Toronto Explored ~ St. Lawrence Market
by Jon Law
Toronto is a city that is well known for its diverse cultures and, of course, their food. When I think of a one-stop shop for a foodie in Toronto, there is only one place: St Lawrence Market. Yes, Kensington has great food too, but St Lawrence Market has it all under one roof.
St Lawrence Market has been a part of Toronto since the mid 1800’s and was originally a municipal building before becoming a market around the turn of the 20th century. The Market boasts an impressive 111,000 square feet of the most amazing sights, sounds, and tastes in the city.
You will find St Lawrence Market on Front Street between Jarvis and Market Streets. I come here a lot, and I do mean a lot, so I’ve figured out a couple of ways to get here on the TTC that can help you dodge even bad weather to get here. If you have a nice day, or just want to see more of Old Toronto, hop the subway down to Union Station and walk straight east across Front Street passing some performance halls and the ever-popular Flatiron Building. If the weather isn’t so great or you need a bit of a shorter walk take the 504 streetcar to Jarvis which is the second stop east of the King Subway Station then you are one block north of the Market.
Important tips to make your visit a lot smoother.
- The Market is currently closed Sundays and Mondays. As of July 31, 2022, there will be a one-year pilot with expanded hours and will only be closed on Mondays
- Bring some cash. Not all the vendors accept electronic payment methods and you don’t want to miss out on anything.
- It will very likely be very crowded. Pack your patience, manners, and make sure any bags are easily kept close, so you don’t bump into other people.
- My favourite days to go are Saturday, for the expanded Farmers’ Market, and Tuesday when all the vendors have restocked.
- If you have even the slightest thought of buying cold foods like meat or cheese, bring a cooler bag. Everything at the Market is far too good to be lost to a long wait in a backpack
- Be nice to the vendors. They will often give you a tiny bit extra or give you a pointer to what is freshest or special that day if you do. One trip I wanted some fresh pasta so I could make a proper carbonara. The vendor saw I was struggling to make my choice and asked what I was making with it. His face lit up and said I wanted a particular shape and if I waited thirty seconds, I could have a super fresh batch right off the machine. He even asked how many servings I was planning on making and sold me what turned out to be the absolute perfect amount.
- Don’t assume you have reached a boundary. There are several spots downstairs where you think you have, but a quick peek around an unassuming corner opens up a whole new area.
Once you find your way here you have many choices on how to get inside. There are a few entrances right along Front Street, and even more down Jarvis and Market Streets on both levels. The trickiest spot inside is right inside the Front and Jarvis Street entrance. As soon as you walk in that entrance you will see some of the most amazing produce on either side. The trick here is you are standing between two different vendors. Grab a red or green basket and stick to the side you got it from so you can check out with the right vendor.
For those of you who have seen the movie “Up” you will remember the concept of a “squirrel moment.” This happens a lot and is an expected part of the flow. A sight or smell can grab your attention and pull you halfway across the Market before you realize it. Just go with it, you might discover something amazing you had no idea even existed.
Like any other market, lunch is a busy time at St Lawrence. Most of the places to get food ready to eat are around the outside of the main floor or in the middle of the lower floor a bit further away from Front Street. If you want anything seafood for lunch, you want Buster’s Cove. Paddington’s Pump has peameal bacon that is never too salty. Downstairs you will find eastern-European, Chinese and juice bars if you are the mood for any of those.
Another common site is kids learning about food. This is something I love to see. It promotes healthy eating and a better understanding of where their food comes from.
St Lawrence Market is an absolute must while in Toronto. It will engage every sense, teach you about food you never knew existed, and always welcome you back for more.
From the picnic tables outside the upper level, happy exploring.
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