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Aug 8, 2011 06:09 AM

McEwan vs Pusateri's

I had cause to go to Pusateri's mothership last weekend at Avenue Rd & Lawrence. Oh how things have changed since it was once just a very nice store in a good neighbourhood. Now it's so chock-a-block you can barely navigate. I have to say I find that the case in all 3 locations, though Bayview Village isn't quite as bad.

Of the 3 items I picked up, one was grossly overpriced (and I found out that they price by store location eeeyuck), one was good but didn't knock me out, and what's with the desserts people? I could have made better myself and I'm terrible with pastry.

Overall, I'd say that if I need to SnootyShop, the experience at McEwan is far more satisfying. The store is a high end provisioner that doesn't forget it's a grocery store too. Just answer your phone next time people. I only ended up at the other guy because it took 8 calls just to get a person on the line. In that amount of travel time, I quite literally went from your corner to Pusateri's.

1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

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  1. I've only been to McEwan 2 times, but the prices always seem slightly higher than the prices at Pusateri's BV/Ave Rd or Whole Foods for the items I tend to buy (mostly produce, crackers, cheeses at those kinds of stores). I remember the Stash Tea costing a couple dollars more at McEwan that it cost elsewhere. Haven't compared meat, poultry or fish prices at any of the stores.

    I've found the people working at Pusateri's to be friendly and helpful at the Avenue Rd & BV stores.

    I don't like the cramped layout of the Yorkville store, so I rarely shop there, and would rather walk the 10 minutes west to Whole Foods.

    Loblaw and Metro also vary their prices greatly by location. When I lived in downtown in the 90s, the Yorkville Ave Loblaw (where the condo at Yonge & Yorkville is now located) charged a lot more (despite its more limited selection), than the Loblaw on Dupont where the LCBO is now located.

    Guess the idea with most grocery stores with more than 1 location is to charge what the neighbourhood market will bear.

    1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

    2 Replies
    1. re: prima

      The Bloor Street Market (Loblaws) in the Manulife appears to charge the same as other Loblaws locations, and I think the flyer items are usually the exact same as in other Loblaws flyers. The selection can be pretty bad though, especially for meat. It is infinitely better than the Metro on Bloor, which is one of the worst grocery shopping places in the city. The Longo's in the opposite direction is okay, but has very little selection. The Sobey's on Yonge is pretty terrible as well. There's a No Frills on Jarvis, I think, but I've never been.

      Thankfully, Cumbrae's, About Cheese and Pusateri's (produce) are a short walk. There's also an Alex Farms in the Manulife (About Cheese is worth the extra 5 minute walk).

      I like Whole Foods. Their produce is mostly pretty good, they have a lot of reasonably-priced specialty items (though you have to be careful), and they have pretty decent seafood. Their meat, however, is not always spectacular, and I prefer to shop at Cumbrae's by a large margin.

      The Yorkville Pusateri's is absolutely jammed and not exactly a fun grocery shopping experience. The aisles are tiny, you have to squeeze by people, the layout is awful, but the staff is friendly. I don't mind trudging through the warrens of some obscure Chinese supermarket, but a place like Pusateri's should probably have a bit better ambiance. When I go, I know what I want; I get in and get out quickly; I don't return for months at a time.

      Most of the store is expensive prepared food that tends to be mediocre, including the pastries. Most of them (at Yorkville, at least) tend to be made by other shops around the city. Unfortunately, the majority of the patisseries around Toronto are, in my opinion, are pretty bad. I don't think I've ever purchased a fruit pie in Toronto that I found to be even remotely decent. Pusateri's is no different (despite sourcing from somewhere like Wanda's, which is awful). There are some good speciality items there, and some appear to be priced okay. Others aren't, especially given that you can get them at a regular grocery store for half the price.

      Given that it's probably the least convenient "supermarket" ever, I can't imagine why anyone would actually choose to shop there unless they had a personal shopper delivering their groceries for them.

