Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market was crowned by National Geographic in 2012 as being the best food market in the world, and with good reason. Boasting 120 vendors, merchants and artisans offering everything from brisket to blue cheese-stuffed olives, it’s no wonder the 210-year-old market has become a destination for foodies the world over.
Located on Front Street between Market Street and Lower Jarvis, the main Market building is open six days a week (closed Mondays) and is itself a staple of the Old Town neighbourhood in which it resides. A second building just north of Front Street houses a Saturday-only farmer’s market, which has been in operation at that location in one way or another since Lt. Governor Peter Hunter first proclaimed it the “Market Block” in 1803.
The Market, which beat out both New York City’s Union Square Greenmarket and London’s Borough Market for National Geographic’s top honours, hasn’t always been the jewel of sustenance it is today.
“Redeveloped between the 1970s and 1990s after long neglect, the area’s mix of homes and businesses showcases urban regeneration,” the magazine’s article states.
The Market’s success is largely due to its dual purpose as a tourist attraction for visitors and up-scale grocery store for the area’s residents. The main building houses fresh produce vendors, several meat counters exhibiting both every-day and specialty cuts, large bakeries and multiple deli and cheese shops (where you will find the aforementioned—and highly recommended—stuffed olives). Though Torontonians may end up paying a few (dozen) dollars more for their weekly grocery run, there’s no doubt about it: this is the good stuff.
For those rambling around the downtown core looking for a bite to eat, the Market is as good as (and often better) than many of the surrounding sit-down restaurants. If you’re looking for light fare, delis like Scheffler’s Delicatessen & Cheese are a good place to start, along with a stop at either Future Bakery or St. Urbain Bagel. Seafood lovers won’t want to miss Buster’s Sea Cove, famous for their lobster rolls (seasonal and worth every penny at $20 a pop), calamari and various incarnations of fish and chips.
For those with diverse tastes, this is likely the only place in town where two people, one craving fajitas and the other cabbage rolls, can both come away satisfied. In the summer-time picnic tables wrap around the patio area on the building’s top floor. However, with so many tourists and locals working in the area, don’t be surprised if you end up dining with a guest a two at your table.
In short, the best way to get a taste of one of Toronto’s culinary treasures is easy: come on an empty stomach.