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Category Archives: Toronto’s restaurant of the past

Ed’s Warehouse Restaurant—closed in 1999

                   King St W, looking west to Duncan - "Ed's Warehouse" – October 9, 1981

Ed’s Warehouse Restaurant on King Street West on October 9, 1981. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, file 0067, Item 0014.

In decades past, one of the most famous restaurants in Toronto was Ed’s Warehouse. Located at 266 King Street West, it was not only a place to enjoy a meal, but also a tourist attraction. For almost four decades, people visited it and invariably, it lived up to its reputation.

In the early 1960s, King Street West between Peter Street and University Avenue was sadly neglected. Adding to the difficulties was the CP Rail Yards, located on the south side of the street, where the Roy Thomson Hall is located today. Transients riding the rails were often seen on this section of King Street. Despite these considerations, Ed Mirvish purchased the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1962 for $200,000. He was quoted as saying that the value of the land alone was worth more than the purchase price, which included the theatre.

After restoring the Royal Alexandra, Ed Mirvish faced the problem that there were no quality restaurants in the area. In 1963, he solved the difficulty by opening his own — Ed’s Warehouse. Its name was chosen as it was actually located in a former warehouse, immediately to the west side of the theatre. Ed believed that dining and theatre went together like the proverbial “horse and carriage,” so the enterprise seemed appropriate.

Crowds attending the restaurant and the theatre brought life to the street. This was not true of other projects that opened in the area in the years ahead, such as the Roy Thomson Hall (1982), and the Canadian Broadcasting Centre (1992). These buildings basically ignored the street life. Ed eventually opened more restaurants on King Street and also built the Princess of Wales Theatre. Finally, the Bell Lightbox was opened (2010), the jewel in the crown that made King Street the most important entertainment district in the city, and perhaps in all of Canada. However, it all started with The Royal Alexandra Theatre and Ed’s Warehouse Restaurant.

In its day, dining at Ed’s restaurant was an experience unequalled in Toronto. Rita Zakes of the Toronto Star wrote in July 2007 that its ambiance was like that of a Barnum and Bailey circus. Personally, I considered it “antiques, junk and Victoriana gone wild!” Along with the red-flocked wallpaper, there were huge Oriental vases, Tiffany lamps, bronze and marble statuary, an automobile, antique photographs, photos of numerous theatre stars, stained glass windows, and lamps with naked ladies on their bases. From the moment the restaurant opened, the decor became part of the attraction. Best of all, after dining in this delightfully garish atmosphere, the Royal Alexandra Theatre was only a few steps away. 

The menu was pre-set, to reduce costs. Thick, juicy, prime rib was accompanied by mashed potatoes, green peas, Yorkshire pudding, and gravy. Garlic bread and dill pickles were also included. The dessert was spumoni ice cream. Critics jokingly stated that the menu was so easy to prepare that Ed had fired his chef and gave the job to the parking attendant. The critics had obviously never attempted to cook prime rib.

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). In Ed’s Warehouse, men were required to wear a jacket and tie, this requirement maintained long after other dining establishments eliminated the tradition. However, Old Ed’s restaurant offered lower prices and was more casual.

In 1971, I subscribed to the Mirvish theatre series. When my first tickets arrived in the mail, I received two complimentary coupons for Ed’s Warehouse. If I remember correctly, each coupon had a value of $20, which covered the entire cost of the meal. These were indeed the “good old days.”

In the 1970s, when the Mirvish restaurants were at their height of popularity, they had a combined capacity of 2300 seats and often served 6000 meals a day. In this same decade, Toronto Calendar Magazine, which later merged with Toronto Life, sponsored a contest to determine the best restaurant in the financial district. Over 10,000 people voted, and out of the 21 restaurants listed, Ed’s Warehouse was #1. Despite this accolade, I read online some very critical reviews of the food at Ed’s Warehouse. However, I considered the beef, which was imported from Chicago, among the finest I have ever experienced.  

