can't imagine why?

          I'm going to take a peek at the suggestion posted here and see how they compare.

          1 Reply
          1. re: excel

            Having seen the link, there are a few places that seem to be trying to fill the space. MB co has a more limited menu and less of an emphasis on the yogurt granola offerings. They've been reviewed on these boards, generally with the perception that their price points don't work here. From the catering end of it, I would put Hannah's Kitchen (Yonge south of Eglinton) way ahead.

            Wanda's Pie in the Sky on Augusta focusses on desserts, but also had some interesting meals on display the last time I was in.

          2. There's nothing like Pret in Toronto sadly... the sheer quantity of healthy 'grab and go' outlets seems to be unique to London. Which Toronto has Sandwich Box (and the many a-likes that are springing up), it's frustrating to have to wait so long to eat...

            I think it would do well here and if it's made it's way to New York, it stands a better chance of coming here eventually..

            6 Replies
            1. re: JamesJT

              Thanks for your reply!

              Snarf, thanks for the info and continue recommendations....

              It's sad that there's nothing like pret here. BOOOOO. Ya, I've heard of sandwich box and places like that. The offer great stuff but the wait can be really long. I don't know about you guys but I just rather spend my lunch doing something I want instead of waiting in line. Not to mention, a pret would be great for those times I'm running around the city and need a quick lunch on the go.

              I just wonder why the shop, urban appetite, couldn't make the idea work - I know I would visit. Maybe it wasn't the best location or perhaps Canada just like having their sandwiches made in front of them?

              1. re: excel

                I'm not entirely sure that Urban Appetite didn't work - does anyone know for sure if it's closed or maybe it's still around? I can't say I've ever seen them mentioned on this board or heard anyone else talk about them. If they didn't succeed, I would presume it had to do with location or maybe lack of marketing. The couple of times I went there, the service was decent and it definitely had the Pret vibe.

                1. re: peppermint pate

                  I was going to mention Urban Appetite as well as that's the only place I know that is very similiar to Pret.

                  I just talked to my husband who works close to Metro Hall and he confirmed that it is still open. I tried a sandwich from there about 4 years ago so I don't recall how good their sandwiches are.

                  1. re: sasgirl

                    Just had lunch at Urban Appetite by Metro Hall. Not impressed. All the sandwiches were refridgerated, only adding to the boring flavour of my processed turkey and brie sandwich. The soup seemed to be partially from a frozen source with some poorly cut up vegetables in it. Service was blase, at best. Sorry, pret looks amazing.

                    1. re: Mila

                      Mila, the sandwiches at Pret are pre-made, wrapped, and refrigerated, too. But they are made daily (if not a few times a day), using fresh, premium, local ingredients and the available choices are innovative, flavourful, and anything but boring.

                      1. re: Tatai

                        Fingers crossed they do open here. When I lived in London there were some amazing sandwich (bap) shops that seem to be of a similar concept. I just wonder why anyone would put a nice fresh bagette and ripe brie in the fridge. I'd take a pass on Urban Appetite.
                        Thanks for the info.

            2. Thanks for the continued responses!

              BokChoi - great pic! perfect example of what I'm talking about. See that's something I can just grab and go - no fuss. Marks and sparks is great for the quick bite too, not as nice or creative as pret IMO. Did you happen to go to EAT in london? I totally understand what you're saying about penny pinching in London - but does that mean if there was a pret in TO you wouldn't be going?

              I'll definitely hit up some of these recommendations you guys are posting up. Great stuff!

              Peppermint Pate,

              when was the last time you went? I'd be very interested to know if urban appetite was still in business. Does anyone else know if they're still up and running....where's the location exactly, maybe I'll go and check it out myself.

