DINER: At Long Last, Big Lou’s Will Tackle Toronto’s Famed Peameal Bacon Sandwich

by Andrew Morrison | After some cajoling, my local butcher shop, Big Lou’s, has decided to do a peameal bacon sandwich. What’s the big deal? Well, for starters, they’re fucking delicious, times a gabillion. We could leave it at that, but it should be remembered that the peameal bacon sandwich is also widely acknowledged to be Toronto’s signature dish. I ate my weight in them when I used to live back east, and I’ve repeatedly begged for them since coming home, most recently in a column detailing what I’d like to see from Vancouver’s next crop of street food vendors.

If you look closely, you’ll notice that there are literally thousands of former Torontonians roaming the streets of Vancouver every day in a vapid daze, pining for a taste of Hogtown (and a sip of Creemore beer). When word gets around that we’re actually going to have these gnarly beasts right here in town, the cloistered hearts of (closet) Leafs fans from Kits to Kamloops will glow like the lights of Honest Ed’s before melting like so much butter on a streetcar rail. They will freak.

But what are we talking about, really? In Toronto’s iconic St. Lawrence Market, at stalls with names like “The Sausage King” and “Carousel”, the thick cut, cornmeal-encrusted, flat top-sizzled slices of cured, salty pork loin come fast and furious. They’re piled high – 6 slices! – on soft buns and served with a variety of add-ons. Some folks dig ’em plain, others stacked with bell peppers and fried eggs, but the gold standard – to me at least – has always been with mayo and iceberg lettuce, and maybe a slice of tomato. To my knowledge – and this has always struck me as totally bizarre – no Vancouver establishment has ever tried to replicate it.

Since I’ve been lobbying Big Lou’s chefs/butchers Karl Gregg and Allan Bosomworth to make and sell this sandwich since before they’d even opened shop, they contacted me last week to say they’d just cured their first loins. Despite having been to Toronto before, neither Karl nor Allan had ever tried the sandwich. Would I be so kind as to come down and help them make it? Hell yes I would! The experiments went down late yesterday afternoon, and I think we got it right (I had to walk my bike home – a good sign, to be sure).

I’ll be writing about the development of the sandwich (and the obstacles that Karl and Allan have faced in achieving a reasonable facsimile) in next week’s paper. Before I do that, however, I’ll say six things about the final product to whet your waggers.

1. the sandwich should be on sale for $7.95 probably before this week is over (unless they go back to the drawing board).

2. Leafs suck!

3. they’ve made a garlic mayo similar to the sauce at St. Lawrence Market’s Sausage King (FTW).

4. they’re employing pork fat from their porchetta to mimic the flat top grease you’d get in Toronto (FTW).

5. a spread of HP sauce is an option (FTW).

6. oh my holy god…peameal bacon sandwiches!


Andrew Morrison lives and works in Vancouver as editor-in-chief of Scout, food columnist at the Westender, and National Referee & Judge at the Canadian Culinary Championships. He also contributes regularly to a wide range of publications, radio programs, and television shows on local food, culture and travel; collects inexpensive things; and enjoys rare birds, skateboards, cocktails, shoes, good pastas, many songs, and the smell of camp fires.

There are 8 comments

  1. But do they jam the bun onto the crazy steam-injector thing to make it warm and chewy before loading it up? Huh? Do they?

  2. They’ve gone with soft Portuguese (reminded me of the awesome PMB sammies in Kensington). It maintains chewiness whilst soaking up the mayo, HP, and pork fat. FTW.

  3. as i was planning on making my own peameal – this is rather exciting! i will mention a small thing tho…seems like it’s piled too high. but my memory may be failing me, it’s been a long time. now if someone would do the sausage patty sandwich…

  4. Slices were thinner/smaller than in Toronto, so they’re doubled up. 12 in all.

  5. It’s actually cornmeal. Really, the appeal is that it’s from a cured, lean loin. Lots of flavour. The meal crusts up deliciously with heat and adds a little texture to the chew. Good on its own hot from a pan for breakfast but legend in a sandwich.

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