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Recommendations at St Lawrence market


I've never been a fan of STL because well...I didn't think the food tasted that good and it looked run down.

That was then and this is now.

Ever since I tried Buster's sea cove at the CNE last year I couldn't get them out of my mind. I went down to STL last year and wanted to get something but the prices were really high IMO. Their lobster sammie was brutal at $11 for something the size of a hotdog.

Anyways...I had to come down here today and maybe it's the hype but people say the meat is the freshest down here. Is that true? Is it better to come here than Sanagaan's or The healthy butcher?

Got steak here a long time ago and it was just ok, nothing special.

Can people that routinely come here give me some advice?

I got some truffles from some place downstairs (right when you go downstairs, it's a bakery they sell cookies and cakes. $2.50 for a medioore truffle was....interesting....

Please don't think I am complaining about this place. I really want to like STL but I don't know what's good. Is Carousel bakery the absolute best? Do they make everythign onsite? I had one of Paddington's peameal sandwiches before and I found it really salty. Is it always that salty?

If anyone has any suggestions on meat, or even seafood or buster's please let me know. I tried the Shrimp Po boy at Buster's Sea cove today and it was delicious.

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  1. Haven't been in like a decade but I always liked the churrasco chicken with hot sauce and fries.

    1. it's fine but largely nothing you can't get a lot of other places, great for tourists and neighbourhood grocery shopping and the shrimp po boy at busters but other than that not really worth a trip

      1. The quality of the meat is based on which butcher you go to and how much you spend. I shop here regularly (live close by) and find that when it comes to the meat, there really is a big difference in quality between the mid-priced and higher priced butchers.

        The one thing I don't get about SLM is how people seem to think that it's a cheap place to shop. Don't get me wrong - I think most vendors are generally decent value (i.e. pay more for better, fresher food), but it certainly isn't "cheap".

        16 Replies
        1. re: CarNut

          About 10 years ago we went to the Etobicoke Farmers market and bought some vegetables and then went to the SLM to buy fish and cheese. I/We were amazed at how wilted and small the SLM vegetables were compared to what we had seen at the Farmers market. Never bought vegetables there since and stick to meat, cheese and fish.

          1. re: CarNut

            SLM is so cheap to those people as they are most likely accustomed to grocery store rip off pricing. When compared to meat prices at Loblaws the difference is crystal clear! I've never found the produce limited to only wilted old stuff. I find it unfathomable that every produce vendor in the place only had old vegetables on that same given day!

            1. re: justsayn

              There are no mad buys at the SLM, either in the regular south market or the Saturday farmers' market, nor have there been for years. What SLM has going for it is the refreshing experience of dealing with a number of small merchants gathered in one central location. After a few visits, you'll decide for yourself which merchants you'll want to return to. I lean towards Whitehouse for meats, but there are several others just as good, I've determined. For cheese, I seem to be buying more often from Scheffler's. I don't buy much from the three fishmongers - all with almost identical prices - because their prices seem inordinately high compared to Diana's retail outlet in Scarborough, for example, or a number of other uptown fish markets. I like the fresh eggs on Saturdays at the north farmers' market, as well as Wes Sovereign's vegetables, almost next door to the egg merchant. There are couple of veggie shops in the south market that I like, but I suspect there's not much difference in the produce dispensed by any of them.

              To the OP, who wonders if Carousel Bakery makes anything itself on site: it doesn't. It merely gathers fresh baked goods from other small and large bakeries around town. Which allows for a full range of breads, some basic, some fancy, at acceptable prices.

              As I say, no bargains, just the going rates for most everything - and sometimes more than the going rate. It helps to know prices because otherwise you can get burned. I've found some prices to be higher even than those charged at Pusateri's. Now THAT is high!

              1. re: juno

                I think my message was lost in translation somehow. I will go to Loblaws and mark down some prices and then list the prices available at SLM for the exact same items. Let's see what happens.

                1. re: justsayn

                  I find the prices at SLM more reasonable than prices at North TO Loblaws locations. I mostly buy produce at SLM, and have always found it to be better quality than Loblaws, Metro or Sobey's, and roughly equivalent quality-wise to the York Mills/Leslie Longo's (which has better produce than the Yonge/Bloor Longo's) and HF. I find the prices at Longo's and HF the most reasonable out of the regular grocery store chains.

                  I don't know of any high quality produce available at bargain prices in TO. I've found one usually gets what one pays for, and I prefer to shop at SLM or Farmers' Markets than at the cash produce shops in Kensington or on the Danforth that sell cheaper produce.

                2. re: juno

                  "There are couple of veggie shops in the south market that I like, but I suspect there's not much difference in the produce dispensed by any of them"

                  HUGE differences between them!

                  1. re: justsayn

                    I noticed in the basement there's a place that sells all organic produce...

