Monday, January 16, 2012

A hidden buffet serving Portuguese home cooking by the pound

I was surprised to receive an email from one of my Spice City tipsters about a grocery store in my old neighbourhood with a hot food buffet inside. I must have crossed by the place, M&M Fruit & Grocery, a million times. It's located at 1263 Dundas Street West, just across from the 7-11 at Dovercourt.

Outside, the place looks just like your run-of-the-mill corner grocery, but inside, it's a different story. The shop sells a good selection of Portuguese breads and cheeses, and there's a full meat counter in the back. More unusual is the large hot food buffet right inside an aisle, packed full with dozens of southern European specialties. 

While Portuguese take-out barbecue joints aren't hard to find in this part of town, this place is unique, as you can serve yourself. Food is sold for $14.99 a kilo; fish is $21.99 a kilo.

"Customers can choose whatever they like," says the owner, Joel Morais, a native of Portugal's Azores islands (shown above). "I got the idea to do this when I was on a trip to Florida 18 years ago. In the plazas people buy everything by the pound and it's amazing."

Hot food has been served at this 34-year old grocery for a long time, but Joel says his offerings have expanded considerably in the last couple of years. The food is grilled in the shop's basement.

While the buffet is a hit with the Portuguese grandma crowd, it's a great opportunity for non-Portuguese to sample a wide range of the country's dishes that go well beyond the standard barbecue chicken and potatoes. The dishes aren't labelled, but if you ask what they are, you might be in for some surprises.

You can try alcatra, an Azores dish of beef marinated in wine and garlic. There is a wide variety of tasty fish: plump mackerel stuffed with cornbread, good quality tuna steaks in tomato sauce, grilled stickleback and sole filets. Moray eel, another Portuguese delicacy, is served up fried.

The chicarron (fried pork rinds) is a trashy treat, and the blood pudding and blood sausage are undeniably tasty. Another surprisingly pleasant dish is the cow's feet, which is stewed with sausage and chick peas and served extremely tender.

However, you can never be sure of what you will find here. "The food here is always changing," says the Jorge, who works at the meat counter (shown below). "It's never the same twice."

And the final bill? On my first visit I piled in a piece of chicken, those lovely round Portuguese potatoes, and two long grilled fish and it came to $5.55. On a second visit, taking a solid chunk of tuna steak, a large mackerel and a sampling of half a dozen other dishes and it came to around $10. The meal was easily enough to feed two people.

Thanks to Shan for the tip.

M&M Fruit & Grocery is located at 1263 Dundas Street West at Dovercourt. Tel: 416 533 9017. Hot food is served from 9:30 am until 4pm or 5pm. 

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  1. I absolutely love this place!!! Went here everyday for 2 months straight for lunch and now I miss it.

  2. Best chourico (Portuguese sausage) in Toronto. There chourico is done just like back home. love it!

  3. thanks for posting. we've had a few people come in as a result of this article.

  4. Really?! They are in my 'hood and I didn't know.

  5. Wow! I'm amazed how they hid the restaurant so well. I think it is just a simple store not knowing that inside hides a feast. I'd love to taste their tuna steak dish.