Dining in Toronto in past decades was far different to the culinary scene that the city now offers. When I was a boy in the 1940s, my family did not visit restaurants as my parents considered them too expensive. The only food that was prepared outside our home was a take-out order of fish and chips from “Oakwood Fish and Chips,” located on Oakwood Avenue, north of Rogers Road. However, memories of food cooked beyond our kitchen, during my boyhood years, include the hot dogs and the aroma of the ice cream waffles in the tunnel under Albert Street. The passageway connected Eaton’s Queen Street Store to Eaton’s Annex. Other “exotic” foods of my childhood were the free samples and greasy treats at the CNE, which we loved.
In the early-1950s, my family moved to the west end of the city, near Jane Street and Lambton Avenue, and our local fish and chips shop became “Golden Crip Fish and Chips,” at 1364 Weston Road. It remains in business today (October 2015) and is now operated by the son of its original owner.
During my high school years in the 1950s, I often visited local restaurants for a coffee and a slice or pie. My favourite was the Paragon Restaurant on St. Clair West, near Oakwood Avenue. However, I never indulged in an evening meal until I was of an age to travel downtown. When my friends and I attended theatres such as Shea’s Hippodrome, The Imperial, Loew’s Downtown, Biltmore, Savoy or the Downtown, we sometimes splurged and went to the Chicken Palace at 404 Yonge Street, where we ordered deep fried chicken and french fries, served in a wicker basket. It was very similar to the KFC of today. We thought it was great.
Another favourite downtown restaurant was Bassel’s, on the southeast corner of Yonge and Gerrard Streets. After attending the theatre, we visited Bassel’s where we usually ordered coffee and pie with whipped cream, or if we went to Bassel’s in the evening, before the theatre, we had a western sandwich and fries. Because it was considered a classy restaurant, we felt very grown-up whenever we went there.
The only other eatery I remember from the 1950s is the Honey Dew restaurant located on the mezzanine level of the Odeon Carlton Theatre, which served fish and chips and Ritz Carlton hotdogs, along with the famous Honey Dew orange drink.
Bassel’s on the southeast corner of Gerrard and Yonge Streets in April 1954. In the background is the Coronet (Savoy) Theatre. Toronto Archives, S0372, SS058, item 2482.
Bassel’s Restaurant, which occupied the equivalent space of three stores on Yonge Street.
I came of age to attend “real” restaurants in the 1960s, in a decade when more Torontonians were beginning to discover the delights of dining out. It was also the era when post-war immigrants were changing the restaurant scene. The well-seasoned spicier foods that ethnic eateries offered were challenging the more bland style of dishes that Canada inherited from Great Britain. I still remember when my mother discovered the delights of adding garlic to her recipes, much to the chagrin of my father. My mother ignored his comments. For her, there was no turning back.
When I commenced working full time, in the 1960s, I had a few more dollars to spend. One of the first restaurants my friends and I visited was the Swiss Chalet. This chain first appeared at 234 Bloor Street West, in 1954, and in the years ahead opened over 200 eateries throughout Canada and the U.S. However, my first experience with its barbequed chicken was at 362 Yonge Street, which remains in existence today. However, the original location on Bloor Street closed in 2006; a condo is now on the site. It is difficult to realize today how popular the Swiss Chalet was in the early-1960s. I once attended a wedding reception in the banquet room in the basement of the Swiss Chalet at its Yonge Street location.
Another bargain restaurant chain we frequented in the 1960s was the Steak and Burger. It had many outlets throughout the city, but the one we frequented the most was on the west side of Yonge, south of Bloor Street. We also enjoyed Smitty’s Pancake House on Dundas Street West, east of Islington Avenue, and their location in Yorkdale Plaza. Another bargain chain of steak houses was Ponderosa, named after the fictional ranch in the TV program “Bonanza.” These restaurant chains offered affordable steaks that were reasonably tender. Remember, I said “reasonably.”
My first experience with a steak house of quality was Barbarian’s, on Elm Street. This restaurant opened in 1959, and is one of the few from the days of my youth that still exists. I thought I had died and entered heaven when I first tasted their Delmonico steak. I also visited Carmen’s Steak House at 26 Alexander Street (now closed) and Tom Jones Steak House at 17 Leader Lane, located on the east side of the King Edward Hotel. This restaurant still exists today.
Tom Jones Steak House on the corner of Colborne Street and Leader Lane in 1989. Toronto Archives, F1526, fl0008, item 0116.
The Steak and Burger on Yonge Street, south of Bloor Street in the 1970s. The Golden Nugget Restaurant was slightly further north. These restaurants were favourites when we visited Loew’s Uptown or the Town Cinema Theatre on Bloor Street East. The Java House was also in this block of buildings, south of Bloor Street, and was great for coffee after the theatre. In the photo, the black building in the distance, on the far left, is a Coles Book Store. It was where we purchased our high school texts each September. In the 1950s, high schools did not provide texts. We bought our own, sometimes saving money by purchasing second-hand books. Photo, Toronto Archives, F0124, Fl 0002, Id. 0111.
The Swiss Chalet at 362 Yonge Street. Its facade has changed greatly since the 1950s. This is where I attended a wedding reception in its banquet room in the basement. Photo taken in 2014.
