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Mar 5, 2009 06:41 AM

Nasr Foods: Excellent

I've been going to Nasr Foods for years and feel it is one of the best middle eastern food stores in Ontario. Their pitas a fresh, their pickles are like homemade, and the variety of products is outstanding. If you need a middle eastern spice or ingredient for a recipe, guaranted that you will find it at Nasr's. People drive from across the GTA to shop here because they know they can get authentic middle eastern goods and very good prices.

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  1. How recently have you been there Finnegan? I, too, used to go there (from Leslieville) quite often and I recommended them widely. On my last visit, the store was an understocked, chaotic mess.

    1 Reply
    1. re: embee

      I was there about 2 months ago...needed some harissa sauce and preserved lemons. Found both brands that I wanted. l also picked up a tub of their homemade style pickled turnips. No problems. I love their pitas too...I defy anyone to find better, fresher pitas anywhere in Toronto

    2. I too used to shop there. The first time my Mom and aunt took me...they told me they had found a great supermarket with "fresh" produce and great prices. So, when I walked in, and yes, I'll admit I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to nice signage etc. I thought it was a dump. It also looked like a dump inside and had very strong smells. Not attractive. I guess I learned to like it, basically go there in the summer to buy fresh produce, love the little marrow squash they always have a great selection of, and also their frozen artichokes. I try to make it a quick in and out trip because I know, that if I stay and look in there too long, I'll get grossed out. Just being honest.

      I'm in the area today. I'm going to go there and see what's up and report back.

      1. Uh, where to start. Just got back from Nasr. Two words overall: Freezing cold and disgusting. Although I only briefly spoke to someone who works there, I got the impression that its been sold to new ownership. Just different faces and disaray...

        Some random observations:

        *it was freezing cold as in they had turned off the heat. Not an enjoyable shopping experience in the winter.

        *their olive oil was frozen, cloudy, and all over the place as in you could find olive oil in 3 different rhyme no reason as to where it was placed.

        *something I have never seen in a grocery store before today.....homemade Ziploc bags with chopped up tomatoes and green beans. I kid you not, Ziploc. There's gotta be a health regulation for that somewhere, no?

        *Freezer burn on almost every single item in their freezer, not to mention that it was in shambles.

        *Loose tile around the store, and just overall very, very, very, dirty. I can't say dirty enough.

        *One cashier, that was in training, with a 14 person line up. Oh, and only "cash" sales.

        I truly didn't think this place could get worse than it was. I wouldn't shop here if it was free. The only thing that I saw that was "fresh" were the pitas. Other than that, the entire place was in shambles. It literally looked like a third world country grocery store. Really weird....

        Until their are renovations and a clean up crew and I read that, I will not be going back.

        EDIT: Finnegan, you should really change the title. It's grossly misleading. And I do mean grossly....

        7 Replies
        1. What a shame about Nasr. My SO and I discovered the place for ourselves a handful of years ago. We were positively giddy to find juicy lemons and limes for literally pennies each. We bought all kinds of produce there, along with some of the tasty olive and pickle bar items, then drove them all the way home to Windsor! I did notice at the time that a lot of the packaged items on the shelves had sketchy expiry dates, but I've come to expect that from all manner of ethnic grocery stores. People clearly buy certain items with regularity, but probably visit bigger grocery chains for other staples.

          However, the last time we were there (perhaps a few months ago) I also found the store to be freezing cold, kind of dirty and somewhat lacking in stock of all kinds. We still shopped for produce, this time also buying frozen artichoke hearts and something else I can't remember, possibly young, fresh fava beans. When I opened the frozen items, both were badly freezer burnt, smelled like soggy cardboard and were immediately garburator-bound. I'm sad to say it, but as with bad dining experiences, we'll likely vote with our feet and not return, rather than take the time to speak to an owner or manager. I guess I'm just not big on confrontation. If all their customers react the same way, Nasr will be out of business before long.

          1. re: 1sweetpea

            I agree. My family consumes a large amount of lemons and they were just pennies. It's too bad because we need more quality ethnic markets here. Hopefully they will get it together, but until they do, I won't be back.

