I might be biased, but I think I live in one of the best neighbourhoods in all of Toronto: the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood. Home for the past 8 years, I’ve seen the area go through lots of change. But two constants have been the high-quality food & drink offerings and the world-class market that is undoubtedly the area’s focal point – the St. Lawrence Market.
Ranked as the best food market in the world by National Geographic in 2012, the St. Lawrence Market has been a vibrant piece of Toronto’s history for over 208 years. Inside, you’ll find global bites offered by its over 120 market stalls. I’ve rounded up my top 11 eats that you can enjoy from dawn to dusk. Take a roundtrip flight around the world and support local establishments, housed conveniently under one roof. Here is the best food at the St. Lawrence Market. Bon appétit!
1. The Peameal Bacon Sandwich
No trip to the St. Lawrence Market (or Toronto in general, if you’re visiting from out of town) is complete without trying a peameal bacon sandwich.
What is Peameal Bacon?
It’s one of Toronto’s claims to fame. Peameal bacon is a type of back bacon made from lean boneless pork loin, which is wet cured and rolled in cornmeal. Its invention is credited to William Davies, a Toronto ham and bacon curer who had set up shop in the St. Lawrence Market in the 1800s. The bacon was originally rolled in ground yellow peas (hence the name) to help preserve it when shipped abroad. Since the end of World War I, it has been rolled in ground yellow cornmeal.
Where to Try a Peameal Bacon Sandwich
There are 2 main places to try the famous peameal bacon sandwich at St. Lawrence Market: Carousel Bakery and Paddington’s Pump. While Carousel Bakery tends to get all the acclaim (with notable chefs, like Anthony Bourdain, making a stop here), Paddington’s Pump is not at all to be overlooked. Below is a brief overview of each establishment, as well as my comparison of their peameal bacon sandwiches.
- Carousel Bakery: Housed at the same location in the St. Lawrence Market for over 30 years, you can expect a line-up, unless you visit at a off-peak time. With many media accolades, Carousel has become the talk of the town. In fact, owners Maurice and Robert have since expanded into a catering business that has prepared meals for some of Hollywood’s biggest movies. If bacon isn’t for you, the stall also offers 300 types of international bread, vegetarian wraps, pastries and more.
- Paddington’s Pump: This full-service, sit-down “Home of the Oink” restaurant offers a full breakfast beginning at 6:00 AM and also happens to operate with a fully licensed bar. Famous for their generous portions, bottomless coffee in the morning and Peameal Bacon on a Kaiser, locals come early to enjoy this locally-celebrated establishment.
So, Which Sandwich is Better?
The short answer is each is delicious in its own right, and which you prefer will come down to personal preference. I’ve had both several times and here is my breakdown.
|Carousel Bakery||Paddington’s Pump|
|The Bun||Soft & fluffy||A traditional Kaiser bun and slightly tougher than Carousel Bakery’s bun|
|The Peameal Bacon||The peameal bacon is juicy, but the amount has varied for me from a couple slices to several on different days. If you want more peameal bacon, specify that you want a traditional sandwich||The peameal bacon at Paddington’s Pump is more flavourful than Carousel Bakery and appears to have more seasoning in the cornmeal crust. But the meat, itself, is dryer|
|The Toppings||Carousel offers the standard range of toppings, including a fried egg and fried onions (not raw). But they only have cheddar cheese (no Swiss)||Paddington’s Pump offers the standard range of toppings, including fried egg and both Swiss and cheddar cheese. Onions are raw, not fried.|
Pro-Tip: in my opinion, the best way to order a peameal bacon sandwich is topped with cheese and a fried egg, onions, and mayo and Dijon mustard on the bun.
2. Churrasco Of The St Lawrence
Owned by Eugene Antunes, Churrasco of The St. Lawrence is famous for their Portuguese-style Chicken, grilled on-site each day, fresh sandwiches with secret sauce and, of course, Pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts). Said to have first been made in the 13th century by monks in the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon, Portugal, the legendary pastries have since crossed the ocean to make their mark at The St. Lawrence. This establishment has been located at the front of the hall since 1989 and is a proud family-owned business that prepares old-world family recipes for regulars and tourists alike.
