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support the little guys in the GTA- grocers, butchers, greengrocers, delis, etc.

Here are some of the smaller independent delis, butchers, grocers, grocery stores and smaller TO-based grocery chains I like to frequent:

Ararat on Avenue Road north of Lawrence
Serano Grocery (next to the Serano Bakery) on Pape near Mortimer
La Salumeria
Lady York
La Boucherie in St. Lawrence Market
Grande Cheese
Alex Farms
Honey Bear Deli on Sheppard

Please add your favourites.

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  1. Agree with prima and I do support many on the list...however the husband and wife at Ararat are the most unwelcoming!! Love Honeybear...awesome schnitzel!

    7 Replies
    1. re: robb

      I've always had the opposite experience at Ararat. They are so friendly, always offering me a complimentary coffee... And I'm not a very frequent customer, so it's not because they know me.

      1. re: Tatai

        I too shop infrequently at Ararat, and have never had a service issue there.

        Cheese Emporium at Avenue/Melrose, just South of Ararat, is also on my list of decent local shops.

        1. re: gimel

          Good to know, I should check out Cheese Emporium.

          I like Pino Bakery, too.

        2. re: Tatai

          I've also had friendly service at Ararat.

        3. re: robb

          I also had very unfriendly service at Ararat. I was texting and they thought I was taking pictures (of what I have no idea) and confronted me after eyeing me like a criminal for a few minutes. I left and never went back.

          Dave Young
          Bologna Pastificio
          Odessa Deli

          1. re: magic

            Too bad about your experience at Ararat.

            Will have to check out Odessa Deli. Hadn't heard about it before now.

            1. re: prima

              Odessa Deli is a little shop, with a friendly staff. They sell eastern European and Russian delights, much like Ararat but on Marlee.

              I like their Pelmeni dumplings selection in their freezer - the veal stuffed Pelmeni are a great addition to any soup!

        4. Frequently at Starsky'. Also like Brandts and it's too bad they are closed on Sunday

          1. On Kingston Road -

            Art of Cheese
            Close to the Bone
            Knead Bakery

            1 Reply
            1. re: Otonabee

              Don't forget about Courage Foods on Kingston Rd - they have some great stuff! Also, Carload, a green grocer on Queen East in the Beach.

            2. I like this thread!

              At this moment, I'm stuck to the GTA West but here's a list of places that I keep coming back to because of the great friendly staff and food quality.

              Michael-angelo's marketplace on Erin Mills
              Palma Pasta in the same plaza (amazing fresh pasta)
              Every Saturday at the Etobicoke farmers market, there are 4 real farmers that are phenomenal.

              The mushroom farmer who's oyster mushroom taste like delicious smokey steak are great.
              The leafy vegetable farmer besides the chicken truck is amazing. I've never had spinach, Boston Bibb, and rainbow beets taste so great and sweet.
              The fruit only farmer closest to the corner of East Mall and Burnhamthorpe. She specializes in stone fruit and her peaches this year are wonderful.
              The tiny little deli truck right outside the library step is maned by a cute Eastern Euro couple. I love the pancetta.
              Honourable mention goes to the fruit farmer right front of the deli truck. They have incredible selection of fruits. I think they might be half farmer and half reseller. They have the best tasting apples especially Honey Crisp. They also have lots of seconds fruit at great prices.

              I'm still trying to find a good fish market ad butcher in Mississauga

              7 Replies
              1. re: Nevy

                We live in New Toronto and shop at Michaelangelos - we followed Angelo there from Sunkist at Danforth and Carlaw (now that's a long time ago!)

                Is the Etobicoke market you refer to the one at the old City Hall?

                1. re: ElizabethS

                  Yes the Etobicoke market at Civic Centre (near 427 and Burnhamthorpe). It's not a huge market like Square One or Sherway but I find all the vendors there really great. I think there's only really 2 100% resellers (unlike Sherway or Square One where I find more than half are resellers). Most are real farmers or farmers that resell some more items that their crops.

                  I went again this Saturday and there's another good farmer that just arrived. It is just between the baker and lettuce vegetable farmer. They're a much smaller scale farm so there they do not have a lot of quantity but their quality is so good. I bought peaches and cream corn $6/dozen and they were so sweet! No butter or salt needed... just placed them on the grill and they were beautiful.

