The City’s 100 Best Food Shops
Featuring top ten lists of our favourite bakeries, butchers, fishmongers, and more
Torontonians are spoiled for choice when it comes to specialty food shops, and there’s likely never been a better time to be a butcher, a baker or a purveyor of anything destined for home consumption. Fancy meals at home became the Covid-era equivalent of the white-tablecloth tasting menu, and now that we’ve all levelled up our culinary repertoires, it’s impossible to unsee the value of searching out the best possible ingredients, from heritage pork chops to produce at the peak of its freshness. That’s why we decided this was the time to celebrate the retail side of our glorious food landscape. New and old, hidden and not-so-hidden, spacious and pocket-sized, these 100 shops are the very best of the best.
Meat in moderation is sound advice not only for the health of our hearts, but for the environment as well. All the more reason to source those precious quantities from these best-in-class butcher shops, their display cases brimming with well-marbled hand-cut rib-eyes, freshly stuffed sausages, Frenched lamb racks, whole marinated chickens in a universe of flavours, and out-there delicacies—crocodile sliders, anyone? Here, our picks for the city’s best places to shop for your next Sunday supper or barbecue session.
The city’s closest body of water is a big one but it’s not exactly prime fishing territory, so Torontonians have had to depend largely on what’s shipped to their nearest seafood aisle—and, in terms of choice and sustainability, the selection isn’t always great. Enter these fantastic fishmongers, experts on everything piscine, who pride themselves on carrying only the freshest of fish (from Ontario-caught pickerel to bigeye tuna flown in daily from Japan) and other more uncommon treasures from under the sea.
Among life’s simple pleasures, few are as dependable as a freshly baked loaf of bread. A sourdough boom has swept through Toronto over the past decade, and the city is now blessed with an assortment of new-school bakeries committed to making bread the (very) old-school way, along with several stalwarts renowned for their time-tested techniques and century-old starters. Here, our favourite places to stock up on boules, baguettes, batards and all loaves in between—not to mention other top-notch baked goods.
The city is suddenly awash with patisseries churning out all manner of sweet and savoury treats: Hong Kong–style buns, honey-soaked Syrian baklava, show-stopping cakes, chocolate-loaded cookies and some of the best Parisian-style pastries you’ll find this side of the first arrondissement. Here, our favourite spots, where butter really does make everything better.
Having a nearby greengrocer does wonders for the village-within-a-city vibe we all want for our neighbourhoods. But when that’s not an option, or we just have a hankering for some seasonal veg and a few still-life-worthy treats for the fruit bowl, we relish the trek to these best-in-the-city purveyors of produce.
Toronto is pretty spoiled for choice when it comes to cheese—even some of the chain supermarkets stock a respectable selection. However, when you’re looking for a cheese with notes of salted caramel or one aged in a thick layer of Spanish lardo, only the best fromageries will do. Here are our favourites, including an emporium with its own cheese cave and a place that does double duty as a wine bar.
Supermarkets have always filled an essential need. But at these specialty shops, the food-buying experience is next level, with meticulously curated small-batch products, house-made everything and, hey, maybe even a cocktail while you shop. Here, our go-to spots where grocery shopping doesn’t feel like a chore.
The deli means different things to different people. For some, it’s a place to stock up on sliced salumi and charcuterie; for others, it’s a place to catch up over a mile-high plate of pastrami and sour pickles. What unites the two visions is a commitment to thinly sliced cold cuts and quality sandwiches, which is something we can all get behind. Here, our favourite delis for everything from antipasti to pastrami.
Separated from their favourite baristas during the WFH era, many coffee drinkers took their at-home consumption to new heights—and realized the bog-standard beans they’d been brewing for years were no longer up to the job. Enter some of the best beans from Toronto’s top roasters. Here, our favourite places to scoop up single-origin specimens and balanced blends.
One silver lining to the pandemic (and it’s a biggie) is the government’s decision to loosen restrictions on the sale of alcohol—and just when we needed it most. Now, the city is dotted with neighbourhood bottle shops, bodegas, wine dealers and food establishments that offer an entirely different kind of takeout menu. The proliferation of merchants comes with greater variety and serendipity, and an all-around pleasant shopping experience that’s a long way removed from the one-size-fits-all approach we used to know.
These listings (and many more) appear in Toronto Life’s 100 Best Food Shops special issue, which is available on newsstands now. To purchase your own copy, click here.