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Grocery Stores

The Pantry

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on January 22, 2013

the pantry torontoThe Pantry has quickly become a treasured taste of home for Toronto's Irish expat community; and yes, there actually is a thriving Irish community. Spend a few minutes at The Pantry and you'll see Irish expats stroll in one after the next, some greeted by name and most asking for a cup of tea. No — not loose-leaf oolong or raspberry rooibos — but a classic, nostalgia-laden cup of Barry's Irish.

pantry torontoThe little shop on Gerrard at Coxwell was opened by Maeve McCarthy and her twin sister, Sinead, who are the women behind McCarthy's Irish Pub just around the corner. The women have a reputation for being some of the nicest people you'll ever meet, and when I meet Maeve outside The Pantry, it's easy to see why.

"Oh, I'm so glad you're here," she tells me when I say I've come to check out the shop. "Here, you'll have some lunch?"

the pantry torontoOriginally from Bantry Bay in County Cork, Maeve starting testing out her cooking with the regulars at McCarthy's Pub. Needless to say, her soda bread, shepherd's pie, and breakfast rolls were huge hits, so opening up The Pantry here on Gerrard seemed like a natural next step.

pantry torontoWith just one long table for seating, The Pantry is known to garner a bit of competition for a lunchtime seat, with hot items such as individual chicken pot pies, sausage rolls, cabbage, bacon, and potato cakes and more on the menu when I stop by. To drink. there's tea (of course), plus Fanta and Lucozade (an energy drink) for a taste from back home.

"There are a lot of Irish people looking for home-cooked meals," says Loretta, who offers to tell me a bit about the shop. "And with more and more coming over [because of the struggling Irish economy], there is even more demand."

the pantry torontoA favourite is The Pantry's Guinness and beef pie ($5.00), which I find loaded with chunks of beef, peas, carrots and gravy. The flaky crust is undoubtedly the best part of the pie in my opinion, and I can see why regulars stop in for lunch everyday. Another favourite is The Pantry's homemade soda bread, which inevitably sells out every day and is often requested by special order.

pantry torontoBeyond the hot items, The Pantry offers a growing collection of packaged and canned Irish grocery items, including Derwent Valley Pickled Eggs, Curly Wurly chocolate bars, Tunnock's snowballs (chocolate and coconut-covered marshmallows), and "Mushy" processed peas.

the pantry torontoThere is still room on the shelves, however, and Maeve and Sinead are working on filling some customer requests. Among the most coveted? Ballymaloe Country Relish. But until then, something tells me Maeve's cooking will satisfy customers just fine.

the pantry torontoPhotos by Woodrow Walden



Ken / January 22, 2013 at 12:30 pm
Hi Robyn, could you comment on some of the other food items photographed in your post? What are they? How did the Soda Bread taste, and what makes it so special? If those deep-fried items are the potato cakes, what's inside them aside from potatos?
Also, the announcement page ( says Profile, but this page says Review. Could you clear that up?
the lemur / January 22, 2013 at 01:19 pm
'Derwent Valley Pickled Eggs, Curly Wurly chocolate bars, Tunnock's snowballs'

Those things are from England and Scotland ... couldn't pick something actually representative of Ireland?
iwillyeah / January 22, 2013 at 01:29 pm
I've never seen or tasted a pickled egg in my life. And I'm fairly Irish.
Damien / January 22, 2013 at 01:35 pm
Holy shit! Pot Noodles!
Hyacinth Bucket / January 22, 2013 at 01:47 pm
I wonder how early I have to get there to buy soda bread. I've tried to bake it myself, but I could never get it right :/
w-hat replying to a comment from the lemur / January 22, 2013 at 03:38 pm
Don't be pedantic - every Irish person knows what those treats are and ate them as a child. It stands to reason that ex-pats would like to buy them. My cousin goes ape shit for Curly Wurly and he's as Irish as they come.
the lemur replying to a comment from w-hat / January 22, 2013 at 04:05 pm
Yeah, but if your cousin lived here, would he seek out a specifically Irish store like this to get Curly Wurly, or one of the many non-Irish places that stock them?
Patrick Smyth / January 22, 2013 at 05:25 pm
Ireland is separated from Scotland and England by very short distances - in some places as close as 12 miles. Of course these food items are known to everybody in the British Isles! Also, why would you ever go to a non-Irish place for the best in anything?? The Pantry is a wonderful place to shop for food!
w-hat replying to a comment from the lemur / January 22, 2013 at 06:57 pm
I think a more reasonable question is "should he expect to find them in an Irish store that stocks "delicacies and candies" from home"?

The answer is yes. Yes he should.
Robyn replying to a comment from Ken / January 22, 2013 at 08:23 pm
Hi Ken,

Sadly, I was too late for the soda bread (it tends to sell out fast!). The potato cakes are often made with cabbage and bacon, though The Pantry does mix it up from time to time. This post was meant to be more of a profile than a review. Hope that helps!
Angela / January 23, 2013 at 09:05 am
Well Done Ladies, I love what you are doing and wish you all the best! I was given a box of Barry's Tea from your shop for Xmas from a Teacher I work with, it is grand! I look forward to popping in and saying hello!!!

Angela (Belfast/Cork)
Ken replying to a comment from Robyn / January 24, 2013 at 09:31 am
Thank you for the follow-up Robyn!
c replying to a comment from Hyacinth Bucket / May 14, 2013 at 03:38 pm
george st diner at richmond and george also has really nice soda bread
Callum / March 16, 2014 at 12:21 pm
How is a Curly Wurly Irish!? What's the obsession with Ireland in Toronto?
Darragh / March 16, 2014 at 12:33 pm
all treats from home taste different here,regardless if its the "same" bar or not. In Ireland they have cadbury factories, made with Irish ingredients with Irish regulations, taste is totally different. same bar. = yes we do seek out stores like this to get our sweets from home. cant wait to go there.
Sarah / March 16, 2014 at 07:34 pm
I live a couple blocks from The Pantry, and was really looking forward to it opening. Shortly after they opened my housemate ordered some pies from them for a party, set up a pick up time - all the usual things when placing an order for something you will pick up in a couple days. When he went to go pick them up, The Pantry was closed. He was very disappointed and never went back. They dont often stay open their full hours, and I frequently see one of the owners standing right out front and smoking (which immediately makes me never shop somewhere as I think it is quite trashy). Overall I am very unimpressed with this shop. It looks like a couple of old kitchen tables were thrown inside to create a homey look, but that is not the case. Not to mention it is incredibly expensive!
Kathryn / September 10, 2014 at 11:25 am
The Pantry changed ownership a few months ago and is now a Cheese Shop with a focus on Artisanal Canadian Cheese and local accompaniments.

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