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Jun 28, 2013 09:55 AM

Your favourite grocery store in GTA (chain or otherwise?)

Curious where people do most of their shopping. I am sure some shop at SLM, Kensington, etc but in particular curious which grocery store you would go to if you had a choice and if there is one particular one in the chain that you prefer.

I really like Highland Farms but I have only been there twice. Just not close enough for regular shopping.

I prefer Longo's. There is a new one that opened up close to me and not too far from a Whole Foods. Been already twice this week and I probably won't be going to the Whole Foods much anymore.

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  1. I have not been in a major grocery store for quite some time. I find most of my day to day needs are well served at Karma Co-op (I live quite close to Karma). Sanagan's and Hooked are on my way home so I can run in as needed. I will also go to Fiesta Farms on Christy when I am looking for some specific things and for the odd big shop. Finally, Whole Foods has a couple of speciality items and out of season produce so I break down and go there on occasion.

    Why would you want to go to a chain grocery store when there are so many other options?

    34 Replies
    1. re: ComerDemonio

      I don't live in downtown Toronto. I don't have the same options as you :(

      1. re: ComerDemonio

        Sometimes it's a price/transportation issue.

        1. re: ComerDemonio

          I shop at the same places but switch up Karma for the Big Carrot as it is closer to me. If Fiesta was closer I would make the my primary big box grocery store. I tend to avoid chains whenever possible.

          1. re: ComerDemonio

            1. Price
            2. Selection
            3. Convenience
            4. Cleanliness

            Not everyone lets ideology determine where he shops. Anyone who says I never shop and can't see the many advantages of chains obviously is guided by non-food motives.

            1. re: evansl

              I beg to differ. Food is the primary reason I shop at the places I listed.

              1. If you going to compare price then you need to take quality into account.
              2. There is an awful lot of false selection at most grocery stores.
              3. Wouldn't it more convenient if everybody had the ability to pick up the things that they need without having to make a day trip of it.
              4. Are you saying that Karma, Fiesta, Sanagan's and Whole Foods are not clean. I would love to see what goes on behind the counters of the prepared food section at Longos and other large chains.

              It seems to me that your points didn't even mention the food!

              1. re: evansl

                Do you really think that any of the vendors listed are not clean as a big chain store? What about quality? Where does that factor into your decision making evansl? My decision are influenced by ideology but fully driven by finding the best quality food I can in my city - even if it means more than one shopping location.

                1. re: JennaBean

                  I've been to plenty of small stores that were filthy.

                  But I really get a laugh at the claims about quality. A recent Lancet article reported research showing that there is no difference at all between the nutritional content of organic and n organic foods. None. Zero. Zip. Nada. You don't get much more authoritative than Lancet on such issues, yet people like you continue to make ridiculous and unsupported claims about the "quality" of food.

                  1. re: evansl

                    Concerns don't have to be about nutrition. This final sentence in The Lancet article supports organic: "If one wants to buy organic, do so because it might be fresher and taste better, contains far less chemical residues, and is kinder to farm animals." That's quality to me. Not to say price doesn't factor in to my decision, but it is short-sighted to think that "quality" of food equates to nutrients only.

                    1. re: evansl

                      She said "quality", which can include a number of factors, but nutritional content would probably be pretty low on anyone's list, not to mention its impossible to determine with the naked eye in the first place. To equate "quality" exclusively with nutritional content is an absurd premise.

                  2. re: evansl

                    Might be crass to say I outgrew moral calculations guiding my every purchase but practicality has a way of influencing priorities and "Best" accordingly takes on different meanings. I'm miles away from boutique food shopping downtown and don't suffer for it--morally, economically or nutritionally. Maybe we all need to lose a little smugness/dismissiveness about where our food $$$ go and get back to enjoyment?

                    1. re: Kagemusha

                      You can be crass and I can fully disagree. I think we need more people who care about their food products and have the ability to use their shopping dollars to influence make choices that support these change for the better of all of our food. If we all just said, don't worry about it, do you think that the local movement would have become what it is today? You have a voice one purchase at a time. It is what you chose to do with it that matters most to me.

                      I'm stepping off my soapbox now. :-)

                      1. re: JennaBean

                        "I'm stepping off my soapbox now. :-)"

                        That's a relief. I'd advise a look at David H. Freedman's article "How Junk Food Can End Obesity" in The Atlantic as a critique of Pollanesque fantasies.

                        1. re: Kagemusha

                          I've read it and it is a whole other discussion that IMO is not related to this discussion. But as I said, I will get off my soapbox now and continue to make educated choices that I believe in.