After I started working full time, one of the first staff Christmas parties that I attended was at the Ports of Call, at 1145 Yonge Street. It opened in 1963, and for the next decade was one of the city’s most popular dining establishments. It contained three dining rooms—the Bali Hai Room (Polynesian), the Dickens’ English Inn (roast beef) and Caesar’s Room (Italian). The Ports of Call also had two bars — the Singapore Bar (Asian) and the Batton Rouge Bar (French), the latter featuring dancing. I remember that when entering the restaurant, I walked over a wooden foot bridge that spanned a stream of flowing water. We could remain for an evening at the Ports of Call, as after dinner, we could visit one of the bars for music and dancing.
My Favourite seafood restaurant in Toronto was The Mermaid, at 724 Bay Street, which opened in 1964. It was on the west side of Bay Street, a few doors north of Gerrard. A small cozy establishment, owned by John Lundager, it featured Danish/Canadian cuisine. Its . Inside, near the entrance, there was a replica of Copenhagen’s famous statue of The Little Mermaid, from the Hans Christian Anderson tale. We always started the meal at the Mermaid with the Copenhagen Seafood Chowder, which was a Danish version of New England clam chowder—rich and creamy. The complimentary salad had a tangy garlic dressing. The main courses we enjoyed the most were Lobster Newburg, Lobster Cardinale, Lobster Thermidor, and Seafood Newburg. From the late-1960s until the 1980s, the name of the Maitre d’ was Tage Christensen. We visited the restaurant after it relocated to Dundas Street West, opposite the Art Gallery (AGO), but it was not the same. Its new owners began substituting lobster-flavoured pollock for real lobster meat, and the Mermaid closed shortly thereafter.
Perhaps one of the most famous of Toronto dining places was Ed’s Warehouse, at 266 King Street West. It was a bold venture to open a restaurant in that location in 1963, as the railway yards were on the south side of King Street. However, Ed Mirvish had purchased the Royal Alexandria Theatre and wanted to attract people to the area. I first visited Ed’s Warehouse when I received a complimentary coupon for Ed’s Warehouse with my theatre subscription. I believe that the coupon had a value of $20, and it covered the entire cost of the meal. The dining room was Victoriana gone wild; the decor was part of the attraction. The meal consisted of thick juicy slices of tender roast beef, mashed potatoes, green peas, and Yorkshire pudding. Garlic bread and dill pickles were included. The dessert was spumoni ice cream. The restaurant was so successful that Ed Mirvish expanded and opened Ed’s Seafood, Ed’s Chinese, Ed’s Italian and Ed’s Folly (a lounge). Ed’s restaurants and the Royal Alex were the impetus that started the gentrification of King Street West.
One year on my birthday, my family told me that they were taking me out to dinner, but they kept their choice of restaurant a surprise. I inquired if I should wear a tie and jacket and was told that they were unnecessary. When we arrived, we discovered that a tie and jacket were indeed mandatory, as it was Ed’s Warehouse on King Street. The waiter offered to provide the proper attire from among the jackets and ties that they kept for such situations. He explained that they required the dress code to prevent vagrants from across the street at the railroad yards from entering the establishment. We were offended, as the clothes they offered were grubby looking, and we were certainly not hobos. We were wearing freshly-ironed sport shirts and neat trousers.
Then, Ed Mirvish appeared and inquired, “What’s the problem?”
He smiled, apologized, and told the waiter, “Escort them to the table that has been reserved.”
We enjoyed the meal and when the cheque arrived, the bill had been reduced by 50 per cent. He was a very smart businessman as well as a big-hearted individual. My family never forgot his generosity.
Ed’s restaurants on King Street in 1981. Toronto Archives, F1526, fl0067, item 17 .
La Chaumiere Restaurant at 77 Charles Street East, near Church Street, opened in 1950, and was the city’s first truly French dining establishment. Its intimate atmosphere and excellent food were delightful. I was greatly saddened when it closed its doors in 1988; the historic house was demolished, and for a few years the site was likely a parking lot, as it was not until 1995 that a housing co-operative was erected on the property. Today, I possess fond memories of this fine dining establishment. The feature that I remember the most was the hors-d’oeuvres cart, which contained at least twenty appetizers, including escargot (heavy with garlic), trays of stuffed olives, stuffed mushrooms, wine-marinated anchovies, pureed cottage cheese with cognac and scallions, and quenelles of shrimp. La Chaumiere was also well known for its coq au vin and scallops Normandie.
La Chaumiere on Charles Street, near Church Street in the 1960s.
Another popular restaurant was the Three Small Rooms in the Windsor Arms Hotel. The hotel was a favourite of Hollywood stars such as Katharine Hepburn. Another restaurant I remember fondly, always appropriate for special occasions, was Winston’s at 120 King Street West. It was expensive, but the food was wonderful. It was reported that John Turner had his own table at Winston’s. La Scala on the southeast corner of Bay and Charles was great Italian food; it was frequented by the Ontario Cabinet of Bill Davis. However, the food portions at La Scala were small. I dined there once with my father and he asked the waiter if anyone ever ordered in a pizza after finishing a meal at La Scala. The waiter smiled; he had likely heard similar comments on previous occasions. Mr. Tony’s Place at 100 Cumberland Avenue in Yorkville was also highly popular, even though it offered no printed menus.
The Hungarian Village at 900 Bay Street served Hungarian food and featured live Gypsy violinists. I remember being treated to lunch there by a friend, prior to my departure for a holiday.
