Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market: A Feast for Foodies and Historians

A trip to Toronto would be incomplete without at stop at St. Lawrence Market. Dating back to 1803, this historical place was named the best food market in the world by National Geographic. Talk about a ringing endorsement.

Toronto St. Lawrence Market

I met Bruce Bell, local celebrity, historian, and tour guide extraordinaire, at the entrance of the market. Knowledgeable and entertaining, Bruce was named the official historian of the St. Lawrence Market and Hall by the city of Toronto. Obviously, I was in the best of hands.

Toronto St. Lawrence Market Bruce Bell

Always used as a place for the people of Toronto to buy food, St. Lawrence Market has also housed the city council on the second floor and served as a jail in the basement. Destroyed by the great fire in 1849, the market was rebuilt in the style of the great markets of Europe. One look at the soaring ceiling, rafters, and windows and you’ll see the resemblance.

Toronto St. Lawrence Market

At 10:00 on a Thursday morning, the market was a bit quiet. Bruce explained that Saturday mornings are the busiest, as locals buy their groceries for the week, while visitors are on the tourist trail. Frankly, I enjoyed having the market basically to myself. There were no crowds to push through or lines to wait in, but it wouldn’t be that way for long.

Toronto St. Lawrence Market

A walk through the ground floor of the market demonstrates the diversity of Toronto. Fruits and vegetables that I’d only seen in Asia, exotic meats, and obscure {at least to me} fish varieties fill the cases of the stalls. Whitehouse Meats offers its customers things like camel sliders and buffalo short ribs, while Domenic’s Fish Market has some of the best-looking seafood around.

Toronto St. Lawrence Market

As a visitor to Toronto, St. Lawrence Market is the perfect place to grab lunch, but make sure to get there before or after noon. People working in the area clamor to eat at the various cooked food stalls, and the lines can get quite long. Buster’s Sea Cove is one such place. Grilled or fried, Buster’s serves up some delicious-looking seafood. Make sure you bring cash, because they don’t accept credit cards.

Toronto St. Lawrence Market

Perhaps the most famous stop in the market is Carousel Bakery for its legendary peameal bacon sandwich. Better known in the US as Canadian bacon, this sandwich has attracted chefs Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay and garnered mentions in Food and Wine, Saveur, USA Today, The New York Times, and countless others.

Toronto St. Lawrence Market Carousel Bakery

Slices of Canadian bacon are grilled and piled high on a country bun. Locals know to add honey mustard, which is lovely, but I like my food with a little spice. A couple of dashes of the Tabasco sauce I carry in my purse put the sandwich over the top. The salty bacon, combined with the sweetness of the mustard and the spice of the Tabasco, made for the perfect sandwich. It’s easy to see why Carousel Bakery has been in the same location for over 30 years.

Carousel Bakery Toronto

Carousel Bakery Toronto

When visiting St. Lawrence Market, don’t forget to check out the lower level. It’s filled with a world of options. Additional vendors offer everything from crepes {Crepe It Up Cafe} to Chinese {Yip’s Kitchen} to Greek {Yianni’s Kitchen} to Ukrainian {European Delight}. You could eat lunch here for weeks without duplication. Plus, if you’re with Bruce, he’ll show you were the jail once stood.

Toronto St. Lawrence Market

When in Toronto a trip to the St. Lawrence Market is a must. You can certainly let your nose lead the way around the building, but experiencing it with Bruce Bell makes the history of the place come alive. For 90 minutes, I learned not just about the market, but also more Toronto and Canadian history that I ever knew. It was definitely time well spent.

Toronto St. Lawrence Market

 

I was a guest of Tourism Toronto. In no way was I swayed to write a positive review based on the sub-90s August weather, my interesting conversations with cab drivers, or the friendly exchange rate. As always, opinions are mine. For more information on travel to Toronto, visit http://www.seetorontonow.com/.

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26 Comments
  • Sue Sharpe (@suesharpe1)
    September 15, 2013

    Wow – It looks just like the markets out here in Spain!
    What I wouldn’t give, right now for a bacon sandwich!
    Great article – super photos 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      September 15, 2013

      That’s high praise, Sue. Spanish markets are wonderful! My stomach is growling just thinking about Iberian ham.