              2 Replies
              1. re: excel

                Sorry, did not realize that JamesJT already suggested Sandwich Box.

                excel - I doubt I would go to M&S or Pret, or even EAT (I tried that one as well) when I am in Toronto only because I can pack my own sandwich - a luxury I am not afforded when on vacation (though I do take the time when in Italy, Spain and Paris when there is prosciutto, cheese and jamon iberico around...). In London, I ate to fill the stomach between astronomically priced dinners (though I did find some great value restaurants as well). In Toronto, I think I would rather spend the money to get a falafel, a peameal bacon sandwich from SLM, or save the $ and head uptown for cheap Chinese food after work.

                But to each their own! However, that is why I doubt Pret would make a large impression in Toronto, but I could be wrong. I hope that you get to try some places and they satisfy your craving. Cheers!

                1. re: BokChoi

                  Thanks BokChoi....good insight. London does have some very very good restaurant, TO is behind on that too.

                  I'll definitely try to hit the recommended spots hope it does hit the spot.

                  Also,I wonder if TO has the sandwich culture London/UK has?

              2. Thanks Sasgirl for your confirmation. I'm going to give that place a try to...not exactly in the way but some times the best is off the beaten path. Anyone give that place a try recently?

                1. I know it's not the same but I've picked up fresh healthy sandwiches and wraps at All The Best Fine Foods. They also make fresh healthy prepared dinner items every day to take home -
                  http://allthebestfinefoods.com/pages/...

                  -----
                  All The Best Fine Foods
                  1099 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4W, CA

                  1. Thanks for another recommendation!

                    With all these places doing something similar to the pret concept, I wonder why no one, except for the urban appetite, has done the concept....there must be some reason?

                    Maybe it's time for me to get on with a business plan LOL - realistically I just guess I got to make do and try all these other wonderful suggestions

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: excel

                      Me too, have thought about it, but I was thinking more of unleashing a replica of Birley's on Toronto! I asked them once about franchise opportunities, they weren't too helpful, maybe they would be moreso now the City is on its ass.

                      However, there is one good one I would point out; a branch of the Irish chain O'Briens. Really, really good!

                      http://www.obriensonline.com/stores/d...

                      1. re: Squeakycheese

                        Its not called O'Briens anymore - re-branded to Mangé Fresh. They are not part of the O'Briens franchise anymore - sandwiches are great :)

                    2. Thanks for another recommendation.

                      All of them look interesting but, none of them seem to be the type where I'm not going to have to wait in line for. Not that it's the overriding thing, I guess there really isn't anything like pret here....oh well keep the recommendations coming!

                      1. I find the ready-to-go sandwiches on the lower level of Holts on Bloor compare favourably to Pret a Manger. Very similar fillings and breads although a totally different atmosphere.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: gothlig

                          Agree with the Holt's cafe idea. I love Pret a Manger and have been wondering for years why it hasn't come to Toronto! Holt's sandwiches are great (esp. the curried chicken).

                          One more suggestion: Daniel et Daniel in Cabbagetown has a small selection of prepared sandwiches (and a larger selection of other prepared foods). The sandwiches are usually roast beef, ham, turkey or tuna on a small or large baguette, and the prices are ridiculously reasonable -- under $3 for the small one.

                          1. re: klawless

                            Thanks for the recommendation...I'll definitely go try it out... Now I know that chow is a relatively small community but, the positive response of people liking the pret concept is proof that a pret is needed in TO! Hope pret is paying attention! hahah

                          2. re: gothlig

                            In the vicinity of Holts is Dinah's Cupboard, which also has fresh ready made sandwiches, although just at lunch time M-F.

                            I was impressed with the abundance of Pret a Mangers in NYC, and each one had a continuous stream of customers during breakfast & lunch. I'm afraid the concept won't work in Toronto simply because we don't have the customer base required to maintain freshness in all the pre-made food.

                          3. Never thought that Holt's would have ready to eat...I'll go check it out - a long with the other recommendations

                            1. Please hope they read this thread and expand to TO...

                              1. Anyone know when urban appetite first opened? I've been in TO for a while and never knew they were around......

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: excel

                                  Did a search on Urban Appetite and came up with these 2 websites with reviews. Looks like they have been open since Feb 2006 since it was added in one of the websites in that month and year.

