Part of what makes Toronto such a great city is its unique history and selection of fabulous restaurants. So what’s better than a place where you can dig into a delicious meal and experience throwback vibes? From lively pubs to kitschy diners to fancy steakhouses, here is a list of 10 Toronto restaurants that have truly stood the test of time.
1. The Wheat Sheaf Tavern
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Sunny mornings at the Sheaf! Today we've got Mill St Organic pitchers on special and $4 bar rail all day and all night??? _________________________________ Come check out a classic battle of the NFC North at 8:25pm?? we've got Green Bay vs Chicago for Thursday Night Football! . . . #lovetoronto #nfl #tnf #drinkdeals #torontolife #torontobars #kingwest #packers #bears #the6 #the6ix
At the corner of King West and Bathurst sits The Wheat Sheaf Tavern, one of Toronto’s oldest watering holes. The tavern has been open for business since 1849, technically making it older than Canada itself (confederation didn’t occur until 1867). In the early years, The Wheat Sheaf operated as a bar/restaurant and hotel, and is believed to have been the go-to destination for soldiers from Fort York when they wanted to get their drink on. There is even an urban legend that the troops dug a tunnel from Fort York to The Wheat Sheaf for easier access (although no physical evidence of the tunnel has been found). Nowadays the place functions as a casual hangout spot where you can watch the latest sports game, celebrate nice weather on the patio, and enjoy yummy pub fare with frothy beer pitchers.
Address: 667 King Street West
2. United Bakers Dairy Restaurant
With a history going back over 100 years, United Bakers Dairy Restaurant is a Toronto institution with multi-generational appeal. Opened in 1912 by the Ladovsky family, the restaurant has moved locations several times in conjunction with the Jewish community’s movement throughout the city. It was first located on Agnes St. (now Dundas St.) near Bay, then on Spadina Ave. near Kensington Market, and finally at Bathurst & Lawrence (in Lawrence Plaza) where it remains as bustling as ever today. With a dairy-only menu, the restaurant is known for its hearty Jewish/deli classics like the split green pea soup, lox and cream cheese platter and tuna salad.
Address: 506 Lawrence Avenue West
3. The Senator
Situated just steps away from the hustle-and-bustle of Yonge-Dundas Square, The Senator is a Toronto staple. The historic eatery first opened as “Busy Bee Lunch” in 1929, and was later given a makeover and renamed “The Senator” in 1948 (the interior has remained the same since then, giving this place a true throwback feel). The Senator prides itself on always serving up the freshest, most high-quality food to customers; they use only the best local suppliers and make their own sauces, batters and freshly-squeezed orange juice in-house.
Address: 249 Victoria Street
4. The Lakeview Restaurant
Located at the corner of Dundas West and Ossington, The Lakeview Restaurant was built in 1932 and has been a Toronto landmark ever since. Fun fact: the first time the Lakeview ran 24 hours was during WWII when a nearby factory introduced shift work, and the diner stayed open overnight to serve workers food on their breaks. Since then, the restaurant has continued to serve up variations of greasy-spoon favourites like burgers, poutine and milkshakes around the clock (their apple pie milkshake is to-die-for). The Lakeview has even made its mark on both the big and small screens, with appearances in movies like Hairspray and on the show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Address: 1132 Dundas Street West
In 1940 Francis “Fran” Deck opened up Fran’s Restaurant as a ten-stool diner at Yonge and St. Clair. The institution has remained family-owned and operated over the years, and now boasts three diners in the city. Comfort food staples that remain a tradition at Fran’s include the “Banquet Burger” (consisting of a half-pound patty topped with bourbon maple bacon and melted Canadian cheddar), homemade apple pie, and the “Award Winning Rice & Raisin Pudding”.
Addresses: #104-33 Yonge Street, 20 College Street & 200 Victoria Street
6. The Pilot Tavern
The Pilot Tavern (named to honour the pilots of WWII) opened in 1944 at 800 Yonge St., and soon became the regular hangout spot for artists, writers and musicians. In 1972 the tavern moved to its current address of 22 Cumberland St., with the legend being that a group of devoted regulars physically picked up the place and moved it to its new location. The rooftop patio called “The Flight Deck” opened in 1993, and is the perfect place to enjoy a plate of nachos and some white wine sangria during the summer months. The Pilot also showcases live Jazz performances from some of Canada’s best musicians every Saturday afternoon.
Address: 22 Cumberland Street
7. Vesuvio’s Pizzeria & Spaghetti House
Famous for their New York style pizza, Vesuvio’s Pizzeria & Spaghetti House has been a fixture in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood for decades. The Pugliese family founded the restaurant in 1957, back when Italian food was a novelty in Toronto (the owners claim it was the first pizzeria to open in the city). Today, Vesuvio’s continues to be a successful family-owned establishment that prides itself on serving up authentic Italian cuisine.
Address: 3010 Dundas Street West
8. Barberian’s Steakhouse
— Barberians Steak TO (@barberiansTO) June 10, 2016
Harry Barberian opened Barberian’s Steakhouse in 1959 (back when a rib steak only cost five dollars), and it has since evolved into one of the best steakhouses the city. The atmosphere is elegant without being stuffy, the service is impeccable, and the steaks are dry aged and butchered in-house for top-quality taste. Barberian’s is also known for their impressive 15,000 bottle wine cellar, which can be reserved for large parties to dine in.
Address: 7 Elm Street
9. THE KEG MANSION
Before becoming home to the steakhouse in 1976, The Keg Mansion had a dark past. The Victorian-style building was built in 1867 by Arthur McMaster and was later sold to Hart Massey in 1882. Legend has it that when Massey’s daughter Lillian died in 1915 due to poor health, her maid proceeded to hang herself above the main staircase (some say she was overcome with grief, others say she feared a secret she’d been keeping would soon be exposed). Spooky things occurring in the restaurant today include people seeing the ghost of a boy (likely one of Massey’s sons) running up and down the staircase, and a feeling of being “watched” in the second floor women’s restroom. So the next time you visit The Keg Mansion for a nice prime rib dinner, watch out…you might get dinner and a show.
Address: 515 Jarvis Street
Tucked away in a high rise building off Avenue Rd., Scaramouche has remained one of Toronto’s top dining destinations for nearly forty years. Open since 1980, the high-end restaurant is known for its sophisticated French cuisine; renowned Canadian chefs Jamie Kennedy and Michael Stadtlander even worked in the kitchen during its early years. Today current chef/co-owner Keith Froggett keeps the menu rooted in French classics, but with enough modern touches to keep things interesting. Booking a table near the windows is highly recommended as the restaurant offers a magical view of the downtown Toronto skyline. Oh, and make sure to leave enough room for dessert — the coconut cream pie here is a must!
Address: 1 Benvenuto Place
What other Toronto restaurants do you enjoy that have stood the test of time? Let us know in the comments!
Featured Image: Instagram/@wheatsheaf667
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