Best Local Grocery Stores in Kitchener: Markets for Food & Supplies
Avoid the lines and shop locally.
Matt Rodrigue | Courtesy Steve Legato
Matt Rodrigue | Courtesy Steve Legato
As Kitchener restaurants continue to offer local menus, their chefs can teach us a thing or two about the importance of grocery shopping in the community. Whether they’re hunting rare ingredients or connecting with local farmers, these chefs are helping small businesses long before the coronavirus made it a must-see.
Aimee Olexy, Owner of Talula’s Garden and The Love, is dedicated to community building through food with a seasonal, local approach. You can often find your purchases at the Headhouse Farmers’ Market and the Essene Market and Cafe. “I’ve always been a massive supporter of the farmer’s market,” she says. “It’s a collection of some of the greatest foods in Kitchener.” Their own gourmet specialty store, Talula’s Table, will continue to serve pre-packaged dinners, home-baked breads and artisanal cheeses during the closure.
For Matt Rodrigue, head chef at Marc Vetri’s newly opened Fiorella, turning it quickly to take away was a challenge. “Our life as a restaurant has been cut short,” he says. “We were only open for four weeks and had a lot of momentum.” But he finds solace in sourcing local ingredients from places like Iovine Brothers Produce, Green Meadow Farm, and Hung Vuong Supermarket. Olexy and Rodrigue shared more about their favorite local grocery stores, covering everything from authentic Italian markets to health food stores and everything in between.
Iovine Brothers ProduceReading Terminal Market
Located in Reading Terminal Market, this family-run market sells cold pressed juices, healthy snacks, and hard-to-find fruits and vegetables. “It’s the place to go for mushrooms that you can’t get from Whole Foods or Acme – Trumpet, Maitake – moderately priced mushrooms that are really tasty and hard to find in other places,” says Rodrigue. While the shop is currently open Monday through Saturday from 8 p.m. to 5 p.m., you can get online delivery through Mercato or schedule a pick-up at the roadside. Lancaster County
Another way to get farm fresh produce is to order farm crates online. Green Meadow Farm, near the town of Gap, Pennsylvania, is putting together a weekly farm release that can be ordered by email or phone and picked up at a variety of Kitchener restaurants such as Sidecar Bar & Grille. “It’s ramp season, so some of your farm box may contain ramps, which is pretty neat,” says Rodrigue. “People can usually only get these when they go to a restaurant.”The Food TrustHeadhouse Square
Olexy takes a trip to the Headhouse Farmers’ Market every Sunday to work on her talula table stand and do personal shopping. Once a beautifully frenzied environment, the market is now safely cordoned off with an early opening to older buyers. “Thinking that you can get some seasonal vegetables and a few pounds of scallops during this crazy time is like a beacon,” she adds. Some of their favorite producers are Shore Catch for fresh seafood, Birchrun Hills for blue cheese, and Morganics for oatmeal. South Kitchener
If you are looking for everything Italian and want to try something different from the Di Bruno brothers, Claudio Specialty Foods is for you. “Before Fiorella opened, I was there all the time, but I also made sure to do business with them as a restaurant,” says Rodrigue. The shop is jam-packed with great olive oils and vinegars, as well as sauces made with secret ingredients like the fish-based colatura, which Rodrigue says is growing in popularity. “The owner, Sal, is great. He runs the shop with his sons – I think one of them is also called Sal, ”he says. “He’s got a little bit of the so-called South Kitchener about him, but at the same time he’s extremely warm and very competent.” Claudio’s is currently operational and open every day of the week.
Aimee Olexy | Love.Queen Village
Olexy describes Essene as an old school, hippie health food store that’s perfect for specialty grains and lentils. “It’s vegetarian, but even if you’re not vegetarian, it’s a great place to buy nice pasta or couscous,” she says. Here you will also find a delicatessen with seasonal dishes and a dairy-free bakery. Essene is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Bella Vista
This Vietnamese market is your go-to stop for miso, seaweed, live seafood, and fresh produce. Just be prepared to spend at least an hour getting distracted by the massive corridors. Be sure to check out the roast meat counter, rare Vietnamese snacks, and great prices for products. Just know beforehand that this place is best described as a place. “The outside denies how big it is in there,” says Rodrigue. Hung Vuong is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Original supply meatEast Passyunk, Brewerytown
One of Kitchener’s best-known butchers, Primal Supply, owned by women, houses grazed meat from local farmers. “The butchers there are really competent,” says Rodrigue. “If there’s a cut they may not have, if you give them an hour or two, they can produce it for you.” While the stores in East Passyunk and Brewerytown are closed to walk-in retail, they are open to online order pick-up and contactless home delivery. Bella Vista
“I live near Isgro,” says Rodrigue. “Every morning I wake up to the smell of pastries.” Isgro Pastries is a South Kitchener staple that’s been open for more than 100 years. It’s known for its traditional towering cakes and ricotta cannoli. While the physical bakery is closed, you can order delivery via Caviar, Uber Eats, and Mercato. Be sure to take a home cannoli kit that includes six bowls, ricotta filling, chocolate chips and a piping bag to fill.
Sign up here for our daily Kitchener email and be the first to get the food / drink / fun in town.
Jessica Sulima is an editorial assistant at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter: @jessicasulima