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May 18, 2010 06:41 PM

Heading to St. Lawrence Market for the first time...what should I look out for?

So I'm heading over to St. Lawrence Market for the first time ever tomorrow and I was just wondering if there are particular must-sees or gems that I should keep an eye out for while there. I know, I know, the best way to learn about places like this is to explore for myself and whatnot, but I just wanted to see if there were some things there that I should eat/check out/do as I will. Things that you'd recommend a touristy kind of person to look out for, if that makes sense :)

St. Lawrence Market
92 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E, CA

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  1. The peameal bacon on a bun is the classic choice for St. Lawrence visitors. It's not my favourite, but it might be something to check off your list.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Rabbit

      Agreed. I like Carousel bakery. The debate rages over which place is the best though.

      Schefler's is great for hummus and anti pasto. I like the cheese wrapped in sun dried tomatoes.

      If you're looking to grill, a Tri Tip from Whiteeven is great. As are the lamb steaks from the place directly across from Whiteeven. I usually buy some pepperettes there too.


    2. For a tourist, my first piece of advice would be to go on Saturday instead! That way you'd get to talk to the vendors in the north market, and find out a little more about your food. It's a tasty and educational experience.

      If you're going on a weekday, it's less of a spectacle, and I would treat it more as an unconventional grocery store. I'll usually pick up veggies from the shop at the north east entrance, walk my way down to buy bagels from St Urbain (with a pit stop to snack on Kozlik's mustards), then walk back up through the mostly interchangeable fish and meat stalls looking for deals. The prices here more variable than a grocery store, and so is the quality, so it is worth looking through all the shops. The only other store I regularly visit is Rube's downstairs for grains.

      If I'm there for lunch, I'll normally go to Mustachios for big veal and eggplant sandwich. I have to admit, though, that I find many of the culinary tourist attractions (peameal bacon on a bun, sausage on a bun, grilled pork back, Mustachio's sandwiches) to be 80% novelty and 20% good food, but I keep eating them anyways.

      If you walk away with a full stomach, some quality fish and a couple of tasty cheeses, I would qualify that as a good food adventure. Enjoy your visit!

      1. There's pretty much something for everyone -- depends what you're looking for! The peameal sandwiches at carousel are the most often mentioned tourist item, and they're okay, but I wouldn't get too excited about 'em.

        The SLM topic has come up before, here is a similar thread with many responses:

        3 Replies
        1. re: Gary

          I get the impression from the OP that he/she's going to the SLM more to browse, be entertained and maybe take a little lunch than to shop for foodstuffs. In which case, as Underdog Rally suggests above, you're missing more than half the fun of SLM if you don't go there on a Saturday - preferably before 8-9 a.m., which is when things start getting impossibly busy and the market becomes something of a brawl. The north building, which houses mainly the farmers and other small food producers, is only open for business on Saturdays. Among my regular stops in that building, besides the family peddling fresh eggs almost dead centre in the north building, are the nearby cheerful couple specializing in potatoes and other veggies, and the guy across from them (Wes Sovereign) who makes his living from tomatoes and assorted lettuces. Local veggies are just coming onto the market this month. An outside stall had fresh local strawberries last week, and they were damn good.

          In the south building, besides the satisfying back bacon on a bun sandwiches ($5.99, tax inc.) at Carousel Bakery (unless they've raised the price yet again within the past few weeks), there's a good bakery in the basement, where freshness seems at its peak on Saturdays. Good baguettes, chala, multi-grains and ryes. Though quality and freshness are strong, prices are a tad higher than everywhere else in the city - but then prices are a tad higher all throughout the south building. You'll rarely spot a mad buy (except maybe late in the day, when the merchants are trying to unload product) at the SLM. Scheffler's, for example, is lots of fun to browse through, with its wide range of exotic stuff, but most items are a dollar or two higher than anywhere else. Best example I've encountered recently: Zei Turkish EV olive oil, $20 at Scheffler's, $15-$16 elsewhere in town. If you're prepared to pay the premium, though, you'll enjoy poking around there. The three fish markets are strong on the range of product, and charge identical prices on most every item. There's a good mainly-organic fruit and veggie dealer located just west of the fish markets. All the other fruit/veggie dealers are almost identical in prices and quality. I prefer Chris's for cheese, but I suppose the others are just as good - Scheffler's has a good array of Ont. and Que. cheeses, though. Unless the Montreal bagel-maker has improved in the past year - underbaked bagels three times in a row, in my experience - I've written him off going back to last summer. Also written off: Mustachio's in the basement, which the fusspot in me says is dreary and not particularly clean, with uncomfortable seating and - more to the point - not much for taste. It has its fans, however. I get my meat at Whitehouse, because product is consistently good, and the staff are old pros - so I'm reluctant to switch to other butchers, who could easily be just as good. But I'm inclined to stick with a winner.

