If you are new to Toronto or an old timer like me, we have our local habits of buying our groceries. This page will definitely help you find your local big box supermarket and the ethnic gems that require a little more travel to get to but all so worth it.

Toronto (and Canada’s) ethnic diversity is constantly evolving as Canada’s demographics undergo profound changes, in no small part due to immigration. As a result, asking what type of supermarket a consumer in the GTA looks for is a tricky proposition. For example:

  • Are you Chinese-Canadian who loves using Costco for staples (basic foods like bread and dairy products) but also always makes sure to buy fresh vegetables and to include protein in every daily meal including breakfast? Because you know that a healthy diet produces a well-balanced child who’s a better student.
  • Are you a Canadian with South Asian roots who’s on the lookout for that Desi-style chicken but tend to get your proteins less from meat and more from soy and pulse? And you likely make sure your kids drink plenty of milk at breakfast.
  • Maybe you’re a Filipino-Canadian who eats more typical North American foods for breakfast and lunch but in the evenings enjoys family dinners with ingredients like fresh fish and vegetables and not so much fruit? And the parents at least love that instant coffee with sugar and powdered milk pre-mixed.
  • Are you an Egyptian-Canadian who prefers to buy the ingredients for kushari or koshari (macaroni, rice, lentils, chick peas, onions, garlic) rather than Tabbouleh which is actually Syrian-Lebanese?

Fear not! Toronto has a supermarket or grocery store for you. Let’s dive in and see some of the countless options for ethnic supermarkets offered by the GTA.  

 

East Asian and South Asian Grocery Stores in Toronto

Given the vital importance of the Chinese, South Asian, and Filipino communities in the Greater Toronto Area, it makes plenty of sense to start with Asian supermarkets.

 

T&T Supermarkets - China and Southeast Asia

T&T in Markham by Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine / CC0

by Raysonho / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0

 ** Editor's Choice **

Access Subway/Car: Car

Price: 3.5/5

Rating: 4/5

Locations: 6

URL: www.tntsupermarket.com

Store Locations: Google Maps

From Burnaby, BC to Richmond Hill, Ontario, this unique yet typically Canadian success story is all about how a hard-working new Canadian had an idea and brought it to fruition.

Now owned by Loblaw’s and run by the founder’s daughter, this is Canada’s largest Asian supermarket chain offering everything from Live Manila Clams to hard-to-find Korean and Japanese cosmetics.

 

Galleria Supermarkets - Korean

[photos]

** Rising Star **

Subway/Car: Car Only

Price: 3.5/5

Rating: 4.5/5

Locations: 5

URL: www.galleriasm.com

Store Locations: Google Maps

 

There’s the soon-to-be-condos Galleria Mall in Toronto, but don’t confuse that mall with this mini chain of several Korean supermarkets in the GTA. There are full stores up in Thornhill, in York Mills, and to the west in upscale Oakville. As well, you’ve got 2 express stores at Yonge & Wellesley and at Bloor & Huron for people in a rush.

You’ll find a good selection of fresh fruit and vegetables along with the expected wide range of imported food products from East Asia.

 

Seafood City - Filipino

Seafood City by Kagoikunai / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

by Kagoikunai / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

** Rising Star **

Subway/Car: Car Only

Price: 4/5

Rating: 3.5/5

Locations: 2

URL: www.seafoodcity.com

Store locations: Google Map

This newcomer to Canada arrived in Mississauga in 2017 but it’s been around in the U.S. since the late ‘80s, opening its first store in San Diego, California in 1989. They are now North America’s leading Filipino supermarket chain with nearly 40 stores in the U.S. and Canada and Seafood City also offering plenty of ready-to-serve meals as well, thereby fitting into the “grocerant” category (groceries plus restaurant = grocerant).

If you’re in a rush, they have it prepared ready to go. You want to spend some time carefully preparing a Filipino-style seafood dish, they have the ingredients, including the fish.

 

Trupti - Indian

Trupti (used with permission)

Most Loyal Customers

Subway/Car: Car Only

Price: 3.5/5

Rating: 4.5/5

Locations: 1

URL: www.trupti.ca

Store location: Google Map

Authentic Indian Tradition (used with permission)

After talking about Filipino’s main food outlet in the city, it makes sense to next list one of the NRI (Non-Resident Indian) communities’ favourite supermarkets in the GTA. In fact, one of the founders, Bharak Kotak is from the NRI community in Tanzania while the other, Apexa Kotak, is from Surat, back in India.