      All of these places have a laughable selection of Japanese or Korean (as well as Chinese) products. Luckily, PAT Central and Chinatown are still within walking distance.

      McEwan's is actually a really nice place. The times I've been, I've really enjoyed shopping there. The prices can be exorbitant for items reasonably priced elsewhere, but their selection is quite good and it's a really comfortable atmosphere. Unfortunately, it's too far, I hate driving, the TTC sucks, and I can get basically whatever I'd get at McEwan's through a combination of other stores, including some (eg: Cumbrae's), with much better product.

      If McEwan's was close, I'd definitely never step in Pusateri's (Yorkville) again.

      1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

      Alex Farm
      1965 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4L, CA

      About Cheese
      483 Church St, Toronto, ON M4Y 2C6, CA

      1. re: tjr

        The downtown Pusateri's is indeed a fright - but their uptown Avenue Road mother ship location is better organized, yes tight-spaced, but the staff is friendly and well-informed and will TAKE you to a hard-to-find product rather than merely mutter "Aisle 4" as one gets elsewhere...I find their prices much more reasonable than McEwan's, and the selection good overall especially in breads, cheeses and meat. Prepared food items are indeed expensive and of course a matter of taste as well as of budget - eg their brisket hard to beat, their salads mediocre and what passes for sliced roast beef dreadful (Bruno's has the market cornered on this item). Their desserts, again expensive, are at least varied. Not everyone has time or ability to run down to Harbord Bakery or to try to park near (the over-rated) Dufflet so Pusateri's does a favour - for which one pays - in supplying some of their products. Their managers are willing to bring in products if your interest seems serious - eg I noticed they didn't have any of Stewart's diet flavours, but he was happy to order some for me. So, for a high-end place, I think they don't do badly. AND they do not commit the cardinal sin of the otherwise good Summerhill market - defiling lasagne with mushrooms...

        1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

        1917 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4L, CA

        Harbord Bakery
        115 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S, CA

    2. McEwan has a much better selection of Smoked Salmon and deli products! Even smoked Australian Tasmanian Trout and Italian Lardo if you are lucky!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Charles Yu

        What is the difference between a Tasmanian trout , a Schuman trout and a local trout?

      2. This may be the best discussion I've ever been lucky enough to be a party to. A very compelling discussion indeed.

        Category-by-category, I believe the goods at McEwan to be from slightly to greatly superior at McEwan.

        I have to say that, despite how well all of these grocers do, I would give just about anything to have St Jamestown Steak & Chops within easy walking distance of my home again. Now there's a provisioner without provisos. You needn't inspect the quality of the wares. Just point and shoot.

        St James Town Steak & Chops
        516 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M4X, CA

        1. I find McEwan's to be ridiculously expensive. When not-so uncommon cheeses hit plus $100/kg, something's not right. I bought a can of smoked paprika for $5.99 at Pusateri's and it was $12.99 at McEwans. Exact same product.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hal2010

            I purchased my last tin of La Chinata smoked paprika at Ararat for $3.99 (I left the price tag on the tin, and used it yesterday. Probably purchased the tin in the last 2 years or so). Very convenient and reasonably-priced place to shop, if you're already going to be shopping at the Avenue Rd Pusateri's. ;-)

            1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

            1800 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

          2. Having a couple of dependants, and not having reached the depends age, I tend to look at places like these on the basis of value first. Both have greatly improved produce selections, though Pusateri's is slightly more reasonable. Nods to McEwen's for selection, though much of it is prepackaged by the suppliers. The meat counter at McEwens is larger, with a larger selection, but I think there is better value at Pusateri's generally.

            In terms of prepared foods, both should have a parrot warning label, as they are truly pirates compared to most. Summerhill, including the former Sherwood outlet, kick their backsides in terms of selection and clearly on price.

            A nice retail experience has a degree of satisfaction, but how we value that 'happy ending' is relative.

            1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

            1 Reply
            1. re: Snarf

              Summerhill is pretty good, with the exception of their St Albert cheese curds, packaged two months prior to their appearance :-(