                    1. re: justsayn

                      Agreed, there's a veggie merchant specializing in organic produce in the south market, hard by the fishmongers at the south end of the building. Clearly superior. But also clearly much more expensive. Most of the other produce dealers, congregated near the north end of that building, seem to have the same suppliers. In my view, not much difference, and identical prices. Though I lean toward the produce at the merchant in the extreme northeast end of the building, next door to the butcher La Boucherie. An occasional good buy on frisee, at a fraction of the price at Pusateri's.

                      1. re: juno

                        I always found the better produce to be at the place downstairs in the centre but berries are normally great upstairs.

                        1. re: justsayn

                          Ah yes, you're referring to Phil's (though a Phil hasn't owned it in years), at the base of the west-side stairs of the south market building. A well-run spot with decent produce. I used to rummage through its narrow aisles regularly, and still do occasionally, but have decided that, especially in winter, there's not much difference in quality with the upstairs merchants - and, therefore, not worth the shlep up and down the stairs. As to the downstairs organic stand mentioned above by flonie, I find it's ordinarily no match with the range of goods at the upstairs organic merchant, though downstairs sometimes has slightly lower prices. The only reason I purposefully venture downstairs is to patronize Rube's for assorted rices.

                    2. re: juno

                      Since you mention Diana's, juno, indicating you shop in scarborough I'll mention this. I miss the eggs from the farmers market. In my search for suppliers in the east, I've found the Nutri Spring Farms eggs available at the Kennedy & Ellesmere Highland Farms to be reasonably comparable. They're quite tender when scrambled or fried, the yolks are vivid in colour, and most importantly very rich tasting.

                    3. re: justsayn

                      Fathoming might be in order. I admit the Farmer's Market might have been exceptional on that October day. But nothing I saw in the south building came close.

                      1. re: Herne

                        SLM best selection of aphids in town

                      2. re: justsayn

                        Is it better to go on saturday when they have the 'farmer's market'?? I can't believe they are opened at 5am!!

                      3. re: CarNut

                        I'm glad you said that you don't think it's cheap. I thought it was just me that felt that way.

                        My grandfather used to go to the market fifty years ago and it was reasonable then. I don't know what happened though. It's like if you want to eat healthy when eating out it's always more expensive than eating junk food. But I'm just eating some lettuce and salad dressing but your charging me $8???

                        If I wanted to get the fillet minions wrapped with bacon, is there one butcher you could recommend? I cook steaks in a frying pan so the more tender the better which I realize also means more expensive. I bought one steak at the healthy butcher one time for $22+ for just one! And it wasn't that big either.

                        1. re: flonie

                          SLM is not cheap but it's still reasonable. Food costs have gone up, and the prices charged are what the market can bear. I don't think most of the vendors are gouging customers, although some higher costs for some items could be related to higher rent/different demands than other parts of TO.

                          When I see supercheap goods elsewhere, I figure they're a loss leader, or the business isn't paying its taxes, probably pays employees under the table and/or might have dubious sources for some items being sold.

                          I'd think all the butchers at SLM charge less for bacon-wrapped filet mignon than the Healthy Butcher. I'd probably go to La Boucherie or Whitehouse first, but you could check out all the filets mignons at SLM to see which look best to you and how the prices compare.

                      4. SLM is really more of a tourist destination for me, a place I'll take visiting friends and family. Stopped buying there years ago as food variety/quality diffused all over the GTA. Practically nothing there I can't source elsewhere that's closer to home.

                        1. flonie, how much the trip to SLM is worth it really depends on where you live. When I was nearby, you couldn't keep me from shopping there. It's the collective shops that make it worthwhile. Where are you traveling from? Perhaps there's another area that will do the trick for you.

                          1. I stopped going there for years because they became priced way over everyone else except perhaps Pusateri's or Harvest Wagon. Though, that said, of late the prices seem to be moderating and a couple of the veg vendors offering across the board discounts.

                            Also to be said if there is any chance to gouge they are the first to do it.
                            Radish Sprouts, Fiesta - $3.99 Market $8.99

                            If they really want people who buy food rather than tourists who just look at the food there is work to be done. They could align themselves price wise with Fiesta Farms or Highland Farms then I would never venture north of Bloor.

                            So what's there. No 'mad buys' (love that phrase Juno), good food available everywhere else cheaper but as others have said, under one roof.

                            And why??? (gripe...) are the butchers obsessed with vacuum packing every piece of meat they have ?

                            1. There's only one store in the SLM where if I run out of their product I absolutely, positively, and without-a-doubt MUST make the trip. The fresh roasted coffee beans from Everyday Gourmet.

                              For 2.5 years I tried to find a replacement vendor in the east. There isn't one. Now I have Everyday Gourmet's beans delivered. It's totally worth the shipping charge.