          2. re: Raquel

            It seems similar to what I saw about 2 years back. They must have sold to some relatives. Turned off the heat, that's interesting. Probably had the gas cut, and need CASH to pay the bills. Sounds like a mad bomber was in there... :-)

            1. re: Raquel

              Nasr's ain't Metro or Loblaws...more like the kind of unique grocery stores you find in Kensington Market...was in my fav. fruit store in Kensington and cashier was wearing a hat and gloves it was so cold...whoop dee main concern is the products being sold, not whether or not a tile is missing here or there

              1. re: Finnegan

                The tiles are really an extraneous issue. The stock has gone all to hell.

                1. re: Finnegan

                  Most people don't care about a few missing tiles, but the DIRT is a big problem for many.

                  1. re: Finnegan

                    Also to be fair, Kensington market is a year-round, open-air market. Many of the places have garage doors or thing glass separating them from the elements. I think its not offside to expect more from a "supermarket".

                2. Deterioration of Nasr reported back in March seems to be worsening . . . the previously excellent bakery section was sparsely stocked with day-old product from an outside supplier (no Nasr pita at all); half the freezers were empty and water leaking all over the floor. The deli counter was cheerfully manned by a hopeful young server, but most trays were empty. The produce section was denuded and what remained, wilted and browning . . .

                  Certainly looks like this place is closing down--strange, since they just "renovated" last year.

                  Does anyone know anything more?

                  Also, any other recommendations in the area for Middle Eastern supplies/food besides Arz?

                  17 Replies
                  1. re: Nelson

                    What is wrong with Arz? That's where I go since it's clean, has many products and good service.

                    1. re: foodyDudey

                      Before Nasr went down the #$@!$, they were complimentary to Arz. The stock overlapped, but each had many things that the other didn't. Where the stock did overlap, Arz tended to be significantly more expensive.

                      Now, there is just Arz, I guess. Ararat on Avenue Rd also has great variety, given the small size of the store, and lots of things that Arz doesn't necessarily have, so that would be another source.

                      1. re: embee

                        How do you find the prices compare between Arz and Ararat?

                        1. re: Full tummy

                          Sorry, I can't. I used to compare prices between Nasr and Arz, but Ararat is in another area where I don't find myself as often. If I go there, It's because I couldn't find something more conveniently.

                          1. re: Full tummy

                            Ararat has always been pricey compared to Nasr and Arz. They provide good service, and they are a family business, eager to please.

                            1. re: jayt90

                              Nasr has closed. There is a notice in the Star today about the sale of assets.

                              1996 Lawrence Ave E, Toronto, ON M1R, CA

                              1. re: czg

                                The Nasr father had a long and hard death. The sons had taken over the business. There are questions on the street about the son's business strategy.

                                The best pita has always been at Arz.

                                1996 Lawrence Ave E, Toronto, ON M1R, CA

                                1909 Lawrence Ave E, Toronto, ON M1R, CA

                                1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                  Sorry to hear that. Now, was it the two brothers that initially owned it? I remember them being somewhat in their mid to late 40s. Is one of them who you're talking about passed away?

                                  1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                    Nasr opened in 1975, so I doubt the 2 brothers founded it.

                                    The father was Jiries Nasr.

                                    1996 Lawrence Ave E, Toronto, ON M1R, CA

                                2. re: czg

                                  I was at Patisserie Royale today. The store being auctioned is a standalone building in the plaza where Patisserie Royale is located (corner of Lawrence and Pharmacy).

                                  Nasr is very much open. I went in and found the same conditions as on my last visit. There were as many empty shelves as there were stocked ones. Most of the freezers, coolers, and produce bins were sparsely stocked or empty. Much of the produce they did have was shriveled or wilted. They have eliminated the meze bar. They might as well shut down.

                                  1996 Lawrence Ave E, Toronto, ON M1R, CA

                                  1. re: czg

                                    What did the notice actually say? It sounds from what you wrote that the notice says NASR is closed, but it's not, apparently.

                                    1. re: Full tummy

                                      It's been half open, or is that half closed, and with half-stocked shelves of half bad groceries for about 2 years now.

                                      1. re: foodyDudey

                                        Yup, I was by there a couple of months ago and left pretty fast. Which is, I'm sure, why nobody seemed too surprised by the possibility of it closing... That said, if there have been issues behind the scenes that have been responsible for these problems, maybe they will overcome and build things up again.

                                        1. re: Full tummy

                                          I shop at Nasr once a year or so for grocery items I don't find in downtown Toronto, like Egyptian pastrami. I was just there yesterday (Nov 22, 2009) and the place was open, the shelves were stocked with merchandise and I could find all the groceries I went there for. I could see that the place has undergone some sort of renovation but, otherwise, it was business as usual.

