Queue at Toronto’s Irish shop ‘will be longer than dole queue at home’

“Sorry lads, the soda bread is sold out. But we’ll have more tomorrow.”

It’s 3.30pm on the opening day of the Pantry, Toronto’s first Irish shop and deli, and Maeve McCarthy is already telling customers she’s run out of breakfast rolls and soda bread.

The Fanta shelf has a few lonely cans left and, all day, there’s been a steady flow of Irish and Canadian customers alike.

“I can’t believe how busy it’s been,” says Maeve 39, from Bantry, Co Cork, as she makes up a chicken fillet roll — just like back home.

“People have been travelling from all over to pick up a few bits and pieces. I thought I knew most of the Irish here but I’ve seen people I never have before.”

Whether it’s a reminder of mammy’s cooking or just a case of old habits dying hard, the Irish diaspora is firmly attached to a whole host of food and drink from home, from a cup of tea to Lucozade, proper sausages and rashers, and just a regular lunch roll.

Maeve, who has been in Canada for 17 years, already serves an Irish breakfast at her bar. When she found herself cooking dinners in the evenings for some of the regulars, she knew it was time to act.

Along with twin sister Sinead, she is bringing a taste of Ireland to east Toronto’s Little India in the form of the Pantry Irish shop and deli.

“I don’t know why but the Irish just love the food from back home,” says Maeve.

“Like the Greeks have their souvlaki, the Irish like their good healthy dinners and rolls for lunch. They do like the pub menus here but they miss the goodness of an Irish dinner.”

All the food — soups, potato salad and coleslaw, chicken curry pies, shepherd’s pie, and of course soda bread — is homemade. The Pantry’s chef, 26-year-old Aoife O’Mahony, also from Cork, is a new arrival to Toronto and worked at the Farmgate restaurant in the English Market back home.

Since news of the opening was posted on the Pantry’s Facebook page, hundreds of requests for various foods have been made. Expressing his delight at the venture, one Irish immigrant predicted: “There’ll be queues longer than the dole office at home.”

He might be right.


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