The best grocery stores in downtown Toronto

In Baking Tips 0 comments

Grocery shopping - some hate it, some love it. I fall in the latter. I agree it makes more sense to just order through Wal-mart and save %50 of my grocery bill, whilst saving 2 hours of my day, but nope, just can't do it. There's something gloriously gratifying about walking down the aisles and picking up the perfect peach or wonderfully exciting about finding a new flavor of 'limited time only' cheerios that is fabulous. It's like building that back-breaking, wobbly Ikea desk which never sits right instead of getting someone from Taskrabbit to perfect it within 15 minutes. But grocery shopping for me, is one of the most fun things to do in Toronto. So now that my love for grocery shopping is obvious, I had to find out the best store in downtown. Downtown Toronto has a surprisingly large variety of stores - Bloor Street Market, Longo's, Loblaws, Sobey's, Metro, Independent City Market, Organic garage, H-Mart, No Frills, Bulk Barn and Whole Foods. Let's review the smaller ones real quick - Bloor Street Market - Located in the Manulife Center Building, it's ridiculously expensive, rather small, but surprisingly well-stocked. I wouldn't recommend it for weekly shopping, but if you are making a Sunday brunch and run out of cheese, they have everything from packaged to fresh mozzarella (at a 50% premium obviously). Also, for some reason, my mom's favorite grocery store when she visited. She loved the variety of 'pestos' they had. Also, they gained a few extra points in my book since they installed self-checkout.

Independent City Market - Not a fan at all. Located in high footfall, corporate areas, they seem to be there for one reason and one reason only, making money. Avoid if possible.

Organic Garage, Liberty Village - A smart move to open here considering the upcoming hipster hype in Liberty Village. Liberty village typically has a crowd who needs activities to do at home. I popped in to buy some cookies, and was genuinely impressed with the sheer variety of 'healthy cookies'. I need to go back to have a better look around, but at $8 for a pack of 6 cookies, I need to increase my credit limit first before heading back.

Bulk Barn, College street - Kind of exciting to visit, and overwhelming once you are there if I am being totally honest. I love having 16 varieties of Quinoa to choose from, but I don't know the difference between 15 of them. Would recommend to check out for sure, and also if your knowledge of grains runs far and wide. Must visit if nature and you don't get along and you are allergic to common ingredients. Whilst we were starting home baker it was the place for us to get our fresh ingredients. It is also a place to buy ingredients for easy recipes.

H-Mart - As I am writing this, I am googling H-mart and I just learned its a $ billion company! WTF! I haven't visited H-mart too many times, but damn, they have good fruit. I am guessing they have the lowdown on Asian groceries, so go there for that, or probably the best avocados in Toronto. Also, probably the fastest checkout in the world. Not to be racist or anything, but that's some Jackie Chan speed of scanning and swiping.

Whole Foods, Yorkville - There's something about Wholefoods, isn't there? They have branded themselves so well, that it's kind of alluring. You know you are overpaying, but it's almost worth it. Almost being the keyword here. If I am paying $2 for a banana, it better be a minion loving level banana, but unfortunately, it's just a Chiquita banana by the end of it. Whole foods wouldn't be my first choice for everyday groceries, but it's a must go for the hot food bar.

No Frills, Bloor and Sherbourne - I lived on Charles and Yonge for 8 months before I discovered No Frills, and boy was I missing out. It is awesome! The pricing, the layout, the quality, the service, everything is top-notch. That kind of surprises me, we have always learned that service is inversely proportional to cost, but No Frills is proving my 10th-grade economics professor wrong! They have amazing fresh fruits, great salads, fat-less chicken and every flavor of Lays chips available. The one thing they lack is a section for ready to eat hot meals, but yea, it is a No Frills after all. A top choice for those who live close by.

Metro - Metro has done a great job with their homegrown brand, irresistible, and are giving solid competition to Loblaws and Sobey's. They have been innovative with made in-store pizzas, fresh juices, and even selling beer and wine. Their fruit quality isn't the best, but they make up for it with delicious packaged salads. They have also done a great job at appearing more affordable than Sobey's and Loblaws, which is surprising because they are not!

Longo's - Longo's is cool. I don't know why, but it's cool. Selection is limited, quality is good, prices are high, but it's cool. I would only go for delicious fresh orange juice or their incredible fresh meal-kits.

Sobey's - I had never visited a Sobey's, except for picking up watermelon before walking down lakeshore, and was not very dazzled. My roommate loves Sobey's but I just can't understand why? The stores are very hard to navigate through, they are ridiculously expensive, and they give a vibe of an old store trying really hard to be fresh.

Loblaws - The granddaddy of them all. If you are a first time baker, then this is your place. Loblaws has mastered the art of groceries. I have a buddy who works for them and love hearing stories about how incredible their design thinking process is, and how much time they spend analyzing customer behaviour. And it shows! They have mastered everything, their fresh food bar, their frozen selection, their deli and butcher section, their layout, service, anything and everything! The moment you enter the Church and College branch, you are already drooling with the Nutelleria, right after you hit the fresh bread section which has more variety than all the bakers in Toronto combined, you go to the fresh produce section which is more brightly lit than any other part of the store and you already realize how good Loblaws is. More importantly, the more time you spend here, you realize how well certain items are priced. From their bread to their fruits to their chicken, all are more reasonable than any of the other grocery stores. Don't be a dumb ass and buy your cap 'n' crunch cereal for $7 from here, but definitely come here for all your fresh produce.