                  1. re: Nevy

                    Went yesterday - it's a lovely market. What's the story with the chicken truck? Never fewer than 8 people in line. We watched to see what people were buying and it appeared mostly eggs but curious as to why they're so popular.

                    1. re: ElizabethS

                      I think their price for the eggs and the size is quite good. It is always packed. Too bad you missed one of the fun 'farmers'. There usually is a group that has fresh baked goods that are quite delicious. They weren't there yesterday because they had another event. Their butter tarts and fresh sourdough breads are quite wonderful.

                      1. re: Nevy

                        Butter tarts - my downfall! The mushroom guy had a great selection at good prices - will be back next week for more and hope the baked goods people are there.

                        1. re: ElizabethS

                          Completely agree with you on the mushroom farmer. I love the oyster mushrooms there. It's quite novel they have pink oyster mushrooms. I do recommend to try the shimuzi (spelling?). It imparts a gorgeous smokey flavour when pan fried with butter.

                          I also recommend the rainbow candy beets by the farmer beside the chicken vendor. They don't stain but they are so juicy and sweet when roasted in a foil packet with a bit of butter.

                          1. re: Nevy

                            We asked him for rainbow beets but none this week - did buy some lovely golden ones though....he said maybe next week.

              2. Not a specialty shop but just a great neighbourhood spot: Bloorcourt Market at Bloor and Delaware. Good produce and a surprising selection of South American ingredients, including everything you could possibly need to make posole. It's family-run by some of the nicest people around and they're open every day except Christmas Day from about 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. A total life-saver on holidays when everything else is closed, or just when you don't feel like trekking out to the four or five major grocery stores within a 15-minute walk.

                1. In Mississauga/West end GTA

                  Town and Country Market--gem of a Lebanese grocer
                  Asia Bakery
                  PAT on Dundas W.
                  Medium Rare
                  Mike's/AllSeas Fish
                  Aurora Meats

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Kagemusha

                    For Mike's seafood, I can only find a website that talks about the SLM location. Do you know what the hours are for the GTA west one?

                    1. re: Nevy

                      They're south off N. Queen on Vansco west of Kipling. No clue on hours. Google Mike's Seafood.

                      1. re: Kagemusha

                        All Seas is closed on Sundays FYI. The owner of Mike's at SLM (Mike?) once disavowed a connection between the two (or attempted to minimize it) and sniffed that his fish was fresher.

                        Nevy - we actually buy a lot of fish at Michaelangelos - the salmon and salmon trout is always available and very fresh and they sell dry scallops which I prefer

                        1. re: ElizabethS

                          Thank you! I am always looking for ways to get meats, eggs, and fish at great quality and would prefer to support smaller local businesses

                          1. re: ElizabethS

                            AllSeas is wholesale; Mike's is retail. Same crew.

                            Though it's a limited selection, Costco's fish is always fresh.

                            1. re: Kagemusha

                              Very funny comment given the original post was related to supporting "little" guys :)

                              1. re: ComerDemonio

                                Nothing on ice is hooked by the people selling it. Not always impressed by the quality of "little guys" fish counters. Loblaws malodorous "low tide" fish offerings are some of the worst.

                              2. re: Kagemusha

                                That was the funny thing about the comment from the fellow at Mike's at SLM - he implied that wasn't the case?

                                1. re: ElizabethS

                                  Funny, indeed. Mike's and AllSeas share the same building on Vansco with AllSeas taking up most of it.

                      2. I like this thread. I strongly believe in supporting my neighbourhood. If you like where you shop and you shop where you live, it can only encourage more small business people to open their doors. These are the people who will listen to you and change to suit their customers. See? It's really all about me.

                        From my old neighbourhood of Cabbagetown where 90% of my shopping could be done at the indies (in walking order):
                        Cheese & Deli: Epicure http://www.theepicureshop.ca/
                        Organic baking and snacking supplies: Lennie's Whole Foods http://www.yelp.ca/biz/lennies-whole-...
                        Dinner Enhancement: Daniel et Daniel http://www.danieletdaniel.ca/foodShop...
                        Meat, seafood, produce: St Jamestown Steak and Chops http://www.steakandchops.ca/
                        Bakery: Absolute Bakery & Cafe http://www.yelp.ca/biz/absolute-baker...

