There are only a handful of classic diners left in Toronto, the Bloor Street Diner, the Rosedale Diner but they don’t exactly count if you want the vintage experience. Places like the Avenue Road diner serves a mean breakfast but you need to get there early if you want a seat. Diners seem to be going the way of the ghost and I wanted to start documenting them before they’re gone.
What inspired this idea for doing a series about old diners was walking along King street yesterday, when out of the corner of my eye I see the Patrician Grill. I thought it was long gone, swallowed up by the expanse of monotonous condos eating our city. I had been to the Patrician years before with a group of people from work. But never went back because I thought it had been flattened by a wrecking ball. Little did I know it’s still thriving and serving up a great greasy meal. So I crossed the street to get a closer look to make sure I wasn’t seeing a mirage.
I snapped some photos for posterity and tried to capture a few close-ups of the signage on the front door. Unfortunately I was in a rush and didn’t have time to stop for lunch but I hope to return one day for some, as the sign reads, Good Food.
For a neighborhood where so much change has taken place it’s hard to notice this tiny diner tucked in between buildings, you could literally drive right by if you’re not paying attention. With it’s classic 1950s sloped awning and neon sign poking out over the sidewalk, the Patrician is like a beacon of salvation and hope for those who love old diners.
At the front door is a laminated article reviewing several diners from around Toronto, I don’t know when it was published but there is a great big photo at the top featuring the owner’s son Terry Papas who has been working here since he was 10 years old. The Toronto Star describes the food, history and experience well:
The Patrician Grill 219 King St. E. (near Sherborne St.) Another fine choice on a hung-over morning. This little brick diner seems a hallmark from the past – from the pink neon sign out front to the pink curtains cascading from the windows. The local motto, says owner Terry Papas from behind the bar, is “eat here, diet at home.” He has offered triple decker sandwiches and cups of coleslaw from this spot since he was 10 years old. His father still owns the place.
The hangover delicacy, says Papas, is the old-fashioned breakfast special of bacon, three eggs, fries, toast and coffee from $4.95. Die-hards, though, go for the cheeseburger and fries ($6.15). “It’s got substance. We don’t serve fluffy food,” he says, scooping ice cream into a cup for a Coke float.
If you are looking for some hair off the dog that bit you, stop in after 11a.m. and they’ll serve you some hard stuff – ouzo, tequila, scotch…
If you’re ever in the area do yourself a favor and step into the past, it’s comforting to know that like an old friend, the Patrician is still around. I will most certainly be back to report on the food.
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