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Grocery Stores

Salsicharia Pavao

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on March 14, 2012

Salsicharia PavaoSalsicharia Pavao is a fixture in Little Portugal and a longtime Toronto source for imported Portuguese groceries and freshly prepared meats.

The butcher shop is family-owned — as many beloved community stores tend to be — now operating under the leadership of the brother and sister team of Luis Jr. and Sandra Pavao. It was Luis Pavao Sr., though, who started the business more than 40 years ago on one of the Azores Islands, later moving it to Canada and opening in Toronto in 1990. His kids took over five years later, and continue to offer meats and groceries to families and businesses in the area.

Salsicharia PavaoSalsicharia Pavao has occupied a pretty good chunk of real estate on the Dundas near Dufferin, dividing its operation into separate retail and production spaces. The area where meat is prepared, however, is fully visible to the customer, so those who aren't keen on hanging carcasses should keep their eyes on the floor.

Salsicharia PavaoI stop by in the middle of the day to check out the shop, and it's clear that Portuguese customers represent a healthy percentage of the clientele. The "Now Serving" number sign also reads "Sua Vez," and most, if not all of the cuts behind the counter are identified both in English and Portuguese. Since both Sandra and Luis are unavailable when I drop by, I take myself on a self-guided tour, glazing over the pantry items and dry goods (Nestle cereals, cookies, Fanta from Portugal) and focus on the meats.

Salsicharia PavaoSalsicharia Pavao cuts, on the whole, reflect Portuguese trends in cooking; plenty of fish, beef, chicken, and pork, with an emphasis on embutido (sausages). The abundance of the latter give the shop a nice smokey scent, except by the stack of bacalhau (salted, dried codfish) resting opposite the fresh meat.

Salsicharia PavaoIt quickly becomes clear that Salsicharia Pavao's focus is not on the typical boneless chicken breasts and lean ground beef (though, admittedly, it has those too). The shop makes its own signature sausages and salami, as mentioned, but also Portuguese-style ham, turkey, salpicao and more. Rabbit is a staple here, unlike at many mainstream butcher shops that require special order, and are sourced from Ontario and priced at $5.99/lb. Customers can help themselves to packs of six quails for $8.99 or frozen basa fillets for $1.99 each.

The shop also has an abundance of stew-making materials on display, including pig's ears, snouts, and feet ready to go, but for my first visit to Salsicharia Pavao, I resolve that house-made embutido is about as authentic as I'll venture this time.

Additional photos:

Salsicharia PavaoSalsicharia PavaoSalsicharia PavaoPhotos by Christian Bobak



Adrian / March 14, 2012 at 03:44 pm
Enchido (singlular) or enchidos (plural) is the correct term for 'stuffed' cured meat products. Chouriço (spanish: chorizo) if you don't know the difference. There are others: alheiras, butelo, farinheira, linguiça, morcela, paiola, salpicão, salsicha (generic term for sausage)....a few others...these are the most common. Portugal has rich variety of cured meat products...I recommend you try them. In fact, my favorite is 'alheira'...perhaps best translates to 'garlicky thing' that has its roots in sephardi judaism in Portugal sometime in the 1200s prior to the Inquisition. It's a bread sausage traditionally prepared with chicken. I will also recommend Queijo Serra da Estrela (Serra da Estrela cheese)...sheep's milk buttery cheese prepared with vegetable rennet (cardoon plant)...again kosher and incredibly good...it's one of the many exceptional Portuguese cheeses. All you need now is a fantastic bottle of red and some bread..thick crust wood oven baked....some wine marinated olives. Party time. Good to go!
Sami Am / March 14, 2012 at 04:35 pm
Um, you might want to address what "quality meat" means. When I read about a shoppe selling "quality meat", I expect terms like organic or free-range, chem-free, sustainable practices, etc...not salami. Nice that they use local rabbits but again that is no guarantee of quality.
LA / March 14, 2012 at 11:13 pm
AGREE 100% with you Sami Am!! It's a shame that most "traditional" type meat places do not seem to care for the whole organic/free range/chem free thing. Wonder if it's because they are mostly run by old-school types who do not believe in non-factory farming?
Gabe replying to a comment from LA / March 15, 2012 at 12:23 am
Yeah but then there's alot of us "traditional" types out here that don't care about the organic free range grain fed air chilled marketing. It's fine if you want it but some of us don't care about that. We still want quality but at a good price and cut fresh on site NOT in a factory, package sealed and delivered to your grocery store with a label on it.
Breadaholic replying to a comment from Adrian / March 16, 2012 at 11:44 am
@Adrian thanks for the meat and cheese suggestions...very intrigued to try the "garlicky thing" asap...what do you mean by "bread sausage"?

Adrian / March 16, 2012 at 05:22 pm
@ Breadaholic:

The sausage is stuffed traditionally with stale bread along with the meat, some of the fat rendered, etc. People in Portugal (at least the locals in the rural areas) pride themselves in creating the best alheira ever..truly an artisan product. The animals are grown sans hormones, the bread is a thick crust whole wheat or sour dough with that slight wood over char flavour, the sausage is created with the meat and bread stuffing, and then smoked). It's the ultimate in peasant food...and as you've known a lot of things that were considered 'peasant' food has become chique. Alheiras are traditionally prepared with veal, chicken, or game (pheasant, rabbit, duck), but now are prepared with pork as well. It represents what perhaps was one time an attempt for the many Sephardi Jews at the time in Portugal to 'blend in'...instead of preparing pork or a pork sausage.
Morbo replying to a comment from Sami Am / April 5, 2014 at 08:47 pm
I'm not Portuguese. This place initially intimidated me, because most (all?) of the staff and most of the clientele are Portuguese and that is the primary language spoken here, but after initial jitters, this is now my go to place. The meat is fresh, reasonably priced and I can ask for special cuts. I can get rabbit, oxtail and delicious meaty pork back ribs. The staff are very friendly, helpful and they remember me. You get the feeling - a feeling you don't often get in the big city - that you're not just a number, you're a valued customer from last Saturday and they want you back next Saturday.

For my burgers, I get them to grind the picanha sirloin tip (fat cap on) with pork stew. I season with salt and pepper and smoke them for an hour at 275 before flame broiling them at 600 for 2 min a side at the end. I'm famous for my burgs in the hood.

I earn a healthy six figures and my wife earns just under, but with a family and a mortgage we can't justify shopping at Sanagan's, The Healthy Butcher or Cote de Boeuf on a regular basis. Sometimes I order from the West End Food Co-op, but for my weekly BBQ material, it's Pavao. I don't see it as a compromise.

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