Since our last report on restaurant closures in August, the wake of the worst economic storm in decades has forced scores of eateries to shut their doors forever. This roundup is as broad as it is long, with stalwarts falling beside start-ups, and takeout chains closing alongside legendary dining rooms. Here, our sad look back at two dozen of Toronto’s former restaurants.
The end of the establishments
The longest-running restaurant to close is Carman’s. The venerable Village steak house had an incomparable 50-year run, boasting Sammy Davis Jr. and Nat King Cole among its heyday clientele, and taking credit for introducing Torontonians to garlic bread. Nearby Bigliardi’s, another steak joint, opened its doors in 1977 and has welcomed the likes of Bette Midler and Wayne Gretzky over the past 32 years, but 73-year-old owner George Bigliardi decided that with the recession pushing Church Street deeper into decline, it was time to close. The celeb set was also known to frequent Truffles, which, after 37 years of high-quality service that defined top-tier dining in Toronto decade after decade, could no longer compete in an economy where comfort is king. The legacy of Truffles lives on, however, in the legion of chefs that passed through its kitchens, including Jonathan Gushue, Patrick Lin and Lynn Crawford (who is now setting up her own spot in Riverdale). Other long-time restaurants that have taken the fall this fall are Lakes Restaurant and Wine Bar, which couldn’t cover the rent after two decades in Rosedale, and Parkdale’s long-loved Dufferin Gate.
Madras Pantry, Hanif Harji and Ryan Fisher’s carnival-inspired spice shop and resto-spot, opened only this past August but has already served its last dosa. A notice in the papered windows indicates non-payment of rent, meaning that Queen West hipsters will have to look elsewhere for their Indian food fix (possibly Apalla, which has taken over the space of the recently defunct Indus Junction). Although Ossington’s Le Bar à Soupe lasted a few years dishing out bowls of seasonal French soup to the praise of Now and FoodTV, chef Natalie Barin has hung up her ladle. As has Oro Cucina’s chef, Maria Lanzillotto, whose terrazzo-floored Italian café was one of the first to open in Liberty Market and now has the dubious distinction of being one of the first to close. Era Ora, which opened in June 2007 at the quixotic Avenue and Davenport intersection, has also closed after sitting half-empty for the past two years, most likely due to hard-to-find parking and a lack of foot traffic.
Even chain restaurants have proven fallible this fall, including Il Fornello’s Church Street location, which, though packed on the weekends, couldn’t draw enough of a crowd during the week to meet the high Village rents. Ho-Lee-Chow turned off its neon “No MSG” sign after 20 years of serving cheap Canadianized Chinese food, while Canada’s first offshoot of American Miami Subs Pizza and Grill closed after barely two months of offending passersby with one of Queen Street’s tackiest storefronts. Liberty Group, which also owns Spice Route and Rosewater Supper Club, has closed Yorkville’s Flow, a once luxe lounge that had lost its lustre in recent years. Hoping that the economy will be back and kicking soon, Liberty is already planning to open Ciao Wine Bar in its place.
The long goodbye
Other places that have closed down in recent months:
Fresh at the Beach (1921 Queen St. E.)
Monsoon (100 Simcoe St.)
Mochizuki (655 Bay St.)
Gorilla Monsoon (372 Queen St. W.)
Jalapeno (725 King St. W.)
Zoulpy’s Deli Restaurant (244 King St. E.)
Sakawaya (867 Danforth Ave.)
Boho (392 Roncesvalles Ave.)
Yoga Rice and Spice (2357 Queen St. E.)
Open Kitchen (5 Roncesvalles Ave.)