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. The waiter offered to provide jackets and ties from among those that they kept for such situations. He explained that the dress code was necessary 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?”

We explained.

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, it had been reduced by 50 per cent. Ed was a very smart businessman as well as a big-hearted individual. My family never forgot his generosity.

Similar to all good times, the Mirvish restaurants finally disappeared. Ed cancelled his dining license in December 1999. When reporters asked him about the closings, he quipped that he was tired of doing dishes. The city was never the same. This will also be said when his discount store, “Honest Ed’s,” closes in December 2016.

To paraphrase Ed Mirvish, “Ed’s Warehouse was one of a kind. Often imitated, but never duplicated.”  

Sources: kingbluecondos.com, www.robertfulford.com, and www.liquisearch.com 

Corner of Duncan St. and King St., looking north-east

Ed’s Warehouse Restaurant in 1972, Toronto Archives, S 0841, fl. 0052, It. 0024. 

1978, Tor. P.L.  rj250-1[1]

Gazing east on King Street in 1978, Ed’s many restaurants visible on the north side of the street. Toronto Public Library, rj-250.

                                  King St W - "Ed's Warehouse" restaurant - signage – October 9, 1981

Sign outside Ed’s Warehouse on August 9, 1981, displaying the menu and notifying men of the dress code. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, Fl. 0067, Item 0018.

 

                               King St W, east across Duncan - "Ed's Warehouse" – October 9, 1981

Looking east on King Street on October 9, 1981, Ed’s various restaurants visible. Ed’s Warehouse is in the distance, on the west side of the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Duncan Street separates Ed’s Warehouse from the other restaurants. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1525, Fl. 0067, It. 0015. 

King St W at Duncan - "Ed's Warehouse" restaurant – August 6, 1983  King St W - "Ed's Warehouse" restaurant - outside, detail – August 6, 1983

Photos and newspaper clippings outside Ed’s Warehouse on King Street on August 6, 1983. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 0067, Item 0022 (left photo) and Item 0021 (right photo).

ebay   [1]  Chuckman's  postcard-toronto-eds-warehouse-restaurant-270-king-w-dining-room-late-1960s[1]

(Left) Menu from Ed’s Warehouse that is for sale on ebay, and (right) the interior of Ed’s Warehouse from Chuckman’s Postcard Collection.

                        eds-warehouse-b

I am grateful to a reader who emailed me a copy of the menu at Ed’s Warehouse. Perusing it brought back many fond memories of evenings spent looking over this menu to decide which “cut” to order.  The prices on the menu give true meaning to the phrase, “The good old days.” 

DSCN0406  DSCN0405 

Items that were previously in Ed’s Warehouse Restaurant. In this photo, they were on display in Honest Ed’s Discount store at Bathurst and Bloor Streets, in July 2013.

  King and Duncan

The building on King Street where Ed’s Warehouse was located. Photo taken in 2014. 

For a link to memories of other Toronto Restaurants of the past:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/memories-of-torontos-restaurants-of-the-past/

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” 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 by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]    

Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the Toronto Life article: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published by Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21

 

 

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History of Toronto’s Swiss Chalet

Series 1465, File 280, Item 19

Toronto’s first Swiss Chalet on Bloor Street West, the entire block of buildings in the photo demolished in 2002. Photo from the Toronto Archives, taken between the years 1980 and 1998, Series 1465, File 10280, Item 0019.

The first Swiss Chalet opened in 1954 at 234 Bloor Street West, near the northeast corner of Bloor and Bedford Road. It was the beginning of a restaurant chain that was to become an icon of Canadian family-style dining. It became so popular that it was reported that a Canadian once jokingly quipped, “If America is such a great country, why don’t they have a Swiss Chalet?” This was prior to the chain opening outlets in the United States.

The founder of the chain of restaurants was Maurice Mauran of Montreal, in partnership with another businessman. In 1948, before opening in Toronto, Mauran introduced his barbequed-style chicken in Montreal, in his Chalet-Bar-B-Q restaurants. Apparently he was inspired by the Swiss method of cooking chickens, which consisted of skewering the birds on a spit and roasting them over an open flame. Because the birds rotated on the spit, they cooked in their own juices.

