HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >


St. Lawrence Market - "World's Best Food Market" in National Geographic List -

I saw this yesterday:


I do enjoy shopping at the SLM but I was surprised to see it take top honours.

Items I would make a special trip to the SLM for are:

Kozlik's mustards
Grains & Rice from Rube's
Coffee Beans from Roasters
Sausages from El Gaucho
Mushrooms from the Mushroom vendor in the north market

It's also nice to know I can go there and find most cuts and types of meat, poultry and game if I need them and of course choose from a variety of fish and seafood.

I'm curious to see what others have to say.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't know about top, not having visited all of them but it's definitely up there.

    1. No way!!!! Good by Canadian standard but In terms of product selection and choices, especially the exotic ones, I would rank La Boqueria in Barcelona and Borough market in London way ahead of it. Much more 'exciting' to walk around!!

      1. Like most of you Hounds, I've browsed the markets of other cities, towns, and villages. I've long held that the SLM and the SLMFM (looks like a curse, doesn't it?) is amongst the best in the world.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Googs

          No, impossible! If it's in Toronto, it must be in some vague way inferior to an undefined vision of everywhere else. ;)

          Seriously, though, I agree. It's a great market, and it's nice to see it get some credit.

        2. This sounds more like something TO Life cooked up.

          Crikey, if that's true then the rest of the planet must be in agony.

          What we know, and Nat Geo obviously doesn't, is that range of food on offer is what's spectacular about TO and the 905 as a whole, not just what's peddled at that tourist trap on Front St.

          1. It's funny as I'm in Nice this week and am loving the market, but have to agree that it doesn't have the volume or variety SLM has. That being said, I'm off to London tomorrow and can't believe Borough Market is only #10. It is hands down my favorite market in the world. Maybe they took into consideration hours and how many days they're open?

            11 Replies
            1. re: eppicurious

              Awesomely predictable responses here.

              1. re: jamesm

                The SLM is great and especially for the range of products you can buy there. However, in my experience for vegetables the Farmers Market at the Etobicoke Civic Centre has them beat.

                1. re: jamesm

                  So true jamesm!! I love a lot about Toronto...but I never suspected the SLM would be so highly regarded globally...great to see.

                  1. re: T Long

                    Great to see and but in some area hard to believe. I love shopping at Rubes --as did my father. Love the fish stores and the meat stores and the mustard. But the veggies often leave a lot to be desire and the men's washroom in the basement would fit into any Chinese restaurant at Spadina and Dundas.

                    1. re: Herne

                      If I were to agree with you, it sounds like maybe you havent visited the north market where I would personally disagree. (produce, not washrooms)

                      1. re: justsayn

                        You are correct. I usually go only into the south market--which is the market for me. I was in the north market about 3-4 years ago on a Sunday I believe and it was a flea market at the time.

                        1. re: Herne

                          I go to slm a lot. But would have to agree not the besr. After visiting mkts in asia and europe, i would have to say there are some that i wish were here in TO. Even in NA, we would rank the LA one pretty high on the list.
                          But we love the meats and coffee places at slm. And everything is reasonably priced, cheaper than whole foods.

                          1. re: Herne

                            Herne: on Sundays it's a flea market, but on Saturdays it's a farmer's market...a pretty great one too. We never buy produce from the south market, only the north.

                            1. re: ltdan

                              Ok That explains things. I like to just walk through the place and look around

                              1. re: Herne

                                When I sleep in I buy produce in the south market at Ponesse.

                  2. re: eppicurious

                    As far as I know, there's no indoor market in Nice, so it's not really comparable. The most spectacular food and flower market there is in the Old Town, Cours Saleya, to be precise, a couple of short blocks away from the sea front. Don't miss it!

                  3. How very Torontonian of us to see ourselves at the top of a list and declare "We don't belong there!" . Did anyone stop and think that this list is subjective and not an "exact science". Can't we just be proud that National Geographic thinks we are #1? It is most certainly not a tourist trap, that's a pretty ridiculous statement.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: ThoughtForFood

                      Oh dear god no we can't . What's wrong with you. If it's in TO it must not be the best.

                      I think for people who live here there a bit of a "Take for granted" thing going on. It's always more exciting to visit something that's in another city because it's different. You're open to new experiences instead of the same old.

                      I organized a group of hounds a few weeks ago for a visit. Buttertart was in from NYC and had never been. She absolutely, lock, stock and barrel loved it. I sent her the article and she agreed. Imagine, someone from NYC thinks our market is better than theirs.

                      Get your heads out of your butts and start thumping your chests TO.


                        1. re: Davwud

                          It's a great market and a great resource for the city (where I used to live, a long time ago). I was able to get some beeswax (for canelé molds, one of these days) which is something I've never seen flogged in NYC. The mustards are great, the Stasis preserves better (the raspberry kills me). The only place remotely comparable in NYC is the Chelsea Market, which, being full of trendy, expensive shops, falls down on the market for the people vibe I felt at SLM. I would dearly love to get there in August and roll around in the tomatoes and peaches for a while. I've seen many a market around the world and this is one I would love to have here. Relax and enjoy it, guys.

                          1. re: buttertart

                            Since you're in NYC and have been to both, how does SLM compare to Union Square Greenmarket? SLM ranked higher than it, I'm curious to understand how/why.

                            1. re: TexSquared

                              Union Square green market is outdoor and temporary so to me it's not in the same league as SLM or the Borough Market. It's more like Dufferin Grove market: mostly organic, limited meat and fish, a few too many soaps/candles/giftie stuff. Union Square Market is bigger but still the same types of offerings.

