By: Lisa Ng
How does one tackle the top food market of 2012 as named by National Geographic Magazine? Wear your stretchy pants and bring your appetite as you graze your way through St. Lawrence Market, a bustling food mecca located in the centre of Downtown, Toronto. Inside, over 50 independently owned market vendors serve up some of the finest food that this multi-cultural city has to offer. Here are my must-eats that feature the best of St. Lawrence Market:
St. Urbain Bagel – The bagels have been boiled and baked in a hot wood- burning oven for over 20 years at this beloved bagel joint. The Montreal-style Bagel at St. Urbain is soft, chewy and crispy when warmed up in the toaster and then slathered with garlic herb or chive cream cheese. If you are lucky to get one hot out of the oven, skip the toasting and devour immediately upon contact. Try a toasted onion bagel with savory smelling bits of dark onion. St. Urbain sells over 700 fresh bagels daily and they are baked fresh on-site.
Buster’s Sea Cove – The bestseller here is the Boston Blue Fish & Chips plate. Come hungry because you will be served up three generous portions of battered golden fish on a bed of curly fries and a side of homemade coleslaw. The whole crispy plate deserves a big squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of dark malt vinegar. The fish comes in daily from the same supplier that delivers to Mike’s Fish just across the way. Lookout at lunch time, because the locals from the nearby Financial District are lined up looking for their fish fix.
Carousel Bakery – The world famous Peameal Bacon on a Bun is a classic Toronto sandwich made with grilled Canadian back bacon. Celebrities like Emeril Lagasse, Catherine Zeta-Jones and rapper Drake are all big fans with autographed photos plastered on the wall across from the bakery. On a typical busy Saturday, Carousel Bakery will sell over 2600 Peameal Bacon Sandwiches in one day. That’s one sold every 15 seconds! People come from all over the world, citing newspaper articles and food magazines featuring the famous Peameal Sandwich. Make sure you grab the honey mustard sauce which is the most- popular sandwich topping. Carousel bakery is family-owned and has been a fixture of St. Lawrence Market for over 30 years. Don’t fall for any imitations, the peameal bacon is supplied by a secret source.
Uno Mustachio Sandwiches – The Italian Veal and Eggplant Parmigiana Sandwiches at Uno Mustachio’s are consistently voted the best in Toronto. Thin slices of veal, eggplant and chicken are drenched in batter and then fried to golden perfection. Everything is made-from-scratch and prepped daily. My favourite combination is chicken and eggplant on a foccacia bun ($1 extra) topped with sautéed sweet peppers, onions, mushrooms and a wallop of tomato sauce. The hot peppers are HOT, so be ready. The sandwiches are so massive that I can only ever finish half and they are great to share with an equally hungry friend. Chase it all down with a fizzy Orangina.
Freshly Squeezed – Finish your food tour with a fresh-squeezed orange juice or smoothie from this popular Canadian juice chain. The Strawberry Banana Smoothie is their special everyday. Vegetable drinks can be made to order and bubble tea with dark tapioca balls and cold flavored tea is also a specialty.
Churrasco of St. Clair – When you’re ready for dessert, make sure you save room for the eggy Portuguese Tarts from Churrasco of St. Clair. You may see them available from other places in the market, but they do it best here. The silky yellow custard is served up in a flakey crust and the broiled top is the result of baking in a very hot oven for just a few minutes.
The hot juicy Portuguese Chicken rolls around in the rotisserie all day, dripping hot fat and cooked to perfection. A Quarter Chicken Dinner makes the perfect meal to go, if you just can’t eat any more.
After sampling some of the must-eats of St. Lawrence Market, roll yourself on to the street and take a stroll along some of the charming shops along Front Street. If you are lucky to be visiting on a Saturday, head north across Front Street to the North Market. Inside you will find a once-a-week Farmer’s Market and even more edible goodies. On Sundays, there is an antique market that is worth a wander through.
St. Lawrence Market
92-95 Front Street East, Toronto
Phone: (416) 392-7120
Hours: 8am – 6pm Tuesday to Thursdays Open late on Fridays until 7 PM Open 5am – 5pm on Saturdays Closed Sundays & Mondays.