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St. Lawrence Market in Toronto - what's not to be missed?

I'm travelling with a group of people who are not foodies, but they have given the green light on a trip to the St. Lawrence Market. This means that this might be my only foodie experience in Toronto this weekend. What should I absolutely not miss? I'm looking for things that I can only taste and buy while I'm in Canada (I'm from the East Coast of the US). I saw a St. Urbain's Bagels, which I believe is the classic Montreal bagel that is supposedly so good. I imagine I'll find some cheese (le chevre noir is a favorite already). What should I seek out?

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  1. St. Urbain bagel is the classic Montreal style bagel, the oven they use at SLM is gas fired rather than wood fired so it's a bit of a pale imitation but you'll certainly get the idea.

    There are a couple of good cheese shops with stuff that import restrictions make difficult or impossible to find in the US, we have friends who visit from NYC occasionally and they always go for some French washed rind raw milk cheeses. You may also want to pick up some local products such as Niagara Gold which is a cheddar style made from Canada's only remaining herd of heritage Guernsey cattle.

    Of course the classic "eat it now" item is the Peameal bacon sandwich from the Carousel Bakery on the main level.

    5 Replies
    1. re: bytepusher

      These are the views of a former peameal bacon sandwich gourmand, fresser, glutton - chose your term:

      The Carousel is one of several choices for peameal bacon sandwich at the market. Personally, I'm not that fond of any of them any more, when I used to love them so much and have such a hard time choosing that I'd sometimes have two from different vendors.

      Carousel's bun is excellent - they are a bakery first and foremost, and their peameal bacon is lightly fried so that it is hot, but not crispy. The result is steamy, soft, chewy meat in a light soft Kaiser. I like my sandwich plain, without toppings, which leads me to the problem I have with their sandwich: I can taste the "prep" or whatever oil/grease they use, and it is not pleasant.

      Paddington, about 25 yards north, has crustier buns (and also crustier service!) with less character and flavor. Their bacon tends to be fried more with some browning and crispiness. although on a busy Saturday, they may not cook the bacon as much to speed things up. Their bacon tends to be saltier. If cooked well with some crisp, it gives a completely different peameal bacon sandwich experience that I personally prefer to Carousel's. The problems I have found lately is that, once again, I can taste the frying grease, and I think their bacon has become too salty in that past couple of years.

      A third option is Manos Deli, across from the north end of the Carousel location. Their is not peameal bacon, but whole smoked pork loin shaved on the slicer and piled on a bun. Since it is not fried, there's no frying grease to taste! Like Paddington, their bun is not a nice as the Carousel bun - just a standard Kaiser - but the thinly sliced bacon is tasty, albeit a bit salty. Warning: The Greek family that used to run Manos sold the place about a year ago, and the new ownership has been somewhat inconsistent with portions. I generally prefer the shaved roast beef sandwich at this location.

      If you like to pile on the toppings, you probably won't notice the frying grease that I complain about.

      1. re: OTFOODIE

        Having personally witnessed the What A Bagel truck pull up and deliver baked goods to Carousel I can very emphatically state that they are NOT a bakery first and foremost. What they are is a reseller. Better to go to Manos where at least you know they're butchers.

      2. re: bytepusher

        Niagara Gold -- I'll definitely have to check that out. Are there other Canadian cheeses that I should be checking out? I'm a serious cheese fanatic, so I'm most interested in the Canadian cheeses that don't make it across the border due to ridiculous US regulations or just small production volumes.

        1. re: glutton

          Ask the cheesemongers to sample some Quebec raw milk (unpasteurized) cheeses. I don't recall names, but they had some outstanding goat cheeses with ash or washed rinds. I once had a cow's milk cheese from Bothwell dairy that was studded with black truffle flecks. It was outrageously good. One shop, possibly Scheffler's, is an actual store you can wander into and pick up the cheeses and look closely at them. As long as you're willing to buy some cheeses, they are quite obliging about giving you samples and as much info as they have on hand. They also have some tasty antipasto in an olive bar near the cashiers. I once stocked an entire cheese and antipasto spread for a small party shopping entirely at this place (including fig spread, gourmet crackers, olives).

          1. re: glutton

            You might also look for Fifth Town Cheese's Lighthall Tomme, a firm goat milk cheese that just won a first at the American Cheese Society Cheese Competition, any other Fifth town cheese would be good too.

            Since your going to be there on Saturday you can also go to the North Market (in the building across the street) where there are two cheese companies who sell they're own production, Monforte dairy (where the product they have is temporarily limited while they build a new dairy building) and Ewe-nity dairy, both specialize exclusively in sheeps milk cheese.

