Kensington Market's favourite bucher shop expands to Gerrard and Coxwell
Sanagan’s Meat Locker, one of Toronto’s best known butcher shops, has a brand new location in the east end (1513 Gerrard East, at Coxwell). The area has seen a boom in new food businesses over the past year or two – but shop owner Peter Sanagan has the bragging rights of being there way, way before some of the other recent arrivals.
In the early 2000s, Sanagan bought a house just around the corner – a three-bedroom semi-detached for $190,000. “At the time it was the most expensive house sold on that street. All our neighbours were like, ‘You’re fuckin’ crazy.’ We said, ‘Well, we didn’t know! We were young and stupid!’”
Since then, Sanagan’s life has made a few abrupt turns: He moved out of the neighbourhood, quit working in kitchens and took over a tiny butcher shop, then known as Max and Sons, in Kensington Market. Three years after opening the Meat Locker, he moved the booming business into a larger storefront down the street – and now, there’s a second location, housed inside a former shawarma shop, to pick up even more slack.
“There’s been so many people who used to live downtown, who were customers nine years ago and now living out here,” Sanagan says. “They’re like, ‘Now we don’t have to come downtown?’ It’s good news for both of us.”
Sanagan knew he wanted an east-end presence for his next location, but Queen East was a little too built-up for his liking, with Oliffe and Butchers of Distinction already serving Leslieville. “Just like when I was originally in Kensington – I like going to the areas where it’s a little bit of a challenge.”
Veteran customers will remember the front window at the first Sanagan’s location that doubled as a service counter, a feature replicated at the new shop (which is a fraction of the size of the Kensington location). “I wanted to be able to replicate that. It’s just such a draw,” Sanagan says. In an hour-long visit, I watched dozens of passers-by pause by the window for a brief ogle of the selection of steaks.
Inside, there’s the same broad array of Ontario meats shoppers have come to expect downtown – albeit in smaller quantities – as well as house-prepared meals like beef wellingtons and meat pies, which Sanagan says fly out the door in this predominantly residential neighbourhood.
There’s also an impressive selection of cured meats and pâtés by in-house charcutier Scott Draper, plus pantry items like Stirling Creamery butter, buffalo yogurt and house-branded mustard, pickles and maple syrup.
From left: Pate en croute with pork, fig, pistachio and chicken liver boudin noire chicken and smoked duck galantine duck liver parfait and head cheese.
When sourcing, Sanagan says his priority is building relationships with farms and liaising directly with the people who work with the animals. (I had to slightly postpone my visit to the shop because Sanagan needed to head to a farm and pick up turkeys ahead of the Easter weekend.)
“We’re utilizing those kinds of relationships we’ve built over the years to find people who are proud and raising good food,” Sanagan explains. “If it’s chicken, for example, it’s raised in a safe, warm environment. There’s tons of room to move around. They’re not penned or caged or anything like that. Their slaughter facility is very close – in our case, with most of our chicken farms, the slaughter is on-site, so there’s lower stress getting to a facility.”
Photos by Natalia Manzocco
For him, that’s more important than ensuring that everything is, say, “grass-fed” or “organic” – labels he says are increasingly used as a stand-in for actual quality. “I know organic farms that are monsters. The cattle are eating out of feed troughs where there’s organic feed, but they (do the bare minimum) to get that label,” he says.
“People like buzzwords: ‘Is it local? Oh, well, that’s fine.’ But my reason for supporting Ontario farmers isn’t because I think we necessarily do a better job than any other province. It’s because I live in Ontario and I want to be able to support our businesses – and I can drive for an hour and a half and be on that farm, getting turkeys. It’s so much better doing that than just calling Sysco. That’s what we believe in.”
Photos by Natalia Manzocco
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