Spices of all kinds as well of products that cover from Indian vegetarian tastes to vegan, Mexican, and Italian food can be bought here. What began in Kensington Market tucked away just beside bustling Spadina Ave now has a large distribution and retail centre in Thorncliffe Park. And their website offers wonderful recipes to put all those ingredients they have to good use.

 

Iqbal Halal Foods - South Asian and Middle Eastern

[photos]

Worth the Experience

Subway/Car: Car Only

Price: 3.5/5

Rating: 4/5

Locations: 1

URL: www.iqbalfoods.ca 

Store locations: Google Map

Located in the same plaza as Trupti, this store serves both Pakistani-Canadians and NRIs with a focus on having a wide variety of foods to serve South Asian and Middle Eastern customers who enjoy getting what they need in one convenient trip without having to waste half your free time on the weekend journeying across the GTA to fill up your pantry.

From carefully prepared Halal freshly-slaughtered meats to hard-to-get food products they offer variety and also claim they have affordable prices as well. What began as a tuck shop (something like a general store or small grocery shop) on Gerrard Street, opened in 1984 by hard-working immigrant Iqbal Malek, is now a major retail outlet relying on the latest technology to deliver specialized quality products to a discerning clientele.

Could anything be more Canadian than that?

 

Eastern European Grocery Stores in Toronto

From the Balkans to Siberia, what we loosely call East European is in fact a continent’s worth of cultures, so we’ll try to select a few from the multitude of offerings in Toronto and the GTA.

 

Mrakovic Deli - Balkan

[photos]

Most Loyal Customers

Subway/Car: Car Only

Price: 3.5/5

Rating: 4.5/5

Locations: 1

URL: www.mrakovic.com

Store location: Google Map

What began as a butcher shop in 2003 started by immigrants fleeing war-torn Bosnia is now a grocery store, butchers, and café all rolled into one unique store in Etobicoke.

Try the cevapi or sausage for your main course, or the burek, which are meat or spinach-filled pastries. They are, by all accounts, delicious. They even serve Sarajevo-style burgers.

 

Yummy Market - Russian/Ukrainian/Eastern European

[photos]

** Editor's Choice **

Subway/Car: Car Only

Price: 3.5/5

Rating: 4.5/5

Locations: 2

URL: www.yummymarket.com

Store locations: Google Map

Looking like a big-box store at Dufferin & Finch in North York, this Russian-run supermarket is packed full of goodies. From Yummy Gelato to Smoked Fish deli platters, they pride themselves on quality yet affordable products.

You want kosher? Yes, they have it. You want sushi? Yummy Sushi is available. You want Zakuski Antipasti Hors D’Oeuvres? They have them. And of course, if you want Caviar, they have it.

Started in 2002 by new Canadians, they also have a store on Major Mackenzie Drive.

 

Starsky - Polish

[photos]

Worth the Experience

Subway/Car: Car Only

Price: 3.5/5

Rating: 4.5/5

Locations: 2

URL: www.starskycanada.com

Store locations: Google Map

No, there isn’t another partner called Hutch. But there is a wide variety of Polish foods – including sausages and beef kabobs. I’m already hungry. Gotta go. (Just kidding.)

Although the Polish community in Toronto has been around for generations, this store is more of a newcomer, opening a few years ago and located at Dundas and the 427 (highway) with another store recently opening in Mississauga. Pickles, smoked fish, staple products from the old country. They have a nice range of premium goods from Poland and Eastern Europe.

Definitely worth checking out.

 

Middle Eastern Grocery Stores in Toronto

What we loosely call the Middle Eastern often includes North African countries, like Egypt for example, and involves a variety of cultures and diets. Let’s sample a few grocery stores that specialize in one more of the regions various cultures.

