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Grocery Stores

YamChops

Posted by Sarah Ratchford / Posted on June 14, 2014

yamchopsYamChops, at College and Montrose, is the latest player in Toronto's vegetarian game. The family business opened its doors Monday, and brands itself as Toronto's first "vegetarian butcher shop." While points for branding creativity have to be awarded, I also have to ask YamChops patriarch Mike Abramson what, exactly, this means.

"A butcher is just someone who cuts and prepares food," he tells me. "We do that here [and] provide great-tasting alternatives [to meat]."

yamchops torontoWhen you walk in, YamChops is set up just like a butcher shop. There's a long, L-shaped counter with a glass case full of vegetarian and vegan delicacies on display. These include "smoked salmon," (which I sample in the classic smoked salmon-capers-cream cheese combo on a cracker, and which is divine), as well as vegetarian spin-offs of chicken teriyaki, and "tuna salad" made from chickpeas (a recipe I have often tried and failed).

yamchops torontoBut Armstrong, the creator of the dishes, knows what he's doing. He's been a vegetarian for 40 years, and wants to share the health benefits with others. So he left the world of advertising after 27 years, decided to open a business, and nine months later, YamChops opened its doors to College Street. He stresses that he's trying to sell healthy and interesting vegetarian alternatives, and not peddle a moralistic lifestyle.

yamchops"This is not about tree-hugging," he tells me, kind of sternly. "Well, we do, on occasion, hug trees," his daughter Jess protests. "Especially me."

yamchops torontoJess left her career in sales to help develop YamChops, and she's responsible for their juice line, the cleverly-named Au Jus ($9.50-$10.50). The juices leave nothing to be desired.

yamchops torontoThey're a larger size than many juices on the market, so they give you a true nutrient pick-me-up, and Jess gets creative with spices. Pineapple Express is ideal for summer, with its simple combination of pineapple, apple and mint. The juices are magical, too, apparently: The Beach is my favourite so far (featuring kale, cucumber, ginger, celery and pineapple) and it apparently also cleanses blood, purifies skin, and relieves congestion, so.

yamchops torontoLike any butcher, Yam Chops sells condiments to complement its main attractions. Fridges in the back hold jars of their own pickled daikon and carrot and Mongolian beef sauce, as well as pickled treats from Manning Canning.

Most of their creations are wonderful, and my one major beef with them is that they don't do sandwiches. I pushed the point with them, and they said they've only been open for a few days, and to give them time.

I will be returning soon to see if they have decided to make my dreams a reality.

yamchops torontoPhotos by Jesse Milns.

Discussion

53 Comments

Jeff / June 14, 2014 at 12:43 am
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This is the stupidest thing I've ever seen
:) / June 14, 2014 at 03:56 am
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Portlandia sketch.
Steven / June 14, 2014 at 07:40 am
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Crasiest thing I've ever heard.
Hello? BUTCHER = MEAT. Got that?
Marisa / June 14, 2014 at 08:15 am
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I think it's great and there are other people doing this in big cities in the US and Europe. But again, if you want to be dicks about a local business opening and offering options to all sorts of folks, well slow golf clap for productive use of your time.
John Labatt / June 14, 2014 at 09:01 am
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If vegetarians don't like meat, why are they trying got make it taste and look like meat. You got to add a lot of salt to the product to make it work.
JC / June 14, 2014 at 09:09 am
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I temper my comment with the fact that I've never been there, and if I did go I'd be completely happy to enjoy the food if it's good, but the one thing I cannot stand is vegetarian food pretending to be meat. Just make good food, skip the "faux".
omnivor / June 14, 2014 at 09:40 am
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You know how you can tell someone is a vegetarian?

Don't worry they will tell you!
MJ / June 14, 2014 at 09:46 am
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I've been there and the food is really good and I'm not a vegetarian. They let you taste everything before you buy it and they are not trying to make everything taste like meat at all. I think they're just using meat references to try to broaden the appeal. We live in the hood so we always like to support original local businesses and this one is a great addition. Try it before you dismiss it.
Alex Grant / June 14, 2014 at 09:50 am
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Oh look, an article about a new places for people to just buy food from, and all these butthurt meat eaters have to complain about some moral bullshit. People not eating meat does nothing to affect you so shut the hell up about it already. Some people give up killing animals and happen to still enjoy the taste of something similar. Only we are the ones who have the will power to do so.

Do you see vegetarians and vegans complaining a bunch when blogTO recommends a new burger joint? No.
me / June 14, 2014 at 11:18 am
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I'm a vegetarian and one of my pet peeves is the whole weird faux meat - meat substitute thing. You make really great food without trying to make it taste or seem like meat. It's just weird.
Butcher boy / June 14, 2014 at 11:34 am
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"A butcher is just someone who cuts and prepares food,"

Uh, sorry this is not the case, look up the real definition:

1a. One who slaughters and dresses animals for food or market.
b. One who sells meats.