                    2. re: evansl

                      Some years ago I worked in several supermarkets large and small. Any notions that things are "clean" behind the door to the back or in the basement would be destroyed by a visit in about 3 seconds and the destruction would carry on for as long as the visit continued. Cleanliness "on the floor" should be expected--which is why I doubt I would buy fruit or veggies at No Frills amongst other places.

                      1. re: Herne

                        Don't knock No Frills too badly. I'm in BWV/Junction and two out of 3 of the closest No Frills seem clean and well staffed - especially the one located at Eglinton and Black Creek - huge store and, let's face it, the same PC Trucks etc that bring food to the Loblaws deliver to the No Frills.

                        1. re: kbdid

                          Well visit the No Frills at Pape and Gerard some Saturday afternoon and look at the floor in the veggie section.

                          1. re: Herne

                            Don't know about Pape and Gerrard NoFrills, but Peter's NoFrills on Lansdowne has more floor-cleaning staff than I've ever seen in any supermarket, up- or down-market. They are obsessive about the produce section especially.

                            I guess I only noticed this because (a) I don't see a lot of cleaners in other stores, and (b) I worked in supermarkets summers and weekends in school, and, agreed, "behind the door to the back" is never a Temple of Hygiene. In fact, it was years before that pervasive "grocery store smell" worked its way out of my nostrils.

                            1. re: pearl3

                              LOL I had forgotten the smell. I think it is a combination of garbage and the glue on wet cardboard boxes. I recall working in one supermarket near Dufferin and Eglinton in Toronto about 4 decades ago. I walked into the back room and a butcher put a side of beef from a delivery truck onto a wooden truck that had been brought up to load garbage from the basement into a truck. Very instructive.

                              1. re: Herne

                                Remember the sights and smells of Kensington Market when they sold live poultry and far more fish, especially in the summer months? Sides of beef lovingly delivered(and sometimes dropped or dragged) from the backs of unfridged vans to the meat shops? Seems like yesterday...

                                1. re: Kagemusha

                                  I remember ducks and pigeons in cages. And I recall a goat streaking down Nassau with a couple of guys chasing him. Can't see stuff like that anymore.

                                  1. re: Herne

                                    Remember when there was a chicken processing place across the street from the City/Muchmusic building on Queen Street? You could smell it from quite a distance away. I think it's an indoor food court now.

                                  2. re: Kagemusha

                                    Kensington had varying degrees of ripeness, as I recall. I remember the chickens for sure--and people whose parents and grandparents would never buy one unless it was live. Fish and cheese--oh lord, a couple of those cheese stores could put you off dairy if you were rash enough to go in, even in lukewarm weather.

                           tends to smell in bulk. Good food is organic material and it doesn't come deodorized (unless it's frozen), and I feel kind of out of character griping about relatively normal food-smells. Perhaps atavistically, I tend to trust places with a mild undertone (undersmell?) of the presence of food, rather than ventilation-outflow.

                                    1. re: pearl3

                                      Global Cheese was a malodorous pit that clipped me a few times in my broke-ass grad student days. Oddly, the old Royce Dupont plant on Spadina never really stunk despite the huge piles of crated chickens waiting to fulfill their biological destiny.

                                      Take your meaning about about smells validating a place. Kind of like a garage that doesn't have a bit of a petroleum aroma.

                                      1. re: Kagemusha

                                        Yup--Global was the Malboges of bovine destiny. Retching was the only option on most days--I also realized fairly quickly that prices weren't always what the hustle tried to convince you of.

                                        Royce DuPont--thanks--I could see the building in my head but the name wasn't forthcoming. You're so right there--it rescued me from what I called the "Band-Aid Dominion" at Bloor and Walmer--got chicken with complimentary bandaid there once...

                                        Oddly, speaking of the remembered and the somewhat smelly, the herring barrels at Xmas on pre-trendy Roncesvalles always fugure prominently in the daughter's memory of what's actually good vs. what's trendy...

                                        1. re: pearl3

                                          Got some "aged Havarti" once from Global that deserved a biohazard sticker. Right, the old very-Polish Roncy was nice. Liked the original Granowska's bakery with her daughter's dentist's office upstairs. Recall buying an Xmas tree with the future frau down there which we lugged home on the streetcar and subway--much to the amusement of passengers and TTC guys.

                                    2. re: Kagemusha

                                      I don't really miss those days. I remember going down there with my mom on a Saturday or even on a weekday after her work and I certainly don't miss those smells, especially in the ripe season of summer. I use to work, as a teenager, in a warehouse on Spadina and Camden and sometimes I had to help my boss make deliveries down there. That smell just sticks in your memory.