                              1. re: TexSquared

                                I'm a Torontonian who visited the Union Square Greenmarket only once (so admittedly I can hardly claim to be an expert) but my impression is that it's a very different beast from the SLM. Firstly it is only open on certain days of the week, for parts of the day, and it's outdoors. So you could only really compare it to the Saturday North Market at SLM. Even on those terms, the number of vendors Union Square felt small, at least when we went on Memorial Day: perhaps turnout was low due to it being a holiday.

                                Additionally, many of the vendors were selling very specific and "gourmet" products, great stuff, but not exactly what you could use to do your day-to-day grocery shopping -- but there's a handy Whole Foods right nearby. Union Square itself, however, is much more beautiful than the North Market bunker in Toronto. So I'd say SLM stands above in terms of number and variety of vendors, but Union Square wins on vibe and focus on specialty products. Really, like all lists, it depends on what you're looking for.

                                BTW, it's very predictable to see so many scoffing at the high ranking of the SLM, but it's comforting to see so many stepping to its defense.

                                  1. re: Davwud

                                    Yes! Eagerly awaiting that but the completion dates keep being pushed back by years and I'm always afraid something will happen to the funding. So I pretend it's not going to happen and hope that one day it does.

                                  2. re: Gary

                                    So that makes the ranking even more bogus, they're comparing apples to oranges here.... a "temporary" outdoor market vs a permanent building...

                          2. Good for Toronto! Good for us!
                            All the naysayers are free to shop elsewheres, if they can't open their minds up to a really great market in a world-class city.

                            1. I have been going to SLM as long as I can recall. I miss the "old days" when vendors would compete for your business by yelling out the price per pound and the one with the best set of lungs won the battle. Vendors willing to go toe-to-toe with the other. I tried playing one off against the other recently, and it worked. Got them into a bidding war over ground meat. Score one for Poorboy. Not the same as the old days, but still, I manage to find the odd gem and the North Market, when our homegrown produce comes on stream, is fabulous. Can't beat Ontario produce in full season.

                              1. Just out of curiosity, in the opinion of fellow chowhounders, how reasonable are the vendor prices??!!
                                I recalled making a special trip down from way up north last year, in the hope of picking up some 'value for money' wild blueberries. I noticed quantity was abundance, however, after purchasing a few cartons, I noticed both Longo's and Michael Angelo up in Markham were selling them quite a bit cheaper!! Are vendors deliberately marking up some produce because of SLM's popularity? May be some of these actions constitute to people commenting its a 'tourist trap'??!!

                                18 Replies
                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                  I suspect if there are price differences it might be because having a stall at the St Lawrence Market costs a fortune. I suspect the higher prices is a reflection of this vice tourism per se.

                                  1. re: freia

                                    It would be interesting to know the breakdown of the SLM clientele. I use to work close by, but it was really not very convenient to buy stuff and take it an hour home on the TTC. I can't imagine that "tourists" would be buying many groceries/meats. My guess would be that the majority of people actually buying would be living close by. If so, there would not be a lot of competition with cheaper prices and the attraction of SLM to them would be the selection, while the prices reflect the marketplace.

                                    1. re: T Long

                                      I think there are a bunch of factors involved wrt the clientele -- a fair number are indeed locals, a fair number enjoy the market and its atmosphere and will pay a premium to shop there, a number of tourists who may go more for the bakery/food stalls because they read about the market and want to see/experience it, a number of regular lunchers from the local area again for the food stalls, and a number of people from out of town who are looking for specific specialty items and shop there. I am one of the latter; when I go to Toronto it's normally by train. The SLM is close to the station (don't have to lug groceries around), there are a number of items I can reliably find there that I can't find in my home town (aka ricotta buffala, for example), and I enjoy having a quick lunch there before I catch the train back home. When I stay in Toronto overnight, it is usually at the King Edward, and I enjoy walking to the market to see what's there. Don't know if that makes me a "tourist", but perhaps another category of out-of-towners with a purpose?
                                      There is a grocery store virtually across the street from the market, but I do enjoy the market.

                                  2. re: Charles Yu

                                    Somehow I doubt they are marking up the price of blueberries thinking the tourists will come in droves for them. Its supply and demand, quality, and location. All of those factors equal out to higher prices. Looking for "value" downtown will almost always end in Fail. But with quality, you can do quite well at SLM.

                                    1. re: Charles Yu

                                      Caveat emptor, Charles. SLM sellers profit from the abiding--and often ill-founded--belief they're getting something special there. FYI, "wild" blueberries are never cheap anywhere but SLM would about the last place I'd look. Some people are more willing to pay for the "destination" experience and vibe than others. I'll take visiting friends there but I had it up to ears with the place years ago.

                                      1. re: Kagemusha

                                        We go at least oncea month from gta to downtown to pick up meats and sausages. We are familiar with area since we work around there. Lots of competition in the area since supermarkets have moved in.
                                        But if u go at the right time on sat around closing lots of bargains. Even if not, cofee place is good. And we can pick up steaks, sausages, pork at good prices. Not much more expensive than loblaws. But somehow our kids like shopping at places like slm and wf where meat is wrapped in butcher paper. Just like they like going to kensington, atwater and jean talon.
                                        We also pick up portugese chicken and there is a place where we get the grilled bacon pork belly as a snack.

                                            1. re: TexSquared

                                              Ah, now I get it. I haven't been there for about 2 years and haven't missed it.

                                          1. re: caitlink

                                            So much cheaper than Loblaws! There is no comparison.