                        From my new neighbourhood (which, granted, is a somewhat larger grazing range):
                        Butcher & Deli: Vienna Fine Foods http://www.yelp.ca/biz/vienna-fine-fo...
                        Seafood: Diana's Seafood Delight http://www.dianasseafood.com/
                        Bakery: Montmartre http://www.montmartrebakery.com/
                        Organic supplies: The Natural Food Depot http://www.thenaturalfooddepot.com/

                        1. I have managed to pretty much avoid all the big chain stores by shopping at the following shops:

                          Karma Coop (http://www.karmacoop.org/
                          )Fiesta Farms (http://fiestafarms.ca/
                          )Sanagan's Meatlocker (http://www.sanagansmeatlocker.com/abo...
                          )Chabichou (http://www.chabichou.ca/
                          )Harbord Bakery (http://www.harbordbakery.ca/)

                          1. Anyone shopped for fish ar De La Mer on Bayview (Leaside)?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: CocoaChanel

                              It has been some months since I've been to De La Mer, but it's a good neighbourhood option. Respectable selection for a small local fish store, at prices mostly somewhat lower than what you'd pay at St. Lawrence Market. Agreeable, knowledgeable staff. But no match for a place like Diana's, about 20-25 minutes east - a drive I'm usually prepared to make - where the selection is wider and the prices usually lower. Still, if you live near Bayview and Eglinton and don't want to torture yourself in Toronto traffic, you'll do fine at De La Mer. Tough parking on a busy street, though, and some of the most ruthless Green Hornets (or whatever they call themselves now) in the city.

                              1. re: juno

                                I can walk to De La Mer, which is a significant portion of its appeal.
                                Between that, Alex Cheese, Cumbrae's and Cob's Bread, I am pretty much covered :)

                                Thanks for the info!

                                1. re: juno

                                  De La Mer is also now on Roncesvalles....have a free oyster when you shop there.

                              2. At Danforth & Woodbine:

                                Royal Beef - meat and deli
                                Better Bulk - bulk foods, organic produce and everything really
                                Cozy Cafe - Serbian baked goodies, bread, plus frozen lasagne, perogies
                                Celena's - I like the Cornish Pasties
                                Carters - ice cream
                                Vincenzos - meat, deli and fruit

                                plus the two Chinese fruit and veg stores.

                                Apart from Vincenzo's, which is a little out of my way now, I do 80% of my shopping at these stores.

                                1. I like many on this list and the sentiment in general. Adding The Butcher's Son and the little fruit and veg store just south of them, on the same block (I'll check the name when I'm next there). And even though they're mini-chains, I really love the breads from Petite Thuet and the bagels from Bagel House. Also The Big Carrot. Oh, and Hooked!

                                  1. Honey Bear is great for Hungarian supplies and also the take out food (great cabbage rolls, very similar to the ones made by my Hungarian nanny).

                                    Down in my neck of the woods:

                                    Alex Farms for cheese.
                                    Hooked for seafood.
                                    Rowe Farms for meats.
                                    Fresh from the Farm for the smoked sausages and other meats.
                                    Ten Thousand Villages for fair trade coffee, dried fruit, sugar, cocoa, etc.
                                    Brick Street Bakery and St. John's Bakery for various breads.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Dr. John

                                      like the Eccles Cakes at Brick Street Bakery.

                                    2. Mabel's on Roncesvalles for baked goods,
                                      Vince Gasparro's for a butcher - or Rowe's if in a pinch
                                      Fiesta Farms is good when i'm that way,
                                      Cheese Boutique - for all things gourmet

                                      1. Impressed by the selection of mushrooms at Phil's Place in the lower level at St. Lawrence Market last week.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: prima

                                          Meh. For high quality and variety, try W&T in the Farmers' near the northeast corner. My personal fave for mushrooms. If you're not there that early on a Saturday, I find I can do better than Phil's at Ponesse (upper level northeast corner) or Harbourfront (lower level, east side, near the Jarvis doors). Phil's just has a LOT of stuff. I'd rather pick through these two stalls.

                                          1. re: Googs

                                            Thanks Googs. The mushrooms at Phil's looked good on Wed. The mangos were better at Ponesse, but the arugula and beets were better at Family Food Market.

                                            1. re: prima

                                              I've been so loyal to Ponesse over the years, I always feel guilty even looking at Family Food. Well, maybe I'll give them another try. Arugula you say.

                                              1. re: Googs

                                                Just slightly better- less wilted. I'm sure it varies from day to day. I buy from both shops.