L’Hardy’s restaurant at 634 Church Street opened in 1973 and remained until 1987. Its two owners (and chefs) once cooked for the royal court in Madrid. The food was superb, along with the service. It was located in the southern half of a 19th century semi-detached house, which was on the west side of Church Street, a short distance south of Bloor Street East. The northern half of the semi-detached house was occupied by another well-known restaurant—Quenelles. We visited L’Hardy’s frequently, and when I asked a waiter if I could have a menu as a souvenir, he gave me one that had not been used. I still have the menu today.
This is a photo of the menu at L’Hardy’s that I have kept all these years. I drool as I peruse the entrees and fondly recall the price of the dishes.
Fenton’s was at 6 Gloucester, a few doors east of Yonge Street. It was one of the most well-known restaurants in Toronto for over a decade, famous for its Leek and Stilton soup. I always requested a table in the glass-covered courtyard as it was akin to dining in a garden. This restaurant suffered the same fate as the Mermaid. When it changed hands it cheapened the quality of the food but increased the prices. It did not last long under the new management.
Napoleon restaurant was at 79 Grenville Street, a short distance west of Bay Street. It opened in 1976 in an old house, and remained until 1984. I recall how difficult it was to receive a reservation, so always phoned at least a week in advance. Following a disastrous fire, it was not rebuilt. Rumours circulated that members of the mafia had been turned away at the door, and had put out “a hit” on the place.
One of the ethnic restaurants that stands out in my memory is Acropole. I am not certain of its location, but I believe it was on Dundas Street West, near Bay Street. Greek cuisine was not well known in the 1960s. The names of the dishes so were unfamiliar to most Torontonians that menus at the Acropole were useless. Diners were invited to visit the kitchen, examine the dishes, and point to the ones that they wished to be served. Another ethnic restaurant that stands out in my mind was Michi, when it was on Church Street. It was my first experience with Japanese food.
Captain John’s Seafood Restaurant was in a ship named the Jadran, which in an earlier life had cruised the Mediterranean Sea. John Letnik purchased it and sailed it from Yugoslavia to Toronto. It arrived in November 1975 and was docked at the foot of Yonge Street, at 1 Queens Quay. The first time I dined on the ship I enjoyed the experience, though looking back, I think it was the idea of eating on a cruise ship that was the highlight, rather than the food.
However, I have very pleasant memories of dining on the smaller ship of Capt. John’s, which was moored on the east side of the Jadran. It was named the Normac. I remember the all-you-can-eat lobster buffet that was served on the top deck during the summer months. Lobster and ice cold beer on a hot July day, overlooking the harbour, was as close to heaven as I’ll likely ever get. Unfortunately, the boat was rammed by the Trillium ferry and sunk. It was eventually re-floated and towed to Cleveland, where it became a seafood restaurant for that city.
The smaller boat of Captain John’s, the “Normac,” in the 1970s, the larger ship the “Jadran” in the background.
Quo Vadis is another restaurant that must be mentioned when writing about the 1960s, as it was the first dining establishment in Toronto to receive international recognition. It opened at 375 Church Street in 1964. I remember it well, but was never inside it.
Photo of the front (insert) and the interior of Quo Vadis Restaurant, from Chuckman’s Postcard Collection (chuckmantorontonostalgia.wordpress.com)
There were two famous buffet restaurants in Toronto in the 1960s. One of them was the Town and Country, which had opened in 1949 in the Westminster Hotel at Gould and Mutual Streets. Its well-advertised “all-you-can-eat French buffet” was highly popular, though it was not particularly French. For my family, we “pigged-out” on the lobster, with a few slices of roast beef to break the monotony.
The other favourite buffet in that decade was the Savarin Tavern, located at 336 Bay Street. It was on the west side of Bay Street, a short distance south of Richmond Street West. It was on the second floor, with a steep staircase leading to the dining room. In my eyes, the buffet was “lobster-lobster-lobster.” By now I am certain that you have guessed that I LOVE lobster. Patrons often lined the stairs while waiting for their tables at the Savarin, even though they had reservations. The building where the restaurant was located was designated a Heritage site in 1980. However, it was still demolished, though its facade was re-assembled inside the Northern Ontario Building.
The Savarin Tavern at 336 Bay Street.
The Old Fish Market at 12 Market Street, near the St. Lawrence Market, was another of my favourite places for seafood, though it certainly was not in the class the Mermaid. I remember an evening that we engaged in a “progressive dinner.” We visited the Old Fish Market for our appetizer (seafood chowder), and then Graf Bobby at 36 Wellington East for our main course (wiener schnitzel), and then, drove up to the Cafe de la Paix at 131 Bloor West in the Colonnade for coffee and dessert.
The Old Fish Market Restaurant at 12 Market Street.
The Graf Bobby Restaurant on Wellington Street
The Sign of the Steer was a large restaurant located at 191 Dupont Street, where it intersects with Davenport Road. I was never inside this restaurant, but I as I recall, it had a great reputation for charcoal-broiled steak. On its the south facade, there was a green neon sign that created the outline of a steer. It was impressive when a person drove past it at night.
The Sign of the Steer Restaurant at 161 Dupont Street in 1955, the neon sign of a steer visible on the south wall. Toronto Archives, F1257, item 0504.
