Toronto’s Best Fromageries

Including an emporium with its own cheese cave and a place that does double duty as a wine bar

By Toronto Life| Photography by Carmen Cheung
| November 18, 2021

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.

1. Cheese Boutique

Since 1970, people in the know (including some of the city’s top restaurateurs) have been making the pilgrimage to this church of cheese in the city’s west end. It’s now run by Afrim Pristine, a third-generation cheesemonger and the world’s youngest maître fromager. In 2000, the store moved to its current 11,000-square-foot location, gradually becoming a one-stop shop for all things artisanal—meat, pasta, baked goods, olive oil, produce, chocolate and prepared meals. But the cheese is still the main attraction. Display cases are chock full of 500-plus cheeses, which means there’s something for everyone: Upper Canada Cheese Co.’s crowd-pleasing Comfort Cream; super-pungent cider-washed stuff from England (it’s called Stinking Bishop for a reason); the Greasy Pig, a raw sheep’s cheese from Spain aged in a thick layer of lardo; and a bright-orange Italian cow’s milk cheese rinsed with Aperol. There’s even vegan cheese from Guelph’s Green Goddess Fromagerie, and a whole line of house-made creations inspired by and named after the Pristine family dogs.

And then there’s the aging room, a shrine-like space filled with massive logs of provolone and wheels of parmigiano-reggiano as big as car tires, waiting for their time to shine on a charcuterie board. Customers can walk through it, but much like a museum, the rule is simple: look but don’t touch. Thankfully, that doesn’t apply to the rest of the store, where friendly and knowledgeable staff are quick to give you samples of new products or anything you’re unsure of. Shopping here is no in-and-out affair—it’s an experience. If you don’t walk out with a store-branded reusable bag full of goodies, you’re doing it wrong. 45 Ripley Ave., 416-762-6292, cheeseboutique.com


Toronto’s best fromageries
Photo by Daniel Neuhaus

2. Good Cheese

This East Chinatown darling is equal parts fromagerie, bottle shop and date spot—but its name is Good Cheese for a reason. It’s about quality over quantity here. Owners Adrian Zgeb and Luke Champion curate an oft-changing selection of 50-plus unique cheeses, like a nutty and crumbly goat’s milk cheddar from Lenberg Farms in Lindsay, and Mimolette XO, a carrot-coloured cow’s milk cheese from Normandy that tastes of salted caramel and hazelnut. For the indecisive, the Backyard Snacker trays come with a few cheeses and meats, plus crackers, pickles, grapes and—a perfect accoutrement we’ve never considered—corn nuts. 614 Gerrard St. E., 416-285-8482, goodcheese.ca


3. Global Cheese

The moment you step into this Kensington Market institution, you will be greeted—probably with a “friend” or “dear” somewhere in there—and offered a sample of whatever’s currently in the slicer. Despite a major reno in 2012, Global Cheese, born in the ’70s, retains its old-school European charm—from the staff, who are simultaneously attentive and gruff, to the seriously reasonable prices and the bare-bones website. You need to visit IRL to shop here. The cheese counter takes up the centre of the store; circle around it and choose from the fully stocked display, which includes myriad kinds of Portuguese queijo. A smaller fridge sells pre-cut and wrapped hunks of interesting cheeses: a meaty-looking wedge of port-infused English cow’s cheese, riddled with purple striations; an aged Dutch gouda dotted with salty and crunchy calcium deposits; and stout-soaked Dark Side of the Moo, from Gunn’s Hill in Woodstock. And those staff members? They’re also pretty assertive, which means you may be upsold—but you won’t be mad about it. 76 Kensington Ave., 416-593-9251; 224 Norseman Rd., 416-239-3000

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4. Cheese Magic

In 1987, shortly after moving from Singapore to Toronto—and without really knowing her goudas from her stiltons—Ping Chiu bought a Kensington Market cheese business and made it her own. Now, more than 30 years later, Chiu knows all there is to know about cheese. The bright-yellow building is hard to miss: it looks like a giant slice of Swiss. Inside, it’s eclectic and cozy, like something from a storybook. The narrow space is dominated by towering display cases crammed full of 200-plus cheeses and a counter that more diminutive staff, Chiu included, have to stand on tiptoes to peek over, offering helpful advice. Chiu stocks all kinds of cheddar but she also carries an impressive assortment of blues, various truffle-laced recipes, raw-milk cheeses and a whack of locally made products from Ontario and Quebec. Looking for some Greek sheep myzithra? She has that, too, not to mention everything else you need to stock your pantry or compile a suitable snacking tray. 182 Baldwin St., 416-593-9531, cheesemagic.ca


Toronto’s best fromageries
Photo by Mystique Mattai

5. The Pantry Fine Cheese

Fromager Jeremy Lago only stocks his small but mighty shop in Little India with products he’s passionate about—mainly super-interesting cheeses from small-batch makers, many of them from Ontario and Quebec. Lago radiates love for all things cheese (seriously, his smile could melt brie), which makes for a very welcoming shopping experience. No matter which side of funky town your tastes fall on, Lago will lead the way—whether it’s to a nutty buffalo milk asiago from Albert’s Leap in Woodbridge, or the pungent Bête-À-Séguin made on an island in the St. Lawrence. The store’s shelves are smartly stocked with everything else you need to complement your dream snack board. Bonus: Lago is also a sommelier, which means not only can he assist you in matters of cheese, but he can also recommend the perfect wine pairings. 1620 Gerrard St. E., 647-341-6099, thepantryfinecheese.com