                                  http://toronto.ibegin.com/restaurants...
                                  http://www.restaurantica.com/on/toron...

                                  It is still open as my husband works close to Metro Hall. I ate there a while back so I don't remember how good the sandwiches are. It definitely reminded me of Pret when I went in!

                                  1. re: sasgirl

                                    Thanks for the info! I'll definitely check it out.

                                2. Pret changed my life when I visited London this summer. My first meal was there, and then I went to Borough Market...those were the days.

                                  If it's salad/wraps you fancy, there a few places that will make em for you with pretty good fillings, but nowhere that the pre-made stuff is that great. I'll second Sandwich Box above and add Lettuce Eatery (chain, Eaton Centre, Yonge/St. Clair, Yonge/Eg, other places), with the caveat that it's pricey for what you get.

                                  the grab and go from Pickle Barrel is actually pretty good. i've never been a PB hater, and they consistently put enough chicken on their salads which is more than i can say for most fast food salads.

                                  the goldmine for a quick salad is the supermarket salad bar. with loblaws and metro trying to gear to the higher-end clientele with their pre-made selections, they have decent bean salads, taboulis, etc, but my favourite is whole foods. pricey to be sure, but a very satisfying salad bar experience. i have only been there briefly, but the Fresh and Wild at King/spadina is in the same vein, if I recall correctly.

                                  here's a piece for perusal about salads on the go....
                                  http://www.tasteto.com/2008/03/13/the...

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: LemonLauren

                                    Thanks for the suggestions...the salad bar in the link looks good and I'll definitely be trying it!

                                    Keep your experience with pret and local recommendations coming guys....this is great

                                    1. re: LemonLauren

                                      Agreed on Pret. But I'd stay away from Lettuce Eatery. Overpriced salad, with every extra costing more and more. There are way better salad places. Lettuce used to be good when they had a couple locations. Since then it seems to be worse quality at higher prices with absolutely horrible customer service. Whole foods has a better salad bar anyway.

                                      1. re: SandySandra

                                        This chain is quite good:

                                        http://www.lepainquotidien.ca/

                                        Cheers :)

                                        1. re: SandySandra

                                          one of the best kept salad bar secrets in Fit for Life at Yonge/Eg - it's in the back of a convinience store, but they have unlimited by the LB stuff that is excellent but not overpriced like Whole Foods can get. Af good full container there is about $7 whereas at WF it can run you up to $15. Big Carrot at Chester/Danforth also has a great salad bar but it's not self serve.

                                          1. re: SandySandra

                                            Maybe I'm crazy, but I actually find Lettuce to be fairly reasonable, for what you get. The salads are HUGE (so big that I can't finish most of the time, and I can be a pretty big eater) and the greens and veggies are really fresh, in my experience. For example, a salad with 4 standard veggie options, a protein like chicken, plus a premium topping like avocado (not to mention the free flat bread they throw in) would only run you about $8.50 which (to me at least) is money well spent for a meal that's really filling and wayyy more nutritious than your average take-out. If you bought the greens pre-bagged in the grocery store, I think that alone would cost about $4.00.

                                            1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                                              I dont know, the 2 times ive been to Lettuce i found the dressings bland and the chicken very processed. If i want a salad in the PATH now i go to Fast Fresh on commerce court. Far better quality and the chicken is actually real grilled breast.

                                              1. re: sam sobe

                                                I should note that the last time I went to Lettuce, it was much more "meh" than before, and it seems that they're no longer offering some of the toppings I like (eg. black beans). Also, I've never tried the chicken, so I can't disagree with the comment that it's processed -- in fact, the reason I haven't had it is that I generally avoid fast-food chicken because I hate that rubbery/processed texture and taste.

                                                I will try Lettuce again, but after my last experience I'm not looking forward to it as much as I did before.

