Toronto's Best Fishmongers
These experts on everything piscine carry only the freshest of fish—and other more uncommon treasures from under the sea
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.
You’ll never find Chilean sea bass or orange roughy at Hooked, and that’s not a bad thing—it’s a purposeful decision. Toronto’s responsibility-first fishmonger refuses to carry anything overfished, out of season, untraceable or otherwise unethically sourced. Owners Kristin and Dan Donovan oversee the logistics of flying everything into Toronto themselves. This means they only carry the freshest fish, with display-case real estate divided between Ontario-caught freshwater fish (pickerel) and oceanic delights (salmon, scallops, B.C.-born rockfish). Some items—like wild Arctic char from an Indigenous fishery near Nunavut—are only available for a few weeks a year. And don’t even get us started on how good their smoked stuff is—as with everything else, much is rotating and seasonal, but don’t overlook the whitefish if it’s in stock. 888 Queen St. E., 416-828-1861; 206 Baldwin St., 416-551-2755; 18 Ripley Ave., 416-762-7588; 1246 Danforth Ave., 416-462-3222, hookedinc.ca
Their unparalleled oyster selection (more than 30 kinds!) makes Diana’s a shining pearl of Toronto’s seafood scene. The 35-year-old Scarborough spot carries all the standard West and East Coast kinds (Beausoleil, Malpeque, Kusshi) alongside rarer varieties like Fat Bastards from Washington State (as their name suggests, these are some honking-big bivalves). Those who prefer scales to shells won’t be disappointed: the fish selection is expansive, with everything from black cod to Spanish mackerel on offer. If you’re in the market for something a little more unusual, they also carry sea urchins, East Coast whelks (sea snails) and sashimi-grade geoduck clams. In 2019, Diana’s opened a second outpost at Eataly Toronto, where customers can buy fresh product or enjoy it cooked on-site with a nice wine pairing. 2101 Lawrence Ave. E., 416-288-9286, 55 Bloor St. W., 437-374-0250, dianasseafood.com
3. Taro’s Fish
It’s not quite the Tsukiji fish market, but Taro Akiyama’s one-stop shop for sushi- and sashimi-grade Japanese fish is as close as you can get in the GTA. The maki maestro (Akiyama spent decades slicing sashimi at top Toronto sushi spots) makes excellent party platters, but discerning home cooks know to hit up the North York store for gorgeous cuts of all kinds
of tuna (ahi, bigeye, bluefin and albacore) and black cod, as well as hard-to-find items like Hokkaido uni, giant clams and fresh wasabi. If you work up an appetite while shopping, the to-go counter sells prepared sushi, sashimi and hot plates,
like tempura shrimp. 800 Sheppard Ave. E., North York, 416-730-8555, tarosfish.com
Twelve years ago, a Nova Scotian fisherman asked Jennifer Johnston to peddle his catch at local farmers’ markets. Today, she’s one of Toronto’s most discerning fishmongers, sourcing her piscine product from 10 small-scale domestic fisheries. Sockeye and king salmon come from the West Coast, halibut and scallops from the East Coast, and the Arctic char from Baffin Island. Looking for something a little more local? The Lake Erie–caught yellow perch and pickerel come with the fewest frequent-flyer miles. The all-Canuck offerings at this East York shop are often seasonal: fresh yellowfin tuna, swordfish and cod, for example, are only available in August and September. 90 Northline Rd., unit 7B, 416-562-8819, fisherfolk.ca
5. Honest Weight
When bivalve bloke John Bil—considered by some to be one of the best oystermen on the continent—passed away in 2018, food folk from Toronto to P.E.I. grieved. But the sustainable seafood advocate’s memory lives on in Honest Weight, his shanty-styled fishmonger and seafood restaurant in the Junction, now helmed by Victoria Bazan. The bijou case is always impeccably organized with a mix of whole fish (Spanish mackerel, branzino), fillets (B.C. rockfish, cod loin) and interesting molluscs (B.C. savoury clams, Salt Spring Island mussels and oysters aplenty, of course). The restaurant offers alternative takes on your typical fish-counter dishes, like a savoury Japanese okonomiyaki studded with all kinds of seaborne stuff. 2766 Dundas St. W., 416-604-9992, honestweight.ca
6. De La Mer
A decade after opening his first shop in Leaside, chef-turned-fishmonger David Owen’s four seafood boutiques are among the city’s best-known places to ogle the ocean’s bounty. Apart from sustainable Atlantic salmon, glistening Arctic char and prized black cod, where De La Mer sets itself apart is in its selection of house-cured seafood, including everything from rosemary-peppercorn smoked steelhead trout to citrus-cured candied salmon. Other notable house-made staples include the signature spicy crab dip perked up with dill, grill-ready salmon burgers and brunch-in-a-pinch smoked-salmon-and-leek quiches nestled in golden-brown pastry. Need fresh lemons for your haul? They’re gratis. 1543 Bayview Ave., 647-649-3912,
and three other locations, delamer.ca
7. Mike’s Fish Market
For over 40 years, this St. Lawrence Market counter has been enticing seafood lovers with their gleaming display of oversized everything. The scallops? Jumbo. The black tiger shrimp? Colossal. The king crab legs? Seriously leggy. Their grill-ready selection—which includes ginger-chili swordfish kabobs, bacon-wrapped scallops and maple-glazed salmon fillets—is excellent. If you can’t wait to get home to feast, grab a few oysters on the half shell and slurp till you’re satiated. St. Lawrence Market, 93 Front St. E., 416-368-0876, mikes-fish-market.business.site
8. Coral Sea Fish Market
Over the last 25 years, the Maiato brothers have seen Kensington Market transform from a grocery mosaic (with fishmongers, butchers and produce peddlers aplenty) into an eclectic collection of restaurants, dive bars, vintage clothing stores and pot shops. Coral Sea is one of the few still-standing OGs. Although known for their fresh-from-the-Caribbean selection of snapper, goatfish and doctorfish, they also carry excellent haddock and cod from Iceland, alongside other more “millennial options” (their words, not ours) like organic salmon and East Coast scallops. On Pedestrian Sundays, you’ll catch the bros outside grilling up fresh fish dishes for hungry passersby. 1963 Queen St. E., 647-350-3474, no website
9. Beach Fish House
This unfussy mom-and-pop fish shack in the Beaches has won people over with their loaded lobster rolls, house-made grab-and-go sushi and steaming bowls of seafood chowder. The fish selection is modest: just half a dozen different fillets and a handful of bivalves (scallops and seasonal oysters), but everything is top notch. It’s all about quality here, not quantity. The display case is cleverly (and helpfully) organized: each fish is identified by its texture and taste. Is it flaky, firm or somewhere in the middle? Mild, buttery or briny? Read the helpful notes to find out.
10. Star Lobster Seafood Market
Toronto’s best live seafood market is tucked away in a Scarborough strip mall. Inside, dozens of tanks house live abalone, razor clams, gooseneck barnacles, geoducks, lingcod and rockfish. Their selection of still-swimming crustaceans is particularly impressive. Of course there are lobsters (hence the market’s name), but they also carry giant spot prawns as well as Alaskan, snow and Dungeness crabs. This might also just be Toronto’s most social-media-savvy fishmonger: every day, they post their fresh-off-the-plane catch to their Instagram account. Slide into their DMs to place your order. Best of all? They deliver. 3280 Midland Ave., Unit 16, 416-609-8964, starlobster.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.