 

Khorak Supermarket - Middle Eastern

[photos]

Worth the Experience

Subway/Car: Car Only

Price: 3.5/5

Rating: 3.5/5

Locations: 1

URL: www.khoraksupermarket.com

Store location: Google Map

Located in North York at 6125 Yonge Street, this Persian grocery store has been in business since the late ‘80s and offers a wide variety of Middle Eastern foods and spicy take-away meals.

From Halal butchered products to spices, the unassuming locale also offers nuts, teas, cheeses (unripened) and even apparently something called Iranian honey comb for you foodie fanatics. There’s plenty of flatbreads and also some specialty baked goods that reportedly are customer favourites, snatched up as soon as they come out of the ovens. You might skip the lamb’s head (apparently, they actually cook and eat them in some diets in Iran) but everything else sounds positively mouth-watering.

 

Arz Fine Foods - Middle Eastern and Mediterranean

[photos]

Most Loyal Customers

Subway/Car: Car Only

Price: 3.5/5

Rating: 4/5

Locations: 1

URL: http://arzfinefoods.com/

Store location: Google Map

 

On Lawrence Avenue East in Scarborough, this shop has a broad range of both Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food on offer.

Their logo includes an iconic Lebanese cedar so it’s no surprise that having roots in a country that was once the cradle of Phoenician civilization with its enterprising sailors and traders, at Arz, you’re able to buy products from a wide range of cultures. For example: hummus, stuffed grape leaves, baklava, a Turkish Delight called lokoum, glazed fruits, nut platters, Middle Eastern Coffee …

 

And finally, for someone looking for authentic kushari or koshari while you may have to shop at a few locations to get your ingredients, there’s always Papyrus, an Egyptian restaurant located on the Danforth. And yes, they do home deliveries as well.

 

Honourable Mentions

 

St. Lawrence Market - International

St. Lawrence Market by Ludger Heide / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

by Ludger Heide / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

Worth the Experience

Subway/Car: Car or Subway

Price: 4.5/5

Rating: 4.5/5

Locations: 1

Delivery: Depends on vendor

URL: www.stlawrencemarket.com

Store location: Google Map

The St. Lawrence Market is Toronto. It’s been around since 1803 in the same location at Front and Jarvis although a number of buildings have gone up and either been burned down or demolished to make way for something bigger and/or newer. As the city has opened up to the world, the market has gone from humble and local beginnings to become a clearing house for foodie fanatics selling an enormous variety of products in over 120 stalls or tiny shops. You want it, it’s here. Today it’s divided between the south market in the older remaining structure and the north market housed in a brand new building. If you are a T.O. foodie you have to make a pilgrimage to the mecca of ethnic food in hogtown. Don’t miss The St. Lawrence Market!

 

The Cheese Boutique - European/International

Cheese Boutique staff (used with permission)

** Editor's Choice **

Subway/Car: Car Only

Price: 4.5/5

Rating: 4.5/5

Locations: 1

Delivery: Depends on vendor

URL: www.cheeseboutique.com 

Store location: Google Map

Cheese Boutique interior (used with permission)

Chocolate Truffles flavoured with chipotle and bacon. Read those words again and feel your senses soar and your palate hunger for the finer things in life. This is not a deli, although it does have deli and cheesery and bakery products. This is a gourmet food store with an astonishing selection and variety of goodies from around the planet.

Cheese Boutique interior (used with permission)

Yes, it’s on the Kingsway so you need to go a little out of your way. It’s worth it. And yes, they also have real truffles as well. 

Cheese Boutique interior (used with permission)

 

The Best Quality Vegetables and Fruits

Farmers markets can’t be beat for fresh fruits and vegetables, the big box stores will have set contracts with big distributors where in a lot of times quality seems a little lacking. If you are looking for the best nutrient dense produce, find yourself a farmers market. Just remember to look carefully at what you're buying, a small number of vendors are actual farmers and a larger number buy their inventory from Ontario Food Terminal. If you want an amazing day trip, check out the Ontario Food Terminal, it’s really a sight to see. For all you Natural and Organic food lovers, check out this list here.

 

As you can see, this short list of a few of the first-rate grocery stores in Toronto and the GTA proves that if you live in Toronto and you don’t shop from at least a couple of ethnic grocery stores, you’re wasting a wonderful opportunity.

When it comes to food, Toronto has it all. Don’t miss out!


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