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The St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, Canada

JDeQ from Burlington, Ontario

This barn of a spot is the largest market in Toronto. In 2004 Food and Wine magazine named it as one of the 25 best markets in the world.

Location: Corner of Jarvis and Front St.

How to get there: Car (ample street parking near the market); TTC (bus or subway) to Union Station, then walk east.

Hours: The main South Market is open Tuesday - Thursday, 8:00am - 6:00pm; Friday, 8:00am - 7:00pm; Saturday, 5:00am - 5:00pm. The north market is only open on Saturday from 5:00am to 5:00pm.

The area is the site of Toronto's original market. Though popular most of the week, the market comes to life on Saturdays with local farmers, artists and artisans plying their wares. This historic area also has numerous old warehouses that have been converted into residences, stores, restaurants and pubs.

The Details

The St. Lawrence Market stands where the very beginnings of Toronto were established in 1793, in what is today referred to as the "Old Town of York" (corner of Front and Jarvis Sts.) The original city market stood one block north (King and Jarvis Sts.), in a structure that also held the city council chambers. However, a fire in 1849 destroyed most of the neighbourhood.

The current market comprises two buildings, one on either side of Front St. The south market building dates from 1905; it is an imposing red brick structure incorporating what remains of the original City Hall into a huge indoor market with something for everyone. One merely has to stand in front of the main market entrance to see how one building has wrapped itself around the other. In the 1970's, the former council chambers on the second floor were transformed into a civic art gallery, which presents an on-going photographic exhibit on the development of Toronto.

South Market, St. Lawrence Market, Toronto

St. Lawrence Market's north building is open on Saturdays only, and features fruits and vegetables and other agricultural products, often sold by the same farmers who produce them. The south building houses dozens of permanent vendors over two floors, and operates Tuesdays through Saturdays. The St. Lawrence experience is perhaps a more genteel one than in Kensington Market (it's been called Toronto's "yuppie" market), but the quality, selection, and prices are nonetheless very good.

The best day to visit is Saturday. Farmers arrive prior to the 5:00am opening time to set up their kiosks, and by 7:00am the place is humming. There are outdoor kiosks as well, even in winter, and the market takes on a special atmosphere prior to major holidays, when vendors are selling Christmas trees, wreaths, or whatever is seasonally appropriate.

The true Torontonian will enjoy breakfast at the market – the famous peameal bacon on a bun. Peameal bacon is a Canadian favourite; salt- and sugar-cured extra lean ham, rolled in cornmeal. It's a signature snack of Toronto, and well worth trying out. (The reviewer in the Food and Wine article declared it the 'thing to try' at the market!)

The selection at the market is incredible. You can get just about everything you may need there: baked goods, cheese, meat, fruit, vegetables, seafood, caviar, chocolates, juice, fresh herbs, dog biscuits, tofu, bulk foods, dried fruit, etc. Upstairs is where most of the meat, seafood, and cheese is sold.

St. Lawrence Market

In the summer and fall area farmers drive into the city and load up the market stands with an amazing selection of fresh fruit and vegetables. Unfortunately in the winter it is all mostly imported but the selection and prices still are great.

If after looking at all of the food for sale you are aching with hunger, there are many vendors selling prepared foods that you can nibble while you continue to wander. You can purchase the aforementioned Peameal bacon on a bun from a number of vendors. Others have selections of Italian sandwiches. At still other spots you can select from a variety of prepared Japanese treats. There really is something for everyone vegan, vegetarian, or true carnivore.

Parking

For those who are driving there is ample parking near the market. We generally park at the corner of Church Street and the Esplanade where the parking is less expensive than in the lot directly across from the market. The market is only a block east of this parking lot, if you plan on making many purchases you may want to pay the extra money and park directly across the Esplanade from the market.

Resources

Slow Photos: Jerry's photos of The St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, Canada

www.stlawrencemarket.com: The St. Lawrence Market

Get more information from the Wikitravel Toronto Travel Guide.


JDeQ from Burlington, Ontario shares his thoughts and food stories on his blog Jerry's Rants, Musings, and Recipes.

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