                                          2. re: Kagemusha

                                            I'm aware of how expensive 'wild blueberries' are. However, when the same size carton of ' Ontario produce stickered' WB were sold for $5.99 at Longo's but $7.99 at SLM, one cannot help but think there was a bit of price gouging involved!!

                                            1. re: Charles Yu

                                              Again, it may very well be an issue of costs to run the stall at the Market vice the price benefits one sees at different larger grocery stores. I think one will pay a premium for shopping at SLM for certain items.

                                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                                The guy at SLM probably bought them at Longo's and marked them up 2 bucks.

                                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                                  I once saw macintosh apples at Longos for 1.99 and they were 99 cents at SLM the very same day!! Another time I saw cherries at Metro for 7.99 and they were 3.99 at SLM. Last week I saw brocolli for 99 cents at Price Chopper and it was 1.79 at SLM!

                                                  Point is, prices may vary....no matter where you shop.

                                                  Additionally, NEVER shop produce on price alone!

                                                  1. re: justsayn

                                                    I agree with this post except for the last point. Of course I don't buy nasty looking produce just because it is cheap. But I can tell that black cherries (for example) have reached their peak when they drop to their lowest price @ $2-3 a pound. That's exactly when I buy.

                                                    1. re: julesrules

                                                      So you actually agree with J. You aren't buying them on price alone. You want them at their peak of ripeness. The price is the indicator they're there.


                                                      1. re: Davwud

                                                        I think we all agree. If cherries are 3.99 at one place and 6.99 at another, price alone should not be your decision maker on where to buy. How fresh or ripe they are must weigh into it. A pint of blackberries on sale are often same-next day eating only! If I find berries super cheap, I will buy extra and freeeze them within hours to take advantage of the overstock.

                                              2. re: Charles Yu

                                                Charles, if you're looking for value for the money then driving all the way downtown probably isn't in your best interest unless:

                                                you want to park once to get all things fof a beautiful meal; or

                                                you've discovered the irreplaceables of the SLM. Of those, I consider both Everyday Gourmet's coffees and Rube's rices and grains to be the primary examples.

                                                The price of wild blueberies depends more on the time of day at which you purchase them than anything else. If you want sashimi grade yellowfin that melts in your mouth from Domenic's, you go early and you pay more for just about everything. If you're prepared to fly by the seat of your pants and create a great dinner from what's available, you go later and you pay less. Markdowns and haggling are your friends.

                                                It must be noted that the quality of produce at SLMFM is superior to most grocery stores. I've only found Highland Farms to be comparable and only with a great deal of weeding of the shipped too fars and the less than stellar locals. Longo's, at least the ones I know, don't even come close.

                                              3. I love to cook and quite aside from the quality and variety of products I find @ SLM that I would never find at my supermarket, I thoroughly enjoy the experience. In particular I like:

                                                • Buying coffee beans that have been freshly roasted and being able to watch the process as I shop
                                                • Being able to walk up to a cheese counter and have a discussion with a knowledgeable, passionate vendor who is able to recommend something that will pair perfectly with whatever beverage, menu or accompaniment I describe
                                                • Having the option to purchase meats that are organic, antibiotic and hormone free. Meats that can be butchered to my specifications, vacuum sealed and portioned just as I want them from a vendor who has built trusted, personal relationships with the farmers with whom they do business
                                                • Knowing that if I need any type of rice, grain or bean for the dish I’m cooking up that not only will I be able to find it, but I’ll have access to the tips and wisdom of folks who know more about these products than most anyone, anywhere
                                                • The enticing aroma of market fare made from the freshest, and in many cases locally-sourced ingredients, cooking, steaming, simmering and being served by folks who take such pride in what they are creating and in the relationships they’ve built with their customers over the years (and in some instances decades) they’ve resided at the market
                                                • The buzz & bustle
                                                • The North market with its passionate and dedicated farmers, artisans, bakers and chefs who put their heart and soul into their products and who are delighted if you have a question or want a recommendation
                                                • The fact that in March, on an Easter weekend I was able to buy freshly picked ramps that later made their way into a pasta sauce that was like springtime on a plate…did I say in March?!!
                                                • Talking with other customers who share my passion for cooking and shopping for great ingredients all under one roof (or two on Saturdays)

                                                47 Replies
                                                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                  That's the "destination" experience and it's served sliced thickly at SLM. I'm just afraid I don't buy the schtick any longer. YMMV.

                                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                    Fresh ramps from the SLM....priceless (ok only $2)

                                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                      Not sustainable. Foraged=stolen. Think about it.

                                                      1. re: Kagemusha

                                                        Things I learned at the Market:

                                                        • Not all ramps are foraged
                                                        • Farmers are growing ramps on their own property and harvesting them sensibly to ensure the sustainability of their crop. Cookstown Greens does this
                                                        • Farmers who do forage ramps are only too happy to tell you where they are foraging as they do so with permission of the landowners with whom they have respectful long-standing relationships. Farmers who rely on sustainable crops to support their livelihood are acutely aware of the risks of over-harvesting. One only has to look at what happened in Quebec to understand the dire consequences of amateurs foraging with reckless inconsideration

                                                        Finally, it is my understanding that foraging ramps in Ontario is legal.

                                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                          Yes, it is indeed legal here in Ontario, but I hope not for long. It is currently illegal in Québec to sell them (you are obviously aware what happened to ramps in that province).

                                                          I agree with Kagemusha wholeheartedly-ramps are not sustainable unless they are replaced, and I would say most people don`t do this, particularly the wild foraged ones. I`m glad to hear that Cookstown Greens are growing them, but unfortunately the ones sold as wild are not worth the cost of permanent damage to our ecosystem.