                                      As for cheese, my fondest cheese smell memory is from Pape Station back in the 70's and 80's when there was a cheese shop right beside it. My first image from that smell was smelly feet.

                                      1. re: scarberian

                                        There were also great-smelling food places, though. Eaton's (of sacred memory) had an amazing "groceteria," I think they called it, on the fifth floor of the main Yonge and Queen store. This I remember because my father worked for Eaton's and a lot of our groceries got delivered in wood crates--now incredibly overpriced at flea markets--on Saturdays.

                                        The fifth floor, as we referred to it, smelled great to me as a small child. Even the fish department smelled fine, and the baking, sweet and savory, was heaven to the nose. Pie dough, biscuits, and bread baking...

                                        Toronto, of course, gradually flushed this institution, relegating a shadow of it to the basement of Eb Zeidler's godawful Eaton Centre, then just let it go. Oddly, the main Ste-Catherine Street stores in Montreal kept this sort of thing going much longer.

                                        1. re: pearl3

                                          I fondly remember going to the basement floor of Simpsons with my mom and she would buy my brother and I, hot dogs and an orange drink that was served in a paper cone inserted into a metal stand. We'd eat while she would look in the bargain bins.

                                          1. re: scarberian

                                            I fear getting moved to a different thread here--something like "Toronto Food Nostalgia" -- maybe that should happen.

                                            If some major person in your family worked for one of the two, Eaton's or Simpsons, you probably didn't go into the opposition''s store. Nothing epic--you just didn't, so until I was a teenager, I never got off the subway in Simpsons basement. I used to envy people who got the hot dogs, tiny toms, and orange drinks...

                                2. re: Herne

                                  I like the No Frills at Wilson and Bathurst.

                                  Some No Frills locations manage to source better produce (although sometimes smaller-sized produce, but in better overall condition), with better turnover, than nearby Loblaws locations. The No Frills at Fanshawe Park Rd and Wonderland Rd North in London, ON has better produce and a better selection of fresh herbs and imported 'exotic' produce than the Loblaws at Fanshawe Park Rd and Richmond St N a few km further east.

                                  1. re: prima

                                    +1 No Frills @ Wilson and Bathurst

                                    1. re: kwass


                                      Much better than the Avenue Rd one, which is a nightmare.

                                    2. re: prima

                                      I like the No Frills at Pharmacy &'s clean, has a decent produce section and, rare for a No Frills, a fresh fish counter and butcher.

                                      1. re: katdog

                                        I've found it well nigh impossible to buy Ontario at that NF. It's one of the reasons I switched supermarkets.

                          2. I really enjoy Highland Farms too, but alas, it's a bit far away. Fiesta Farms is my local favourite.

                            1. Out in the wilds of Misissauga, things have improved markedly in the past 2-3 years. Highland Farms is great for produce but it's the range of ethnic grocers that's taken off: T&T, Starsky, Marche Adonis are all killer. P.A.T for Korean and dozens of small food stores for S. Asian.I find that Longo's has faded(high prices and declining quality) and Loblaws has totally collapsed with its stores and the Superstores plainly struggling against Walmart and Costco. Ubiquitous NoFrills are great for staples and occasional specials. Seasonal produce is close by and usually better farmgate than what's on offer at the largely bogus farmers' markets scattered around Peel and Halton. All this depends on a car, sadly, but what doesn't out here?

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: Kagemusha

                                Seconded about the great variety of ethnic supermarkets in Mississauga. On the middle eastern front, Arz is opening a Mississauga location very soon. I'm pretty excited about that one.

                                1. re: Michael N

                                  Keep hearing that. Any clues about when and where?

                                  1. re: Kagemusha

                                    Yeah, it's in the plaza on Silver Creek Blvd right near the corner of Dundas and Cawthra. As for when -- soon, I hope. I had actually heard a rumour from a friend of a friend that it was open last week, but when I went to check it out it still had paper up. Looks like it should be open in the next couple of weeks though.

                                    1. re: Michael N

                                      Thanks! Somewhat odd location but there just aren't that many vacant grocery store properties around Miss. Think it was a Vietnamese food store(?). Will look next time I'm rolling west along Dundas from Starsky and Brandt on the way to P.A.T.

                                      1. re: Kagemusha

                                        FYI the completion of this location is apparently much further away than I initially thought. I know someone who drove up to the place and peeked through the window, and apparently it's still empty with broken tiles on the ground. So probably more like a couple of months than a couple of weeks.

                                        1. re: Michael N

                                          Thanks for taking the time to update the Arz sub-thread. I watched Marche Adonis crawl along early this year, then "bang" it was done in a few weeks. Could be $, contractors, store fixtures, inspections/permits, zoning--lots to line up, probably.

