Sanagan’s Meat Locker

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The Way We Eat Now: Toronto’s love affair with a new generation of innovative butchers

The Way We Eat Now: Toronto's love affair with a new generation of innovative butchers

Like a good dealer, Peter Sanagan knows how to move product. Three years ago, he got me hooked on beef cheeks, once a hard-to-sell offcut destined for sausage mix. He promised the suppleness of a brisket and the marbling of a striploin. All I had to do was lovingly braise them.

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Coffee and Tea

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Trinity Bellwoods welcomes The Lucky Penny, a new café-general store hybrid with a 25-seat patio

Lucky-Penny

(Image: Ron Piano)

Debbie Rix’s original intention wasn’t to open The Lucky Penny in the midst of a polar vortex. The first-time entrepreneur was beset by a number of physical and bureaucratic delays, but we doubt the neighbourhood will complain: the Shaw Street space was vacant for nearly 20 years before Rix turned it around. The new café and general store, which opened last Sunday, is a one-stop-shop for Trinity Bellwoods park-goers, offering groceries, sweets, sandwiches, coffee, dog toys and more—even comic books. Nearly all the comestibles are sourced from local purveyors (such as Glory Hole Doughnuts, Sanagan’s Meat Locker, Blackbird Baking Co. and Moo Milk Bar), but the biggest sellers, so far, are jawbreakers and Pixy Stix thanks to the nearby public school. Once the city thaws, The Lucky Penny will open its 25-seat patio and get into ice cream, too.

The Lucky Penny, 189 Shaw St., 416-516-9666

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Reason to Love Toronto: because there’s a new crop of old-fashioned food shops in Kensington

Artisanal Market: A new crop of old-fashioned food shops sets off a wave of nostalgia in Kensington

A decade after “locavore” and “foodie” entered the lexicon, Toronto has reached a fever pitch of $10 jams infused with Prince Edward County lavender, blood orange ales brewed on Ossington and heritage capons slow-smoked over Muskoka cherry wood. “Small,” “slow” and “by hand” are now the ultimate points of pride. Along with your quaintly packaged $9 chutney, you’re also buying the good karma associated with supporting local craftspeople and fostering the dream of simpler times.

The epicentre of it all is Kensington Market, where for decades the only hand-crafted goods have been Bob Marley beanies and bongs. In the span of a year, the area has returned to its roots, becoming a village of food artisans. Sanagan’s Meat Locker, the ethical butcher, became so popular that its owner, Peter Sanagan, moved a few doors down the street into a 5,000-square-foot storefront that’s a microcosm of modern carnivore culture. The walls are lined with barn board, and the young staff wear Ts printed with cleavers and offer samples of water buffalo yogurt or house-made mint-and-beef-tongue terrine. Lineups form at the sandwich bar for slow-roasted bo ssäm buns.

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Restaurants

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Where to find the best heritage breed turkeys in Toronto

(Image: John Cullen)

We’re a city obsessed with eating local, and when it comes to planning the biggest dinner of the year, we’re even more devoted. The ubiquitous Butterball, with its yellow and blue shrink wrap, used to provide a comforting barrier between us and the realization that our bird was once, in fact, a bird—with feathers, a beak and a snood (the floppy nose appendage of unknown use). Nowadays, that packaging evokes images of factory farm torture. So we’ll happily pay premium prices to know our turkey was raised in a pesticide-free pasture within a couple hundred kilometres of the city, where it munched organic feed and cavorted with other dignified turkeys. If it happens to descend from a 50-year-old Saskatchewan-born flock and come with certified ancestry papers, Yahtzee! We’ll pay even more. And it’s worth it. Heritage breeds like the Bourbon Red and the Bronze have darker meat (the Broad-Breasted Whites in grocery stores have been genetically modified for Dolly Parton–like proportions) and fuller flavour. All of which means when you’re lying on the couch in a tryptophan-induced torpor, the only thing you’ll feel guilty about is that second helping of stuffing.

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Restaurants

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Weekly Lunch Pick: the sandwich and salad special at the new Sanagan’s Meat Locker

The peach-stuffed pork belly sandwich from Sanagan’s (Image: Renée Suen)

When Peter Sanagan announced he’d be moving his cult Kensington butcher shop down the street, he promised the new, bigger space would allow him to create “the amazingest new sandwich counter in the city.” Amazingness may be in eye of the beholder, but Sanagan’s tight sandwich list (all $7) thankfully veers away from boring cold cuts to include the bo ssammy (a Korean-style pulled pork with kimchee slaw and green onion mayo), roast beef from Durham’s Finest, classic roast chicken with crispy skin and our order, a peach-stuffed pork belly sandwich (the day’s special).