                                                          I would not believe everything you hear about how these wild ramps are harvested.

                                                          There is a huge difference between farmers who grow crops on private land and those people who are pulling patches of wild ramps off crown land.

                                                          Take it from someone who`s from Northern Ontario and has become quite cynical about these sorts of practices...

                                                          1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                            Ramps are slow growing shade dwellers, and difficult to propagate quickly, much like wasabi, or morels, When the supply of wild ramps is finally curtailed, the farmed ones will be very expensive.

                                                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                              Think you're kidding yourself, Breadcrumbs. There's a definite market for ramps(as you abundantly illustrated) and many sellers adopt a "don't ask-don't tell" approach to questions about provenance. Friends who own woodlots have had quite a few "foragers" charged over the past 3 springs for tearing the bejeezus out of forest floors with ATVs, destroying trillium and other wildflower spreads, starting the odd fire, and knocking down fences. What they do to Crown land is worse.

                                                              Point--and first principle-- is: trespassing is illegal. Ramps don't grow like broccoli.

                                                              1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                With all due respect Kagemusha (and I say that sincerely as I sense this is an issue you are passionate about from your posts here and in the past), I beg to differ. How am I "kidding myself"?

                                                                In my post I completely acknowledge the dire consequences of folks who forage with reckless abandon. But those are not the folks from whom I am purchasing my product at the St. Lawrence Market (the subject of this thread and my follow-up post where you incorrectly stated that foraging is stealing). If you have information that St Lawrence Market vendors are trespassing and stealing ramps then that is a serious offence that I trust you have reported. I question that this is the case though since, by your own admission you haven't been there in years ... per your post below when you say: "Funny but I've managed, however miserably, to live without it for years and don't find myself jonesing for anything on offer there. C'mon."

                                                                It is not illegal to forage in Ontario. (that is a fact, I am not kidding myself)

                                                                The folks from whom I choose to purchase my produce are farmers, not thieves. I have known these folks for years and yes, I trust and respect them and their word.

                                                                Do I believe that there are bad people out there that are trespassing and stealing ramps and goodness knows what else. Of course I do and, I fully acknowledged this up-thread.

                                                                I very much care about the food we consume. I prefer to source locally, to support Ontario farmers, producers and businesses to the greatest extent possible. This is why I do a lot of research before I shop and, this is why I make informed food choices. This is why I prefer to shop from farmer's markets and speak directly to vendors and or farmers and make reasoned decisions about what I buy and eat.

                                                                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                  Sorry but ramps aren't "farmed." Any SLM vendor can tell you anything he/she chooses about provenance. Foraging is theft if it involves trespassing on private property(have a nice spread of narcissus and species tulips in your yard? You won't miss 'em right?). I visit SLM several times a year. Last spring I saw ramps, asked, and got mostly BS and a couple of sheepish "I bought 'em" from sellers. There's a good buck in ramps and that's the problem. The damage is cumulative and largely invisible to SLM's clientele. Somehow anything designated as "wild" or"foraged" is assumed available in inexhaustible supply.

                                                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                    Coming from farm stock myself, I can tell you that anything on our land that isn't being used by my family is given away freely and with welcome from us. And that includes swimming in the pond and planting corn on unused space. We're not all sitting on our porches with shotguns across our laps.

                                                                    1. re: Googs

                                                                      :) Nicest post I've read on this site in a while...:)

                                                                        1. re: Googs

                                                                          Right. Busted fences, fires, lost livestock, damaged naturalized woodlots, erosion from ATV and FWD tracks, time and money diverted to legal matters--nothing to get excited about, right? Not talking about some hazy bucolic memory, Googs.

                                                                          1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                            Yup that pretty much sums it up. I like to think of myself as a hippie with a shotgun when people are destroying the ecosystem.

                                                                            1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                              Bucolic perhaps, but not some hazy memory. This is how it is today and will be tomorrow and tomorrow after that. I'm not suggesting that there aren't some that might take advantage. Just that, in my experience, it hasn't happened to us. We share with the community and the community in turn looks after us.

                                                                              1. re: Googs

                                                                                My parents had a place in middle Ontario and every year they'd have people asking if they could look for ramps or morels or ginseng. Unless they got a bad feeling from them they'd let people forage and usually they'd end up with a basket of something delicious they might never have known was on their property. Your anecdote may vary, but the community up there was fairly friendly towards foragers and never got taken advantage of.

                                                                                1. re: hal2010

                                                                                  My brother owns a farm just outside of Lindsay. About 120 acres with a small orchard and mostly they plant hay. Leeks grow wild around the place and he gives away because there is not enough to sell to market and more than they can use. That's the way it is.

                                                                                  1. re: Poorboy

                                                                                    It would be really great if there was a list somewhere of suppliers that got caught stealing from private property. It wouldn't fix everything but it would be helpful to concerned consumers (both professional and private) who wanted to make sure their eat local philosophies weren't being taken advantage of. It would also be a deterrent to "professional Pickers" to at least ask nicely and not damage another persons lands. I doubt it would ever happen but it could at least help the problem a little?

                                                                                2. re: Googs

                                                                                  $$$ changes everything, Googs. The destructive clowns I referenced were caught with a dozen or more large Rubbermaid storage boxes full of ramps--not a bucket's worth for Sunday dinner, OK?

