Market Street Catch
14 Market Street | 416.363.2020 | marketstreetcatch.com
Before it was home to organic veggies and grain-fed beef, the St. Lawrence Market served as Toronto’s first city hall and jail. At the turn of the century, it became a food market. But there wasn’t much to recommend in the surrounding area — just railroad tracks, muddy streets and dark carriageways. Every decade or so, there were proposals to tear the whole thing down, but nothing ever changed. That is, until a mid-1970s revitalization that produced the St. Lawrence Market we know today.
Now, with politicians and felons banished from the area, and downtown real estate in the midst of a boom, the area is undergoing a second-generation revitalization. And more condos means more people. Hungry people. With money. So it’s no surprise that the surrounding area has become respectable, and Market Street is part of that new respectability.
Restaurants continue to open along the west side of Market Street (Balzac’s coffee, Olive and Olives, Evolution Food Co., Bindia Indian Restaurant and rumours of a giant Italian eatery, Pastizza, to open soon). And the patios along the street are a big draw. Away from the core, but within walking distance, Market Street is poised to become a hip alternative for the Bay Street crowd.
Market Street Catch is one of these new upstarts. A bricks-and-mortar version of the much-loved Buster’s Sea Cover food truck, it’s just as good as its more mobile sister (they also have a stall inside St. Lawrence Market). Still, I wonder why they felt they needed a storefront.
Market Street Catch is small, with about 25 seats. You place your order and jockey for a table (no reservations). Then you retrieve your order from the open kitchen when your number is called. The front windows open on to a small patio, which makes the place feel more bistro than greasy spoon.
My guest and I arrive and, having navigated the crowd, she orders the fish tacos, which delivers three tacos with a choice of halibut, shrimp, octopus or seared tuna ($15). The tacos are served with pico de gallo, salsa roja, and crema and cabbage (coleslaw to the uninitiated). I’m a traditionalist and opt for fish and chips, my fish of choice being halibut (you can also choose from haddock, calamari, pickerel, sea smelts or shrimp, priced between $12 to $14 with fries).
Those looking for non-fried alternatives will have plenty to choose from. Each of the 11 varieties of seafood come in a roll, as poutine, or fried or grilled. Prices range from $13 to $25, with the lobster items at the higher end (lobster poutine? Why not? $18.) And if you’re in a rush, pretty much everything is available as takeout.
The service is a bit chaotic, and there’s some confusion about who’s in line and who isn’t, but we eventually get both a table and our lunch. The tacos are doubled up, and with good reason — the serving size is generous. The fish is fresh and the tuna is seared beautifully. My guests reports that the shrimp taco was one of the best she’s had. Tacos being tacos, the dish is messy (kudos to my dining companion who managed all three with grace and decorum, unlike the fellow at the next table who sacrificed his tie in the endeavour).
My fish and chips are also generous in size, so a half-order alternative would be a welcome idea. The fish is flaky and succulent. The batter — the make-or-break element of fish and chips — was . . . okay. Now batter thickness is a personal thing, but I found the batter a little on the heavy side. The chips were fine, but they appear to be from frozen and not fresh-cut fries. That seems like a penny-wise and foolish decision. And, as with many neglected sides, the slaw was forgettable. But no one orders a meal for the slaw.
The food at Market Street Catch is good, and the value for money (considering the serving size) is equally good. But the chaos inside echoes the chaos that follows the Buster’s Sea Cove food truck, which makes me wonder: is the skill set that made Buster’s Sea Cove such a success transferable? Still, open only a few weeks, the place is already packed. And it’s clearly a favourite for lunch-hour takeout. Market Street Catch is worth a try and while you’re there, explore the area.
Judge Foodie’s verdict
Highs: the area overall, the patio, the selection of fish
Lows: the informality veers too close to chaos
Kirsten Thompson is a Toronto-based research lawyer and commercial litigator. Since her call to the bar in 2000, she estimates that her restaurant to courtroom ratio has been approximately 14:1. Thoughts? Comments? Ideas for a review? Email her. Follow Judge Foodie on Twitter: @Judge_Foodie