6. Alex Farm Products

Head to the dark and moody southeast corner of St. Lawrence Market to find the place that introduced Torontonians to good French cheese way back in the early ’80s. Since then, it’s grown into a mini chain with stores all over the city (Danforth, Beaches, Kingsway, Bayview), however the OG location is still the best of the bunch. A few small fridges are packed with pre-wrapped fan favourites (cheddars, goudas, brie, squeaky curds), but the bustling counter is where the more interesting stuff lives. Line up and grab the attention of one of the knowledgeable team members shouting out helpful cheesy advice to customers over the din of the market. While you wait, read the display cards that line the case; each one describes in detail some of the prize-winning cheeses, like Cantal, one of the world’s oldest cheese recipes (dating back to when the Gauls ruled what’s now France), with a tangy, buttery taste that belies its barnyard nose. Fancy non-cheese items—quality olive oil, truffles, foîe gras, pâté—round out the edible offerings. St. Lawrence Market, 93 Front St. E., 416-368-2415, alexfarmproducts.ca


7. Olympic Cheese

Gouda fans would be wise to pay a visit to this long-standing St. Lawrence Market vendor—the building’s first specialty cheese counter. Olympic carries some 800 kinds of cheese from all over Canada and Europe (as well as all the tasty bits and bobs to accompany them), but it’s their impressive selection of Dutch cheese that’s the real draw. If your thoughts of gouda bring to mind bland yellow cheese, think again—they stock the good stuff here, imported from Holland, all pre-cut in wedges the perfect size for a snack tray. You’ll find sheep, cow and goat gouda in flavours like smoked chili, pumpkin, fennel, truffle, mustard, honey and thyme, and the delectable and goaty fig and walnut. For more Dutch goodness, try the caramel-and-honey-washed Boer’n Trots from Holland’s Kaamps Estate, a 100-year-old farm that uses fresh milk from its own cows to make the cheese. St. Lawrence Market, 93 Front St. E., 416-363-7602, olympiccheese.com

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8. Centro Trattoria and Formaggi

It started out in the Galleria Mall, but for most of its 40 years, Centro has been a hub for the Corso Italia community. Their specialty, obviously, is Italian cheese, and there’s a fridge full of vac-packed hunks of the usual suspects (parmigiano-reggiano, grana padano, pecorino) and some lesser-known formaggi, like piave vecchio, a fruity and nutty cow’s cheese from the north; and crotonese, a sweet and salty sheep’s cheese from the south. Behind the counter, various sizes of bocconcini bob around in bowls next to bags of fresh, still-warm ricotta from Junction cheesemaker Santa Lucia. Head to the back of the shop for the other main draw: a cafeteria-style hot table. Here you can load up on meat lasagna, veal parm, arancini, tripe, calamari and more, all doled out by no-nonsense nonnas. Get there early to beat the lunch rush, then pull up a seat at one of the salmon-pink tables, or take your goods to go. 1224 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-656-8111, facebook.com/centrotrattoriaformaggi


9. Leslieville Cheese

Michael Simpson’s Leslieville storefront has been a one-stop shop for all things cheese, plus cured meat, smoked fish, épi bread and house-made soups and dips—oh, the dips. Other locations—the one on Queen West, the rural one in Grey County—have come and gone, but the original shop remains. This is where locals can find Canadian-made favourites including the sumptuous La Sauvagine, and Euro hits like the buttery delight that is Délice de Bourgogne. There are also baskets and bins full of pre-wrapped crowd-pleasers (hello, caramelized onion cheddar). If it’s a steady supply of dairy delicacies you’re looking for, there’s Club Cheese, a monthly subscription where members receive two hunks of fromage, a freshly baked demi-baguette and a surprise accoutrement from the shop’s shelves, like chutney or chocolate. 891 Queen St. E., 416-465-7143, leslievillecheese.com


Toronto’s best fromageries
Photo by Daniel Neuhaus

10. Junction Fromagerie

This 10-year-old neighbourhood spot gives off a serious small-town feel, with its wide-plank wood floors, exposed brick and vintage Hoosier cabinet stocked with Thuet bread and candy jars filled with coffee beans. Husband-and-wife team Jeff Brown and Jennifer Rashleigh carefully curate their 50-plus cheeses, many of them Canadian made but with some international hits, too. During the pandemic, the duo (who also own Delight, the chocolateria next door) created Allons Y Delivery, an online shop for pints of house-made ice cream, chocolate truffles, fondue kits, and everything you need for an epic cheese board—even the booze—all delivered to your door. 3042 Dundas St. W., 647-344-8663, junctionfromagerie.com


Toronto’s best fromageries

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.

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