The first Swiss Chalet was located on busy Bloor Street, in close proximity to Varsity Stadium and Varsity Arena. As it was an instant success, two more restaurants were opened. One of them was at 362 Yonge Street, which still exists, and another one was on Yonge Street south of St. Clair.  The decor in the dining room of the restaurant on Bloor Street contained carved dark-wood panelling, dark ceiling beams, and small fake windows with frilly cotton curtains. It was an attempt to create the appearance of a Swiss mountain hideaway, such as in the children’s story, “Heidi,” by Joanna Spyn.

As a teenager in the 1950s, I dined in all three of these sites, mainly when attending movie theatres located within walking distance of them. The chickens were barbequed in an oven containing glowing charcoal, which imparted their unique taste. The prices were reasonable, and being teenager with a bottomless gut, I always ordered the half-chicken dinner. The restaurant on Bloor Street also had a banquet room in the basement level, for private functions. I was in this space on one occasion, with a group that performed in Varsity Arena, later in the evening. There were about 35 of us, and we enjoyed the meal immensely.

Before cooking, the chicken were rubbed with salt, and then, roasted for an hour and fifteen minutes. At the Bloor Street site, in the 1950s, the chicken was served with fries or  a baked potato, the fries cut daily rather than previously frozen. The meal also included dipping sauce and half of a toasted hamburger bun. A small bowl of water, with pieces of lemon in it, allowed a patron to rinse the fingers after eating. There were no ribs or other items on the menu; these were added during the years ahead.

I enjoyed the chicken immensely. However, I recently read some online reviews, and although there were many who enjoyed the meals, there were some that did not. However, I did not read any comments that indicated that the reviewers were aware that the chicken was roasted over real charcoal. Some compared it with St. Hubert chicken, which was roasted, not barbequed, and the sauce was more like home-style chicken gravy. I enjoyed it as well, but I preferred the chicken at Swiss Chalet.

I found it interesting that Maurice Mauran was also the creator of Harvey’s Hamburgers. His first location opened in 1959, on the southeast corner of Yonge and Observatory Lane in Richmond Hill. Similar to his Swiss Chalet, the burgers were flame grilled, and said to be the first in Toronto to employ this method. An article in the Telegram newspaper reported that Mauren had intended to name his hamburger restaurant “Henry’s.” However, while flipping through the telephone directory, he noticed an ad for John Harvey Motors at 2300 Danforth Avenue, known as Harvey’s. He liked the sound of the name, and decided to call his restaurant “Harvey’s.”

In 1963, Mauran opened a Harvey’s on Bloor Street, a few doors west of his Swiss Chalet. In 1977, the chain was bought by Cara Foods, and was operated by Toronto-based Foodcorp Limited, a subsidiary of the parent company. In 2002, there were 190 outlets in North America.

Mauran later became a highly successful mutual funds manager, possessing residences in England, Monaco, and Ft. Lauderdale.

The entire block of buildings where the first Swiss Chalet was located was demolished in 2010 to erect a 32-storey condominium named 1 Bedford. It overlooks the rebuilt Varsity Stadium. As a footnote, Cara Foods purchased St. Hubert Chicken in 2016 for $577 million. That was certainly not “chicken feed.”

Sources: everything2.com, www.thestar.com (Bill Taylor) and www.blogto.com (Chris Bateman).

c. 1912  2011713-varsity-stadium-1906-10-f1244_it0528[1]

View gazing east on Bloor Street c. 1912, the north side of the street (left-hand side of photo) containing large residential homes. Bedford Road is directly across from Varsity Stadium. Structures were added across the front of these homes, where the lawns were, to convert them into commercial premises. The building containing the first Swiss Chalet does not appear to be in one of them. It is likely that the home on the site was demolished to create a new building. Toronto Archives, Fond 1244, Item, 0528. 

