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How the mighty have fallen: 24 more restaurant closures

closed-signSince 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.

Barely opened
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.

Chain reaction
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.)
(100 Simcoe St.)
(655 Bay St.)
Gorilla Monsoon
(372 Queen St. W.)
(725 King St. W.)
Zoulpy’s Deli Restaurant
(244 King St. E.)
(867 Danforth Ave.)
(392 Roncesvalles Ave.)
Yoga Rice and Spice
(2357 Queen St. E.)
Open Kitchen
(5 Roncesvalles Ave.)

  • Pedro

    Acqua to close in March 2010 and Richtree (Brookfield Place) will close in January 2010

  • Barb

    You’re missing a lot of closures in the Village. I heard last week that property’s being accumulated on the west side of Church between Alexander and Maitland (Indian place recently defunct) in anticipation of a condo. Would be great if NOW could check out this rumour. And maybe tell me it’s not true!

  • Trevor Jones

    I have to comment on this list indicating 24 restaurants are closing since August. I think the list is very deceptive in that a number of these locations like Bigliardis had a great run for many years, gave the owners an amazing lifestyle and it has been indicated that George Bigliardi may open another spot. He did not go bankrupt. This recession is no where near the depth of the recession of 1980-1982 when I opened my first licenced restaurant and morphed it into one of the most successfull fine dining catering operations in Toronto which recently celebrated its 25th yr in business under the owners I sold to in 1989 ( boom times). The recession of 1990-994 again was much worse than the blip we have experienced in 2008-2009 when people simply decided to stop paying exoberant prices for mediocre food. One of my sons goes out with his friends to places where they have VIP lounges and they charge $200 a bottle for alcohol just for the privilege of being in a VIP section. You dont have to be a genius to realize places like this will very soon fade into oblivion. I forecasted the demise of Circa soon after Peter Gatien took over. It was to big and the rent out of this world. Go to Yonge and Eglinton and visit Gratzis or Granos and you will see WHY certain places make it and certain places fail. They provide excellent service, they know you by name, they are not pretenious, and they treat everyone equally whether from the Galen Weston LOOP or the Trevor Jones LOOP.

  • Sari

    What about Shopseys that was a great place to grab a quick bite on the way to a hockey game? On Front Street. It is my understanding it was bought out by Michael Bonnacini [excuse my spelling}. That leaves no place along Front Street within walking distance to ACC to pop in and get a good in expensive bite to eat before seeing hockey. Shopseys has been around since I can remember it’s too bad to see it go only to be replaced with an up scale place.

  • MariLynne

    I was amazed at the fact that Carman’s has closed. Time was when I spent many pleasant hours at Carman’s with a very special friend.
    It makes me wonder what other Restaurants have closed that we used to patronize.
    Thank goodness I have a daughter who has a home in Hamilton, On. She is employed with CBC in To, and commutes daily. She is at home with a torn Labrum, and she is trying to recover from Surgery. She sent this to me. I didn’t even know that there was such a product.
    Thank you for keeping me up to date.

  • Leslie Cunnian

    I was so saddened to hear that Carman’s Club restaurant in Toronto has closed. I remember standing in line in that small hallway where those waiting were served the most delicious Greek appetizers – phyllo pastry stuffed with spinach and cheese. I believe that initially you had to be a member to eat there. I booked a tv show for CBC and remember sending Telly Savalas over there for dinner. The place had an intense, sweet aroma of garlic that enveloped you and just plain made you feel good. And the food was to die for. I became a friend of Arthur Carman’s and took many people there including my parents.
    So sorry to see it go.

  • Pingback: Oliver and Bonacini to take over Shopsy's downtown spot | (Mar 28)