                                                                                  1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                                    One year I was invited to go mushroom picking with a woman who picks, mostly for restaurants. So I went along. Granted, at that time she was picking mushrooms that are not only abundant but that most people wouldn't recognize or pick - they call them "pine mushrooms" here in Ontario but technically they're tricholoma myomyces. Anyway, this woman shows up in the woods with a station wagon full of milk crates and forages on property that I KNOW she hasn't asked permission to pick. It was a sort of disturbing experience for me - although I did learn a bit about these pine mushrooms. Anyway, she mentioned that she also picks wild leeks in the spring and invited me to join her sometime. I imagine her approach to leeks would be similar to mushrooms - don't ask, don't tell. I have never - nor would I ever - go picking with her again. I also suspect that she's not the only one out there doing this. When I pick leeks myself, it's the "bucket's worth for Sunday dinner" thing - nothing more. And you'd never know I'd been there - I'm very selective and conservative in my collecting.

                                                                  2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                    Thanks BC. Well put. I don't have the patience to write all that out just to offset the Everything haters. There is no collusion at the marker with meat vendors. The prices vary astronomically. I assume that people who think there is price fixing, haven't been to the market to shop for meats. The produce on the other hand is normally not competitive, but rarely more than Loblaws or Metro. North market is worth exploring for great produce. With a car, I have my fave places for apples which is different than berries which is different than citrus (for the most part).

                                                                    There are so many items unique to SLM it is a shame that it isnt open 7 days.

                                                                    Lastly, tourists are not buying roasts and slabs of meat to take back to Paris. They come to the market to enjoy the vibe and the prepared foods. Perhaps they would grab a jar of great mustard? SLM serves the people of Toronto who love exploring great food!

                                                                    There is no pretention. It is what it is. Any facade is the one, one places on it.

                                                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                      "The enticing aroma of market fare made from the freshest, and in many cases locally-sourced ingredients, cooking, steaming, simmering and being served by folks who take such pride in what they are creating"

                                                                      One word answer for that... MUSTACHIO'S

                                                                      1. re: TexSquared

                                                                        SLM has spawned several local "Farmers Markets" across the city. The real unique part is the North Market in my opinion when our local produce comes on stream. I used to drive up to the HWY 7- HWY 48 areas to get produce from the farmers however I know I can go to the North Market, pay a little more, and get fresh produce direct from the farm without having to spend the gas money to go up north to get what I want. If I can get to the local Farmers Markets, I do that as well. For meat, I go to both South and North Market. For produce, I go to North when it is in season to get local. Otherwise, during the off-season, the south is importing the same produce as is Loblaws, Metro etc. and I can do better cost-wise at the big box. Just my humble opinion.

                                                                        1. re: Poorboy

                                                                          I opened this thread up dreading the outpouring of "Toronto can't have anything world class" haters but was gratified to see that many here are proud of our great market.

                                                                          Regarding prices...you can't compare prices of a downtown market to those of a suburban super store. These are small independent vendors selling their wares in some very expensive real estate...not huge corporations in big box industrial parks. Go pick up your dinner at Borough market next time you're in London...cost-of-living adjusted you'll still be in for some serious sticker shock. Even despite that difference, I think the produce (in the south market as well as the north farmers market) is reasonably priced for the variety and quality you get. Avocados that don't have to sit in a paper bag for 3 days when you get home for the same or less than Mr. Weston charges. Petit pan squash and baby courgettes...yeah they're expensive but if you love them...they're a treat worth paying for. Baby beets that you don't even have to peel with edible greens that are not wilted or rotting, yes please. I have my produce lady there who always throws in a little something extra, whether it's a pre-cut fruit salad toward the end of the day, some fresh herbs to go with whatever meat I have in my basket, or a bag of meyer lemons because they're in season and I just didn't notice them in a rush. I can't remember the last time the cashier at Sobey's tossed a snickers bar in my bag, just-because :)

                                                                          Regarding selection...there are many amazing products available at SLM that we take for granted. I wandered around the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo in awe at the plethora of exotic seafood. There were so many products there that I'd never even heard of, but that's because we don't see them every day (and that market is essentially the wholesale point for much of asia's premium fish). When I was hosting visitors from Asia, we went up to Whitehouse meats and they couldn't believe that you could get multiple different cuts of buffalo, caribou, berkshire pork, wild boar, kangaroo, musk ox, camel, goat, rabbit, pheasant, partridge, duck, quail, cornish hen, guinea fowl, squab and ostrich. As Canadians we are spoiled with our selection of game meats...but go pick me up a nice kangaroo burger or a caribou loin from Loblaws!

                                                                            1. re: downtownfoodie

                                                                              A reasonable reply. Since we know the SLM so well it is easier for us perhaps than for the Nat Geographic to spot the shortcomings. But without the SLM what a void there would be in the city.

                                                                              1. re: Herne

                                                                                The other thing Herne is when you see something every day, a small shortcoming starts to grow. It just happens.


                                                                                1. re: Herne

                                                                                  "But without the SLM what a void there would be in the city."

                                                                                  Funny but I've managed, however miserably, to live without it for years and don't find myself jonesing for anything on offer there. C'mon.

                                                                                  1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                                    Well if you haven't tried it for years--how do you know what you are missing?

                                                                                    It seems lots of people love it.

                                                                                    1. re: Herne

                                                                                      Nice. Was there several weeks ago and didn't experience an epiphany. Same old schtick. Same old herd of independent minds. Too much variety on offer now around the GTA and beyond to bother, thanks.

                                                                                      1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                                        You are in principle yucking a yum. Let the rest of us enjoy that Toronto was recognized. I do hope you give the SLM and our independent minds a second chance when you are ready.