Also its an aquired skill so a bit insulting to someone who actually is a butcher to just call them someone who cuts food.
Nev / June 14, 2014 at 11:55 am
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"YamChops patriarch Mike Abramson"... "Armstrong, the creator of the dishes"

So who's Armstrong? That's the only mention of him in the article. Is he the executive chef or something? Os is that supposed to be Abramson?

Am interested in checking out this shop in any case!
Ln / June 14, 2014 at 12:25 pm
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Wanna use definitions?
Aren't you forgetting one?

"A person who kills people indiscriminately or brutally."
JA replying to a comment from Ln / June 14, 2014 at 12:33 pm
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Wa Wa Wa Wa Wa Wa
How about you go whine somewhere else.
You are what is wrong with this world...
David / June 14, 2014 at 01:38 pm
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Say what you want but they hit the mark on marketing this place.
If they had called it just another plain old vegetarian name, no one would have said anything, but the fact so many are commenting on the fact a butcher can't work in a vegetarian store gives them a really good edge
Nick Strupat / June 14, 2014 at 01:49 pm
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I hear the 'faux meat is stupid/hypocritical' idea often. It is wrongheaded. The vast majority of meat is not eaten by itself. Spices and sauces are used to make interesting flavours. The same thing applies to all the non-meat foods (potatoes, salads, pasta, tofu, etc.). There is nothing unique to meat about adding spices or using a sauce. As for "copying" the shape of meat, there are only so many shapes that a food can take. Patty and sausage shapes are the most useful. They fit between slices of bread and between bun halves. Do you propose vegetarian food producers sell a sphere of BBQ teriyaki tofu? A pyramid of tempeh? The reality is we have settled on a standard set of bread shapes which accommodate a standard shape of food stuff (patty and sausage, mostly). There is a legacy of food culture, just like anything else cultural. Sure, some of us wax nostalgic for the dishes we grew up enjoying, without taking part in the animal consumption we disagree with as individuals. Just as we listen to old favourite teenage anthem songs without still thinking skipping class is cool and having a job is for sellouts. We vegetarians take part in culture just as everyone else. Using cultural food elements in our endeavours is not the naive attempt to copy the meat world you think it is.
Elaine jones / June 14, 2014 at 02:00 pm
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Awesome idea! Great addition to the neighborhood. We need more healthy choice restaurants were drowning ourselves in fat! Will definitely be eating there!
Robert replying to a comment from Alex Grant / June 14, 2014 at 02:33 pm
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I hear vegetarians and vegans whine all the time.
I find that vegans and vegetarian are pretentious lot, they expect to be served non-meat when invited to your home but would never return the favour.
Just shut up about your attitude towards meat.
Matt / June 14, 2014 at 02:35 pm
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Tried the raw pad thai here on Thursday. I've never had raw vegan food before, and it blew me away. So good. So unexpected. Looking forward to coming back here.

In some peculiar ways I have felt that people's reactions to my vegetarianism have interesting parallels to people's reactions of my being a gay guy.

IN WHAT WAY IS VEGETARIANISM AFFECTING YOUR LIFE? Live your life and I'll live mine, thank you. I don't have to defend my choices because you feel the need to attack something that doesn't conform to your way of life.
S replying to a comment from Alex Grant / June 14, 2014 at 03:09 pm
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Actually, we see it all the time. Hell, BlogTO reviewed/profiled a RIBFEST by sending a vegetarian....and people complain when meat-centric places don't offer enough vegetarian/vegan options. That said, the people commenting here about how the dislike the name (seriously, who cares if they're called a butcher), how they dislike faux-meat (again, who cares; you're not eating it they are) or how vegans/vegetarians are pretentious are just as bad as the vegetarians that go after omnivores.
Joey replying to a comment from S / June 14, 2014 at 05:35 pm
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"seriously, who cares if they're called a butcher"

Uh, words actually mean things? Just because you enjoy being an ignoramus, don't mean others have to.
Fiona / June 14, 2014 at 10:04 pm
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This place is absolutely phenomenal! I heard about it online today, went to try it and was VERY impressed.

Let me speak first to those taking offence to the name of the shop. I think calling it a butcher shop adequately explains what it is. The name says VEGETARIAN butcher shop, and as soon as I saw the name I completely understood what to expect here. The lay out is that of a butcher shop, the offerings are vegetarian versions of what you might find at a butcher shop, etc... The shoe fits. And while yes, being a butcher (cutting good types of meat and preparing it in appealing ways) is a special skill, the skill of creating delicious plant and soy based substitutes for meat is not all too different and may well be much more challenging. Many congratulations to the family at the helm of this business for making easily the best vegetarian substitutes I have ever tried- you are WONDERFUl butchers.