                                          1. re: Sammy09

                                            That's really interesting, as I was there on Nov 10 and the place (except for the meat counter, which I believe is under different management) was a barren wreck. They have, indeed, done some renovating, but they seem to have given up on stocking food. It has looked like the late stages of a liquidation for almost a year.

                                            1. re: embee

                                              I saw a bankruptcy or receivers notice in the newspaper about three weeks ago.

                                              1. re: embee

                                                I was also there a couple of weeks ago, and found it in its usual (lately) state of semi-emptiness. I was going for the excellent Iranian (I think) pistachios, but they were out of them. They had very fresh (steam in pkgs) pitas, however. I hope to go this week.

                          2. I was in there on Sunday, Nov 22 and it was pretty depressing compared to how it used to be. Most of the produce bins were empty. There were some dried up, mangy limes, certainly no lemons (disappointment), and lots of dates, esp fresh on the branch ones as people were just opening up the boxes and helping themselves. The usual excellent supply of really, really fresh pita. The deli counter looked reasonably well stocked but the self-serve pickle and appetizer wagon was empty. Most of the nut bins were empty.
                            The parking lot was almost empty. A pretty depressing sight when one thinks of what a vital part of the neighbourhood this shop used to be.

                            16 Replies
                            1. re: summ3r

                              So I drove to Nasr today, Monday, as I wanted to get some pistachios. Closed tight! Didn't get out to read the several signs on the door. Strike one.
                              Oh well, I can get them across the street at the nut shop called Sahra (I think). I couldn't even find it, since not only was the store closed, but the sign had even been removed--it was beside Nasib's Shawarma. Strike 2.
                              I'd always been curious about Basse Nuts, a place just along Lawrence, so this was obviously my chance to give it a try...gone! Strike 3.
                              At least the shawarma that I got at Ibrahim's was absolutely excellent. Any suggestions for where to get the freshest, small pistachios?

                                  1. re: Yongeman

                                    When I said it was business as usual, I meant the place was open and there were customers. Also, the shelves weren't as barren as they apparently were a few weeks ago as described by some here. And the deli area, which is where I mainly shop, was fully stocked. My guess is that the place is gradually coming back into business after some sort of legal/financial trouble, as opposed to going out of business. In fact, the lady at the deli counter said they were planning a big bash for their 35th (I think) anniversary next month, which is a good sign that things are improving I guess.

                                    1. re: Sammy09

                                      I do hope you're right, but it has been very bad for a long time. I used to like that store.

                                  2. re: foodyDudey

                                    Thanks foodyDudey. On the website, it says the West Beaver Creek location is the "factory", do they have a retail business there as well?

                                    1. re: LUV_TO_EAT

                                      I had not been to Tavazo for 2 or 3 years, and at that time they sold retail from that location. I was not aware of the retail stores until I looked at the website yesterday, and I think those are relatively new. Maybe you should call and ask if you can buy retail from the factory loaction.

                                    2. re: foodyDudey

                                      Do they actually roast nuts there??

                                      1. re: embee

                                        I haven't been there for quite awhile, but seem to recall that they roast nuts there.
                                        I could be wrong. I really liked the products they have but since my Iranian/Persian friend who used to be right beside them moved, I haven't dropped in. If you go, you may want to look for a confection they call "Gaz", I really like that.

                                        1. re: embee

                                          Tavazo is the best that I've tried here. I go to the store at Yonge and Clark. They ship the nuts over from Iran and roast it themselves. Their almonds are excellent when they get the good stuff in, but they're not going to have the Iranian version for a couple more months (only the Cali stuff right now).

                                      2. re: Yongeman

                                        The Iranians are the kings of pistachio. Try the stores south of Steeles.

                                        1. re: Yongeman

                                          What about Shirini Sara on Leslie, just north of York Mills?


                                          1. re: Yongeman

                                            Samarra roasted nuts is still there in the same strip mall, they just moved to the west end of the plaza closer to Shawarma Empire.

                                            1. re: Tor.hound

                                              Oh, that's good news. I didn't think to look around the mall when I was there. Thanks Tor.hound.

                                              1. re: Yongeman

                                                You're very welcome, glad to help.
                                                The only reason I knew was because I was there the week they were about to move. I don't think I would have thought to look elsewhere in the mall either.