Harry’s Steak House on the southwest corner of Church and Granby Streets opened in 1961. It was another enterprise of Harry Barbarian, who owned the famous steak house on Elm Street. The prices were more modest and the steaks were almost as good. Because Maple Leaf Gardens was a few blocks south of it, it was very busy on nights when the Leafs played home games.
Harry’s Steak House in 1971. Toronto Archives, F1526, Fl0008, item 0030.
Creighton’s restaurant on the ground floor of the Westbury Hotel was another place that garnered attention in the 1970s. On Saturdays, in the TV Guide that was inserted into the Toronto Star, there was a special feature. Readers were encouraged to write the Star and request their favourite recipes from restaurants. A reader wrote in an asked for the recipe of a shrimp dish named Les Scampi’s Amoureux (Shrimp in Love). I had ordered this delicious dish many times, so I kept the recipe. I believe that the secret is the Pernod. When I prepared the recipe, I substituted large shrimp.
Before closing this post, there are a few more restaurants that I would like to mention. La Provencal at 23 St. Thomas Street (great escargot), Julie’s Mansion at 515 Jarvis Street, Gaston’s at 595 Markham Street (famous for its French onion soup), Sutton Place on the top floor of the Sutton Place Hotel, Valhalla Inn in Etobicoke, and the Black Angus Steak House on Dundas West (Etobicoke). This steak House is still in business. Then, there was the Arcadian Room (Simpson’s), Casa Mendoza (great meat platters, Argentinian style) on the Lakeshore, The Round Room in Eaton’s College, Beverley Hills Hotel on Wilson Avenue (good lunch buffet), the Colonial Tavern and the Silver Rail on Yonge Street, and Diana Sweets on Yonge and also on Bloor, and Fran’s on St. Clair Avenue, Eglinton Avenue, and on College Street. Another favourite of many Torontonians was the Georgian Room on the 9th floor of the old Eaton’s store at Queen and Yonge Street.
There are many more Toronto restaurants of the 1960s and 1970s, as I have only listed the ones that either I visited or remember well. Memory sometimes plays tricks, so if I have committed errors, I hope that readers will be understanding. For some of the exact addresses of the restaurants I relied on information posted on-line. I discovered some errors on these web sites, but still, I am grateful that these sources were available.
In response to this post, Paul Coghill of Toronto emailed me his thoughts about restaurants of Toronto’s past. He stated that in talking about the ice cream waffles, there was also the Honey Dew stand in Simpson’s basement. Scott’s restaurant was on Yonge just north of Dundas, where you sat upstairs looking out onto Yonge St to have bacon burger and fries (that was before we worried or knew about cholesterol). Remembering the early days of the Swiss Chalet, they only served 1/2 or 1/4 chicken with french fries and NO cutlery. I remember the first time I went there with a friend. He knew the chain from Montreal and was watching for my expression when they didn’t bring cutlery. You just picked everything up in your fingers. I also remember the Organ Grinder on the Esplanade. I think it is still there. The Florentine Court was on Church near Dundas. It had old world charm. The Goulash Pot at Yonge and Bloor was another Hungarian restaurant. Mary John’s, I think was on Elizabeth St. around Gerrard. I recently read an article about it but don’t recall where! A lot of artists frequented it. It was closed to make room for an apartment building and was relocated in the new building, but it lost its charm.
One of the novels that I wrote — “The Reluctant Virgin”— (a murder mystery) is set in Toronto in the 1950s and the imaginary characters in the story dine in many of the restaurants mentioned in this post.
To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.com/
To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern, and Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:
Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.
To place an order for this book:
Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)
Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016, entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.”
“Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London England) explores 75 of the city’s historic buildings. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.
88 thoughts on “Memories of Toronto’s restaurants of the past”
I’ve enjoyed a meal or three in many of these restaurants. Great article. Brought back some warm memories. I also remember the Tivoli on Yonge south of Gerrard on the east side. Also Ford Drugs on Yonge for the cheapest burgers around.
A very entertaining article. One note is that Carman’s has reopened.
I grew up a bit north of you, near Oakwood and Eglinton. I remember the tunnel and the soft chocolate malted ice cream cones we’d buy at one end of the tunnel. Or the broken pieces of crispy crunch chocolate bars, sold by the pound at Eaton’s candy counter, which we’d munch as we walked the tunnel. My hangout restaurant was the Boardwalk, a typical Canadian style diner, run by a family from Macedonia. We had fish n chips too, although I don’t remember the name of the shop. But there was another one, Lou’s, on Dufferin St. run by one of my mother’s cousins. Once in awhile, we’d go the Prime Restaurant, and order one of the giant butter tarts, plate sized treats, runny and gooey and just plain good. Our pizza joint was Salerno’s, occasionally we’d win vouchers to dine at Peppio’s (where the Sign of the Steer was). In the ’60s we liked to meet at Queen and Yonge at Joe Bird’s, part of Diana Sweets.
But I remember many of the restaurants you’ve mentioned here, some of them only now that you’ve written about them again, like the Mermaid. Thanks for the memories!
Sure would like to know who you are. The Boardwalk was our hangout in the 60’s and early 70’s. Almost every night after homework was done we could be found there. Also remember the Prime, Salerno’s and the Sky Ranch.
Do you know if it was open in 1945? Or the owners name?
