Toronto’s Best Bakeries
Our favourite places to stock up on boules, baguettes, batards and all loaves in between
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.
1. Blackbird Baking Co.
There was nothing revolutionary about sourdough when Blackbird Baking Co. opened, years before we all began cultivating starters at home out of pandemic boredom (and a yeast shortage). But Simon Blackwell’s shop helped usher in a new era for Toronto bread-buying when, in 2014, it replaced a Cobs in the heart of Kensington Market—on a site that had, for generations, housed Lottman’s Bakery. Since then, the crusty, crackly Blackbird sourdough has become the new normal, the baseline by which all other artisan loaves are compared.
There’s no point in choosing favourites from among the lineup of baguettes, boules and pullman loaves (not to mention marvellous pastry), but the oblong batard of the seeded sourdough might be the perfect loaf. It’s a hearty blend of wheat, spelt and red fife flours mixed and dotted with all manner of seeds, from pumpkin to nigella, the latter adding an irresistible savoury aroma that begs to be met with a slathering of butter. Blackbird’s popularity resulted in a 2019 expansion to Riverside, which is now where all the breads are made. And while the Kensington original (which focuses on making pastry now) already feels like a piece of Toronto culinary history, the new shop is worth a visit for the chance to catch a whiff of a bakery operating at the peak of its power. 172 Baldwin St., 416-546-2280, 635 Queen St. E., 416-465-0043, blackbirdbakingco.com
2. Forno Cultura
The techniques may be old school at this Italian bakery, but the loaves of bread are pure avant-garde. The specialties are sourdough filone, elongated loaves with rounded edges (like a mash-up of a boule and a batard) and smaller filoncini, made with semolina flour. The bakers imbue the bread with Wonka-esque add-ins like squid ink, resulting in vivid loaves that pop with flavour. The filone al cacao is like no other loaf in the city, tinted with grape must, studded with chunks of bitter chocolate and rolled in poppy seeds. Not to be overlooked are the salumi-packed sandwiches, slabs of rustic pizza and myriad pastries and biscotti. 609 King St. W., 416-603-8305, and five other locations, fornocultura.com
Not content to simply produce fine loaves of bread, this Liberty Village bakery takes things one giant step further by milling its own flour on site—like a coffee shop that roasts its own beans. Flour is, after all, the primary ingredient in every loaf, and the fresher the goods, the better the taste. The proof is in the thick-crusted, hearth-baked sourdoughs and dark, dense ryes—the Bird Loaf, in particular, is a heavily seeded, wholesome staple made from high-protein hard red wheat (the menu identifies which flours are used in each loaf) in addition to spelt-spiked baguettes, Jerusalem-style bagels, pillowy milk buns and heritage-grain challah on Fridays. 8 Pardee Ave., 416-536-4848, brodflour.com
4. Prairie Boy Bakery
Chef-turned-farmer-turned-baker Grant MacPherson began his bread business as a wholesale enterpriseand farmers’ market feature before becoming one of the city’s finest bricks-and-mortar bakeries. He still does farmers’ markets, of course, but Prairie Boy’s homey Dufferin Grove bakery—with new satellite locations on Geary Avenue and at Yonge and St. Clair—is where to find fresh-out-of-the-oven loaves. The double-fermented multigrain is a mix of four organic flours that spends nearly 48 hours sitting around getting tastier and tangier by the minute before it’s baked into its grain-studded final form; and the Winterpeg rye is a homage to the Prairie roots of MacPherson and co-founder Lainie Knox. Speciality loaves baked with seasonal ingredients—ramps, garlic scapes, apples—are not to be missed. 970 College St. 416-531-1211, and two other locations,
This Harbord Street bakery only opened its doors last spring, but the project was years in the making. Baker and owner Philip Haddad rode the sourdough and social media pop-up trends from their earliest days, hawking his unspeakably beautiful loaves (for free) during recipe tests. The shop offers far more than just the sourdough—there’s also an array of viennoiserie, peanut butter–miso cookies and bacon butty sandwiches. But the bread was the hook, and it remains reason enough to join the weekend queues. The mainstays are a country white and a porridge loaf, all blistered and bubbled, baked throughout the day and available in full and half loaves—though who could possibly possess such self-control? 161 Harbord St., 416-922-1626, emmertoronto.ca