                                2. re: Kagemusha

                                  Even as a west-end [inside the city] person, I tend to get into the car, first for the Jutland/Kipling stores, and every so often treat myself to Starsky, Brandt, Marche Adonis, and other Mississauga venues.

                                  In my own zone, it's Peter's NoFrills on Lansdowne only for basics and deals. Otherwise, no going east or downtown--I can find the same items out west--at better prices with less hype.

                                  1. re: Kagemusha

                                    It would be so great to have a Starsky in the east end. There's plenty of Asian and middle eastern but not so much European.

                                    1. re: neighborguy

                                      I would love it if Starsky opened up in the east. Right now it takes me 2 hours to drive in on special occasions. I'm dreaming of the day.

                                      1. re: earthygoat

                                        i'm probably less than 10 mins from starsky and am embarrassed to admit that i've never been. you've inspired me to make a trip. what do you buy there?

                                        1. re: lilaki

                                          It is one of the few stores where I slowly go up and down each and every aisle, even when I only stopped in for a few things !

                                          It is a European product dream store, excellent butcher shop, and sausage emporium to name a few...

                                          1. re: lilaki

                                            I try to stock up on things I loved back when I was a little girl in Poland. Paczki donuts (rose hip jam), sausages of every kind, frozen pierogi, spicy ketchup, cheeses, preserves. Often, they'll have a sale on Liberte Mediterrane yogurt. If I lived nearby, I'd be there daily! My husband says I follow the Polish health food diet (dough, lard, sausages, pickles...)

                                    2. For me, it's Pusateri's...hands down!!

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: kwass

                                        For everything canned or bottled its Costco for me. For fruits and Veggies it's Highland Farms or Longos. The problem I have with Longos is they have parking spaces fit for Mini's and Smart cars at the Laird and Leslie street stores. For Asian items its T&T by the lake.

                                        1. re: kwass

                                          I forgot to mention Whole Foods.

                                          1. re: kwass

                                            Pusateri's is a paradox It is ridiculously expensive for most things. And I mean the exactly same stuff you can buy elsewhere, canned goods, cakes and bakery items, bread, veg, etc. Their cooked food is obscenely priced. And yet they also have a small subset of items that are quite reasonable and very good. It's an excellent place for cheese and meat, in particular. Their tenderloin, for example, costs less than Loblaws and is better than Cumbrae.

                                          2. I'm a Summerhill Market girl myself.

                                            8 Replies
                                            1. re: millygirl

                                              I don't know why, but Summerhill Market just doesn't excite me.

                                              1. re: kwass

                                                Funny because I can't stand Pusateri's, esp, (with all due respect) the customers. Many are so obnoxious.

                                                I find SH M has everything I need and much more and the prepared foods overall to be better than Pusateri's, But that's just me.

                                                Also you can't beat their customer service. There's a reason why they've won best independent store award for a number of years.

                                                1. re: millygirl

                                                  I agree with you about the customers @ Pusateri's...totally privileged and obnoxious, but I'm not there to socialize :)

                                                  Based on your recommendation, maybe I'll give SHM another try. I've only been there a couple times, so I'm not an expert on SHM, but it seemed to me that most of their prepared foods were pre-packaged, and that's what I didn't like. Is that the case, or am I mistaken? One of the things I love most about Pusateri's is their hot counter, and it didn't seem like SHM had anything comparable. That being said, I have had the chicken fingers from SHM (I know...chicken fingers), and I do have to say that they were the best chicken fingers I've ever had.

                                                  1. re: millygirl

                                                    P.S. I was also a little disappointed with the selection of baked goods @ SHM.

                                                    1. re: kwass

                                             the chicken fingers.

                                                      True, they don't have a hot counter per se but they sell pretty much the same as Pusateri's, it's just not hot. They have all the veggies, ribs, chicken parm, etc. In fact the chicken parmesan is fantastic. Their ribs are wonderful. Chilli, soups, great salads, poached salmon,

                                                      I also love their baked goods - wonderful loaves, muffins, danish, cookies. Honestly everything is very very good.

                                                      You should give it another go kwass and let me know.

                                                        1. re: kwass

                                                          Just as an aside, I've been into the kitchen upstairs at Summerhill Market when I used to sell kitchen equipment. It was very very clean, and they had really great quality ovens. It's beautiful up there.

                                                2. re: millygirl

                                                  +1 for Summerhill. Love almost everything, but I do stay away from the $15 1L bottle of craft soda water. I almost died when I saw that.

                                                  For "ethnic" stores I love Starsky's. Def worth the trip to the west end.