Toronto’s Great Gluten-Free Store

On recent trips to Toronto, I’ve discovered that gluten-free grocery-store choices have multiplied. There’s Whole Foods in Hazelton Lanes (though its Gluten-Free Bakehouse options are more limited than what I encounter in the chain’s New York branches). Grocery giant Loblaws now has a specialty-food aisle in its shops that includes celiac-safe options. There’s also Noah’s Natural Foods, a small, health-oriented local chain, and Ambrosia Natural Foods just north of Toronto in Thornhill. However, my favorite in the city — the Specialty Food Shop — is located downtown at the southeast corner of University Avenue and Gerrard Street.

If you know Toronto at all, that location might have sent up a red flag. Right now, you’re asking yourself, Isn’t that where the Hospital for Sick Children is? Yes, and that’s exactly where the Specialty Food Shop is. I know that going into a hospital to shop for food isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but if you can get past that obstacle, this is a real find. There are aisles filled with gluten-free treats — cookies of all descriptions, ice-cream cones, snack bars — as well as aisles filled with healthier fare, including pastas, cereals, breads, soup bases and mixes, baking products, and frozen dinners.

The Specialty Food Shop carries brands many North American celiacs know, including Glutino, Mi-Del, and Enjoy Life, but there are some surprises, too. Who knew that there’s a fantastic Swiss-style dedicated gluten-free bakery called El Peto in Ontario that makes divine butter tarts and pecan tarts? An Alberta company, Kinnikinnick, produces Oreo-like cookies called K-Toos. There are also international brands such as Australia’s Orgran (which makes buckwheat pasta) and Germany’s Glutano.

The store isn’t just for celiacs, and not all of its products are gluten-free. There are also groceries for the lactose-intolerant and the food-allergic, people on low-protein diets, and people with cystic fibrosis. If you live in Canada but can’t make it to the store in person, you can place your order online or by phone instead (shipping is not available to the U.S.). If you do have the opportunity to visit, enter the building through the Elizabeth Street entrance (the Hospital for Sick Children is a massive complex; this offers the clearest route to the store). The store is open seven days a week; check the website for the most up-to-date hours. Its website also features extensive nutritional information and gluten-free recipes.

The Specialty Food Shop [address] At the Hospital for Sick Children (main floor), 555 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada [tel] 1-800-737-7976 or 416-813-5294 [web]

11 thoughts on “Toronto’s Great Gluten-Free Store

  1. There is another terrific source in Toronto for Gluten free products, and that would be The Big Carrot on Danforth Ave, West of Logan. They have a great variety of GF products, including breads, ready made meals, and also a bulk section (great for us GF bakers). Thanks for your terrific site- I cant wait to travel again!!

  2. Thanks for the update – I just ordered ice cream cones for $11 per box and $6 shipping for two boxes.

    When I emailed the Gluten-Free Mall about their appalling $34 shipping fee (at least for the first pound) for one box of the same cones, I received the following response:

    On 23-Mar-09, at 7:30 PM, Scott Adams wrote:

    Yes, we’re sorry you live in Canada too…

    What a Hole!

  3. Thanks for the info about the Specialty shop! Since I’ve started doing personal training with Roland Semprie, he’s been encouraging me to stop eating gluten (I’ve had a really messed up digestive response to it for years, although it’s not Celiac Disease) and I’ve been looking for less refined, gluten-free items! This diet, along with all the amazing personal training I’ve been receiving is resulting in me feeling better than I ever have! Eating this way makes me feel I have more energy to workout, and my workouts give me more energy. Thanks for letting me know there are stores in this city to help me eat like this now — I”ll pass this information onto Roland!

  4. I have been on a gf diet ever since last year. Thanks for all the information you provide. It’s so helpful.

  5. I wonder, do most grocery stores carry gluten free products? I don’t do the shopping, my step dad does and he won’t shop at a seperate grocery store for me..unfortunately. I’m having trouble coming up with good snacks and lunch to bring along with me..I’ve literally just started my gluten free diet do to gluten intollerant..and already I’m struggling

  6. Thank you so much for all the information posted. SickKids sell glutenfree stuff! I didn’t know that!
    – from whom recently dx’ed with gluten intolerance

  7. Hello everyone
    I just opened up a Gluten Free Store at 2351B Kingston Rd in Scarborough.
    We carry a lot of good snacks, breads, Quinoa, Cereals and a whole lot more. We may carry some deli meats as well in the near future including hot dogs and all of them will be gluten free. We also carry some lactose free products, Vegan products. Drop by for the grand opening on April 29th 2011 for free samples. The store is located at Kingston Road and Midland in the Terry Town Plaza, Annick’s Gluten Free Market

  8. I was visiting Toronto. WEnt into a very large gourmet food store that had counters for meat, fish, coffee, cheeses etc.. They had in there a gluten free bread in a white package that was high in fiber and delicious. Through out the package and cant remember name of bread or store. I remeber the store was in center of city in a very nice area.
    Thanks for your help

  9. We now carry Nates bagels and GF foods such as pastas, bagels, breads, pizza crust and many more of their products. We also carry Little B’s bakery muffins, cookies and butter tarts which are delicious. Come see us at our store at 2351B Kingston Rd Scarborough west of Midland on the south side of Kingston rd.

  10. We have launched a FRESH FOOD gluten free daily delivery service. Please check us out. We do the Gluten free cooking and you enjoy.

  11. February 4, 2012 at 2:28 pmi tried this for my cousins famliy because they cant eat anything with gluten in it and they loved it and so did i can eat gluten but i think gluten free foods taste really better than gluten in food and thank you for helping me make a great dessert for my famliy!!!!

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