Supermarket heap: Gourmet grocers colonize the city

Supermarket heap: Gourmet grocers colonize the city

Grab and go: high-end groceries and prepared foods (like these at Market Longo) are suddenly everywhere (Photo by Davida Aronovitch) 

There has been a sudden influx of gourmet grocers and grab-and-go eateries in Toronto. Many have been—or will be—created by the city’s elite restaurateurs and chefs in an effort to attract foodies who want to slash dining budgets without resorting to KD. Earlier this week, we reported that Oliver and Bonacini will offer a take-away service in the Bell Lightbox and that suburban staple Longo’s recently expanded its downtown holdings with a second Market Longo near Bay and Dundas. Sobeys opened another Urban Fresh store amid the condo forest surrounding Fort York, and top chef Mark McEwan is planning a downtown version of his eponymous grocery store at the Shops at Don Mills.

“It’s not really a trend but a natural progression,” says McEwan. “People are tired of the concept of bland, processed foods, so you’re going to see a refinement of more wholesome and fine foods coming out of this. I think it’s great.” Many of McEwan’s foods are prepared from the same recipes as his restaurants, allowing curious diners to sample popular dishes without shelling out top dollar. “I still live by the notion that people believe that reheating is cooking, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” he says. To wit: the famous Bymark burger with all the trimmings costs $34.95 at the restaurant, but McEwan’s store sells the patties for a little less than $2 each.

Other chefs getting into the retail game include Paul Boehmer, whose new Ossington digs will have an adjoining marketplace selling locally made jams and vinegars. Black Hoof duo Grant van Gameren and Jenn Agg are opening the Hoof Café across the street with grab-and-go charcuterie. Salt Wine Bar and Gourmet Food Shop (no relation to Vancouver’s Salt Tasting Room) is hoping to give them a run for their money with a shop that also serves cheese and cured meats to the Ossington set. Aaron Barberian also told us he’s been thinking of opening a butcher shop near his well-established Barberian’s Steakhouse. And then there’s Marc Thuet’s new location of bakery-café Petite Thuet at King and Yonge, which opened mere weeks after Thuet closed the languishing dining room at Atelier.

Here is our short list of the new spots—although, with the popularity increasing for this kind of shopping experience, we may have to update it soon:

Already Open
• McEwan, 38 Karl Fraser Rd. (at Don Mills), 416-444-6262,
• Petite Thuet, 1 King St. W. (at Yonge), 416-924-2777,
• Longo’s, 111 Elizabeth St. (at Dundas), 416-597-9002,
• Hank’s, 9½ Church St. (at The Esplanade), 647-288-0670
• Sobeys Urban Fresh, 22 Fort York Blvd. (at Spadina), 416-623-5111,

Opening Soon
• Hoof Café, 923 Dundas St. W. (at Trinity),
• Boehmer, 93 Ossington Ave. (at Humbert)
• Oliver and Bonacini at the Lightbox (unnamed), 350 King St. W. (at John St.)
• Salt Wine Bar and Gourmet Food Shop, 225 Ossington Ave. (at Dundas St. W.)