Sort-of Secret: Brandt Meats, a Mississauga food market and factory outlet with a hot-lunch counter
The sort-of secret: Brandt European Food Market Factory Outlet, a Mississauga grocer and deli with a hot-lunch counter
You may have heard of it if: You’re one of its dedicated regulars
But you probably haven’t tried it because: Even though the brand is well known, the grocery store is a hidden gem
At Brandt Meats European Food Market Factory Outlet, the on-site lunch counter serving cabbage rolls, spaetzle and schnitzel is more than just a place to get a hot meal after grocery shopping—it’s a reflection of the brand’s deep roots. Brandt has been in business since 1958, and this location has been open since 1976, when Ida Brandt—the company’s 86-year-old president—took over for her husband, Gerhard, after he passed away. Now in its third generation of family ownership, Brandt supplies every major retailer in the country. So, while there’s a good chance you’ve already tried some of their famous smoked meats or sausages, their grocery store—a treasure trove of European imports and a lunch counter chock full of heirloom recipes—is worth the trip to Mississauga.
Claims that a given restaurant’s food is “just like grandma used to make” are often just marketing buzz, but that’s not the case here. Besides being literally true—many of these recipes have been passed down through the Brandt family—there really is a homespun wholesomeness to the lunch counter’s offerings. Every bite tastes like it’s been fussed over; dishes that might be unremarkable in different hands are memorable.
There’s hunter-style schnitzel with a rich mushroom gravy and pasta dotted with lightly pickled gems of teardrop peppers. Or schnitzel with a German potato salad dressed with vinegar and bacon fat. “We never use mayonnaise in potato salad,” says Melissa Brandt Welzel, Ida’s granddaughter and the brand’s sales and marketing manager. Melissa’s mother, Brigitte, is the company VP; her brother Richard, meanwhile, runs the production plant across the street. Like every generation since Ida took over, the siblings were effectively raised in the store’s aisles. And many of the staff have serious tenure: store manager Tom Meier has been there for 30 years, and the lunch counter’s chef, Jadranka Radic, has been part of the team for 20.
Tender goulash, smoky and crimson with paprika, comes in soup and traditional stew forms. It goes beautifully with fried spaetzle and shredded red cabbage, tender and zippy with red wine vinegar. Hefty cabbage rolls, filled with a mixture of ground beef and rice, come with more spaetzle and mixed vegetables. The sausages—made across the street, like all of Brandt’s meat products—are naturally hardwood smoked and heavy on the garlic. (Customers can also grab a pack or three to take home.)
The store’s shelves brim with products that are often hard to find outside a dedicated European grocer. The mustard and pickle sections alone are worth the trip—think preserved sour cherries, every variety of pickled cucumber imaginable and a myriad of mustards, from smooth and delicate to grainy and horseradish-spiked. There’s Dutch cookie butter (if you know, you know) as well as Milka chocolate bars and Turkish delights galore. Preserved fish gets its own refrigerated section—if you haven’t tried pickled herring, you’re missing out.
Of course, there’s also an extensive deli and butcher counter stocked with Brandt products. Naturally hardwood-smoked meat is a specialty here: chickens, turkeys and ham hocks are all available smoked. Traditional German sausages are another signature—weisswurst, knockwurst and the bestselling smoked farmer’s sausage. There’s also kielbasa, bologna, salami, bacon and virtually every other kind of meat product you’d expect from a place with a 100,000-square-foot plant across the street.
“Some of our customers have been shopping here for 50 years,” says Melissa. “When they come in, it’s like a reunion. They come in and share a piece of cake or a schnitzel with people they’ve known for decades.” Sometimes, Ida herself comes in to check on things, and she’s treated like a celebrity by staff and customers alike. This is a family business through and through—not to mention a rare independent in a country overrun with grocery monopolies. Come for the cookie butter and deli meat, stay for an order of schnitzel and taste of history.