When you serve quality in everything you do, people take notice. That’s why St. James Town Steak and Chops has been around for over 40 years. This family-run butcher has been providing great meats, fish, seafood, produce, and dishes prepared on the premises for the Old Cabbagetown neighbourhood. It was Terry Michelin and his partner who opened the doors for the first time in 1971, and his family has owned and operated the business ever since. Now Terry’s son, Mark, has taken the reins. Though a proficient butcher, it was Mark who expanded St Jamestown to include the local produce and deli next door.
We asked Mark a few questions about his butcher, his deli, and the neighbourhood as a whole.
What was it like when your dad owned the butcher? What was the neighbourhood like then?
“There was less income in the neighbourhood. Not as many people were as willing to spend money on food. Things were pretty cheap. We didn’t carry a bunch of the things that we carry now, like beef tenderloin or the higher-end cuts. A lot fewer people were buying the higher-end items. I spent a lot of time in the neighbourhood.”
When did you start working at the deli with your father?
“We took over the deli about ten years ago. I’ve been working here all through growing up, spending Saturdays or even a day off school to help so that my dad could have a day off. I’ve always worked here.”
Did you learn to be a butcher there or did you take any formal schooling? Does your family also help out like you did?
“I just learned through my father. I have three kids, and sometimes they come down and help out. They have other routes, other interests. Having your own business comes with a lot of sacrifices. It would be nice to have them follow in my footsteps, but I wouldn’t be upset if they went with another route.”
At the deli, and with all the foods you prepare onsite, what is your favourite dish you make?
You have to do the Chicken Caesar Wrap — it’s pretty awesome. If I had to pick, it would be that one. It’s a pretty awesome sandwich.
From the butcher side, when you go home at the end of the day, what’s your favourite cut of meat and how do you prepare it?
“All the beef we bring in is all PEI grass-fed pasture-raised beef. So if I’m going to barbecue, I’d take a rib-eye steak home. But I think my favourite for a Sunday meal would be the short ribs. Those are pretty easy and the kids love those. Just 15 minutes worth of prep — throw them in the oven, dinner’s done. It cooks itself all day.”
What makes St. James Town Steak and Chops so unique is its commitment to great goods. Yes, there are premium meats, as Mark described, but you can also slide into the attached delicatessen for a great cup of coffee while you shop, browse, and sample. The shop’s eye for great local and imported foods is shown off in its display cases. Mark knows his suppliers personally and is able to ensure that he’s getting quality product for customers each and every time.
Since the early ’70s, when St. James Town Steak and Chops set up shop, the neighbourhood has evolved, and the butcher has kept pace with the needs of its neighbours. The neighbourhood is now a mix of residents who have been here for over 30 years along with younger professionals filling local condo developments that have recently sprouted up. Regardless of their age or tenure, everyone is looking for the best food possible. Mark delivers, and his customers know this.
Anna, 34, has lived in Cabbagetown for over eight years and is a regular meat buyer.
“You can always count on the meat. From the steak and ribs, even the breakfast sausages, they’re among the best meats I’ve bought. I buy here for barbecues all summer long. I know friends of mine travel here from other neighbourhoods for his stuff,”
Seafood lovers as well have taken to St. James Town. Marcus, 46, says,
“There’s shrimp and then there’s shrimp. These ones are massive. Definitely the place to come for surf and turf.”
Today, look for certified organic fare like beef, salmon, and sushi-grade tuna. You can also pick up hand-smoked salmon and sausages that are made from Mark’s own recipes. The shop has since added the phenomenal produce section that always has a great selection of Ontario fruits and vegetables on hand. You can truly get everything you need for the night’s meal here.
Plus, you can feel free to settle in and enjoy a light meal at the accompanying delicatessen. Dine on fresh salads and hot dishes that are all made on the premises. The shop also serves specials daily, ranging from hearty sandwiches to a dish of meatloaf or stew. You can also grab some prepared kebabs and specialty marinades to use at home.
But despite the great variety, what St. James Town has really built its reputation on is its great meats. As Mark explained, the beef is PEI grain-fed, pasture-raised, and wet-aged to keep it moist and flavourful. You’re also able to find great Ontario lamb, pork, and free-range poultry here.
Tip: Make sure you place your turkey order well in advance of Thanksgiving or Christmas to avoid disappointment. Here’s a great FLAWLESS TURKEY recipe by Mark.
A trip to Cabbagetown would be incomplete without a stop at the deli for breakfast, lunch, or dinner — where foods are prepared with fresh ingredients from the store. The soups are homemade, seasoned well, and allowed to rest, letting the flavours marry and become robust. Mark dishes out a brilliant chicken schnitzel sandwich and slow-roasted ribs that fall off the bone. Finish off with delicious fresh-baked pastries and cookies. All these can be enjoyed in the interior café or outside on the shaded patio. You won’t leave hungry.
Pressed for time and need to put on a spread for your office or home party? No worries. St. James Town offers a premium catering service to meet your needs, no matter what your meal or budget. Enjoy homemade sausages, banana bread, muffins, and fresh fruit for breakfast, deli sandwiches, hot soups and lasagna for lunch, or slow-roasted ribs, schnitzel, and salads for dinner. Many other foods are available, so talk to the staff to discuss the many options.
It’s also great to see local businesses embrace social media, and a quick visit to the St. James Town Steak and Chops Facebook Page tells you what fresh chops or baked goods have been prepared that day. It’s a great page to see new food arrivals, daily specials, and any special announcements regarding holiday hours.
Whatever your meat and produce needs, St. James Town Steak and Chops delivers it fresh, fast, and friendly. It’s one of the reasons people stay in Cabbagetown.
516 Parliament Street
Monday: 10:00 am–7:00 pm
Tuesday–Friday: 9:00 am–7:00 pm
Saturday: 8:00 am–6:00 pm
Sunday: 10:00 am–5:00 pm
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