                                                                                        1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                                          Well as you say there a lot of alternatives now and they are frequently visited by locals. But it is an interesting experience just to look around if the prices are too high for you. I prefer the veggies at Valumart but I will be at the SLM in the next few weeks killing time while my car is serviced. No where else in that neighbourhood is any interest to me.

                                                                                        2. re: Herne

                                                                                          Agree whole heartedly. I always start Saturday morning when I am hosting friends from the states (which fairly regularly) with a trip to the SLM pick up dinner. It's interesting for out of towners to see all the wonderful things Ontario produces and the availability of top quality meat and produce.One friend in particular is hard to drag out because he talks with the farmers in the north market for hours. Yes, some things can be expensive there...but there are many bargains as well and everything is ridiculously fresh. Enough with the Toronto self hate, some well deserved recognition to the SLM.

                                                                                        3. re: Kagemusha

                                                                                          I went in February for the first time since I started my diet (nearly 2 years) and thought they had upped their game. Definitely better than I'd remembered.

                                                                                          It may be that it's just not for you. It happens.

                                                                                          If you love your city and it (or a part of it) is recognized as best in the world why is it so hard to be proud??


                                                                                          1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                                            Without T&T Supermarket there would be a void in the city. Without our Chinatowns there would be a void in the city. Without the Middle Eastern shops on Lawrence Ave in Scarborough there would be a void in the city. Without J-Town there would be a void in the city. And (as I hold my nose and bite my tongue) without Costco there would be a void in the city.

                                                                                            Without the SLM we'd find all those same items elsewhere in the GTA and pay less for them.

                                                                                            1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                              But we wouldn't be going to a 200 year old building to buy them. I love Costco but not for veggies.

                                                                                              1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                you can find anything somewhere in this city, the point is the slm brings them together in one place.

                                                                                                this city survived many years without t&t and could again, i am someone who doesn't buy at costco-but costco is like walmart-they are everywhere not just in toronto. i don't need 3 cases of soup or club packs or the like.

                                                                                                toronto is founded on hoods like chinatown or middle eastern or indian or tibetan or polish or italian or korean or.... this would be a true loss, but even these hoods are changing over time and always have. the dt chinatown has moved and different asian communities have moved in, roncesvalles is moving from polish to hipster, parkdale is always in a state of change....

                                                                                                toronto without slm is akin to vancouver without granville island....

                                                                                                1. re: ingloriouseater


                                                                                                  Except I add that there are wonderful things found ONLY at SLM.

                                                                                                2. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                  St. Lawrence market isn't about getting the cheapest prices. No world-class food market in any city is. Once they become a noteworthy destination the rents and prices go up proportionally.

                                                                                                  1. re: hal2010

                                                                                                    Here is the opening remarks from the blog post I did on SLM.

                                                                                                    "Perhaps no city can be considered truly great without a vibrant, permanent farmers market."

                                                                                                    I fully stand behind those words.


                                                                                                  2. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                    The city would stay awesome without both T&T and Costco.

                                                                                                    T&T is completely redundant and the produce is WAY overpriced. Costco brings the odd unique item that would find itself into stores otherwise, not to mention its negative forces we could certainly do without!

                                                                                                    The rest of your list is comprised of large areas which are not considered markets, so I am not sure how SLM is supposed to compete with a few blocks of stores as you described?

                                                                                                    So when you boil it down, SLM is now that much more special in the city! And as certain butcher shops and delis close around the city, it gets more and more special.

                                                                                              2. re: downtownfoodie

                                                                                                The issue is not necessarily SLM vendors vs Costco/Loblaws/Metro. The issue is SLM vendors vs SLM vendors... and how the prices are a bit too close. Again, like how Petro Canada, Shell, Esso, et al have the same prices all across town. It's wrong for the gas stations to do it, and it's just as wrong for SLM to get away with it. On principle I refuse to shop there since at least I have a choice to buy food elsewhere, from retailers who ARE competing (more or less). Which I don't have for gasoline. Or dairy and poultry products, but that's another thread....

                                                                                                1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                  If you don't like SLM, don't go.
                                                                                                  If you don't like the prices of SLM, don't go.
                                                                                                  If you don't like the vendors of SLM, don't go.
                                                                                                  If you think you have a better experience elsewheres by all means go there. It really doesn't matter as there are enough people who choose to go to SLM for whatever reason.

                                                                                                  I'm just stoked that SLM was given a great shout-out. It does nothing but improve the visibility and tourism to our great city of Toronto (and I'm not from there). I'd feel the same if a market in Vancouver, or Edmonton, or Calgary was given a great shout-out.

                                                                                                  1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                    If you walk around the market for any period of time, this is not always true. The different quality meats at different vendors sell for wildly differing prices. Produce doesn't vary as much but there are definitely differences.

                                                                                                    Where prices are similar, what makes you think it is collusion which is raising the price? I would argue that this natural reaction to proximity is more likely to lower prices. If the guy across the street is selling something comparable to one of your offerings at a lower price, you'd be a pretty thick merchant to keep pushing yours at a higher price...if you want to sell any, you'd lower your price, even if it meant cutting your margins on that one product if it helped you retain customers and sell more of your higher margin products.

                                                                                                    1. re: downtownfoodie

                                                                                                      Yes, the prices vary wildly! To think all vendors agree and set meat pricing is to not shop at the market.

                                                                                                      1. re: justsayn

                                                                                                        Read this post:


                                                                                                        The poster agrees with you on the convenience factor of the SLM (one-stop shopping rather than have to drive to Costco, Diana's, Cumbrae's, etc) but realizes that there's some "agreement" on pricing between vendors so as to not cannibalize the business.