  Series 1465, File 280, Item 19

The surroundings of the first Swiss Chalet at Bloor and Bedford Road. The roofs of some of the old homes remain visible. Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 10280, Item 0019.

                           DSCN1121

Gazing toward the northeast corner of Bloor and Bedford Road in October 2016. The 32-storey condo (1 Bedford) occupies the block where the Swiss Chalet and the Harvey’s were located. 

DSCN8176

The Swiss Chalet at 362 Yonge Street, which was among the first outlets in Toronto. Photos taken in 2014.

DSCN8175

 To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” 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 by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]    

Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by |Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21

 

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Toronto’s Silver Rail Tavern—closed 1998

1950s  f1257_s1057_it0738[1] - Copy

The Silver Rail Tavern in the 1950s, located at 225-227 Yonge Street. Toronto Archives, F1257, S1057, item 073.

The last time that I visited the Silver Rail Tavern was in 1995, when an elderly aunt and I visited it for lunch. I chose “the Rail” as I knew that when she had been younger, it was one of her favourite places to dine and enjoy a drink. She was thrilled with my choice, as she had not been inside it for many years. When she stepped in the door, she gushed, “It’s exactly as I remember it. Oh! how I enjoyed sipping the Manhattans here.” The Silver Rail did indeed change very little since it first opened, and this was one of it’s charms.

The Silver Rail was the first bar in Toronto that received a liquor license from the LLBO when Premier George Drew, on April 2, 1947, relaxed the laws governing alcohol. Prohibition had ended in 1927, but there remained many restrictions, such as alcohol only being served in public places if it were purchased with food. It was common to see a person having a beer in a licensed establishment, a small sandwich or other low-cost item from the menu on the table, but untouched. The new law made it possible to order a beer or a glass of wine without ordering food. However, when the Silver Rail opened, no women were allowed to sit at the bar, and only one drink per person was permitted on the tables at a given time.

Previous to the Silver Rail, on the site had been Muirhead’s Bar and Cafeteria. Its ground-floor space was designed by N. A. Armstrong in 1934, and it included a long bar that extended the entire length of the room. It was aligned with the north wall. Patrons were able to sit at the bar to eat or have a drink. Along the south wall, there were rows of tables. A silver-coloured rail, located beside the stairs that led to the lower level, provided the inspiration for the name of the new bar that opened on the same site— the Silver Rail.

It was In 1947 that Louis David Arnold and Michael P. Georges opened the Silver Rail, each investing $50,000 in the enterprise. It was located in the southwest corner of the ground floor of the Ryrie Building, which was on the northeast corner of Yonge and Shuter Streets. The owners of the Silver Rail maintained the basic layout that Armstrong had created for Muirhead’s Bar, but on the south wall, instead of tables, they installed curved booths. In the lower level (basement) of the Rail, there was a classy restaurant, its decor elegant, with immaculate white table clothes. The waiters carried silver water jugs, and were attired in formal white jackets, and black trousers. The restaurant featured live music on weekends, and it was said that on one occasion, Oscar Peterson gave an impromptu performance on its baby grand piano. It was in this restaurant that my aunt and I enjoyed lunch in 1995. 

The Silver Rail was renown for its excellent cuisine, specializing in steaks, roast beef, and seafood. In the 1940s and 1950s, these were the usual items on restaurant menus in Toronto, as they were based on traditional British fare. The dishes were popular, even though they were rather basic if compared with the city’s multi-ethnic and gourmet menus of today. The bar more than compensated for the lack of variety in food, as it stocked a large assortment of whiskies, brandies, champagnes and a wide range of cocktails. The year it opened, highballs were 45 cents. Its location was close to Massey Hall, around the corner on Shuter Street. This made it a favourite for a drink, either before, or after a concert or event. The first month The Rail was open, it earned $90,000 in profits.

