St. Andrew Poultry
St. Andrew Poultry, a Kensington Market fixture for fresh and affordable fowl since 1962, has undergone a huge makeover. People who still fondly remember the days when you could go behind the counter to pick out and bag your own meat at this shop will hardly recognize it now. Even the iconic Cirque du Poulet mural was removed, to the dismay of some (okay, mainly me).
Jerry Jesin, a dentist by trade (staff here call him "The Chicken Dentist") and self-professed foodie, bought the entire wholesale and retail business from his father Isaac in 2012 with a plan to revitalize the empire his dad built. The retail shop went through a major renovation this summer, finally revealing its new look last week. (The busy wholesale business has been operating in the back of the building the entire time, supplying poultry to over 250 restaurants in the GTA.)
Longtime customers will be comforted to know there is still raw meat for sale (albeit some of it in pre-shrinkwrapped packages now) in the back of the shop - they'll continue to torch chicken by request too - but Jerry and his partner Rhonda Page have added another dimension to the business: prepared foods for those seeking a quick meal. "We want to take to-go food to a whole new level," says Page.
They've hired Bernadette Calpito (formerly the executive chef of the shuttered Kultura ) to head the kitchen and add a gourmet touch to the menu.
Everything is made in-house (except the ketchup, Calpito notes) and the offerings so far at the hot food counter at the front of the store include comfort foods like fried chicken, ribs, chicken or lamb shawarma, and a "mile high" brisket sandwich. You can sit at one of the stools along the bar while you eat or just get takeout.
I try Calpito's version of a chicken shawarma ($5.75, two for $9.50) on a whole wheat pita with the works. It's a colourful heaping bundle with flavourful herbed fries on top, and it's a lot less greasy than the ones I usually have. She tells me she's also selling frozen shawarma that comes on a mini spit ($25) so people can throw their own shawarma parties at home.
The store also has a grab-and-go section where customers who purchase a $20 Supper Club membership receive 20% off stickered items like whole BBQ chickens and wings between 5pm and 6:30pm daily (for a limited time, the introductory fee is $10).
Colourful salads in jars ($7.99/$9.99; $1 off next salad with return of jar) line the refrigerated area's shelves, and Calpito tells me there will soon be a bakery counter with banana bread, carrot cake, cookies and muffins. It seems they're aiming to be a veritable indie, mini-version of Loblaws.
To top things off, there's also a takeout window that's currently serving a dozen flavours of Kawartha Dairy ice cream and milkshakes. The place may have lost its old rough-around-the-edges charm, but dessert will always make everything better.
St. Andrew Poultry is open from 10am to 7pm, and the hot food bar starts serving at noon.
Photos by Jesse Milns