Inside Toronto's best upscale corner stores, including La Spesa, a mini-Eataly-style experience on St. Clair West

Up Market

The city’s fancy new variety stores have some of what you need—and everything you want

By Erin Hershberg
| November 8, 2023
Sunnyside Provisions

1 Next-level fulfillment is the goal at this Roncesvalles takeaway, grocery and bottle shop that corners the market on convenience. Here, business partners and hospitality-industry vets Sarah Lyons (below left), Jeff Carroll (below middle) and Laela Mahjoub O’Kelly (below right) stock the shelves with beautiful cheeses and spreads including St. Brigid’s Creamery butter, Irish snacks like Butler’s chocolates (because of Dublin-born Mahjoub O’Kelly), a selection of consignment wines, and Carroll’s line of pre-batched cocktails. Freezers are full of house-made soups and ready-to-reheat meals (braised lamb shanks, sloppy joes and chicken paprikash inspired by Lyons’s Hungarian grandmother) for easy dinners. A takeout counter serves up sandwiches (hello, confit turkey), vegetarian and gluten-free poutine, and beer-battered Nova Scotia haddock with hand-cut fries. Customers can even order a glass (or can) of local beer to sip while they shop. The only inconvenience is eventually having to go home. 287 Roncesvalles Ave., sunnysideprovisions.ca

Sunnyside Provisions is a Roncesvalles takeaway, grocery and bottle shop
Photos by Daniel Neuhaus
Customers shopping at Sunnyside Provisions
Takeout options at Sunnyside Provisions
Bottles available at Sunnyside Provisions
Pottery for sale at Sunnyside Provisions
The exterior of Sunnyside Provisions in Roncesvalles

La Spesa

2 While a loaf of bread, a carton of milk and a stick of butter are all available at this St. Clair Gardens gem, it’s very much a “come for the basics, stay for the Dolce and Gabbana–branded, Napoli-imported Di Martino pasta” kind of place. Owner Katerina Adams, who spent most of her adult life working in Germany as a corporate consultant, returned home and opened this Euro-inspired store to give her neighbourhood the kind of mom-and-pop shop that she cherished so much overseas. La Spesa (where Adams knows many of her customers by name) has evolved over time to serve the needs of her regulars and carries—among other things—frozen lasagna made in house, locally made Italian sausages, imported canned tomatoes, Italian olive oil, gelato, local eggs and wine—ovviamente. And, of course, visitors can mangiare in the market: the sandwich counter at the back offers a grab-and-go menu of hot and cold panini and espresso. 1700 St. Clair Ave. W., laspesamarket.com

Katerina Adams, owner of La Spesa
Photos by Marc Santos
The interior of the St. Clair Gardens corner store gem La Spesa
Inside seven of Toronto's best upscale corner stores
Inside seven of Toronto's best upscale corner stores
The sandwich counter at La Spesa offers a grab-and-go menu of hot and cold panini and espresso
The exterior of La Spesa Food Market
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City Cottage Market

3 Partners in business and life, Daniel and Liana Naraine opened this one-stop café and grocery store mid-pandemic. There’s cozy window seating overlooking Kingston Road, where guests can sit and sip on De Mello espresso while contemplating what to buy from the shelves stocked with small business–sourced products. In the fridges, local beer labels like Left Field Brewery meet Hewitt’s milk, Mad Mexican salsa, solid takeout sandwiches from Circles and Squares, and Ontario-grown greens. And frozen takeout meals—like Crafty Ramen noodle kits, Tutto Pronto pasta and lasagna, Stush Jamaican patties, and Wong’s Ice Cream—are a welcome step up from Superfries and Pizza Pops. The Naraines also host monthly pop-up dinners to showcase culinary talent, including Indigenous chef Zach Keeshig and Italian supper-­club king Massimo Bruno (before he left Toronto for a life in Puglia). 1427 Kingston Rd., citycottagemarket.ca

Daniel and Liana Naraine opened City Cottage Market, a one-stop café and grocery store, mid-pandemic
Photos by Marc Santos
Inside City Cottage Market
Provisions for sale at City Cottage Market
Inside seven of Toronto's best upscale corner stores
Inside seven of Toronto's best upscale corner stores
The interior of City Cottage Market