In 1948, the artist Eric Aldwinckle was commissioned to paint a large mural for the bar. During the 1950s, the Rail was a favourite of the employees of Eaton’s and Simpsons stores. A friend of mine who worked at Simpson’s in the 1950s, was paid 60 cents an hour. Sometimes he splurged and had lunch at the Rail, paying $1.50 for spaghetti. He considered this to be “high living.” The tavern closed in 1998, and when the space was renovated for a new tenant, Aldwinckle’s mural was lost.

My aunt was saddened by the closing of the Silver Rail. Then, only two restaurants remained that she had visited in her younger days — Fran’s (famous for its rice pudding) and the Old Mill in Etobicoke (well known for dining and dancing).

Sources: www.blogto    lost-toronto.blogspot     www.mountpleasantgroup.com (Mike Filey)     www.theglobeandmail.com     torontoist.com    “Toronto Architecture—A City Guide,” by Patricia McHugh

 June 1934, Constuc. Magazine, Tor Pub. Lib.

Muirhead’s classic Art Deco facade in June 1934. Photo from Construction Magazine, Vol. 27, in the collection of the Toronto Public Library.

image

The Silver Rail Tavern, which maintained many features of the facade of its predecessor, Muirhead’s. Photo from the Ontario Archives.

DSCN4680[1]

The mural painted in 1948 by Eric Aldwinckle. Photo by Michael McClelland.

1949  S 381, Fl0019, id 6288-2  [1]

View looking north on Yonge Street from Shuter Street in 1949. The street is covered with thick timbers to allow the digging of the subway below. The marquees of the Imperial and Downtown Theatres are visible in the distance, to the north of the Ryrie Building where the the Silver Rail was located. Toronto Archives, S 381, fl 0019, id 6288-2.

1950s  f1257_s1057_it0738[1] 

The Ryrie Building in 1950, on the northeast corner of Shuter and Yonge Streets. Toronto Archives, F 1257, S1057, item 0738.

                        View of apartments above the Silver Rail on Yonge Street at Shuter – May 11, 1977

The Ryrie Building and the Silver Rail on May 11, 1977. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, fl 0004, item 001.

c. 1980  Fonds 124, fl 003, id 0127  Silver Rail (2)

The camera is pointed north on Yonge Street in 1980. The Ryrie Building and the Silver Rail can be seen. On the left, a portion of the Eaton Centre is visible. Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, fl 0003, id 0127. 

S 1465, Fl305, It 0002 Rail-South[1] 

Gazing south on Yonge Street from a short distance north of Shuter Streets. Toronto Archives, S1465, f 1305, Item 0002.

DSCN9651

The space in 2014 at Yonge and Shuter Streets, in the Ryrie Building, where the Silver Rail was located.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” 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 by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]    

Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by |Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21

 

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Toronto’s lost Arcadian Court Restaurant

arcadiancourt[1]

The Arcadian Court in The Bay in 2011, photo taken from the mezzanine level by the author.

The Arcadian Court in the Bay Store at Queen and Yonge still exists, but it is no longer open on a daily basis to the general public. Instead of being “the  place where Toronto does lunch,” it is now a private event space, highly sought for wedding receptions, gala dinners, and corporate functions. This is a pity as the venue has been a part of the Toronto scene for over eight decades. I remember when it was a favourite place to enjoy a quiet lunch amid the hustle and bustle of the city’s downtown. For many years, I visited it the week prior to Christmas to partake of its special yuletide buffet.

In the days when the Arcadian Court was open to the public, upon entering the reception area, people were greeted by the sound of a grand piano playing the favourite songs of yesteryear. The music partially obscured the clinking of china and and the tinkle of silverware, as well as the quiet conversations within the cavernous room. A smartly attired hostess escorted all guests to their tables, where the waiters invariably inquired if guests wished to see the menu or would prefer the buffet.