                                                                                                        [DISCLAIMER to satisfy the mods: Price fixing is illegal (despite what we see the gas stations do).]

                                                                                                        1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                                          Perhaps your reasons for disagreeing with the NG rankings would have more traction if you shared your own rankings and methodology. Have you seen first hand the other markets that you rate higher? Why should I give your opinion any credence over NG's which I consider reputable?

                                                                                          2. Another thing that makes St. Lawrence Market great - they've been donating their excess food to Second Harvest for more than 20 years!

                                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: toniad

                                                                                              Who among them is chipping in? Just askin'.

                                                                                              1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                                                Your hate for SLM has become pretty clear in your other posts, but to question their charitable actions? Seriously? Wow...

                                                                                                St. Lawrence Market
                                                                                                Anton Kozlik's Canadian Mustard
                                                                                                Buster's Sea Cove
                                                                                                Carousel Bakery
                                                                                                Dilisio's Fine Meats
                                                                                                Domenic's Fish Market
                                                                                                Family Foods
                                                                                                Future Bakery
                                                                                                Golden Orchard Fine Foods
                                                                                                La Boucherie
                                                                                                Olympic Food & Cheese
                                                                                                St Lawrence Ice Cream & Pizza
                                                                                                St Lawrence Uppercut Meats
                                                                                                St Urbain Bagel
                                                                                                Stonemill Bakehouse
                                                                                                Whitehouse Meats

                                                                                                1. re: downtownfoodie

                                                                                                  Volunteering at food banks I haven't seen much in the way of perishables(meat+fish+poultry) from any source due to safe storage/transport/delivery issues. Walmart chips in rather generously--go figure.

                                                                                                  Hate? C'mon.

                                                                                                  1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                                                    you posted multiple negative comments in a thread about a completely independent magazine with a history and reputation beyond reproach, giving a 1st place ranking to a market that many people, locals and tourists alike, love and visit regularly. when you ran out of negative things to say you went off on a tangent about how products sold there couldn't possibly be sustainably harvested. then you questioned the charitable record of the vendors. seems pretty clear to me.

                                                                                                    possibly the reason you haven't seen many perishables at food banks is because of questions about the provenance of such items donated by the public. second harvest has a different model where they collect directly from vendors, and deliver directly to providers...thereby being able to better control the treatment of the perishables

                                                                                                    1. re: downtownfoodie

                                                                                                      Nat Geo should stick to what Nat Geo does. Don't see Saveur rating safari trips/resorts in Botswana.

                                                                                                      1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                                                        National Geographic has a very well-respected travel magazine which always features articles about food. This list comes from a book compilation of their editor's favorites. Can't see what's wrong with a bit of recognition for Toronto.

                                                                                                    2. re: Kagemusha

                                                                                                      Second Harvest delivers almost 7 million pounds of excess, perishable food to community agencies (food banks and others) in the GTA every year. Check out their website to learn more. www.secondharvest.ca
                                                                                                      Food donors like St. Lawrence Market are covered under the Donation of Food Act, the trucks are refrigerated and drivers are trained in food safety & handling.
                                                                                                      Walmart does not donate to them.

                                                                                                      1. re: toniad

                                                                                                        "Walmart does not donate to them."

                                                                                                        Funny but they do to food banks in the western GTA.

                                                                                                    3. re: downtownfoodie

                                                                                                      I'm glad Mustachio's isn't on that list, their sandwiches aren't fit for dogs let alone our less fortunate.

                                                                                                    4. re: Kagemusha

                                                                                                      Depends on the week and what the vendors have available.

                                                                                                  2. Whether SLM is for you or not, you cant help but be proud of this accolade.

                                                                                                    Whenever people ask what makes Toronto unique food wise, you get the typical answer "oh we are so diverse, so our strength is our variety" But seriously how is that unique these days compared to most major diverse cities....but SLM, that is unique and what they offer under one roof really is impressive and a must visit for anyone who wants to experience something special in Toronto. So put me in the camp that welcomes all this praise.

                                                                                                    1. Hey, other markets around the world!

                                                                                                      SUCK IT!

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. Nobody or in this case nothing is perfect, but I for one am glad that I have a place like SLM to visit. I am not going to deny that the prices there are not always great (seldom great actually). I enjoy the market because I find things there that I don't find else where. Lamb and red wine sausages, awesome selection of bread, cheese, butchers and fish mongers all in one place. I do not shop there often, maybe 4 or 6 times a year. I don't care what the rest of the world thinks, I am just glad that I have the opportunity to shop there.

                                                                                                        1. Oh for heaven's sakes. This isn't a scientific study. They didn't attach electrodes to customers' brains and measure the activity when experiencing different world markets.

                                                                                                          It's an opinion piece by a well-respected magazine. And we should be able to accept it with a bit of grace and pride.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. A discussion of National Geographic's rating methodology has been split to the Food Media and News board. You can find the thread here:


                                                                                                            1. I started worshipping at the altar of SLM in college. After visiting markets from London to Istanbul I still do. We are SO very spoiled here in T.O. Bravo SLM! Bravo Toronto! I hope it never becomes corporate, touristy, exclusive or exhorbitantly overpriced.

                                                                                                              15 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: currycue

                                                                                                                I plan to be at the SLM Friday am. Are there any interesting places to make sure I visit these days??

                                                                                                                1. re: Herne

                                                                                                                  Apparently Buster's Sea Cove is putting out some great lobster rolls these days!