6. Petite Thuet
Before Toronto’s sourdough bread boom began a decade ago, there was Marc Thuet, and then there was everyone else—he’s the only baker in town with his own Wikipedia page, and for good reason. Along with a brisk wholesale business that supplies shops and restaurants all over town (including a new retail outlet at Carlaw and Dundas), his Rosedale boulangerie is still an essential stop for carb-lovers looking for a fresh baguette or a slice of his iconic Alsatian sourdough. It’s the perfect balance of crisp and chewy, with a hint of sweet smokiness from the two-century-old sourdough starter Thuet’s family has been passing down for generations. It’s a good story, but it’s even better bread. 1162 Yonge St., 416-924-2777, 284 Carlaw Ave., 416-466-9116, petitethuet.com
7. Harbord Bakery
The Friday-morning rush at this Harbord Street institution sees regulars descend for their Sabbath challah, and the lineups can reach TIFF-like levels during fall’s High Holidays, when the chase is on for the coveted round challah. There are certainly other places to buy challah in Toronto, particularly uptown, but few can match the built-in fan base born of more than 75 years in the bread business. The chocolate babkas are a Thursday-to-Saturday treat, but the loaves of pumpernickel and caraway-studded rye are good enough to eat any day, and are about as old country as you can get without breaking out the history books. 115 Harbord St., 416-922-5767, harbordbakery.ca
Just before the pandemic hit, the team behind the Terroni empire opened their long-awaited production space and commissary kitchen on a quiet side street just off King in Corktown. Today, it operates as a fully fledged Italian pantry and bottle shop, along with ready-to-eat slabs of pizza, sandwiches, heat-and-eat entrées and handmade pastas. Most crucially, it’s also a working bakery, and functions as the hearth from which Terroni’s restaurants and Sud Forno outlets get their loaves of classic Italian sourdough. There’s nothing complicated about the mainstay pane Pugliese, and that’s by design: it’s an airy, crackly boule made with imported semolina and Terroni’s mother yeast. Some high-quality olive oil for dunking is all that’s required to create the perfect bite. Or, bake two breads with one oven, so to speak, by grabbing a loaf of the olive bread, which is crammed full of big chunks of Italian olives. 22 Sackville St., 416-368-4248, terroni.com/spaccio
9. Future Bakery
Though well-known for its kiosk smack dab in the heart of St. Lawrence Market, the real joy of Future Bakery is best experienced at its Etobicoke bakery outlet. What the wide-open space lacks in market ambience, it makes up for with a gauntlet-like array of rye breads, from Reuben-ready marble loaves to dense slabs of Russian rye sold by the kilo. The Darnitsky and Borodynsky loaves are dark and darker, and could both double as doorstops, but the latter is for true rye junkies, with a nearly black crumb and a tang so pronounced that it lingers on the palate like a sip of barleywine. Luckily, there’s an on-site dairy to stock up on all the spreads and schmears necessary for a proper nosh, including alluringly golden blocks of cultured butter that should be sliced like cheese before coming to rest on a hunk of still-warm bread. 106 N. Queen St., Etobicoke, 416-231-1491; 95 Front St. E., 416-366-7259, futurebakery.com
10. St. John’s Bakery
This artisan bakery inspired by French technique is no ordinary bread business. It’s a non-profit social enterprise run by the neighbouring St. John the Compassionate Mission, which provides apprenticeships for at-risk Torontonians. And while the bakery’s works are good, the bread sold at this small Broadview storefront is even better. The signature loaf is the cilantro-olive sourdough, equal parts rustic and herbaceous and always most likely to get snatched up first. For a sweeter slice, the walnut-raisin sourdough is perfect with jam, and the enriched brie loaf, a Norman recipe (and one of the few non-sourdough offerings here), might just be the perfect medium for a buttery, golden-brown grilled cheese sandwich. 153 Broadview Ave., 416-850-7413, stjohnsbakery.com
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.