Noticing the geography of your prefered restaurants, I’m sure you must remember mine. TOPS restaurant at the corner of Dundas and Yonge
I remember the TOPS restaurant on Yonge, spent many a late night in a booth there, people-watching with some friends. Good times in the early ’60’s
As a former resident of Toronto I remember these restaurants with fond memories. One that was left out was The Restaurant, part of the Three Small Rooms. In my opinion, it was one of the best restaurants in Toronto ever. Sadly the owner left to take over the Aston Martin Car Company in ENGLAND and the restaurant rapidly went south becoming a poor shadow of its former self.
My mother and grandfather worked at Bassel’s and that’s where my parents met. My grandad was the bartender and my mother the cashier.
Peter Basel was a kind and generous man and my mother (Madge) remained friends with Doris Cox who I believe was the manager or accountant until their passing.
I still have the silver tea service they gave my mom when she left.
Best of memories for her.
I worked at Ontario Hydro in the late 60’s and all the girls went to Bassel’s or Mallony’s after work to meet guys! Always lots of men in suits lol
I was wondering if anyone else would remember Malloney’s. I worked at the Whitney Block at Queen’s Park 66/67 and we would stop by occasionally for a drink before heading home. I still have a swizzlestick from Malloney’s.
I thought the owner was Paul bassel?
The owner of Bassel’s Restaurant was Peter Bassel, my grandfather. I have fond memories of time spent at the restaurant with my family when I was a child.
What was your maiden name or your fathers name who worked there?
Great Memories. My family ate at virtually all the restaurants mentioned and more. I remember so many events and celebrations over the years at these restaurants with family and friends.Thank you.
Thank you very much for contacting me. It always feels good to share memories with others.
Thank you for this post. Brought back wonderful memories of the anniversary trips my wife and I took to Toronto from 1974 to early 2000s. I’d add a few restaurants: Scaramouche–especially if you called a month ahead for a window table, with Roberto as your server; Canoe–a spectacular restaurant with wonderful food, service, and views: Auberge du Pommier–a long-time favorite; Arlequins (sp?), on Yonge; Bistro 990–our go-to place for lunch upon arrival in Toronto; Starfiish–gorged on oysters; JKROM–another wonderful go-to place for lunch; Jamie Kennedy’s Wine Bar, and then, there was Susur’s–an incredibly delicious and enjoyable dining experience. Le Select just came to mind. Hope it’s still there. Those were the days!!
I think le Select is now on Wellington St.
In 1954 to 1957 My parents, my sister and I lived at 7 Elm street in Toronto. At the time it was what would be called a greasy spoon with a counter and those revolving bar stools. We lived upstairs and had to look after the coal furnace during off hours. My sister and I used to streetcar it to Jesse Ketchum Public school. In 1958 we were told that the site had been sold so we had to move thereby making way for Barberians Restaurant.
That is not Tom Jones Steak House. The sign looks like El Toro. Tom Jones would be to the left of the photographer. Pj O’Briens is currently in the building in the photo.
I fondly remember the Florentine Court on Church street. I took my wife there for an anniversary dinner and we were impressed with the high table menu and the culmination of the meal with a rose for her and a cigar for myself. I was only about 28 or 29 at the time. The old world charm was quite memorable.
Another memory is The Raclette which was on Queen st W, probably east of Spadina on the south side. The only place in the city where we could find the swiss fondue style menu (there was a restaurant out near Port Credit that also specialized in raclette fondue. It was called “The Swiss Marmite” I believe these are both gone now, as I enjoyed these in the early to mid ’80s.
Does anyone recall The Toronto Radio Artists’ Club (TRAC)? South on Bay, down some steps, dark, red banquettes. My Grandmother waitressed there for decades, in the ’60’s a special treat was to head down from the ‘burbs (Scarberia, Vic. Park & Lawrence) & have the the Maple Leafs sign Polaroids of us sitting on their knees, we were that young. Also a haunt of people performing @ O’Keefe Centre.
Brings back a lot of pleasant memories. One simple one was the RED HOT stand in the annex of Eaton’s hot dogs and mustard with a napkin and orange pop… loved them.
Actually my fondest memory as a child was the chocolate (malted) soft ice cream cone in the basement of Eaton’s near the tunnel to the Annex, the discount or clearance Eaton store. This would be in the early 1950’s. The cones were 5 or 10 cents and it made shopping with my mother bearable. My brother and I would have been 4 to 7 years old.
I remember the Toronto Radio Artists Club well. Maxi owned the bar/restaurant and always greeted you at the door. I met my first husband there.
Hi there, I DO remember The TRAC very well. My dad was a bartender there and then the maitre’d. My mom
was a regular singer there and that’s how they met! This was in late 50’s and through the 60’s so I’m sure they both knew your grandmother. 🙂
Brings back a lot of pleasant memories. One simple one was the RED HOT stand in the annex of Eaton’s hot dogs and mustard with a napkin and orange pop… loved them.
I loved those red hots too at Eaton’s Annex and their soft ice cream cones ….. Simpson’s had the red hots too and a wonderful orange drink…you would stand there eating your hot dog with everyone!….Simpson’s also had
a wonderful cafeteria as well…toasted danish, chicken pot pies….ate lunch there most days when working for Simpson’s circa 1962/1964….good old days!
Yeah–that was great. Our favorite memories included breakfast at Sassafraz. Maybe a beer or two at Hemmingways, and dinner at Arlequins. I don’t think any of them are still around.