            Right now my favorite Canadian cheese is "Blue Haze" it's a cows milk blue made in a Quebec monastery that is affinaged in Ontario where it is cold smoked. It's amazing.

        2. Instead of plain Peameal bacon, go for breakfast on a bun! Peameal + egg + cheddar on a country bun. Yum! It's perfect washed down with lemonade.

          Stop by Kozlick's if you want to sample and purchase interesting mustards (my favourite is the balsalmic and fig). If you go to the north market, which is open on Saturdays, there will be Montforte Dairy cheeses that are lovely. I particularly like their chevre with fig preserve.

          Oh and in the middle row, there is a large, bald bearded man selling scrumptious heavily iced cupcakes. Go for one of those!

          Enjoy the market!

          1. One of my favorite places on the market is Kozlik's Mustards. They have an amazing selection.

            1. Since you want something unique to Toronto, and if you and your group enjoy Jewish Deli, then I think you should convince them to go to Caplansky's Deli on College, which reopens this weekend. With the reopening, thinks might be a bit disorganized, but the smoked meat is unique. He started out by trying to replicate one of the better Montreal Smoked Meat recipes, but ended up creating something smokier that has been a major topic of discussion on this board. There are several threads; just search "Caplansky".

              2 Replies
              1. re: OTFOODIE

                I was wondering where he went. St. Lawrence market eh? Thats great, I will have to grab a sammy for lunch next week as i work in brookfield.


                Chow!
                HL.

                1. re: HarryLloyd

                  Caplansky is a separate recommendation as a unique Toronto food - he hasn't moved to St. Lawrence. His new place is at College and Brunswick.

              2. Have you seen this listing and map link of the market? You can plan your travels through the shops. We enjoyed Carousel Bakery.
                http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/shopp...

                1. Are you going on Saturday? If so, I would definitely check out the North Market too.
                  I don't really like the St. Urbain bagels.
                  As Yum2MyTum mentioned, Kozlick has really fabulous mustards and is definitely worth a stop. http://www.mustardmaker.com/
                  The peameal bacon sandwich is very popular; the eggplant (or eggplant & veal) sandwich from Mustachio's in the basement is also very good.
                  A Bisket A Basket has great jams, chutneys, and other preserves. www.abisketabasket.ca
                  For a great variety of inventive fresh soy products, check out Ying Ying. www.yingyingsoyfood.ca
                  I love the coffee at Everyday Gourmet. http://www.everydaycoffee.com/
                  Both cheese shops offer good cheese.

                  Here is the website to help you plan your trip:
                  http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/

                  1. You should know, in case nobody else has mentioned it, that St Lawrence Market is open ONLY on Saturday this coming holiday weekend.

                    There's a flea market on Sunday (I assume?) and everything's closed Monday.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: simplepieman

                      The SLM is never open Sunday or Monday, anyways.

                      1. re: OTFOODIE

                        Yeah, I only mentioned it because the OP is from out of town and might have assumed differently.

                        1. re: OTFOODIE

                          The North Market is in fact open Sundays for the Antique Market. However everything food related in both buildings is closed Sundays and Mondays.

                      2. Top floor - excellent custard tarts at the Portugese place

                        Basement - love teh sushi! The juice place is also really good. Love the pierogies at the Polish place (I think??) near the juice place. The crepe place is also good.

                        I used to work near the St. Lawrence Market and the above were my go to places.

                        1. Check out Kozliks Mustard...Over 35 varieties and a great new dry rub for steaks, chops etc...Very Canadian and very unique. On that note you'll need to try a back-bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery or the roast beef sandwich from Manos...Churrasco's also puts out a pretty tasty Portuguese chicken

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: Delshan

                            Is that back bacon sandwich peameal or the other kind? I've heard there's a place in SLM that has one that's not peameal, but couldn't get the name.

                            1. re: CeeQueue

                              Carousel has peameal bacon.

                              1. re: kwjd

                                One comment regarding Kozlik's mustards: they have no preservatives so buy the freshest batch they have in the store and be prepared to consume it within a reasonable period of time. I bought a XXX-hot mustard there that was less than 2 weeks old and it was FIERY! After opening, it got consumed over 4 months. As each month passed, the flavour/heat dulled, as did the colour, until its taste was mostly pasty. Bummer. It was sensational during the first month or so, though. I'm glad I didn't buy 3 or 4 jars that day.

                                I bought a jar of Kozlick's XXX from another store that was several months old and it wasn't hot at all, so production date matters. Only the people in the shop will know when the last batch was made.

                                1. re: kwjd

                                  It does indeed. I'm trying to find non-peameal back bacon (I know it exists and can be found at SLM, just not sure which vendor).

