Suresh's picks for gyros, oysters, chicken and cheese at St. Lawrence Market
St. Lawrence Market is located at 93 Front St. E.
One of the things I miss most about my old neighbourhood is the St Lawrence Market.
The market is a bustling place in the late afternoons, and practically paralyzing on Saturdays. But during weekday mornings there is an almost stillness in the building, a soothing symphony of multitasking vendors with a trickling of shoppers.
The iconic building was like a second home to me — in early mornings, I would walk through it a few times a week. This is where I would go if I had a mental block with writing or cooking. It has always been a place of inspiration for me.
A city's food scene can be traced through its most popular food markets, and the St. Lawrence Market is no exception.
Inside, you'll find produce vendors celebrating all things local and those with international produce. January is for blood oranges from Italy, summer is for local corn and peaches, the fall months for pomegranates from Israel.
For over a decade, I lived within throwing distance of the market, it has allowed me to get to know the vendors well. Like all markets around the world, your experience improves exponentially when you spend time getting to know the personalities behind the booth.
For my cheese and charcuterie needs, I visit Scheffler's deli where it's easy to discover a new local or international cheese. It's also a great place to sample a cheese before you decide to add it to your holiday board. Scheffler's also regularly stocks burrata and other fresh milk cheeses made in Ontario. For meats, I go to Di Liso's fine meats.
Mike's Fish Market carries a good selection of Ontario fish. This is where I get Ontario pickerel and Atlantic salmon. They installed an oyster counter at the shop about a year ago, so it's a good spot to stop and try the dozen or so Canadian oysters that are on the menu.
"We have never featured this many oysters before. They're all Canadian, varying personalities and sizes," Randal Simon, manager of Mike's Fish Market.
Try the lucky limes and the raspberry point oysters.
My go-to spot at least once a month is Churrasco's at St. Lawrence Market, a small rotisserie shop located at the northern most end of the market. It is a booth that most people skip when they enter the market, and it is one of my favourites.
Owner Eugene Antunes opened the Portuguese rotisserie kitchen nearly 32 years ago. He will guide you through the menu of rotisserie chicken, whole birds are slowly cooked in a cabinet. There's a thin sheet of crisp skin with meat so juicy you can peel it off the bone with a spoon. He'll encourage you to have the chicken with a side of roasted potatoes and rice and plenty of piri piri sauce.
"The piri piri sauce is a thing of pride for me. I make it myself. We had to start selling it by the jar because of how popular it got," said Eugene Antunes.
There's always a jar of it in my fridge.
The eggplant parmigiana at Uno Mustachio, on the lower level, is one of the most popular sandwiches in the market.
Next door is Yianni's Kitchen, where owner Yianni Sfiris serves a selection of house made Greek food. You'll find plates of pastitzio, moussaka and great gyros sandwiches.
"I always say if it's your first time here, get the gyros and ask for extra sauce," Sfiris said.
Sfiris has been a vendor at the market for over 20 years, he's seen a a lot of change in two decades.
"This market has changed a lot, most noticeably its reflective of how great of a food city we've become. People's palates are so diverse now. Everyone will try everything."
Just across from Yianni's is Ying Ying Soy foods, where I buy tofu. The nigari tofu where the soy milk is curdled with brine is exceptionally good. Also, Ying Ying carries jarred broad bean paste, which has become a staple in my pantry. I find it better than the sodium-rich versions you'd find at the supermarket.
For more international foods, on the lower level in the north west corner, you will find an assortment of rice from all over the world at Rube's Rice.
My favourite kinds are both smoked rice and basmati rice from Iran. Just next to it, Lively Life is where I go for middle eastern spices such as: sumac, zaatar and Aleppo pepper.
There's a fridge at the back that is regularly stocked with housemade short leaf cabbage kimchi. You can also get corn tortillas here.
Deeper in, visit Domino Foods. This is my go-to if I'm looking for any interesting or hard-to-find ingredients: daal, certain types of Mexican chiles or spices, or curry paste from Malaysia.
For more ready-to-eat food things, I like the roast pork at Yip's Kitchen. The black bean fish is also great. Around the corner from Yip's is Manotas, where you'll find an assortment of meat and veggie empanadas.
For dessert, I have two recommendations. Visit the Polish-Ukrainian market upstairs at the centre of the market. The display case is decorated with an assortment of cookies, cakes, and pasteis de nata.
If you look to the side, there are two cakes tucked in the corner. First, the cheesecake. A vanilla-forward cheesecake with a thin caramelized skin on top, its light and so airy without being too sweet. For something a bit more decadent, ask for a slice of the plum cake, its layers of jam and whipped cream