514 equivalent: Atwater Market
First, the similarities: both are located in the downtowns of their respective cities, both feature delicious food from local businesses, both have a number of restaurants, both attract large crowds of people, both are “super cute” and smell amazing.
The enclosed part of the St Lawrence market feels larger and there are countless samples on offer for passers-by. On the other hand, the breakfast place boasting the world’s best peameal sandwich will disappoint the least discerning of Montrealers on both counts. The peameal sandwich in the Kensington Market was a much closer contender for that title, in my humble opinion. As for breakfast in general, don’t order Hollandaise sauce. Anywhere in Toronto. Seriously, you’ve been warned.
The most disappointing by far however is the fact that the St Lawrence Market is closed on Sundays. You read that right. The market in Toronto, the city where you can get Japanese cheesecake until 11pm and where the subway runs every 6 minutes late on a Sunday night closes on one of the two weekend days during which the majority of its patrons can visit. I found out the hard way after having fallen in love with a certain pasta sauce and walking over with full expectations of having it for dinner. I had to walk, crestfallen, to Metro to procure an inferior alternative. I have yet to get over it. Can anyone explain this to me please? Don’t even get me started on the fact that it closes at 3 pm on Saturdays.
Which bring us to the Atwater Market. Prettier to look at and open until 5 pm on Saturdays and on Sundays (7 am-5 pm), it is situated right on the scenic Lachine Canal and is easily accessed by bicycle.
In conclusion, while both markets offer a breath of fresh air in a claustrophobic urban environment, I think Montreal wins this round based primarily on sheer accessibility. I assure you, no one was more surprised by this than myself. I’ve often complained about Quebec’s dictatorial business hour laws and simply cannot believe that in this one instance, Montreal comes out on top. And I mean, really, I don’t care if Home Depot is open until 11 pm, that has no impact on my life but to deprive city folk of homemade pasta sauce on a Sunday… consider this my strongly worded letter.