Second, I want to address the comments that seem to infer that it is "hypocritical" to eat meat replicas. I have absolutely no problem with anyone's choice to eat what they do. My personal choice has been to exclude meats from my diet because of the health, environmental and moral benefits. This decision does not mean that I disliked the taste of meat. Offering options that are comforting, familiar and are convenient to cook at gathering with omnivores is smart, I don't understand how this is so often perceived as hypocritical.

Finally, I must address anyone who is open to the idea of going to this shop. I beg you- do it! If you are a vegetarian or anyone who is constantly searching for the next best non-meat option, this is your utopia! The service was impeccable, not a wince of preachiness about the place, the prices while high are reasonable for this type of specialty store, and the food is absolutely impeccable. I tried nearly everything they had left in the displays and went home with two types of veggie sausage, a chickpea based "tuna salad", a soy-based shawarma style chickn, and a soy-based beef, plus two of their delicious juices (hurry over tomorrow while these bottles of liquid heaven are still on sale for $5).

A++ to this new vegetarian option.
Faux / June 15, 2014 at 12:01 am
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In buddist temple back in Asia, they always make vegan dishes look like meat as much as possible to the point that it looks like the real thing. Finally, North Americans are being introduced with fake meats that look like meats. People who are against it probably never came across it or even heard of it. Welcome to North America.
poh replying to a comment from Nick Strupat / June 15, 2014 at 12:12 am
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Not everything has to be eaten as a sandwich.
Ma biche / June 15, 2014 at 08:40 am
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Wow! All these comments. I did´nt know vegan haters exist! 😞
AH / June 15, 2014 at 11:27 am
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Faux meats are a way to allow veg*ns to socialise with non veg*ns and non veg*ns to transition to a veg*n lifestyle so that they don't feel that they are leaving dishes from their childhood in the dust.

Those ppl who are haters are just probably afraid of losing something like there heritage, their way of life or something like that. Don't be frightened about change, it can be great! Great for your heath, great for the environment, great for the animals.
Tolerance replying to a comment from Robert / June 15, 2014 at 12:06 pm
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I suppose if I had a friend who only ate meat, and didn't eat rice, pasta, beans, vegetables, fruit, baguette, hummus, or any number of things that I can readily eat as someone who doesn't eat anything from an animal, then it would be rude to invite him/her to the house and not serve meat. However, your comparison is total b.s., and if you can't see your lack of logic, it's out of pure stubbornness. Surely, you eat something other than meat. And so do those who don't eat meat. I accommodate my friends who are gluten-free. When I ate meat, I accommodated, and I still buy dairy milk for friends whose coffees won't be the same if I try to serve them almond or soy. Is it really so hard for you to scrounge up some rice and beans? Wow.
Scott / June 15, 2014 at 12:24 pm
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Awesome shop, brilliant idea!
Looking forward to supporting your business for years to come :)
plorry replying to a comment from Joey / June 15, 2014 at 04:31 pm
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it's cool that you care enough about words that you posted a thing on a webpage.
these guys care enough introducing people to less-environmentally destructive forms of protein to feed and nourish a planet with an ever-inflating population that they opened a business and chose a name that's playfully tongue-in-cheek in order to demonstrate that changing our diets doesn't mean turning our backs to our cultural traditions.
so I think they're one up on you.
jennifer / June 15, 2014 at 07:09 pm
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My BF (huge meat eater) and I (vegetarian for 30 years), checked them out today. It was pretty busy and there wasn't a ton of food in the cases, which I believe is probably due to their overwhelming popularity and the Taste of Little Italy. I bought some "chicken" and LOVED it. So did my meat eating boyfriend. I'm so glad they are a part of our community. I'm looking forward to shopping there again.
Ildiko / June 15, 2014 at 09:32 pm
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Truly a novel idea. Why the negative comments.? These people feel threatened by healthy foods. Gee the vegetarians/vegans will pass you by as you sit in your cardiologists office! It most Definately the way of the future.
d / June 15, 2014 at 11:09 pm
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so many angry people! just don't go if you don't want it!
Frances / June 16, 2014 at 12:27 am
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Live and Let Live. Intolerance breeds hatred and much more. I think this is a wonderful idea and about time!
Idiots of the Modern World / June 16, 2014 at 08:41 am
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Give this place 6 months, with rent being what it is on College. Nothing wrong with people trying to eat healthier with alternative choices, just don't call yourself a butcher shop. Because I choose to eat meat does not make me inferior to all you who decide not to. Especially when this concept is dreamed up by a former advertising executive. Hopefully they have deep pockets because they are going to need them.
bh / June 16, 2014 at 08:41 am
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wow, why is everyone so angry. if you dont like the store, dont go. and if you do, then enjoy, and leave the people that dont alone
Jessica / June 16, 2014 at 10:54 am
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It's a shame to see so many negative comments. I think this place looks fantastic.
Sunny / June 16, 2014 at 11:11 am
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With all the commotion in the comments, why has nobody commented on the juice? $9.50-$10.50 for a bottle of juice?! Holy crap!
janet @ the taste space / June 16, 2014 at 11:55 am
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Their juices were $5 when I went over the weekend and they were very good (the pineapple mint was stellar). I really enjoyed my food, too, particularly the chicken salad and the boxes we tried (Indonesian tofu box and the chickpea wrap). I really hope this places lives a while because it is delicious.
Brock / June 16, 2014 at 12:34 pm
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I think this is AWESOME! Plant based diets are the way to go for health and wealth!!