Trinity Market

4 Trinity Market is a delightfully twee food-and-wine emporium on Queen West that services sit-down snackers and dinner-party planners alike. Owners Javier Castillo (below left), Matt Pettit (below right), Milosz Malycha and Andres Marquez originally conceived of it as a pizzeria, but they couldn’t get enough electricity into the 500-square-foot space. So they pivoted to a hybrid store and snack bar, packing it with locally sourced delicacies like Cheese Boutique charcuterie and Blackbird sourdough loaves. Every item on the dine-in menu—Detroit-style pizza from neighbour Noce, Gaucho’s empanadas, and more—is available to stay or go. And the shop’s Trinity Sip School, which runs on weekends, is an unpretentious way to sommelier the day away. But take note: one too many glasses of wine makes it easy to get carried away in a store where everything is for sale—right down to the collection of hand-crafted ceramic dishes that the food is served on. 768A Queen St. W, trinitymarket.ca

Trinity Market owners Javier Castillo and Matt Pettit
Photos by Joshua Best
Inside Trinity Market on Queen West
Blackbird sourdough loaves
Pizza at Trinity Market
Bottles at Trinity Market
A selection of bottles for sale at the Trinity Market bottle shop
The exterior of Trinity Market
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99 Bottles

5 Many a modern corner store offers up pricey artisanal provisions—$20 tins of imported razor clams, $12 pancake mix—but this Beaches bodega from Julian Holland (pictured below with his wife, Gabriela), of H2 Craft Spirits and Leslieville’s Radical Road Brewing, stocks a more affordable selection of back-to-basics house-party supplies like pretzels, ginger ale, charcuterie and booze. Of the house-label craft spirits, the cinnamon whiskey and rose-coloured hibiscus gin are standouts. Grocery goods and takeout include Gertie’s peanut butter pies, Ascari Enoteca’s pasta and sandwiches, Samosarie’s mini samosas, buffalo-wing pretzels, and grazing-board accoutrements galore. And while the food may be the main event, the lovely space with its adorable patio (wisely equipped with a playhouse for tag-along kiddos) is a major draw for locals looking to enjoy a glass of wine and a plate of cheese that won’t break the bank. 925 Kingston Rd., 99bottleshop.com

Julian Holland (pictured with his wife, Gabriela) owns the Beaches bodega 99 bottles
Photos by Marc Santos
Inside seven of Toronto's best upscale corner stores
Inside seven of Toronto's best upscale corner stores
Inside seven of Toronto's best upscale corner stores
The exterior of 99 Bottles in the Beaches

Tulip Variety

6 Florist Dayna Van Harten opened her shop off Geary Avenue for the new denizens and street traffic of what was once a stark industrial strip. She stocks it with everyday pantry items (Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Rice-A-Roni, Campbell’s tomato soup) and their artisanal counterparts (kewpie mayo, arborio rice, Mutti’s tinned tomatoes). In her freezer, frozen lasagna from neighbouring Famiglia Baldassarre and Death in Venice saffron-vanilla-ginger-cardamom gelato share shelf space with bags of ice. While Van Harten vibes off OG convenience stores, carrying items like shimmery gift bags, sewing kits and tins of cat food, the addition of vintage pieces, her own fresh flowers and clothing and art from Emily Gove’s Rose Ceremony Shop injects some Geary-strip hip. 340 Westmoreland Ave. N., tulipvariety.com

Inside seven of Toronto's best upscale corner stores
Photos by Marc Santos
Inside seven of Toronto's best upscale corner stores
Flowers at Tulip Variety off Geary Avenue
Photos by Marc Santos
Inside seven of Toronto's best upscale corner stores
Inside seven of Toronto's best upscale corner stores
The exterior of Tulip Variety
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Tiny’s General Store

7 Hidden deep within Seaton Village is an adorably curated café slash gift shop slash candy store that looks like the set of a Wes Anderson movie. Owner Chrys Nguyen, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, takes pains to provide her patrons with the same kind of experience she had with her mom on weekly trips to the corner store for a well-earned sweet. And despite its size, Tiny’s is truly unforgettable. It’s packed with neat treats to keep the kiddos and their adults happy, including Haribo gummies (the specialty German ones, of course), Honey’s vegan ice cream, custom-blend coffee from De Mello, Forno Cultura’s biscotti, baked goods by Breadhead and free-range Conestoga Farms eggs with yolks the colour of turmeric. Nguyen, the former buyer for Ossington’s Lost and Found, also puts out an interesting arrangement of high-end German lifestyle products, like leather fly swatters and beechwood-and-horsehair sweep sets. 80 Barton Ave., thetinygeneral.com

Tiny's General Store owner Chrys Nguyen
Inside seven of Toronto's best upscale corner stores
Inside seven of Toronto's best upscale corner stores
Inside Tiny's General store
A Tiny's General Store tote
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