Sassafraz and Hemingway’s are still operating on Cumberland St.
Brings back so many memories!
We used to hop in a cab from Mississauga/Etobicoke and spend our pay cheque at the Ports of Call and always to the Bali Hi room and then afterwords, would go out to Yorkville to a bar.
We need more of these memories posted…the guitarist who played at the 33rd? floor of the TD building. Yumm Burgers….the ice cream place in Cloverdale Mall that had the salted almond sundaes. Front Street and either Bay or Yonge that had a club with live entertainment.
Airport area, one of the hotels that is no longer there had the most romantic room and served the best Dover sole….had romantic banquets.
Thank you all for the lovely memories!!
Please post some place were more info can be found.
Does anyone remember a restaurant called Le Mascaron at First Canadian Place?
It was very posh !
More recently, I really miss Lee Gardens on Spadina! Any good substitutes?
As well as the Old Fish Market there was also the Market Grill on Church St. It had one of the first salad bars in TO. I also loved Michi on Church as mentioned in your article (chicken yakitori) and Graf Bobby and Acropole but we went to one just east of Yonge at St. Clair. So many happy dining memories.
There was a restaurant on northside of Bloor just west of Sherbourne, the buildings are gone. I remember if they sat you in the back you looked over the ravine.
Anyone remember any Macedonian owned restaurants in 1945?
I remember a few Macedonian restaurants now long gone. I was told that one of the oldest was the Geneva Restaurant on the north side of Queen Street East. I understand it was operating back in the thirties. Nothing fancy but I remember great cabbage rolls & chicken stew there in the seventies.
In the seventies I remember the Constantinople on Queen Street West of Parliament. On the north side just East of Parliament was Macedonian Village. I remember cabbage rolls, meatballs with rice, beef stew & baklava for dessert.
My grandfather and his brothers owned a restaurant in the 1950’s at Yonge and Adelaide, The Manor Grill. They were Macedonian, but the food was contemporary of the time. They eventually parted ways and he opened a restaurant of the same name on O’Connor with my grandmother.
The Panama – Bloor and Ossington – sure would love to see and inside and outside picture of that place!!
That was the original Underground Railroad.
That was the Underground Railroad. They had wonderful fried chicken and collard greens. I spent many lunchtime celebrations there. 😘
I worked in that restaurant! It was called “Between Friends”. Yes, nice view of the ravine.
Would certainly add the Vikings for relaxed but very nice dining; Frank Hansen was the owner/manager. Located on Young, just north of Wellesley He later added the Stables, entrance off St. Nicholas for more casual eating . Long gone but fondly remembered. In the Beaches for a bunch of years, there was Loons on Queen, for quite a while the best food in the Beach. Husband & wife moved and still operate a fine restaurant in the Gattineau area.
A very interesting trip down memory lane…so many of the spots that I had long forgotten about.
I wonder if someone out there can help me with a memory I have. As a boy, we would sometimes go to a restaurant that I remember as Polynesian/Hawaiian…I believe it was on Yonge, or Avenue or perhaps Bathurst…north toward Lawrence? I want to say the name may have been Kon-Tiki?
Does anyone remember such a place?
Please let me know.
I remember such a restaurant located on the East side of Yonge Street, just north of Summerhill Station. It was called The Ports of Call. They had a Polynesian/Chinese menu. They were fully licenced & served a specialty called”bobos.” I believe the location was by the LCBO store by Yonge & Shaftsbury. It closed up years ago.
I remember Floritine Court, first on west side of Church St. south of Adelade, then east side of Church St. just south of Richmond. Jimmy Lopresty( Owner) & Charles (Waiter) were the two persons I remember at this wonderful restaurant. Charles (waiter) had a fabulous memory. Never wrote down your order, but it was served exactly to each person. We recommended to our school PTA to have a dinner meeting there. Charles took all 14 orders & I am sure that Charles heard the school principal state “Does he know what he is doing”? The appitizers, the main course, the deserts were all served exactly as ordered but the tea or coffee was missed by one person, the principal, who had to ask for his drink. I beleive to this day, it was Charles way to draw attention to the principal’s remark.
Fond memories of George’s Spaghetti House on Dundas St. famous for its pizza—this from visits from the late 50’s to early 60’s—as well as the Jazz combo that played near the entrance. I am sure I saw and heard Moe Koffman on one of my visits. Its atmosphere was utterly awesome—
George’s Spaghetti House was a wonderful restaurant with a great menu. Yes the music was fabulous as was the atmosphere.
Leo was the maitre de who was a very wonderful man who always remembered your name and what you had ordered the last time you were there.
So disappointed when it closed.
Does anyone remember a cafe that was located by the Toronto waterfront
that was a Toronto streetcar converted to an eating place? My father would take me & my siblings on drives around downtown Toronto in the mid fifties. I remember my father saying that it had a bad reputation as a gang hangout. By the early sixties, it was gone.
I only have a childhood memory of it but it may have been between King Street and the Esplanade.
Reading the message involving “Prime Restaurant” was pleasantly surprising. My Dad, Basil, owned all three Prime restaurants, with the last one, in Dixie Plaza, being the busiest. Running restaurants, especially, three, must have been tough with the long hours etc. I have memories of falling asleep (on weekends when I could “work” in the coat check room to make dimes and quarters, in the back of the Dixie location waiting for banquets etc to end. And I do remember the most popular dishes were ‘hot-dog surprise’, ‘veal cutlet, hot hamburger and so on. A Hamburger was 25-30 cents and a coke 10 cents! If anyone else has any memories of any of the three prime restaurants, kindly post.