                                        2. UK is the land of the pre-packaged to-go foods, and there's not really anything like that. But for sandwichy places, I thought of Le Gourmand, 2 locations, Spadina/Queen and Yonge/Bloor. Also, in Yorkville there's Lettieri's and MBCo. And while you're there, there's Whole Foods, they got a bunch of pre-made food that ain' bad.

                                          Toronto definitely needs a Pret or EAT of some sorts.

                                          1. Thanks for the mini review Mila and recommendations Alum.

                                            keep your opinions, reviews and recommendations coming!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: excel

                                              Hi Excel,
                                              I too am a big fan of Pret a Manger. When I was in London in 1997, my mom and I would pick up sandwiches from there all the time and eat them in a park across the street or in front of our next museum destination. I remember that place fondly and it's been 11 years! Talk about leaving a good impression.

                                              This week, I noticed a new sign in front of one of my frequent lunch spots - Sushi and Salad (on Dundas, just east of University). The sign mentioned Sandwiches. I went today to check it out. Although the sandwiches aren't prepared in advance, I was the only one in line at 1:00 and it took just a couple of minutes to decide, order, and pay. They have about 5 different kinds of freshly made bread, a number of spreads, and toppings. I had a chicken sandwich on pumpernickel bread with a hummous spread, topped with grilled red peppers and zucchini. It was a nice hearty sandwich, served in a cute cardboard box. And then they filled the box with mesclun salad, a nice plump green olive, and some balsamic dressing. All for $6.99. If you get salmon or chicken, it's $6.99; else $5.99.

                                              Sushi and Salad is one of my favorite lunch spots for work - great long salad bar, fresh sushi continuously made throughout the day, and two home-made soups each day. The owner is very kind and is obviously growing the business based on the suggestions from her clientele. Today I heard someone ask for a smoothie - although they don't have those yet on the menu, I wouldn't be surprised if they start in a few weeks/months.

                                              It's mostly a take out place but they do have a few stools and bar if you want to eat in.

                                              1. re: Mandy Lin

                                                Great write up. Thanks for another recommendation!

                                                It's nice to see I'm not the only hound that thinks highly of pret.

                                            2. I absolutely love Pret when I'm in L. Great quick meal whether you've got meetings or if you're sightseeing and don't want to sit somewhere.

                                              Toronto definitely has the sandwich culture in the finance district for this - the innumerable Cafe Supreme, Select Sandwich, Subway, Cultures, Michel's Baguette, and Lettuce Eatery locations are proof of this. Starbucks' sandwich sales are in line with the Pret idea, though nowhere close in terms of quality, freshness or creativity.

                                              Knocking off Pret is hard here, since almost all downtown food retailers are in the PATH. You're dealing with major commercial real estate firms and highly sought after locations. The Pret store layout is rather different from how most PATH food places are set up, further limiting addressable locations.

                                              The best to go sandwiches would be at Holt's and All The Best. Pusateri's has great sandwiches but they're behind the counter so not quite the Pret experience (though they are great grilled). I'm not a big fan of the Whole Foods sandwiches, though the breakfast ones in the Cafe at street level are good (but again behind the counter). none of these options are as cheap as Pret nor as accessible to most office workers.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: preppycuisine

                                                I've scrolled down quickly, and didn't notice anyone commenting on what really makes the baguette sandwiches in the UK and Europe- the soft interior and the CRISPY crust on the outside of the bun itself. This aspect is hard to find in Toronto, I think.

                                              2. Avenue at Dundas and Univ. seems Manger-ish. Tres chic!

                                                1. Pret used to make this awesome spinach/red pepper/hummus wrap that I always got when I was in London. Could never quite duplicate it at home!

                                                  Wasn't MB&CO (if that's the name, they were briefly in one of the TD buildings downtown - it's now a Starbucks) a stab at the Pret concept?

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: mistermono

                                                    I believe MBCO is based on the same concept, The one in Yorkville used to have take out boxes that said pret a manger on them, not sure if they still do.
                                                    But there quality is not up to par these days..