CLOSED: St Andrew Poultry Foodie Bar Tasting (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 17 St. Andrew Street

You may have visited St Andrew Poultry in the past while walking around Kensington Market. It’s been in business  since 1962, first a processing plant while later expanding into a retail store specializing in raw meats. In 2012, Dr. Jerry Jesin, son of the former owners, took over the place and completely revamped the business. In September, it was re-designed to add a gleaming take-out and eat-in bar area for those who want to indulge in fresh meat but not prepare it themselves.

Of course, you can still get every cut of chicken imaginable. But, they also offer a wide variety of other meats like beautifully aged steaks – the bone-in ribeye, my favourite cut, grabbed my attention. Josh, the person who curates this section, explains they only use triple AAA Alberta meat which has been wet aged for 29 days. Its then dry aged for at least a week before they're sold. During my visit, the ribeye was $14.99/lb a steal when non-aged versions can easily cost the same at grocery stores. St. Andrew simply doesn't want their customers paying extra for being able to enjoy a nicely aged product.

However, it's likely their Foodie Bar that will entice you – certainly it was the reason for my visit. Situated at the store’s front, it'd be hard to leave without picking up something to go. Chef Bernadette Calpito, formerly of Kultura, was brought in to define this area. Her vision: create take-out that's delicious and makes people want to say "yum"! Everything is prepared fresh daily without skimping on ingredients; Chef Calpito wants to redefine how customers view take-out.

Chef describes the menu as soul food ranging from fried chicken ($5.99) to steak frites ($12.99). The joy fried chicken is inspired by Jollibee, a famous chain from the Philippines. The plump pieces catches my eye and appetite, they are nothing like the scraggly pieces you'd find at KFC despite being priced similarly ($5.99 for 2 pieces and fries). 

Indeed, it tastes nothing like it as well. The chicken is juicy and tender with a crispy coating that’s not overly oily. To achieve this they first cook it in chicken stock allowing some fat to melt off and the meat to soak up juices. The batter is also not too salty so you can taste the chicken, if you need more flavour I highly suggest the house made Chef's hot sauce. Generally, I find hot wing sauce too pungent and vinegary acting only to sting the tongue and nose. But, at St Andrew's the vinegar ratio is lowered and the chilies bearable so you actually taste the sauce's flavour while not overpowering the chicken. 

If fried food is not your thing, there's also a lamb ($6.75) and chicken shawarma ($5.75) roasting away. The lamb is more flavourful while the chicken more tender, it'd be a hard choice to choose one over the other. Pictured below are half orders. 

With tons of ingredients to choose from (coleslaw, tabbouleh, corn salad, pickled beets, eggplant, etc.) mine was filled to the brim.  Luckily the soft pita held up and I was able to enjoy every bite. The Chef admits some ingredients such as the corn salad isn't exactly authentic; but, I like the deviation which adds some sweetness and crunch to the wrap. Certainly the delicious bourbon fries sprinkled on top also doesn’t hurt.

If you’re thinking of visiting regularly, consider joining their Supper Club. For $20 you’ll receive a lifetime membership that gets you 20% of prepared food section between 5:00-6:30pm.

If Kensington Market is too far, St. Andrew’s also offers catering to the downtown area. You can order any of their regular take-out items or other specialty catering ones as well. One being the corporate lunch favourite – sandwiches (a platter serving 8-10 costs $55). I know, sandwiches doesn’t normally excite employees but having tried two that evening I’d be happy to have either of them any day. 

The first was a cold grilled chicken sandwich topped with creamy coleslaw and avocado. Generally, I’m not a fan of creamy coleslaw but St. Andrew’s lighter version with ample pieces of vegetables help. I also enjoyed the shaved red onions which added an extra zip to ithe coleslaw without being overwhelming.  

One of my favourite things of the event was their hot baked crispy chicken breast sandwich. A take on an Italian sandwich, it’s slathering with homemade tomato sauce, a mushrooms medley (king oyster and shiitake) and caramelized onions. In between two pieces of soft airy Black Bird French bread it was a satisfying sandwich.

Since St. Andrew offers catering services we had a taste of a canapé as well. How can one bite be filled with so many flavours? The main part of was a stuffed mushroom pasta topped with a sweet pear chutney, truffle paste, a baked cherry tomato and aged cheddar. It was sweet, savoury, fresh and rich all at once.

If you’re feeling lazy this holiday season, you may want to consider picking one of their holiday dinner packages. Each includes soup, turkey and/or ham, trimmings, stuffing and vegetables ranging from $225 for ham or $249 for a medium turkey (feeds 8-10) to $349 for a ham and turkey dinner. Throwing in a few canapés would certainly impress the guestsas well. 

There’s also a retail area offering an extensive selection of items. Below are but a few things that grabbed my attention:

A beautiful array of house-made sauces. I tried the BBQ sauce ($5.99) using it to make a pulled pork sandwich. It's less tangy and more savory reminding me of the cha shu BBQ sauce. 

Salad in a jar ($7.99). Comes with a dressing and once poured out could feed up to two people. Being environmentally friendly, if you bring the jar back, you’ll get $1 towards another purchase. 

An area Chef Calpito calls the “jewelry case”. Instead of earrings and bracelets there’s cooked and raw sections. The cooked section contains items such as maple glazed salmon and garlic shrimp which are inspired by the shrimp trucks from the Chef’s Hawaiian background.  

Meanwhile, on the raw side, there’s pre-marinated meats if the chef in you wants to try your hand at cooking. There’s the Miami ribs (also served at the Foodie Bar), roasted red pepper Cornish hen and chipotle line quail just to name a few items.

To please a sweet tooth, there's a bakery area with scones, pastries and some delicious granola loaded with nuts. We tried the banana bread during the event and some cookies to bring home, both are not overly sweet yet still satisfying. 

Even Fluffy or Fido can get fed with a line of pet food and treat items. I was advised this is just the start and this section is expected to expand over the following months.

Aside from being introduced to St. Andrew’s food at the event, I also had the opportunity to speak to numerous individuals working there. Undeniably, they could have been grouchy, having to stay after closing and prepare even more food for us. But, they were friendly and welcoming, never shying away from answering all our questions. Some even live in the neighbourhood and have experienced the evolution of the store. They were a great group of people who genuinely seem to love St. Andrew’s, its food and each other.

It’s a camaraderie not normally experienced while visiting large chain grocers. Certainly, most employees wouldn’t be as knowledgeable about the products as St. Andrews’ is. If you’re in the neighbourhood (or can grab a group of 8 to order delivery), have a taste of St. Andrews and see how they are putting the “yum” in take-out.

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