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Openings

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Introducing: Dr. Augusta’s Samitorium, Kensington’s newest gourmet sandwich and soda shop

Introducing: Dr. Augusta’s Samitorium

(Image: Susan Keefe)

The nostalgia diner trend has been chugging away for a few years now, on menus and in restaurant designs. The latest edition: Dr. Augusta’s Samitorium, a new sandwich and soda shop located at the edge of Kensington Market and named after the area’s north-south artery. Owned and operated by Chris Bobbitt and Vlad Vujovic, it’s a decidedly stripped-down take on a ’50s eatery, with tall black leather stools, a throwback black-and-white tile floor and large picture windows. The main bar is home to rows of pickle-packed Mason jars and the place’s big draw: an old-school soda fountain.

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Openings

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Introducing: the big new location of Sanagan’s Meat Locker, down the street from the old one

Introducing: Sanagan’s Meat Locker

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

When Kensington Market’s European Quality Meats and Sausages decided to leave the space it had occupied for five decades, many were worried that the beloved boho quarter was going the way of Yorkville. Independent Market entrepreneurs aimed to keep the building in the family, so to speak; European Meats owner Larry Leider sold the space to the owners of Essence of Life, who looked around for a viable tenant. They approached Peter Sanagan, who had been making do with his tiny space on the corner of Augusta and Baldwin for years. Sanagan embraced the opportunity to upgrade from 400 to 5,000 square feet, and made the big move 11 storefronts down the road.

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Hooked set to take over Sanagan’s old Kensington Market space later this summer

Hooked’s original Leslieville location (Image: Gabriel Li from the Torontolife.com Flickr pool)

Since it opened shop in Leslieville last year, home cooks and chefs alike have lauded Hooked for its resolutely sustainable approach to fish sourcing (a rarity in this non-coastal city) and its friendly and utterly unpretentious service. Now, seafood lovers unwilling to venture quite so far east are in luck: according to Toronto Life writer Denise Balkissoon, Hooked with be taking over the tiny Sanagan’s Meat Locker space on Baldwin Street in Kensington Market later this summer (Sanagan’s, meanwhile, is moving to the much larger space vacated by European Quality Meats and Sausages). [Twitter]

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Sanagan’s Meat Locker to move down the street to European Quality Meats’ old space

The future home of Sanagan’s Meat Locker (Image: Josh Evnin(

In a long and lyrical blog post, Kensington Market’s favourite hipster butcher Peter Sanagan announced that he’s moving his burgeoning shop a few doors down to 206 176 Baldwin, the location that housed European Quality Meats and Sausages for over five decades until it closed in April. The new space is more than 10 times bigger and includes a kitchen, which will allow Sanagan to start making and selling prepared foods ranging from terrines and rillettes to stocks and soups. He’s also promising “the amazingest new sandwich counter in the city.” According to a story by Corey Mintz in the Star, at least one larger meat purveyor was interested in the space, but Essence of Life Natural Foods owner Frank Lu, who bought the building, wanted a tenant who’d support naturally raised meat from local farms. Oh, and to those worrying the move to new, roomier digs would mean the end of his personal, friendly service, Sanagan pledges that the music will remain “deadly.” Read the entire story [Sanagan’s Meat Blogger] »

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Restaurants

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Where Kensington’s hipster butcher king Peter Sanagan goes for a good meal and a stiff G&T

Peter Sanagan

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Haute Dogs: seven of the best sausages in the city

Haute Dogs

Innovative butchers are digging up old family recipes and mixing exotic meats with offbeat flavourings. Here, the city’s best sausages

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DIY Barbecue Guide: Peter Sanagan’s favourite cuts of beef for the barbecue

High Steaks

(Image: Joel Kimmel)

Peter Sanagan, the young chef-turned-butcher and owner of Sanagan’s Meat Locker in Kensington Market, shares his favourite cuts for the ’cue

Click on a cut to see where it comes from and learn why Sanagan loves it, or start the slideshow »

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People

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Neighbourhood butchers gain popularity, sex appeal

Time to toss out the cliché image of the neighbourhood butcher as a balding, blood-soaked hulk. The National Post is reporting a “renewed interest in butchery,” thanks in part to such publications as GQ and the New York Times fetishizing the men who wield the cleavers. Calling the butcher “the new rock star of the culinary world,” the Post says that the local butcher shop is a thriving business, recession or not.

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