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Grocery Stores

Thomas Lavers Cannery and Deli

Posted by Alexandra Grigorescu / Posted on December 20, 2012

thomas lavers torontoThomas Lavers Cannery and Deli, which opened this past Saturday, is a highly evocative blast from the past. Although I'm told that it was born out of a desire to fill Kensington Market's void for fresh pasta, its the neat stacks of mason jars on wooden shelves to one side which hold pickled veggies, preserves, and relishes, that seems designed to draw the eye.

thomas lavers torontoThomas Lavers is a compound name of Brian Lavers (formerly of Grace Restaurant) and Tye Thomas (of Ronnie's), and they do all of their own canning. "We rented a kitchen over the summer when all the fruits and vegetables were in season," Lavers tells me, "and we tried to get as much Ontario fruit and produce as possible."

"We're still not sure exactly what our business is," Lavers tells me, but the community support has helped. Their first day was "off the hook," and business has been steady since.

thomas lavers deli torontoBut first, a word about the decor. The hanging lamps and wood panelling are reminiscent of those from long-ago diners, and the wall of small white tiles behind the counter is, well, timeless. There are also hanging weights bearing fruits, small cubbies holding food-related curiosities above the counter, and root beer available from a wood-handled tap ($3 per eco-friendly corn starch cup). The window nook is reserved for a floured table and a pasta maker.

thomas lavers torontoOn the shelves, you'll find everything from naturally fermented dill pickles ($10); pickled chili peppers ($5); an array of jams made from Ontario fruit including peaches and corn, and strawberry; a range of relishes, such as rhubarb; spiced pickled vegetables; and spicy dill beans. Under glass, they have a range of pates (such as mushroom and walnut), chicken and vegetable stock, and even cabbage rolls ($10 for 4 large pieces).

thomas lavers torontoThey also offer a lunch counter with several types of sandwiches (more on those delicious buggers later), prepared dinners, and they make fresh pasta from a mix of unbleached all-purpose and 00 flour by hand each day (aiming for one long noodle, and one short or stuffed noodle each day). When I stop by, just two sad pieces of beet and blue cheese ravioli remain--to the chagrin of two girls prowling for fresh pasta--but Lavers offers to whip up some fettuccine for them on the fly ($2/100g).

thomas lavers cannery torontoNow, the sandwiches ($6-$8). Their roster includes roasted and smoked turkey, smoked ham, and corned beef, but I opt for the vegan banh mi and the roast beef. You can choose from 3-5 kinds of bread, and whatever toppings you'd like, including selections from their house-made pickles, their house-made mustard and mayo, arugula, and cheese.

thomas lavers torontoThe pickled veggies on the banh mi are perfectly tart, and the vegan meat is a plausible stand-in. The roast beef from Sanagan's is incredibly tender--as it should be, for having been marinated for a full day in a red wine marinade, then roasted slowly--and the addition of a bit of cheese, arugula and pickles makes for a gourmet reuben (my right foot for that cheese to be melted, though).

thomas lavers torontoThe root beer is very good, and another coup for the city's burgeoning homemade soda scene. There are plans to begin serving it in glass bottles soon (capped for take-away, or open for instant enjoyment). Wondering what's in it? Sassafras, star anise, burdock, and winter greens are combined with brown sugar and water to form a syrup, which is then brewed, carbonated and kegged in Stratford by an honest-to-goodness brewer--it's in the shop in beer kegs, on draught.

thomas lavers toronto"The whole idea of the store is to change the service--we want to open a dialogue about the food and give people ideas about what to cook," Lavers says.