I remember the Prime at Dixie Plaza. Only went there a couple of times while I was on delivery. I spoke to a cook called Jimmy at the Dairy Freezer at St. Clair & Caledonia who told me he used to work at the Dixie Prime. Did you know him?
Don, what was your fathers last name?
Anyone remember The Barclay Hotel- dinner club in the late ’50’s and 60’s. also, Town Tavern, I think was on Queen just east of Yonge.– very posh at the time!!
Name of restaurant circa 1960’s, NE corner of Church and Wood Streets. Just steps away from the Gardens. A popular pregame location.
Was it George Bigliardi’s?
Le baron Steakhouse
that’d have been LeBaron Steakhouse. IMO the best steakhouse in the city in it’s day. There was a second location on the east side of Yonge south of Charles
There’s a couple more restaurants that have gone away that bring back nemories.
Remember JJ Muggs at the Eaton Centre? A very trendy, 2 floored happening place in the late 80’s. Also, in the West end tucked away in a very confusing triangle of Dundas, Bloor St and Kipling was Miller’s Country Fair. They served Tortierre, Roast Chicken and Sausages with Chutney.
The last one was O’Tooles.
What a awonderful interesting writing on Toronto restaurant memorabilia.
As one of the two owners of Lgardy’s and Quenelles restaurants on church Street this was priceless.
The name is Lhardy’s.
Wasn’t it Lardy’s? As in big fat Lardy’s?
I loved Fran’s on Yonge St across from Sam’s. They had the seafood restaurant upstairs. It was real nice. They served their regular fare downstairs on the street floor. The other Fran’s on College (which is still there) had the Spaghetti Cellar downstairs and it was nice too. The one on St Clair was open all night. I visited Toronto every summer back in the 70’s and 80’s and it was much nicer than it is now. Too much new construction going on and they tear all the old buildings down. At least the Zanzibar and the Swiss Chalet are still on Yonge.
So many great memories in the article and all these wonderful comments. I’d completely forgotten about the Spaghetti Cellar at Fran’s but I used to go, must have been on weekends, with my friend Karen for an “all you can eat” special they had. Two teenagers, even girls, can eat a lot! Many of these places I remember my parents going to and talking about. After our family moved to Toronto (well, Scarborough) in the early 70’s, after having lived in a series of hick towns (not all of them small, just no dining scene) my parents made a point of going out to dinner every Saturday night to enjoy all that Toronto had to offer. Their favourite (and a family treat for birthdays) for many years was Carmens. How I miss it!
Loved reading this and all the great memories. Another fave of mine was The Moorings, best lobster thermidor in the city!
Anyone remember Zumburger?
NW corner of Yonge and Bloor, and IIRC there was another on Bloor near Spadina.
I am trying to remember a restaurant with very high ceilings, sky lights, lots of trees and hanging plants. It was like dining in a beautiful forest. Maybe around Bloor St. and Avenue Rd. Could someone remember the name.
I do…yes it was very posh. I remember having lunch there with my mother.
We ordered a very expensive bottle of white wine……Loved the place.
Anyone have any memories of “Ted’s Coffee Shop” at the corner of Eglinton & Mt. Pleasant???
Was a hangout for Northern S.S. students and a couple of Maple Leafs living in the area…..
Da Vinci Pizzeria on the Danforth between Dawes & Victoria Park, a bunch of real deal Italian guys, made the best pizza way before Toronto knew what pizza was. One of the walls had a huge hand drawn mural of Leonardo himself. It was fab to have Italian food like that as a kid.
Yonge St east side next to the cut rate jewelry store Lindy’s Steak House somewhere you could get a steak with 1200 pees and yesterday’s roll and the waiters always wore a tie
Ahhh- In the late seventies – The Geneva on Queen E of Parliament north side for breakfast — feta and onion omelette to die for. It cost around 2 bucks.
Does anyone remember Bentley’s restaurant in North Toronto? It was on the West side of Yonge street just south of Hogs Hollow. It started in the thirties & I think it had closed by about 1990.
It specialized in seafood & served excellent fish & chips. They also served excellent salads. I especially enjoyed their Spinach layer salad. I believe they were licensed so you could order a fine wine or beer with
your dinner. I cannot recall the prices but I think it was reasonably priced when compared to similar restaurants downtown. I miss it to this day!
I recall Bentley’s as being on the east side of Yonge, a block or two south of Teddington Park. They sure did a land-office business of fish’n chips — both eat-in and take-out on Friday evenings! And yes, they were licensed which was odd for the type of restaurant at the time. Having said that, they did offer some higher end items on their menu that I understand were very acceptable, which may have warranted the sale of beer and wine. It may have moved to the west side of Yonge at some point; my recollection is from the late ‘50s and early 60’s! A friend from high school worked there on Fridays after school (LPCI) and she always went home exhausted!
Your list is amazing. Thank you so much — I was privileged to enjoy most of these wonderful establishments over three decades. Do you remember a delightful Greek restaurant that was on the west side of Church St. midway between Wellington and The Esplanade? As I recall it was not a large establishment, but the cuisine was delectable!