                                                                                                                  1. re: justsayn

                                                                                                                    Thanks Justsayn. I'll take look in the am.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Herne

                                                                                                                    Buy a few slices of Jamon Iberico at Schefflers. Take it home and eat it in your underwear. With a nice glass of sherry.

                                                                                                                    1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                                                                      Ok I'll take a look. I understand a full ham can be $600 - 800 so maybe a few thin slices.

                                                                                                                      1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                                                                        Ok I got a few slices and it wasn't necessary to get a new mortgage. I saw some via google that were advertised as wrapped in burlap but nothing about wrapping it in underwear to eat. However if I can eat chicken's feet I guess I can give it a go. As you said the people at Scheffflers were very helpful.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Herne

                                                                                                                          Scheffler's is one of my favourite vendors. I should also have mentioned the smoked speck and goat cheese from the anti pasta bar. It's awesome.

                                                                                                                          Most of their anti pasta is great. I usually get a few items from there to munch on.


                                                                                                                      2. re: Herne

                                                                                                                        the Biffana sandwich at Churasco of St. Lawrence.


                                                                                                                        1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                                          I had left before reading the Biffana suggestion but I will be back and get one next time.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                                                Is Churasco of St Lawrence the place beside the Paddington Pump near an entrance?

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Herne

                                                                                                                                    IMO, the chicken w/ rice & potatoes at Churasco is way better than the bifana. It's a lot more food though.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: GoodGravy

                                                                                                                                      To each their own. For me, the bifana is already a whole lotta food. I usually only finish half and save the rest. I also like the powerful flavours of the bifana. It's quite the wake up call.

                                                                                                                        2. SLM is a great market, but in the top 10.... I would have to doubt it. It is going to be limited by factors not in it's control .... In that produce is limited by the nature of our climate. You can not go in and get fresh chickens butchered for you. I don't see fresh ducks (did see breasts shrink wrapped). And it is fairly small. Not too mention that Canada does not have a strong market culture....

                                                                                                                          13 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: cacruden

                                                                                                                            Look at it this way: Sure you can go to La Boqueria in Barcelona, or Mercato Delle Herbe in Bologna and find stuff that you cannot find here at SLM. Now reverse that. What can you find here in SLM that you can't find in those (or many, many other) markets around the world?

                                                                                                                            In the market in Toulouse, France, I couldn't even find Queso Manchego! Really? Spain is, literally, right there!!!

                                                                                                                            A lot of other markets feel as if all the vendors are selling similar stuff (no matter how good quality) We have variety and quality here (it just might cost you a bit if it's imported, that's all)

                                                                                                                            1. re: cacruden

                                                                                                                              Yes! Unless they kill a chicken RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU, it's a crap market...

                                                                                                                              1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                I really don't understand why it would be so hard to believe that St.Lawrence would be in the conversation for top food markets in the world, especially since I doubt they've even been to many if any of the others listed. Fortunately that 'if it's in toronto it can't be good' attitude is dying and there's a new generation of people excited about the city. That's not meant to disregard those who have been enthusiastic and positive about what this city has to offer for longer.

                                                                                                                                1. re: jamesm

                                                                                                                                  I agree with you, jamesm. If you read my posts upthread, you'll see I'm very very happy with the NatGeo ranking. I love love LOVE the SLM, and am completely stoked that Toronto was recognized!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                    Now I'm glad I didn't post the terse response I had written to your comment. I couldn't make up my mind if you were kidding or not so I erred on the side of caution.

                                                                                                                                    Quite honestly, I think excessively negative posts should be banned from this thread. You can like another market, that's fine. But these people ripping SLM shouldn't be in this particular thread. We should be simply patting ourselves on the back.

                                                                                                                                    When the Costco in Huntsville, Alabama first opened I loved it. It was so much better than the Costco's around here. Now that it's been open 10 or so years I've come to find that it's exactly the same. Just different. If you know what I mean. People seem to lose sight of that. If you see it all the time, it's can become mundane.

                                                                                                                                    Anyway, glad you're on our team.


                                                                                                                                    1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                      Sorry, Friea that wasn't directed at you. Just the order of the thread.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: freia

                                                                                                                                    Where did I say SLM was a crap market - just don't think it is one of the best that I have been to.

                                                                                                                                    The market I go to most often you can buy butchered chicken (prepared) parts, or you can go towards the back and buy one and have them butcher it for you.... and no -- you don't have to stop and watch you can come back after finishing the shopping. In SLM, they will have the chicken prepared for you - and that prepared chicken is still in the display cases at the end of the day which means it is back in the case tomorrow - and the chicken that was butchered but not prepared was shipped a day or two before..... so how is it different than a supermarket....
                                                                                                                                    I can go to a market, pick the fish and they will clean it for you and people will rave about how fresh their fish was, but not with chickens - what is the difference? At least I know my chicken was not washed through a common bath that is a large source of the problems with chickens in North America.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: cacruden

                                                                                                                                      I regularly get meats butchered to my requests. You just have to ask.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: OTFOODIE

                                                                                                                                        I have had a few different cuts butchered by request as well at a couple different places. They are also definitely butchers that sell whole ducks as well and not just the shrink-wrapped breasts.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: freia

                                                                                                                                      How does not in the top 10 translate into not a good market? (that would mean in the top 0.001% of markets world wide)......

                                                                                                                                      The list has ONE market in all of Asia, ZERO from Australia.

                                                                                                                                    3. re: cacruden

                                                                                                                                      I recall seeing live chickens and pigeons in cages and goats tied up inside the SLM back in the late 40's. Never saw them butchered. I did see a goat get loose and run down Nassau street in Kensington about the same time.