Updated: Oct 10, 2022
Bryan and I have moved houses and towns a fair number of times (10 to be exact) but they were all typically a 2-hour car trip from Toronto. Thunder Bay is less than that as an air trip, so I guess we still aren’t that far away from Canada’s center, but still, it is not quite the same as living in southern Ontario.
The biggest noticeable differences I have found here are 1) the weather, 2) the day light hours and 3) the groceries. When it comes to the first two, I am focused on the things I don’t like. Winter comes early and stays forever. For much of this winter, I end up driving around in the dark in the morning – yuk.
But when it comes to the third, I have nothing but positive things to say. The accessibility of world sourced food here in Thunder Bay is by far the best I’ve ever seen compared to all my years in southern Ontario. Its perhaps because Thunder Bay isn’t that large, so the food districts aren’t that far apart (it is only 15 minutes at most across town folks). In Toronto, there is Greek town (the Danforth), China Town (Spadina), an Indian area (East York), a Ukrainian area (Eglinton west), and it goes on. It requires a fair bit of driving (a full day event) to find those specialty food items.
And well, they don’t have a super store that actually is a super store! They just have Costco-type super stores- you better buy what we are selling otherwise its expensive or not available. My hat goes off to the buyer at the Thunder Bay Great Canadian superstore. They are constantly bringing in products that are unique and unusual. Most recently a Canadian-made Japanese cheesecake that is to die for was brought in (in the frozen food section across from the potatoes). The new paranthas bread is so easy - and perfect for curry meals.
Now that I have gotten going, I have decided that this blog should be about the Thunder Bay grocery scene. This is (ta daaa), THE BEST LIST as compiled by a newbie to the area:
· Bulk Stores (near the beer store)- have Brit products and Portuguese products.
· Gacha Viet Mini Mart (across from the movie theatre) - has the most unique hot pot sauce ever! It also has a pickled garlic and variety of dumplings that are all North American made.
· Thunder Bay Olivine- I love the traditional balsamic vinegar and orange hot oil. (It looks like it might be closed, hopefully that is temporary.)
· Best Bite Shawarma (High Street) – the best shawarma spice and other Lebanese spices. Plus, pistachio goodies.
· The Commissary for amazing smoked goods – they did two of our hogs last year and we were blown away by the variety and quality of processed goods. Nothing was available like this in our old area!
· Inver Gas Station- stocks the best egg rolls and other homemade dinners. Love the quick in and out!
· Bakeshop on Boundary – for their chocolate croissants.
· Big Lake Pasta – for their fresh cresti de gallo.
· Fresco’s Deli – for the best chat (the owner is so nice) and their Italian meats (mortadelo, hot chorizo and provolone on a bun please).
I forgot persians (but I haven’t decided where the best are) and Coney dogs (best premade sauce is at AJs), and the variety of local beers is incredible, as is the number of local bakeries with fresh bread. You also have access to the more “exotic” meat like veal, rabbit and elk. There is local cheese, local honey, local maple syrup. I can get local milk in a glass bottle with the cream on top from Slate River Dairy! And these local products are found on just about every corner as the local business here do such a great job of stocking local! Not to mention the local Farmer’s market, the various veggie CSAs and Superior Seasons online farm store.
In other words, Thunder Bayites are foodies and I’m so glad that we are in on the best kept secret of the north. We get more of the world’s best food at our fingertips literally. I’m really excited that we will be able to fill in a much needed gap with our lamb products. We are building and planning for growth and just know that it’s going to be appreciated based on the food market we see!
(disclaimer- I can’t eat fish so they are not mentioned – plus I do grow my own year salad year-round so I haven’t included all the salad providers like Vegetate and DeBruins. I’m still waiting for a local ice cream shop to open. I grew up with Laurentian view and then lived near Reid’s Dairy, followed by Kawartha ice cream. So, I’m missing high quality local ice cream. Please. There is a gap!!)
Beverly outside of Fresco's in West Fort; Link to the Google Map