                                  1. re: CeeQueue

                                    I think that might be available at Manos Meats.

                                    1. re: toveggiegirl

                                      Thanks!

                                      1. re: CeeQueue

                                        Witteveen, which is directly across from Manos, has honey-glazed back bacon, no peameal. It's fantastic.

                                        1. re: simplepieman

                                          Witteveen is just good period. Best Tri Tips.

                                          DT

                            2. It would be good to know if you're going on a Saturday or weekday. The Saturday north market is a whole other experience.

                              I echo the recommendations above for Kozlik's mustard -
                              http://www.mustardmaker.com/

                              I really like the Amazing Maple and Triple Crunch. They usually have it set up so you can sample different flavours. Just down the way is Scheffler's where you can find a great selection of different kinds of olives and cheeses and charcuterie.

                              As mentioned above, the website is quite helpful -
                              http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/

                              Hope you enjoy it! It's not just a touristy place, well loved by locals.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: JamieK

                                I usually grab some sun dried tomato wrapped cheese from the anti pasta bar at Schefler's after having my peameal on a bun. If I don't buy some pepperettes from one of the other butchers, I'll grab a landjaeger or a csabi (both sausages) and nibble the rest of the time I'm there.

                                DT

                                1. re: JamieK

                                  I'm going on Saturday morning. I assume that's peak time, when most stores will be open.

                                  1. re: glutton

                                    Yes, everything is open on Saturday, including the North Building, which houses the farmers market. You've gotten lots of good advice already. I'll just add that St. Urbain's bagels are ok, but they don't really have the right taste or texture for Montreal bagels (despite their claims). I wouldn't waste too much stomach space on a bagel. Just graze your way through the market and enjoy yourself!

                                2. Fish and chips on the top level at the back I love it nice thin batter and curly fries...

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: OnDaGo

                                    That's Buster's Cove. They make a good fish sandwich (same fish as fish & chips) if you're into that.

                                    1. re: grandgourmand

                                      They have a great chowder. I tried their fish & chips twice and it was too greasy and soggy for my liking so I don't get that anymore.

                                      The chowder is really good.

                                      1. re: TOchowgal

                                        I'm going to have to try the chowder and the fish sandwich. I've had the fish & chips from there, but wasn't a fan of the fries.

                                        1. re: kwjd

                                          The fries are always soggy there. My ex coworker experienced that two or three times.

                                          1. re: TOchowgal

                                            Yes, that's exactly what I found too about the fries. I've had them a few times within the past year and they have always been soggy, so that must be how they do them there. I do like the fish though, which is why I go back.

                                    2. re: OnDaGo

                                      I tried the fish and chips here a few times and was never a fan, though I think they may have changed owners since then so perhaps I should re-try. In my opinion you're better off to leave the Market via the lower east doors, cross to the northeast corner of Jarvis and The Esplanade, and go into a little hole-in-the-wall neighbourhood restaurant called Times Square. Love the halibut and chips there, and you can get a beer with it.

                                    3. I'm personally not a fan of the St. Urbain bagels... I find them to be hard like hockey pucks... but apparently some people love them and I don't want to open the Great Bagel Debate again.

                                      As far as things to eat in the South Market as a tourist (as opposed to raw ingredients to bring home to cook) these are all personal favourites:

                                      - The Chinese Deli on the lower floor is great for Canadian style Chinese. Their Black Bean "Sole" is particularly good ("Sole" being in quotes because they substitute different white fishes, I think).

                                      - Diagonally across from the Chinese Deli is a desserts counter that sells great Portuguese Custard Tarts.

                                      - Mustachio's on the lower level sells very good sandwiches -- both the Eggplant and Chicken, or Eggplant and Veal are good combinations. Hot peppers are optional. The sandwiches are quite big and very filling, though, so if you eat one of these first you might limit your future grazing abilities.

                                      - For cheeses, Olympic Cheese and Scheffler's Deli have never led us astray... they are side by side on the upper level, east side. Scheffler's is also a great source for antipasto, olives, and pepperoni.

                                      - Any bread product from Carousel Bakery on the upper floor is incredible. This is the same place that sells famous pemeal bacon sandwiches.

                                      In the North Market on Saturdays there's a lady that sells big pretzels I quite like, especially when paired with the aforementioned Kozlik's Sweet Russian Mustard (their version of a honey mustard).

                                      1. It may go without saying but if possible, get there as early as you can if it's a Saturday. I got there later than I intended today and there were so many people it was almost impossible to move, especially at the North Market. It's far less crowded during the week but unfortunately the farmer's market is only on Saturday. I hope you enjoy it - it's one of my favourite places to shop!