  • fotoeins | Henry
    September 15, 2013

    I love it. And when I was in Toronto in April 2012 on my RTW, I was told to head over to Paddington’s Pump in the St. Lawrence Market. While we’d be forgiven if we simply spent an entire Toronto trip in the markets, I needed to be reintroduced to the Canadian style bacon. I was not disappointed. I should have had more. Thanks (again) for making me hungry, Leah!

  • Jennifer
    September 15, 2013

    Nom, nom, nom! Sounds like a great place to eat your way through for a few hours.

    • Leah Walker
      September 15, 2013

      Oh my, it’s a good way to pack on a few pounds, too.

  • @mrsoaroundworld
    September 16, 2013

    I love visiting markets wherever I go. I think it tells you so much about a place. And bacon sandwiches? Well, please tell me which stall!

    • Leah Walker
      September 16, 2013

      I agree, Ana. You learn so much about the culture of a place through the markets. It’s such a window into the pulse of a community.

  • Aaron
    September 16, 2013

    Love that market. During TBEX weekend I gravitated right to the peameal bacon sandwich yum, no added spice for me though. 🙂 A foodie paradise for sure!

    • Leah Walker
      September 16, 2013

      I think it’s missing a great place to get coffee, but I might have just missed it. Did you see one, Aaron?

  • Johnny
    September 16, 2013

    That place would be nothing but trouble for me! All that yummy bacon I would put on more than a few pounds easily. I enjoy markets but have never been to or heard of this one. Nice that you had a guide to show you around.

  • Antoine
    September 16, 2013

    Really interesting, I love this market even if it is quite expensive…
    However, I really don’t understand how the National Geographic can name it “best food market in the world” ! Those guys need to travel. I expected something really extraordinary when I first visited it, and of course, I was a little disappointed.
    But it is definitely a nice spot and a place to see in Toronto !

    • Leah Walker
      September 16, 2013

      From what I understand National Geographic visited on a busy Saturday with the farmers’ market in the St. Lawrence Hall going full force. When I was there it was very quiet, but I can imagine it looking much different on the weekend.

  • Lance | Trips By Lance
    September 16, 2013

    I love food markets. They can be fun and often provide a great meal. I drove by this market when in Toronto, but didn’t get a chance to stop in. It’s a really beautiful building.

  • Savi of Bruised Passports
    September 17, 2013

    I always look forward to visiting food markets when I’m travelling (can you tell I’m a glutton?!) and this looks lush. It reminds me of local markets in Spain and France. That peameal bacon sandwich looks lush 🙂

  • lola
    September 19, 2013

    interesting and delicious.

  • Hogga
    September 19, 2013

    great lobsters

    • Leah Walker
      September 24, 2013

      You’re a sucker for lobsters, eh?

  • Salika Jay
    September 20, 2013

    St. Lawrence Market is a place I enjoyed going to when I was in Toronto. Wish I can have a bacon sandwich now 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      September 24, 2013

      I’m thinking a bacon sandwich for breakfast this morning would be perfect! Let’s go.

  • Pola (Jetting Around)
    September 21, 2013

    This is my far one of my favorite places to visit in Toronto, especially on a Saturday morning. Love the energy of the place and – of course – the great food.

    • Leah Walker
      September 24, 2013

      I’d love to go back on a Saturday morning. I understand it has a totally different vibe than my Thursday morning visit. Plus, I may or may not want another peameal bacon sandwich.

  • Traveling Ted
    September 22, 2013

    I somehow missed this little gem while in Toronto. I actually have a long list of gems I missed while in Toronto. Fortunately it is only a 9 hour drive away. I will gave to go back sans #RWTBEX and experience more of this interesting city.

    • Leah Walker
      September 24, 2013

      I missed most of Toronto during TBEX, so I’m so very happy I got a chance to wander the city a bit. I’m a huge fan of Tornoto.

  • Laura @Travelocafe
    September 28, 2013

    What a fun place! I love markets and always stop by whenever given the chance.

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