          1. re: juno

            Just felt had to set the record straight Juno, about Zei EV. You must have seen the 750ml bottle at St Lawrence retailing for $20 and a 500ml bottle retailing for $15 "elsewhere in town" - and I am pretty sure of this, by way of being one of the owner-operators of Zei :) Have a good day...

            1. re: Watercat

              There's a 750 ml size of Zei Turkish EV? Who knew? The 500 and 750 ml bottles looked the same to me, but then I didn't look too closely at the precise size in Scheffler's, just the price tag. Good stuff, though. I just opened my 500 ml bottle bought a month ago from De La Mer (a fish store on Bayview Ave.). I assume the 750 ml bottle will taste just as good, in which case the larger size is a better buy. Thanks for the shopping info. But the fact remains: many, many items at Scheffler's are a buck or two more than elsewhere, but it's still the most entertaining place to browse through in the south market.

        2. I'd say Kozlik's mustard stand, Carousel or Paddington's Pump for peameal on a bun, the candy store in the basement and the Fish restaurant in the back (i'm terrible with names!). I second the antipasto/ hummus place - and Wittiveen's is great for meat.

          6 Replies
          1. re: MeMeMe

            my favs:
            1. grilled octopus on salad at Buster's Sea Cove (top floor at the back) AWESOME!
            2. olives stuffed with goat cheese from the self-serve antipasto bar at Scheffler's
            3. Sesame bagels, hot out of the oven, Montreal style, from St. Urbaine bagels
            4. Chocolate chip cookies from the bakery downstairs (forget name, it's downstairs, south-west-ish)
            5. Strawberries from the kind of front-and-centre fruit market near the front of the store, he piles them high in containers and they always look glorious (I'm a sucker for presentation, but they taste pretty good, too)

            and personally, Saturdays are mahem at the market. I prefer a slightly calmer atmosphere mid-week. (though it's closed Mondays, don't forget!)

            Buster's Sea Cove
            93 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E1C3, CA

            1. re: pantone

              I prefer the fish sandwichs at Buster's but man everything is tasty there.
              I also love the bagels from St. Urbaine and dunno why Carousel gets the nod over them? The bagels really do need to be hot out the oven though.

              If you love your butter I would grab a basket of Echiré butter from Scheffler's. Last I recall it was $15 for 250g of butter which is a lot but Echiré is an AOC product from France so it's gotta travel quite a ways.

              1. re: CoffeeAddict416

                I never leave there without getting some of that wicked good pasta sauce (and I'm bad with names too) from the ground floor, about half way, along the left side stall. They sell fresh pasta too and pretty much are always handing out samples.

                I love their tri color sauce. It's a combination of tomato, cream and pesto sauces to mimic the italian flag. LOVE IT!!!! And it freezes well.

                1. re: millygirl

                  No one ever writes about it, but this place also has really yummy pizza slices--thin crust with garlicky tomato sauce--I always just get the plain cheese and pile on the chili flakes.

                2. re: CoffeeAddict416

                  2nd about how good the food is at Buster's. I love their Halibut sandwich. It's to die for!

              2. re: MeMeMe

                I like Witteveens specifically for their USDA beef and their veal chops... unfortunately they are splurge items (for me at least)

              3. Don't mean to hijack the post but, how early is "early enough" if you plan to go on a Sat.?

                5 Replies
                1. re: sweetie

                  I would suggest before 9AM.. If i want to shop in peace I get there around 7:00AM...

                  1. re: Hmm

                    Ditto what Hmm said. I have a general policy that if I can't be there by 7:30 then I don't bother going. But then I prefer being there before 7. Really don't like crowds...

                  2. re: sweetie

                    Don't be dissuaded by all the 7AM discussion. If you're a trouper and can deal with the crowds you will do fine around 11AM. Selection is smaller but I never have any trouble getting what I came for around that hour.


                    1. re: wontonfm

                      oh thank you! I will try to get there as early as possible...but the thought of a 6am wake up call is daunting for I hope one of those stalls sell coffee if I do end up making it for 7 am.

                      1. re: sweetie

                        Get a cup of the jamaican blue mountain coffee from the place in the basement next to the chinese food place. Amazing coffee.