Inside Nations Experience, a 155,000-square-foot supermarket with an arcade, a playground and all-day dim sum

Inside Nations Experience, a 155,000-square-foot supermarket with an arcade, a playground and all-day dim sum

Grocery shopping in the city’s west end will never be the same. After opening Nations Fresh Foods locations in Mississauga, Vaughan and Hamilton, the chain’s parent Ocean Fresh Group has opened its biggest location yet at the Stock Yards Village in the Junction. Nearly three times the size of its predecessors, Nations Experience (and boy, is it ever an experience), has moved into the 155,000-square-foot space left behind by Target. Nations puts all other grocery store “international” aisles to shame: the brand’s “where east meets west” philosophy means the shelves, refrigerated cases and freezers are chock full of otherwise hard-to-find products, from the Caribbean to the Philippines, all under one gigantic roof. But it’s so much more than that. The “foodertainment” store (Nations’ words, not ours) is part supermarket, part quick-service restaurant and part … amusement park. Take a look around:

Goodbye Target, hello Nations:


Get ready:


Frank Ho, Nations’ co-founder and senior vice president, tells us that all of the currently empty space bordering on the store’s entrance will host independent vendors, including an oyster bar, and French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Peking duck restaurants. (Yes. All of those):


Nations Experience is what Ho envisioned as the milestone for the brand:


More than 10,000 square feet are dedicated to amusement and entertainment:


Happy Kingdom includes the 4,000-square-feet Ocean Ball, a kids-only playground:


The “kingdom” also includes a games room, outfitted with 135 arcade games…


… complete with a prize counter. (In the new year, players will also be able to redeem points for items in the food court):


And five party rooms that can be rented out:


The food court inside Nations already seats 300, and more seating is on the way.


The Western Kitchen section serves pizza, panini and burgers inspired by In-N-Out:


There’s a grab-and-go section here, too:


Food from the salad bar is priced by weight ($6.99/lb) and features seasonal produce:


The value buffet ($5.99/lb) offers a wide range of grains and mains, like meatballs in tomato sauce:


The premium buffet ($7.99/lb) draws from an international menu of jerk chicken, tandoori chicken, whole lamb shanks, baked salmon and more:


And of course there’s rotisserie chicken ($9.99 each):


The hot food counter includes freshly steamed and fried dim sum (much of which is made in house), whole fried fish and other Chinese-Canadian quick-casual favourites like sweet-and-sour pork, salt-and-pepper squid and stir fries:


Here’s some dim sum being made right now:


The Chinese BBQ counter offers roast duck, pork, chicken, squid and even whole-roasted pigs (they sell 20 a day at the Mississauga store):


Here’s more barbecue, just because:


How about some ribs?


Or some pork?


There’s sushi, of course:


You can even get made-to-order teppanyaki:


The unagi (barbecued eel) rice bowl from the teppanyaki station:


Juice blends are made using fresh-squeezed oranges and other fruits and vegetables from the store’s produce section:


There’s also bubble tea:


And even gelato:


The deli is stocked with cured meats and cheeses:


Here’s the bakery:


House-baked goods, including this Cantonese seaweed and pork-floss bun, come from Oceans Fresh Food Market, an affiliate grocery brand:


Glutinous rice desserts, including custard-filled mochi, red bean-filled fried sesame balls and pandan mung-bean cakes:


There are always free-sample tables kicking around. This section will soon become an aisle for Portuguese and Latin American products:


The Power Aisle is where customers will find the week’s promotional goods (so, flyer specials):


Fresh chicken, lamb, pork, and beef, but also goat and rabbit, are available in the refrigerated meat section or at the butcher counter:


Looking for goat meat? There’s fresh and frozen shoulder and leg available pre-cut or whole:


The poultry section includes free-range and silkie chickens:


A semi-enclosed seafood department helps keep any ocean-fresh smells from leaking into the rest of the store. This is where you’ll find fresh seafood, on ice or still swimming:


Here are some yellowtail snappers:


And an entire section dedicated to salt cod:


There’s a section of prepared foods, including pre-cut or pre-marinated meat and veggies, for those short on time:


The sprawling produce section is stocked with imported fruits and vegetables, including a wide range of Asian greens:


Spanish limes, otherwise known as genip:


Chinese hawthorn:




Egyptian guavas:


And saboche, a Vietnamese fruit:


Other tropical fruit includes passion fruit, rambutan and dragon fruit:


Stem lettuce:


Aisle 12 is dedicated to spices from all over the world:


While aisle 13 is a collection of seasonings and mixes:

1980 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-767-5888,