Don’t be scared: specialty does not always mean expensive. A trip to a specialty grocery store is well worth the time and effort if you are curious about cuisine and pretty packaging. Specialty grocery stores are like soulmates: there is some place for everyone.
Pusateri’s Fine Foods: “I don’t want to cut my vegetables”
With three locations in downtown, personal service is Pusateri’s mantra, and it rings true. Spotty foot traffic makes the staff to patron ratio seem like 1:4 and most of them are happy to find items for you, as opposed to just pointing in its general direction. Butchers cut both meat and produce. Carrots can be washed and julienned, pomegranate seeds can go home with you without the stubborn rind, and someone else can cry over onion chopping for once. These veg-butcher services come at no extra cost, and neither does the help of a personal shopper.
Bring home what your roommate needs without taking responsibility for choosing the wrong sort of kale for her potluck. English shortbreads and beloved speculoos cookies are always in stock. Sample the sweets of the world without having to dig into your OSAP loan reservoir for airfare and accommodations.
Pusateri’s is my shrine, lay me in a bed of their ready-made quinoa when I die.
Organic Garage: buying rare expensive things at a marginally cheaper price
There is only one Organic Garage, sorry folks. One in the very west of Toronto, the part that doesn’t conveniently sit on the subway line. I haven’t visited their other location in Liberty Village, so I am vouching for the aforementioned location. Keele and St. Clair West can seem like a trek, but the trip is well worth it if you are interested in stocking up on vegan goods and organic produce. Despite the bougie brown brick facade, produce prices here tend to be cheaper than those at Metro. There, organic green kale goes for $2.99. Here, it costs a little less than half the price: $1.47. Produce is always fresh, and neatly arranged for easy access.
The space emits a warm ambiance with its wooden paneling and string lights, turning shopping for groceries into a welcome adventure. Their variety of organic foods (fresh and pre-packaged) is unparalleled. Yes, they have all the flavors of Daiya’s dairy-free cheesecakes (my favorite is key lime). Be sure to call in advance, if you are searching for a specific product. Parking at this location is free, and spots are abundant. The parking lot is nearly as great as my affinity for this hidden gem.
Cheese Boutique: for the cheese addict in you
This cheese haven has been around since the 70’s, bringing cheeses, charcuteries, and exotic fungi from around the world. Despite being on the pricier side, you get what you pay for and staff offer free cups of espresso and biscotti in store. With over 500 varieties of cheeses and three aging rooms, this is the spot to find the rarest of cheeses. The location also has a small produce section for fresh vegetables at slightly higher-than-normal prices. However, the pates and mousses they import from Quebec go for $7 in sizeable blocks. Their sandwiches, made with house-baked breads and cured meats, are also a popular choice; they’re priced at around $3.00 per 100g.
While gelatos and most bakery items are made in store, you can also find Nadege products like blue velvet bars and cinnamon cakes. This is the spot to be for unique food items and their aging room (open to the public) makes for an unforgettable experience.