Toronto has extended the prohibition on indoor dining at bars, cafes and restaurants indefinitely. Initially scheduled to reopen earlier in November, Toronto’s Medical Officer postponed the relaunch as the city is now in the red zone with an accelerated number of cases.
Considering that grocery stores are still open for business, some eateries have made the clever extension to their own businesses, turning their restaurant spaces into makeshift grocery stores, while still offering takeout of course. From partially-prepared meal kits to fridge and freezer items, these are the latest restaurants and cafes adapting to the current situation by creating their own mini markets full of interesting–and, in some cases, hard-to-find–products.
Banu has become the only Iranian grocery store in downtown Toronto. They are well-stocked with the essentials to make a proper Middle Eastern meal at home. Here you can find Barbari bread, sun dried sour limes, Persian pistachios, pomegranate molasses and the marinated version of their bestselling menu item zereshk polo ba morgh — saffron and turmeric-braised chicken thighs.
Barocco x Nino
Known for supporting their community, Barocco x Nino has been selling speciality items from local bakeries at their cafe. They also carry authentic, imported Italian ingredients to take home. You might even say, this cafe is turning into a mini west end Eataly. Here you’ll find fresh, frozen and dried pastas, sauces and spreads, olive oil, rice, tuna, legumes, salumi and cheeses. However, what caught my eye is the boozy gelato that comes in the following flavours: Aperol spritz, mojito and Negroni.
Bar Volo has always been known for having an impressive craft beer selection that can seldom be found at your local LCBO. Now it’s transformed into a fully-stocked bottle shop. Belgian, dark, hoppy, sour — they have them all, along with a solid selection of orange wines which is rare to find in general, but more so during this time of year. And as long as you own a wooden cutting board at home, Bar Volo sells the items you need to make a charcuterie board to pair.
Cafe Con Leche
This Spanish cafe has the friendliest husband and wife team running the joint. When they’re not personally making home deliveries within the neighbourhood, they’re at the cafe which now sells items with an artisan focus. At Cafe Con Leche you’ll find jams, maple syrup, honey, gourmet coffee, tea and of course, their signature №7 hot sauces that comes in seven different flavours.
Inspired by Parisian cafes, Cluny is one-part bakery, one-part bistro. Here you can buy a box of croissants, pastries and macarons, or try to make them yourself at home since they carry baking staples like flour, sugar, butter, yeast. They also carry fresh-baked baguettes, a variety of cheeses, house-made terrines and preserves, imported escargot and duck fat, so you can create your own Persian food experience. French beret not included.
Creeds Coffee Bar
Creeds Coffee Bar recently turned into Creeds General Store. This really is your modern-day general store. They sell a smorgasbord of food items, from insane sour gummies to pickled shallots, to caviar. Not to mention, a generous section of private labelled items like their steak marinade that has been passed down through the Creed family and their signature laundry detergent that comes in a glass bottle that I would only use for my fancy clothes. Makes sense, Creeds started as a dry-cleaning drop-off 30 plus years ago.
Juice Box wine bar
Juice Box is essentially a version of Grape Crush where you could sit and drink the wine you just bought from the bottle shop. These days, it’s a wine shop with a huge selection of natural, biodynamic and classic wines at an affordable price point. The online menu is designed to let you sort by tasting notes, region, sustainably-farmed, vegan, low sulfites (for those that experience wine headaches) and so many more categories.
Lady Marmalade Restaurant
Lady Marmalade is the purveyor of all things brunch. They make the best eggs Benedict, which you can still get for takeout. Now they’re the purveyor of kitchen staples; items include free-range eggs, oat milk, artisanal flour, 84 per cent butterfat butter and of course, beer and wine because a boozy brunch is always welcomed.
Local Public Eatery
Local Public Eatery is your stop for craft beer, wine, cocktails and comfort food. They have since turned into a mini LCBO, with a wide selection of local red, white and rose wines. There’s even a notable section of wine under $20. Where there is wine there’s also beer, cider, seltzer, spirits and drink kits to-go.
The chain's locations in other major cities such as Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver also offer an array of liquor and cocktail kits for delivery.
Pai's By Chef Nuit Market
This northern Thai kitchen has added a mini online market called By Chef Nuit so folks can grab the staples needed to prepare an authentic Thai meal in your own kitchen. Pai carries items that are straight from the motherland including: fish sauce, palm sugar, riceberry, dried chillies, dried shrimp and Ampawa coconut milk—which is the good, hard-to-find stuff.