Photos by Jesse Milns



Alice / December 20, 2012 at 10:00 am
Words fail me. I love this place.
Waffles / December 20, 2012 at 10:19 am
Love the revival of soda jerks, but man, what's up with this idea of drinking out of mason jars?! So lame.
Tim / December 20, 2012 at 10:32 am
Growing up Italian, the thought of drinking out of mason jars is a disgusting idea
Ken / December 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm
Fresh pasta & those great baguettes are very enticing! Love the photo of the pasta drying on pegs on the wall.
Anne A / December 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm
There are people in my office that drink water out of mason jars. I find it strange.
M / December 20, 2012 at 01:04 pm
I'm really liking what i'm seeing here... other than 10$ for a jar of pickles, of course.
P / December 20, 2012 at 02:19 pm
I drink water out of a mason jar every day. Tastes the same, dummies.
Thomas Lavers C & D / December 20, 2012 at 03:46 pm
Hi Everyone! Thanks for a great first visit BlogTO! We just wanted to respond to some comments posted above. If you come and visit us (and we hope you do) we'll happily serve you a frosty cup of our delicious root beer in our standard take-out (corn based Greenware) cup. The mason jar was used for a "pretty" photo only! Thanks again for the love, and we hope to see you soon. Best, Bryan and Tye.
Cindy / December 20, 2012 at 09:15 pm
I feel like their preserves are priced quite reasonably. I could be remembering wrong but their $10 jar of pickles is a giant jar vs. a standard small one. I got a jar of their yummy beet relish! Best of luck to these guys!
Gabe / December 21, 2012 at 12:30 am
Wow looks great!!! Never been but the Sanwiches must be top notch and include in the pickes, etc that they sell instore...
Shireen / December 21, 2012 at 09:48 am
We really loved this place - great decor and the staff are very welcoming! We bought Relish, Jams, Marmalade and fresh past - all most excellent. We will definitely go back as we want to try their Vegan cuisine!
Cheers and good luck to you!
Trish Anderson / December 21, 2012 at 04:11 pm
Congrats to my cousin Bryan! (and your partner Tye). Great job - very proud of you!! Your wall of canning reminds me of Grandma's cold cellar. I can't wait to take a trip into TO and check out your store!
ART Murray / December 21, 2012 at 08:43 pm
Congratulations on your opening and early great response..I remember Grandma.McCannels relish and not suprised it is a succeeeful item. Wish we were nearer to Toronto ,but will definetinately come to visit your new Deli.
Uncle Art & Eirona
Sean / December 23, 2012 at 08:40 am
The store is beautiful, but the guy who made my sandwich was running his hands through his hair every 10 seconds while man handling the food. Not a huge deal, but something I noticed
Katherine and James / December 23, 2012 at 09:20 am
Congratulation Brian and Ty Enjoy the fruits of your labour as everyone else will. Looks fabulous!
Katherine and James / December 23, 2012 at 09:24 am
Congratulations Brian and Tye......enjoy the fruits of your labour as everyone else is. Looks fabulous and can't wait to try the pate! Do you deliver to Mexico?
Gail Arena / December 27, 2012 at 12:56 pm
Congrats Tye & partner. Steph sent us your blog. Very impressive! Can't wait to get down there and do a tasting. Looking forward to taking some photos as well. May prosperity follow you throughout 2013.
Val & Gail Arena
Lori Moore / December 31, 2012 at 04:15 pm
Cogratulations Brian & Tye. The Deli looks awesome from the pictures,cant wait to see it in person.

All the best
Lori, Dan, Jennifer, and Heather.
Tim / January 16, 2013 at 12:28 pm
The root beer is awesome
Dan Goulet / January 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm
Root Beer is GREAT - but don't expect it to taste like Hires or Barqs.

This is the *real* deal. Root beer made with Sassafras, Star anise, and traditional flavors. It's bitter, flavorful and delicious.

I've yet to try the sandwiches, but have tried the various canned goods. The spicy green beans have made amazing cocktail garnishes and sides to my sandwiches at home. The dill pickles, were the best i've ever had.

Great Job, Gents! All the best!
Tippa / March 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm
Really enjoy this place! Owners seem really genuinely passionate and eager to give advice and talk food with you. The lasagna is ACTUALLY amazing, i think $12 and so decadent it will serve many or else a small party many times over. Their mustard is also to die for, I go out of my way to prepare foods that will pair with it just so I can eat more of this delicious stuff. Can't wait to try the roast beef, pickles and cabbage rolls as well, WILL BE BACK...often!
Gayle replying to a comment from Sean / April 16, 2013 at 02:37 pm
I would have left! Gross!
Leo / December 2, 2013 at 10:20 pm
The end of Kensington Market is in sight:(

Suits get preferred service here.
hollace / September 14, 2014 at 07:02 am
I'm definitely going to try this little place . I try to can but some things are better left to the experts.

also on the glass subject..I'm sure the complaints come from people who have drank a pop out of a tin can or a plastic bottle .
I always use mason for my husband's lunches..home made steamed puddings..salad dressings in the small ones fresh squeezed juice in the mid ones and chili etc in the larger stout's the quality of the product .not the disposable container that counts.
R / September 27, 2014 at 10:42 pm
Stopped by the shop today for the first time. Ginger beer on tap, bottled to order for me to take away.....blew my mind. I am well versed in ginger beer - this is the best. Period. (And all natural, not too sweet, where the folks behind the counter will happily share the list of ingredients in conversation). The attention to detail in all of their offerings is readily apparent and reminds me of the traditional ways that i grew up with through my grandparents and parents.. This is the real deal - my new favourite spot.

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