I usually chose the buffet. I particularly enjoyed the roast beef and the chicken pot pies, both available on the menu as well as the buffet. The array of salads, hot dishes, and desserts was on par with the finest restaurants. The attentive service and quiet atmosphere was appealing to diners who were older, but also attracted businessmen seeking a quiet spot to discuss transactions or become more acquainted with clients. Sometimes there were families with young children, especially on Saturdays. However, because  many of the clientele were older, attendance slowly declined, which contributed to the restaurant no longer being a public dining place. This was a pity, as the history of the Arcadian Court included many events that were important in the lives of Torontonians.

The story of the Arcadian Court began between the years 1928-1929, when the Robert Simpson’s Company built a nine-storey Art Deco addition to its already enormous department store. The new structure was at the corner of Bay and Richmond Streets, its main entrance located on Bay Street. Included in the new building was a two-storey restaurant, on the eighth and ninth floors. The two floors allowed the restaurant to have a main floor and a mezzanine level. It was said that when it opened, it was the largest restaurant in the world that was located within a retail store. I am not certain how this could be verified, but the facility was indeed expansive as it accommodated almost 1000 diners. It required as many as 500 worker to support the operation of the 8000-foot dining space on the main floor and the 6000 feet of the mezzanine.

The Arcadian Court was created to compete for the lunch crowd with the Royal York Hotel, as well with Simpson’s retail main rival—Eaton’s. The latter was located directly across from Simpson’s, on the north side of Queen Street. Eaton’s had opened its Georgian Room in 1924, and Simpson’s was desirous of luring diners and shoppers away from its competitor. However, the Arcadian Court was different as it more luxurious than the Georgian Room. It aimed to attract more well-to-do patrons, often referred to as the carriage trade.

Designed in the Art Deco style, the Arcadian Court contained 40-foot ceilings, with 16 grand arches. Large arched windows on the west side created panoramic views of Bay Street, the newly-constructed Canada Life Building, and the western skyline. These windows were eventually covered over, and this remain true today. The colour scheme of the Arcadian Court was muted shades of silver and violet, with a hint of blue. The thick carpets and massive chandeliers added a degree of elegance never before seen in the city. The chandeliers were of Sabino glass, manufactured in France by the the famous glassmaker, Rene Lalique. The mezzanine level (9th-floor section) was surrounded by ornate wrought iron railing, and originally was reserved exclusively for men. It remained designated in this manner until around the year 1960.   

After the Arcadian Court opened, it was immediately successful, and this continued even during the Great Depression. One reasons was that not only was it a luxury dining room, but it was used for trade, art, automobile, and fashion shows, as well as grand dances, lectures and concerts. Liberace once performed on a grand piano in the Arcadian Court, to an enthralled audience. The Simpson’s venue was also one of the city’s favourite places for dining and dancing on New Year’s Eve.

In 1929, the first radio broadcast of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra was held under its high ceiling. The one-hour program was heard across Canada on the CBC. In 1932, Winston Churchill was booked to speak at the Arcadian Court, but due to the demand for tickets, the event was changed to Maple Leaf Gardens. In 1967, the first auction ever held outside Great Britain by Sotheby’s was held in it. Attended by 2500 persons, a Gainsborough painting was sold for $65,000.     

The Arcadian Court was renovated four times since it opened in 1929. In 1978, Simpson’s was purchased by the Hudson’s Bay Company, but was operated under its former name until 1991. Unfortunately, due to the diminishing number of patrons, the Arcadian Court closed in 2011. It reopened in 2012 under the management of Oliver and Bonacini. Its name was now simply “The Arcadian,” and it operated as a private event venue.

It is interesting to note that when the Arcadian reopened, the original chandeliers were missing. They had been sold in 1968 to a New York antique dealer. He restored them, sold them to a Manhattan company, and they were placed in the firm’s lobby. 

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The Arcadian Court in 2012, shortly before it closed to the public. View is from the main floor level, looking upward to the mezzanine.    

Series 1569, File 5, Item 1

The first radio broadcast of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the Arcadian Court in 1929, under the TSO’s Viennese conductor Luigi von Kuits. Toronto Archives, F1569, Fl 0005, Item 0001.  