I just walked by the old Tom Jones Steakhouse building just east of Yonge on Colborne St. The sign and awning are there but it closed long ago. As I recall there was another one the same size accross the road, I believe to the South. There is mow an Irish pub in that location
Anyone remember the name of the steakhouse?
Does anyone remember a very nice restaurant on the north side of Bloor between Yonge and Bay in the late 1970s early 1980s? It had a name like the Percy House, but nothing came up googling that.
Your still missing a few, when I had money Bigliardis on Church. When I had a little money Lindys on Younge and when I was broke The Blue Cellar on Bloor or Grossmans on Spadina.
I started going to Switzers on Spadina in 1955. We moved to Vancouver and every year when I flew to Toronto the first stop was switzers. I have lived across Canada but was able to travel throughout the year so always was able to get my corned beef. Sadly was not able to go there since covid and they are now closed. The closest I have come to getting the same flavor and texture is with a chain in Detroit. Toronto has some great restaurants, deli’s and buffets. Loved Le Savarin.
Does anyone remember Griffith’s on Queen Street East in the Beach(es)? I just described it to my partner and tried to Google some archival photos. To my surprise, I could find not only no pictures but no references at all. Which surprises me as it was a wonderfully bizarre experience. In my memory, there was a small deli at the front with a curtained door in the rear that you parted to enter a parallel universe. It was dark and expansive, with stuffed seagulls and angels and god-knows-what else hanging from the ceiling and booths on multiple levels. The tables had candles in bottles dripping with years of wax. It was surreal, could have been designed by Dali himself.
Does anybody remember the Club 12 in Toronto, I believe it closed in the late 50’s. I think it was located at 12 Adelaide.
I grew up in Leaside and have dined at most of the restaurants you mention. Use to ride our bikes to swiss chalet at yonge and sinclair for french fries. Our favorite was the Savarin on Bay for lobster. One chain you didn’t list was pickin chicken and their VW delivery vehicles. Oh for the good old days. Dave
Hamer’s Fish and Chips … Eglinton near Oakwood
Chips in a cup
Joe’s and Moe’s… Eglinton west of Bathurst
The Bagel King … “The original ” bagel place … Eglinton west
China House … Eglinton west of Bathurst
House of Chan … The “best” steaks in North Toronto
Puppy Palace … teen hangout on north Bathurst St.
Moe Pancer’s Delicatessen…The “original” Bathurst & York Downs3
As a young boy, we would see movies at the Willow Theatre on Yonge Street, between Sheppard and Finch. There was a Chinese Restaurant, closeby, called Spring Garden. This was my first introduction to Chinese Food. Does anyone remember this restaurant?
My wife and I often had a special dinner at the Balkan on Elm Street, just west of Yonge. It was small and romantic with a great atmosphere – dark, sheer “curtains” hanging from the ceiling, very quiet inside. The Viennese dinner special was very good, especially the mild curry sauce for the rice or weiner schnitzel. One man served. One woman prepared in the kitchen. It was our favourite downtown restaurant. Does anyone else remember the Balkan?
We had our wedding reception upstairs at Scott’s on Bloor street it later became Scotts Chicken Villa and then KFC. This was in September 1957. Our children liked to say that we were married at KFC.
Remember most of the restaurants mentioned but we loved a little restaurant called Pot au Feu….it was on a street near University Ave and was in the basement. It had great food and was so cosy and warm on winter nights.
When I came to Canada as a child from Denmark in the mid fifties Mermaid restaurant was called the Little Mermaid restaurant on Bay Street. My aunt Tulle waitressed there and the front of the house was handled by a woman called Arne who was a single mother who lived upstairs from the restaurant with her daughter. The owner (whose name I can’t remember) lived in a posh house in Mississauga with an indoor pool, which was a big deal in the 50’s. The restaurant was very successful and a great meeting spot for Danish Xpats.
We can’t forget Bemelmans.
Three very good restaurants in the Yonge and St. Clair area were Rhodes, owned by Tom Kristenbrun on the west side and Bofinger Brasserie that sat between the two theatres. Great places to eat before or after going to the movies at one of two screens at the Hollywood Theatre, the first cinema in Toronto specifically built to show talking pictures in 1930, or the Hyland Odeon Theatre. Rhodes had a front area on the north side of the entrance fronting the ‘fine dining’ room that featured local jazz musicians Thursday to Saturday evenings. And then there was Seniors Steakhouse and Restaurant on the south east corner of Yonge and Pleasant Blvd. Upstairs was where everyone went for their delicious steaks!
Here are just a proposal for a correction, and a recollection of my own. I believe Simpson’s main restaurant was called the Arcadian Court, not Arcadian Room, at least for some period of time during its existence. As well, there was a cafeteria in the Simpson Tower called the Panorama Room: that might be the establishment one of the commenters has referred-to as being a cafeteria in the store; varied “ordinary” English-American fare and preparation, for the most part, but decently priced and satisfying for a quick lunch or supper beyond the fast-food scale of fare, as well as having lots of window-glass. Either one might still be in place, albeit perhaps under different names; I haven’t been to the building since Simpson’s went out of business, and haven’t been downtown in a long while, as well.
I am researching Macedonian owned restaurants 1945/1946 in Toronto, around the High Park area, walking distance from symington ave., and most of them did not serve Macedonian food back then…anyone remember a name?