                              1. I really like the St. Lawrence Market. I don't go there frequently enough to tire of it and there are certain items I tend to purchase there alone either because I can't source them elsewhere or, because I haven't found an item of comparable quality elsewhere. For me it's not just about sourcing ingredients, it's also about the experience. I like the market atmosphere and in the cooler months when the local markets aren't open, it's a great place to go to soak up a festive atmosphere. I especially love the SLM in the spring where maple syrup and pussy willows abound and Christmas where it's a great place to immerse yourself in the seasonal bustle. Here are some of the spots I frequent:

                                South Market:

                                ROASTERS: As Googs mentions, their Everyday blend coffee is always good. We also like their Muskoka blend.

                                RUBES: Years before I could find it on my supermarket shelves, Rubes was providing me with Forbidden Rice. I continue to shop there for rice and dried beans because their quality and variety have never let me down.

                                PRODUCE STORE DOWNSTAIRS ACROSS FROM CHINESE TAKE-OUT PLACE: I can always count on them for fresh Thai Basil, huge bunches of regular basil, Thai Bird Chilis, a great selection of mushrooms and inexpensive bunches of flowers. ...I also happen to like the dumplings from the Chinese take-out place!

                                YING YING SOY FOODS: I've always been pleased their freshly made products and variety of packaged tofu. I've been to markets in many cities and I don't recall any outside of Asia with a similar vendor.

                                MUSTACHIOS: Though I've had better veal on a bun, I still really enjoy Mustachios sandwiches. Ingredients are freshly prepared daily. The breakfast sandwiches are terrific.

                                WHITEHOUSE MEATS: Yes they are expensive but their smoked chicken is wonderful. We also enjoy their bacon and if I'm looking for game birds, this is the first place I head to.

                                SCHEFFLER's DELI: I like this place for the great variety of cheese and deli meats they offer. I could likely find most elsewhere but here it's a convenient one stop shop. I always go here for wine salami, fennel pollen, rare roast beef. Their antipasti, dips and spreads counters are convenient for last minute entertaining or a simple no fuss dinner. They were the first place I know of to bring Iberco ham to the city and it is delicious but pricy.

                                KOZLIK's MUSTARD: Love this stuff. Without this shop, I'd never have bothered trying flavoured mustards yet at least 3 or 4 varieties of them are in my fridge at any given time now. These mustards always make a nice gift for out of town guests as well so I'll make a special trip to the SLM to pick them up. Yes you can now order them online but you don't get the opportunity to taste them on your screen!

                                ST URBAIN BAGELS: I love to stop by and pick these up when we have overnight guests. Bagels are dense and delicious IMHO.

                                ALEX FARM CHEESE: I never cared for cream cheese until I tried AF's...perfect for those bagels (above). I like this place because the staff are passionate about cheese, know their product and I've learned a lot about cheese from them over the years.

                                North Market:

                                EL GAUCHO CHORIZO: It's always cramped and busy there but they do have terrific chorizo sausages along with high quality sausages in other varieties as well.

                                THE MUSHROOM VENDOR: I have no idea what the name of this place is but their booth is at the north east area of the market and they always have a good variety of fresh mushrooms.

                                THE BOAR guy: Again, sorry about the lack of a name! The boar sausages are fabulous, lovely in hearty winter pasta dishes.

                                ORGANIC PRODUCE GUY on the west side of the building. His produce isn't cheap but his quality and passion for his produce more than make up for it. He also raises some game birds and has them on offer from time to time.

                                MONFORTE DAIRY - outstanding peppercorn pecorino, delicious fresh cheeses, lovely homemade crackers. I always seem to find something interesting and delicious here.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                  Thanks Breadcrumbs for that concise review.

                                  As other people have noted, I guess there really isn't much for me at SLM. I'm gonna be honest and I hate to say this but I buy based on packaging than on the actual product.

                                  For example, I have a hard time accepting that produce and fruit is comparable to quality at say Loblaws. That's just me. I mean sure there are times when you get what you paid for but there are also times when you get the same identical product at a fraction of the cost.

                                  I think for me personally, it's a good thing SL is far from me to make a trek down there (I don't like taking transit so I walk down there and it's about an hour to get there.

                                  Actually I went back to the market last year because my mom got some chocolates that are only available at "Aren't we sweet?" Downstairs...I think that's the name...

                                  Anyways, the chocolates are pretty expensive at $19.99 for 12. Well I guess it's not that expensive considering I paid $5 for two truffles at the bakery when you go downstairs (rip off) IMO

                                  Anyways, I was bummed this year because the chocolates we got (which are imported from France) don't have an expiry date. The owner tried to tell me that the government has now legislated that if chocolate is going to expire within 3 months they do not put an expiry date ?!?! Well for what I paid I sure hope they are still good chocolates.

                                  Thanks to everyone for replying and providing insight. I thought I was a SL snob for being indifferent to them but it's good to know I am not alone in my mixed feelings towards this place. It's a good concept don't get me wrong, but sometimes you feel like they might be trying to 'take you out to lunch' figuratively speaking of course.