3. Buster’s Sea Cove
Buster’s Sea Cove was founded in 1992 in the Historic St. Lawrence Market. You can also expect to find a long line-up here, and for good reason! The food is outstanding and plentiful! Always fresh and seasonal, you can get your fix of their signature seafood no matter the month. Their menu is mouthwatering, but a personal favourite is their signature lobster roll served with house fries or a salad and their fish & chips are a must-try as well. Other noteworthy items include their selection of Po’Boys. Pro-Tip: if you can’t make it to the Market, Buster’s Sea Cove also has a mobile food truck.
4. St. Urbain Bagels
Located on the upper level of the market, St. Urbain Bagels has been serving up wood-fired Montreal-style bagels in their location since the early 1900s. Baked fresh daily, their selection of bagels includes cinnamon-raisin, onion-garlic, blueberry, multigrain and more. Eat as you walk and enjoy a “still-warm-from-the-oven” experience, topped with fresh cream cheeses and traditional fixings.
5. Stonemill Bakehouse Ltd.
Sold in many grocery stores, Stonemill Bakehouse’s iconic and freshly baked bread should remain a stop of your St. Lawrence Market tour. With over 100 years of experience, their business started in sourdough, with their mother dough linked to their European heritage. Everything they bake is naturally fermented for up to 12 hours, and made in small batches. With no GMOs or artificial preservatives, you can feel good about picking up a loaf and enjoying it without regret. Other items of note include their pastry selection with flaky and fresh croissants that are sure to fly off the bakery shelves.
6. Manotas Organics & Latin Foods
Manotas prides themselves on simple and wholesome foods made with love by their Spanish and Latin American ancestors. Beyond that, they continue to support and respect the environment by promoting organic farming methods, which in turn, produce balanced and delicious food. With a colourful menu, standout items to try include their authentic corn tortillas and homemade salads topped with local produce and signature Spanish taste. This brand can also be found at grocery stores including Fiesta Farms and Whole Foods Market.
7. Mike’s Fish Market
This is my favourite place to get fresh and frozen seafood at the Market. In particular, the Gravlax and other varieties of smoked salmon at Mike’s Fish Market are out of this world delicious! Apart from that, they offer whole fish and filets, oysters (which can also be enjoyed on the spot), mussels, clams, ready-to-cook stuffed salmon, fish burgers and a large selection of self-serve frozen seafood.
8. Ponesse Foods
Ponesse Foods was one of the original produce vendors in The St. Lawrence Market and has been there since 1900. Named after the first owner, the now frequented stall carries top-quality fruits and vegetables at the front of the building. It’s the family friendly service that keeps me returning over and over again.
9. Uno Mustachio
This is a St. Lawrence Market institution since 1984. Uno Mustachio has been known for its authentic Italian foods including pasta, sandwiches and more. But their claim to fame is the Godfather Sandwich, available as either a chicken or veal parmigiana cut served on Italian Kaiser with signature tomato sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, eggplant and bell peppers. For those looking for a lighter meal, the Nonna’s Chicken Salad is a delightful option as well.
10. European Delight
Go here for Eastern European delicacies. Owner Oleg Popov has an extensive culinary background and has been preparing some of the best Eastern European classics since 1999 here. This family-run establishment on the lower level cooks on location using old-world recipes with other standout staples including their selection of perogies available frozen, partially boiled or fully cooked. Additionally, the market stall prepares six types of cabbage rolls including pork and sauerkraut, latkes, sweet cottage cheese blintzes, borscht, Hungarian goulash, Russian potato salad and so much more.
11. Scheffler’s Delicatessen & Cheese
In business at the Market since 1955, this family-run establishment serves an assortment of antipastos such as cheese and spice stuffed peppers, grape leaves, dips, salads, olives and more. Locals and tourists alike can also find a gourmet selection of globally-sourced cheeses, a large selection of Prosciutto and fresh truffles sourced from Italy and France. With that in mind, you simply cannot go wrong with their selection of cheese, dairy products and beautifully-prepared charcuterie.
Next door neighbour, Olympic Cheese, has a similar selection of meats and cheeses as Scheffler’s Deli. So often the choice between the two comes down to personal preference and specialty items that may be in stock at one versus the other.
Pro-Tip: Pick up a freshly baked bagel from St. Urbain, Gravlax from Mike’s Fish Market, and hand-select your preferred local cream cheese from Scheffler’s. Top it with traditional accompaniments also available at Scheffler’s, including capers. Grab a seat outside and prepare your bagel and lox for breakfast. If you’re on the hunt for coffee, Balzac’s Coffee Roasters is a one-minute walk from the Market.
Have you taken a trip to St. Lawrence Market lately? What are some of your top food picks at the Market?