Over the weekend I hopped over to Toronto to explore the city and eat my way around this place. I took the earliest flight (7:30am) out of Newark and was able to get to my Toronto hotel around 9:30am. Having arrived so early and unable to check into my room, I decided to take a stroll to the famous St. Lawrence Market in downtown Toronto.
For those of you who have never heard of this market, apparently St. Lawrence market was named the world’s best food market by National Geographic in 2012. Now having been to the Borough market (among many others) in London and Chelsea market in New York, I’m not sure if I agree it’s the BEST in the world, but it’s definitely comparable if not better (I’ll explain later).
After dropping off my luggage at the Intercontinental Toronto Centre next to the CN tower, I immediately set out to the market. It’s a 15 minute walk on Front St. towards the Flatiron building. You will see a big brick house with a Canadian flag in the front. Excited, I went inside the market and was immediately greeted by a big hall of food vendors and a couple of souvenir shops.
There were a couple of things I knew I wanted to eat, and these were the Montreal style bagel and the Peameal Bacon on a Bun. I’ve always had a thing for bagels and New York definitely spoiled me. I was interested to see how this place compared to the Montreal style bagel I had in Montreal so I looked for St. Urbain Bagel first thing. I found it on the ground floor to the left of the market in the back and there was already a long wait for it.
There are different kinds of bagels here, a few note worthy ones are: onion & garlic, Spinach & Feta, Prezel, different sorts of sweet bagels. I wasn’t sure if the bagels were wood-fire baked, so that could be one difference compare to the Montreal bagels.
I ended up ordering a garlic & onion bagel with chives cream cheese and the bagel was soft and chewy. The dough was sweeter than the bagels in Montreal and New York.
Having satisfied my bagel craving, I started walking around the market to check out different vendors while looking for the Peameal Bacon sandwich from Carousel Bakery. There were some really interesting stores that sell meat, seafood (raw), cheese, and mustard.
After walking around the market, I finally found Carousel Bakery on the other side and again, there was a queue for the sandwich. I got the Peameal Bacon on a bun sandwich for CAD 6.45 (plus tax). They had already prepared it so I didn’t need to wait for them to make it. It’s a very simple sandwich that consists of just Canadian bacon and two buns. I didn’t add anything extra to it but someone next to me added an egg. They also have chicken sandwiches at the bakery. The buns were soft and a little sweet and the bacon (more like ham) were really juicy and tasty although I find it a little salty after eating half of the sandwich.
Now that I’m properly fed, it was time to find something to drink + dessert! Little did I know that the market actually has two floors. The downstairs level had more food options, such as a proper bakery for bread, coffee shop, grocery, Chinese food, tofu vendor, juice shop, etc.
I saw a pretty long line at this place called “Everyday Gourmet Coffee Roasters” so I stopped by for a cup of Chai Pumpkin Spied Latte. It was made from real Chai tea bag and pumpkin spice. But most people there got latte which looked and smelled amazing.
After walking around the lower level, I decided to go back upstairs to look for the Portuguese egg tarts. Before visiting Montreal back in May, I didn’t realize the east coast of Canada had a lot of Portuguese influence. I was surprised to find Portuguese egg tarts and food in both Montreal and Toronto but no complaints there, I’ve always been a fan of egg tarts.
It was definitely a nice experience for a foodie like me. Now, I’m a big fan of Borough Market and Chelsea market so I couldn’t help but make a few comparisons:
- St. Lawrence market is indoors similar to Chelsea market whereas Borough Market is outdoors but covered (sort of).
- The food options are different among all 3 markets. Chelsea market is known for the tacos, ramen, fresh seafood (boiled lobster, oysters, etc) and it has a couple of restaurants/wine bars but not as much for raw meat/vegetable/cheese. Borough Market has more international options for cooked food, such as German, Indian, Thai, American, and a huge variety of fruit juice. St. Lawrence Market has more Toronto specialty food, cheese, raw meat and seafood.
- St. Lawrence feels bigger than Chelsea market whereas Borough market is the biggest in my opinion because there are some coffee shops and restaurants right outside of Borough market.
- St. Lawrence is closed Sunday and Monday; Borough market is only closed on Sunday but St. Lawrence market opens earlier and closes later. Chelsea market is open everyday at 7am – 9pm (except Sunday hours). I guess this also reflects the fact that everything in New York is open till much later.
Would I say this is the best food market in the world? Maybe not, as I have eaten at most of the food markets in London before and they equally impressed me in different ways. Would I recommend St. Lawrence? Definitely! It’s a great start to your trip to Toronto 🙂