The best and worst No Frills in Toronto
The best and worst No Frills in Toronto may seem like a trivial concern, but access to affordable, nutritious food should be everyone's concern. As a discount grocery, No Frills tries to provide fresh produce, meat and fish, and dry and canned goods at affordable prices in a clean and friendly atmosphere. Even better is when they have dollar stores, pharmacies and household items all under one roof. Compared to more upscale grocery chains such as Loblaws, No Frills specifically targets the budget-conscious and at best can prove that a grocery shop can be interesting and fun without breaking the bank.
But one can surmise a co-relation between quality of grocery and quality of life in Toronto's neighbourhoods. A decline in store standards and selection can reflect a decline in the potential well being of its customers. Limp, old fruit and vegetables, off-meat, and lack of variety are bad for minds and bodies. Stressful line-ups, grumpy staff, disorganized, empty or crammed aisles add extra tension to figuring out what's for dinner.
Here's are the best and worst No Frills in Toronto.
Lansdowne and Dundas
Peter's No Frills wins hands down for best in Toronto - it's big, organized, well stocked with products, and the produce is fresh and varied. The fish and meat counters are top notch, besides the usual cuts at rock-bottom prices, they carry offal and there are a number of tanks with live fish and multiple types of clams, mussels, and other shellfish.
Black Creek and Eglinton
Another sprawling No Frills location, this grocery store wins big points for its in-house butcher counter and fishmonger. While you won't find super-marbled rib eyes here, less popular cuts are well-priced and in plentiful supply. The produce section is typically good as well, though it pays to come early in the day as it's also very busy here. The in-store pharmacy is also a nice touch.
Yonge and Steeles
Connected to the Centrepoint Mall is Carlo's No Frills - a great place to stock up on reasonably priced groceries. The fresh seafood is commendable, as is the large section of kosher and international foods, spices in particular. The double exits with cashiers keep lines to a minimum, and with parking nearby, the whole trip is a breeze.
Clean, efficient, and well stocked, Luciano's No Frills on Front has won over the neighbourhood. The produce is fresh, the aisles wide and organized, and items are consistently less expensive than nearby competitors. Staff are friendly and helpful and the cashier line-ups bearable. With all this, they might consider changing the name to "Lucky Luciano's Plenty of Frills."
Royal York, South of the Gardiner
Hit Mario and Selena's No Frills on Royal York if you want to keep the family feed and happy for less. It has the best produce of any No Frills in the Mimico area and the regular in-store specials are great for the budget-conscious. The pharmacy inside helps with the one-stop shopping too.
Pacific (The Junction)
A flowing layout makes Tim and Sue's No Frills in the Junction easy to get around, and while the selection isn't as wide as some other groceries, they have a good number of the choice PC products and the health food section isn't too shabby either.
Bathurst and Wilson
Pat's No Frills at Bathurst and Wilson doesn't look like much and the parking is confusing, but it stands out for its impressive array of gluten-free items (it has a whole freezer section dedicated to them), as well as just about every kosher product you can imagine, including cereal and candy.
Joe's No Frills in the Dufferin Mall is certainly divisive - you either love it or you hate it. Pros: fresh and varied produce, butchery and seafood stations, a decent ethnic foods section, a lot of unique items and it's cheap. Cons" the layout is chaos, they don't take Visa, line-ups can be long, the shelves are often empty by weeks' end, and shopping carts have seen better days. Is it the worst of the best, or the best of the worst?
Small, poor layout and cluttered are just some of the complaints of Nicholson's No Frills in the Bloor West Village, but the list goes on. Long line-ups at peak dinner hours, limited selection, and occasionally dodgy produce don't make up for the perks, which include free parking, cheap prices, and kind staff.
Parliament and Carlton
Oh dear, with no deli or dollar store, high shelving, and a decidedly slim selection, Cosimo's No Frills in Cabbagetown just can't compare to the bounty of the grocery mega-complexes we've come to expect. Covering the basics just doesn't keep you up with the Joneses anymore.
Despite the limited variety and rundown vibe, Rocca's No Frills in the Upper Beach is still crowded with customers desperate to get the basics for a steal. The service isn't bad, but they just don't seem to carry any of the increasingly popular items like gluten-free bread, and sell out of others such as kale quickly.
Parkdale, King and Jameson
The King and Jameson Vi's No Frills is pretty run-of-the-mill in terms of discount groceries, but decidedly shitty when it comes to produce variety and quality. It also lacks dedicated meat and seafood counters, so don't expect excellent proteins either. You can get the basics here, but that's about it.
Freddie's No Frills on Alberta Ave is often crowded at the cash, there is no butchery or fish counter and shelf-stocking takes place at busy times, making the aisles cramped and inconvenient. They have a wild selection, a lot of things you wouldn't expect; yet sometimes the basic stuff is nowhere to be found. That strange mix of offerings could help you get out of a food rut or keep you hungry -- who knows?