In 1803, Lt. Governer, Pater Hunter proclaimed that all the land north of Front Street, west of Jarvis Street, south of King Street and east of Church Street would officially be known as the Market Block; from there, the first permanent farmer’s market was constructed. The first market started as a wooden structure, but unfortunately burnt down in 1849 by the Great Fire of Toronto, and was eventually replaced with brick.
The new structure that was built following the fire was then known as St. Lawrence Hall, which was a social point of the city for hosting public meetings, concerts, lectures and exhibitions. The Hall went through several renovations and alterations throughout the years to follow, and in the late 1890s, a population boom in the city required the building be torn down and rebuilt to better fit the city and its needs.
Through several restorations and renovations over the years to follow, the three buildings that stand to this day consist of St. Lawrence Market North, which hosts weekly farmer’s markets and antique markets—a tradition since 1803. St. Lawrence Market South is open daily hosting food stalls, restaurants and the St. Lawrence Market Gallery, and lastly, St. Lawrence Hall is an event and office building.
With so many vendors to choose from in The South Market on a daily basis, it’s tough to know the top ones to try, but the good news is—it’s hard to go wrong with any. Here are some of the city’s favourites:
Buster’s Sea Cove
Located on the upper level, number 33
Buster’s Sea Cover has been a St. Lawrence Market staple for over a decade and is a favorite of many visitors. This vendor serves up all sorts of seafood dishes, and there’s no doubt that you’ll have to wait in line to get a try. The bestseller is the Boston Blue Fish and Chips plate which is served with a generous portion of fish, fries and homemade coleslaw. Other favorites are the fried calamari, and their fish sandwiches.
St. Urbain Bagel
Located on the upper level, number 11
These aren’t just ordinary bagels; these bagels have been boiled and baked in hot wood-burning oven. St. Urbain has been around for over 20 years, and considering that they sell over 700 bagels daily, this place is definitely a popular joint to get your bagel fix.
Located on the upper level, number 42
Everyone knows that Canadians love their bacon, and the peameal bacon on a bun at Carousel Bakery is a sandwich that deserves an award of honor. This place even has celebrities popping by for a sandwich, and you can see their photos hanging on the wall across the bakery. On average this busy food vendor sells a bacon sandwich every 15 seconds from this family-owned spot that has been a part of the market for over 30 years.
Located on the lower level, number B34
These sandwiches are overflowing with Italian tastiness. Best-known for their veal, fried eggplant, or veal parmesan sandwiches, served up the traditional Italian way, Mustachio Sandwiches may serve one of the messiest but best food options. Caution: these sandwiches are so large, you may need to share with a friend.
Located on upper level, number 49
This popular place has been around since 1989 and is most well-known for their chicken sandwiches and Portuguese custard tarts. Although other spots in the market try to compete with Churrasco’s custard tarts, you won’t find anything better than here. Their rotisserie chickens are cooked to perfection daily, making delicious sandwiches or quarter chicken dinners. Kill two birds with one stone and grab your lunch and dessert here.
Aside from the hundreds of food vendors, selling everything from to-go lunches, to produce, cheeses and meat, St. Lawrence Market is also home to shops selling everything from jewelry, to novelty gifts.
For jewelry, check out Anything Goes Accessories, or Bright Sky Jewellery. For specialty gifts, check out Gift Works, Only Artview or St. Lawrence Smoke and Gift, which has been around since 1976, and most importantly, if you’re looking for the perfect wine to go with the delicious food you picked up, Wine Country Merchants is your go-to—they even have daily tastings if you need something to wash down your meal.
For a full listing of shops in St. Lawrence Market, click here.
On top of all the delicious and wonderful vendors that are sprinkled throughout St. Lawrence Market, the area is also home to several events throughout the year such as Woofstock, the largest outdoor festival for dogs, the Strawberry Social Festival, and Toronto’s famed, Buskerfest. On top of the larger, outdoor events, St. Lawrence Market hosts many events for foodies like cooking and baking classes.
For a full listing of events, click here.
Whether you’re from out of town, or a local Torontonian, there is something for everyone at St. Lawrence Market.
St. Lawrence Market, 92-95 Front Street East, Toronto, ON, Canada, + 1 416 392 7219