Oh and also.....hasn't anyone ever told you that "if you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say it".....food for thought people!
Rick / June 16, 2014 at 12:48 pm
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This is a purly dumb idea. Deadpool in less than a year. A vegean butcher? Enjoy brain dead idiots.
Dror / June 16, 2014 at 05:34 pm
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I had the raw Pad Thai and a Yam Chops Au Jus for dinner the other night and I say bravo. Sweet Potato in a juice, would never have thought of it! This is a wonderful addition to the food scene in Toronto and long overdue, lucky to live close by I for one will be telling everyone to go and try it out. I suggest all you negative voices out there go and try it, I think you will be pleasantly surprised!
Emily / June 17, 2014 at 07:23 am
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I checked this place out yesterday, and wow the food is delicious! They offered samples of all kinds of dishes and were super friendly. As a long-time vegetarian it is great to have a new veg place in the 'hood. I highly recommend paying them a visit!
Sarah / June 17, 2014 at 12:57 pm
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Loved this place!!! Just like many vegan restaurants in Toronto, plant-based meals don't support animal agriculture (abuse and slaughtering of animals), theres no cholesterol, its a healthier alternative, and its eco-friendly (animal agriculture is the number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions)! How can anyone NOT love this concept?
Matt replying to a comment from Rick / June 18, 2014 at 09:14 am
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Irony explosion!
Marie / June 18, 2014 at 04:54 pm
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It's not because you're a vegetarian that you don't like the taste of meat. People get vegetarian or vegan because they don't want to make animals suffer. That's 2 different things...
Londie / June 18, 2014 at 05:48 pm
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This place is WONDERFUL.

The food is great, the space is clean and bright, the staff are AMAZING. Best of luck to you wonderful people.
Sara replying to a comment from Marie / June 19, 2014 at 08:48 am
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I agree Marie! If no animals are harmed in the making, its a wonderful idea! It's a great substitute for dishes that are typically made with animal meat (such as burgers, hot dogs, shepherd's pie, meatballs, etc).
TareBear / June 19, 2014 at 11:05 am
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I picked up stuff here last week and it was all out-of-the-park AMAZING. Bonus points for being very reasonably priced (except the juice), for making almost everything in-house (we vegetarians are tired of Yves etc) and for using a very socially conscious delivery service. More businesses should do the same. I will be back. Often.
TareBear replying to a comment from Idiots of the Modern World / June 19, 2014 at 11:06 am
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... nobody said you were 'inferior'!?!?
John Collin / July 8, 2014 at 07:29 am
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What a refreshing change - a great idea! I hope someone opens something like this in the UK soon
Rose Wu / August 14, 2014 at 08:41 pm
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Healthy life style start at Yam chops!
MK / October 15, 2014 at 10:43 am
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Love the idea! Love the concept and can't wait to visit. I also can't wait for all the meat eaters to die off from disease and contamination from all the antibiotics they pump into meat these days. The world will be better off when everyone is vegan!
Jordan / October 22, 2014 at 09:21 am
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Wow. Just reading through all the comments here and how sad is it that people accuse vegans of being the ones to tell you who they are or how pretentious they are. Look at all these meat eaters angrily commenting about how horrible vegans are before any vegans have actually even commented. Talk about pretentiousness!

On a positive note, Yam Chops has amazing food! Everyone should give it a shot at least once. They're fake tuna salad made with chick peas is delicious as is everything else they make.

To reply to all these people saying it's stupid to make fake meat because if you're against meat, why pretend to eat it? Well a LOT of people are interested in trying a more veggie based diet but don't want to give up the act of eating a burger. I have been eating vegan for 2.5 years and used to eat just as much meat as the next guy but trust me when I say that you will not miss it when you give it up. Stop making ridiculius comments based on untrue stereotypes about vegans on blog posts and open your eyes to an alternative. You can still have that burger but minus the artery clogging, life shortening, gut expanding parts.

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