The Best Butcher Shops in Toronto
The best butcher shops in Toronto have elevated the traditional methods of preparing meat. Gone are the grocery-store Styrofoam and reams of cellophane enclosing dubious cuts sold with little regard to origin, farmer, or flavour. The best butcher shops employ curious, courteous staff who know how to break down sides, age meat properly, and achieve specific cuts, carving in ever-increasing increments to get the slice or chop or wing you want.
They consider the life of the animal, what it's been fed, and how it's been treated from farm to table. The result: Fresh cuts, deli meats, sausages, terrines and charcuterie that you can configure at home, or oven-ready entrees that will bring ease to lunch or dinner.
Here are the best butcher shops in Toronto.
Peter Sanagan breathed new life into Kensington Market when he opened his original butchery, but when he took over European Meats, Sanagan's was taken to a whole new level. Staff is wonderful and knowledgeable about the wide range of locally sourced meat they carry, and helpful with special orders, requests and cuts. The deli counter (one of the few places to carry Grant Van Gameren-cured meats, among others) is not to be missed, and if you don't feel like cooking, you can have a hulking sandwich or one of the rotisserie chickens.
As a third generation butchery, Cumbrae's craft has been finely honed. The high-end butcher takes local, traditional farm-sourced meats and breaks them down using the best butchery techniques in the city. Cuts are beautiful and resourceful - and worth the king's ransom it takes to get them to the table. Find locations on Church St. and Bayview with a West Queen West outpost currently in the works.
The Healthy Butcher led the downtown butchery trend toward organic and ethically sourced meats. Whole cuts from farmers, air-dried and aged in their cooler and butchered daily, are the standard, and prices reflect the care and attention they pay to the meat. Their "Express Gourmet" line simplifies meals for working families. They currently have two Toronto locations. One near Queen and Spadina and the other at Avenue and Eglinton.
Vince Gasparro has been charming the Bloor and Ossington neighbourhood since the early '60s. Sons Pat and Nick are now the faces of the business, always ready with a friendly word and helping hand. Fresh Ontario lamb, pork, beef and Mennonite-raised chickens, simple cuts, and ground meat to order make this old school butchery at its best.
The Friendly Butcher on Yonge St. is a lovely, family-friendly butchery dedicated to customer service. The locally-sourced beef, pork, lamb and poultry is fresh, never frozen, the cold cuts are nitrate-free, and freezers are full of take-away entrees and prepared soups. They get a barbecue going in the summer for lunch.
Feel the spirit of old-world butchery at the Bloor Meat Market. Staff are talkative and helpful. They source widely, so check if you are particular about local or organic (they have lots of both, but not everything is). They even carry some fish, including organic salmon from Ireland, and the deli counter and prepared foods section offer plenty of treats.
Brothers Teo Paul and Chasen Gillies, along with Chris Mathias, have perfectly melded Parisian charm with rural Ontario farm life in their sweet Ossington butcher shop. A pig's head usually hangs in the freezer window along with other aging cuts, while the beautiful old shelving inside holds terrines, duck confit, pickles, game, prepared steaks, chops, chickens, roasts and sausages.
Inspired by the meals at restaurant Five Doors North, owner Vito Rizzuto partnered with Matthew Kumprey to provide the same high-quality and traditionally raised meats for customers to have at home. The store focuses primarily on these very exclusive, restaurant style-cuts (Australian Waygu beef, anyone?) along with fine game meats and poultry. Prepared foods include potpies, soups, wings and sandwiches.
You can recognize the enthusiasm and pride at Butcher by Nature, located in the Junction. Even a devastating fire in 2012 couldn't stop owners Frank and Mirella DiGenova from their business. The store stocks wholesome, organic and naturally raised meats and poultry, as well as fresh fish, grocery items, breads and prepared foods. The flat chickens and accompanying marinades are famous.
St. Clair West was blessed with the recent addition of Roast butchery, and its presence on the list so soon after opening is testimony to the great things they are doing there. The room itself is beautiful, with a window for viewing directly the breaking down of the whole sides into cuts, and fridges full of lovely products and prepared foods.
'Unique' is one word for the Meat Dept. - 'fun' and 'enthusiastic' are two others. They carry quality meats and poultry, eggs, butter and cured meats, prepared foods, preserves and pickles - they are even Green Egg barbecue distributors. For your animal friends, they have their own line of raw dog food.
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