Toronto is a foodie’s paradise. You can find just about any cuisine you desire in this city. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever in the restaurant industry. New condo developments, gentrification, rising rental costs, and just plain old time can run even the greatest of dining joints out of business.
Here’s a list of some of Toronto’s gone but certainly not forgotten restaurants from over the years.
1. The Organ Grinder
As a self-described, “musical pizza eatery,” The Organ Grinder was truly a unique dining experience. For those who never got the chance to visit the restaurant before it closed its doors in 1996, the Esplanade hot spot is best described as a carnival meets disco inspired pizzeria, set to the soundtrack of children laughing and of course, organ music. Though it has been closed for over 20 years now, The Organ Grinder lives on in the form of memorabilia that decorates the Old Spaghetti Factory.
2. The Harbord Room
Closing as recently as last fall, The Harbord Room is largely credited for revitalizing the art of mixology within the Toronto bar scene. Original barman and co-owner Dave Mitten has been called the, “unofficial godfather of the bartending community,” serving up classic cocktails and local wines before it was trendy.
3. Lolita’s Lust
This Mediterranean eatery was a favourite among members of the Danforth-Riverdale community. After closing its doors in 2016, the restaurant thanked its loyal customers for keeping Lolita’s Lust open for 20 years and invited them to visit sister restaurant, Braised, headed by the same owners in Leslieville.
4. Sushi Queen
This Queen Street West fixture served up high quality sushi for a low price. Whether you were grabbing a quck lunch to-go or sitting down for an all-you-can-eat feast, Sushi Queen was the place to go for good value and delicious food. Luckily, a similar restaurant has opened nearby on Bay street.
Lime Ricky’s was a 50s-inspired diner that thrived in the 80s. Whether you went for the jukeboxes stationed in every booth, or the greasy diner classics and deluxe desserts (a.k.a. “the kitchen sink,” made of 16 scoops of ice cream and covered with crushed up candy bars), this was the place to be when hanging around the Eaton Centre.
6.Phil’s Original BBQ
This former College Street smokehouse was one of Toronto’s best joints for ribs and brisket from 1991 until it shuttered operations in 2014. Some might recall its appearance on Restaurant Makeover, when chef David Adjey opted not to mess with any of owner Phil Nyman’s dishes. The food was that good.
7. Bar Volo
Bar Volo closed its doors in 2016 after 28 years in operation. This former Yonge Street spot played a major role in launching Toronto’s craft beer craze, serving up unique local and international brews for years before cans started lining LCBO shelves. The food was great, to boot. Former owners, brothers Tomas and Julian Morana, and their father Ralph, opened Birreria Volo in Little Italy last year.
8. Dangerous Dan’s
Dangerous Dan’s made disgusting cool, and that’s a compliment of the highest order for this beloved Queen and Broadview spot. The decision was made to shut it down earlier this year after the lease ran out. With items like the Colossal Colon Clogger Combo – a 24 oz. lump of beef, topped with two eggs and a quarter pound each of bacon and cheddar, served with a large shake and a small order of poutine – this place will be missed, even though it was hard on the old arteries.
8. Victory Café
There was no shortage of charm to this former Annex staple, which said goodbye earlier this year as part of the Mirvish family’s farewell to nearby Honest Ed’s. “The Vic” served up local and international craft beer and a rotating cask ale. Locals piled into the small wooden booths on the main floor, flooded the tiny adjacent room, spilled out onto the fantastic Markham street patio, and packed themselves into the roomy upstairs space.
9. Mr. Greenjeans
Within the downtown restaurant scene Mr. Greenjeans will be remembered as a long-standing favourite, reliably feeding hungry shoppers at its Eaton Centre location. Though it had undergone multiple renovations in its 34 years of operation, the spirit of the family friendly eatery remained the same up until the day it closed in 2014.
10. People’s Foods
Gentrification has long been a threat to local independent businesses operating in Toronto’s outrageous real estate market, and it was a rent dispute that was the final nail in the coffin for People’s Foods, the beloved Annex Diner. Though the restaurant is hoping to reopen soon, the closure of the 50-year-old location is a huge loss for the neighbourhood and its residents who have become loyal customers.
11. The Indian Rice Factory
Following the death of founder and Chef Amar Patel, the iconic Indian Rice Factory closed after more than four decades of operation. The restaurant is noted for bringing attention to Indian cuisine in the Toronto restaurant scene in the 1970s, diversifying the culinary landscape in the city for genrations to come.
12. Frank Vetere’s Pizzeria
Frank Vetere’s Pizzeria is an Italian chain restaurant that served Torontonians, “the best Pizza you’ve ever tasted.” With over 40 restaurants in the GTA, the pizzeria was home to Toronto’s favourite deep dish, with the added bonus of arcade games and eclectic decor. The chain closed in the early 80s with the onset of the recession and pizza hut took its place.
13. Captain John’s
Captain John’s Harbour Boat Restaurant has been serving up seafood by the seaside (well, lakeside) for decades, until it was closed to the public in 2012. Though it has been called an “eyesore” and a “blemish on the Toronto’s Harbourfront,” the ship holds a place in Toronto history. In May 2015 crowds of nostalgic Toronto locals bid the ship farewell as it was towed away from the shore 40 years after its last journey.
14. Gypsy Co-op
The Gypsy co-op has been deemed one of the original “cool” spots on Queen street west, reanimating a part of the city that had previously seen nothing of the kind. Part bar and lounge, restaurant, and art gallery, the Gypsy was the, “underground, chill-out spot,” that attracted young artists and musicians,frequently hosting live performances from local DJs and musicians. Not only was the Gypsy a meeting place for all types of creative people, they were also dishing out great food at affordable prices. Similar venues have popped up in recent years, but the Gypsy will always be known as the pioneer of cool.
15. Hard Rock Cafe
Once centred in heart of downtown Toronto, the Hard Rock Cafe suffered the same fate as many Toronto restaurants. Rising rent caused the restaurant to pack up and head south, taking with it the music memorabilia that made the Hard Rock a living time capsule. Not only did Toronto lose this tourist hotspot in 2017, it is also the loss of yet another local music venue.