Southeby's Auction, Oct. 27, 1969 TRL_0002614f[1]

Sotheby’s first art auction held outside Great Britain, on October 27, 1969, in the Arcadian Court. Toronto Public Library, 0002614.

urbantoronto.ca  arcadian-court-02[1]

Pre-1968 photo of the Arcadian Court, before the original chandeliers were sold. It is likely that it was a private banquet being held in the venue. Photos from Urbantoronto.ca

urbantoronto.ca  arcadian1[1]

Photo of the Arcadian Court after 1968, as the original chandeliers have been replaced. Photo from Urbantoronto.ca.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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 by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852_thumb

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

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)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb    

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating history.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released on June 1, 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or to contact the publisher directly:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21.

 

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Memories of Toronto’s restaurants of the past

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

       View of restaurant on Colborne Street – May 31, 1979

Tom Jones Steak House on the corner of Colborne Street and Leader Lane in 1989. Toronto Archives, F1526, fl0008, item 0116.

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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.

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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?”

We explained.

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.

                     King St W - "Ed's Warehouse" restaurant – October 9, 1981

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.

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   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.

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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. 

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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.  

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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.

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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.

Chuckman's POSTCARD - TORONTO - QUO VADIS RESTAURANT - 375 CHURCH STREET - INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR INSET - 1960s[1]

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.

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                             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. 

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                The Old Fish Market Restaurant at 12 Market Street.

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                                  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.

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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.

            View of Harry's Steak House on Church Street at Maitland Street – June 15, 1971

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.

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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 Acadian 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.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern, and Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

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.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Toronto’s architectural gems—1860s houses on Elm Street—Barbarian’s Steak house

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Barbarian Steak House is located at 7-9 Elm Street, a short east-west street that is two blocks north of Dundas Street West. Barbarian’s between Yonge and Bay streets. My memories of this venerable restaurant extend back to the 1960s, and is the only eatery that survives from the days when I first began dining out at restaurants. It has remained popular for many decades, and judging by a recent visit (August 2015) it continues to have a regular clientele.    

The restaurant is housed within two semi-detached family dwellings, built between the years 1866 and 1868, before any of the grand 19th-century structures on the north side of the street were constructed. The house at #7 Elm was the home of Alexander Stretton, a flour agent. At #9 lived William K. Knight, a mason. The artist Tom Thomson, when he first arrived in the city in 1905, lived at 54 Elm Street. His rented accommodations were on the north side of Elm Street, a few doors from Bay Street. He would have passed these two small homes, where Barbarian’s is located today, whenever he walked east to journey to Yonge Street.

The structures have unornamented facades, with no decorative architectural detailing other than the simple brick patterns under the cornices. Their designs are formal, the graceful arches over the shuttered windows and the recessed doorways adding charm and grace. Though they were originally designed as homes, they were ideally suited for conversion to shops, and today, create an atmosphere that is conducive to intimate dining. 

Harry Barbarian purchased the property on Elm Street in 1959 and opened his steak house. The establishment has attracted its share of celebrities throughout the years. It is said that Richard Burton’s “first” proposal of marriage to Elizabeth was given at Barbarian’s. The menu that I recall from the 1960s, remains intact today, although several new items have been added. A few years ago, the restaurant was extended into the house (#9) and private rooms added. The restaurant is reputed to have one of the finest wine cellars in the city, today containing about 40,000 bottles. Harry has retired from the business and his son, Aaron Barberian, now manages the business. 

It remains my favourite steak house in the city, both for the quality of the food and the welcoming atmosphere.

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Barbarian’s Steak House sign, and the north facade of the houses that contain the restaurant.

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The second-storey windows and the simple decorative brickwork under the cornices.

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             The north facade and recessed doorway of the restaurant.

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A small watercolour that is displayed near the entrance of Barbarian’s.

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Many evenings I have seen this view after departing the restaurant following an excellent steak.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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 by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

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   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

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)

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Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating history.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released on June 1, 2016. For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or to contact the publisher directly:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21.

 

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