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Dooney's into the Deadpool?

Posted by Robin Sharp / February 26, 2009

Dooney's CafeDooney's cafe, an Annex neigbourhood legend, may have sold its last three dollar jasmine tea.

I use tea as a reference because it's the only thing I've ever ordered there. I've lived two blocks away from Dooney's for most of my life but I've never really frequented the place (it's out of my family's price range...we were a 'Swiss Chalet' kind of crowd.)

Still, it was shocking to walk by the cafe this morning and see the windows boarded up with newspaper. I took a closer look and found a messy pen written sign on the door that read "Closed for Renos".

I'd like to believe them, but I've been told they had a massive blowout sale at the beginning of the week. Dubbed a 'content' sale, they sold off kitchen utensils, chairs, decorations...you name it.

Of course Dooney's has survived adversity before; there's a famous story about Starbucks attempting to take over the lease of the cafe and the neighbourhood rallying around the business. Will it happen again?

Maybe the recession hasn't been kind to Dooney's; people are holding onto their money more than ever and the Annex is littered with broke college students and artist types anyway.

Only time will tell if their 'reno' will ever be finished...
Dooney's Toronto



apetimberlake / February 26, 2009 at 04:51 pm
I like the "closed for Renos" sign.

This place was on resto makeover a year or so ago i believe.
michele / February 26, 2009 at 05:14 pm
graziano marchese, who owned dooney's for 20 years or thereabouts, sold the restaurant last summer to someone who apparently (rumour mill speaking here) had little experience with either the industry or the clientele.

it's so sad, the place was really a historic and social landmark... i worked there throughout university and met some absolutely incredible people, including jane jacobs and margaret atwood.

note to the writer: it wasn't *that* expensive, swiss chalet was definitely comparable for family dining!
James / February 26, 2009 at 05:15 pm
Damn...it was always a bit of a trek for me to make it there but it was always worth it. I'll miss it if it's gone for good.
Ghoul Friday / February 26, 2009 at 05:15 pm
I've only been in a few times, but still...it's one of those recognizable spots in my favourite part of the city.
darlene / February 26, 2009 at 05:39 pm
I'll miss their brunch and patio. It really was never the same after the restaurant makeover, even before the original owner sold.
tracey / February 26, 2009 at 05:48 pm
graziano marchese is now around the corner at the annex live (behind future bakery). i have had a couple of brunches there. room is great, service is perfect and food is fine.

post-marchese dooney's was disappointing for sure. i stopped eating there but still stopped in for a beverage when trekking around the neighbourhood.

i pipped into dooney's during contents sale - i had just finished brunch at annex live and was on a quest to find a whiskey glass as i passed by! they were selling everything. i asked the woman what they were planning and she said it was a surprise but that it involved food and more of a cafe feel. i am not sure what that means because i thought dooney's, at least in the marchese days, was the epitome of a cafe feel. anyway -- i hope they get the patio ready in time for the first patio day which cannot come soon enough.
K / February 26, 2009 at 08:19 pm
How did an ad for an Escort Agency end up on BlogTO? ugh.
char / February 26, 2009 at 09:47 pm
i believe the owner is turning dooney's into a tea shop. there were job ads for it on craigslist.
Candice / February 26, 2009 at 11:35 pm
Here's the ad that char is referring to: http://toronto.en.craigslist.ca/tor/fbh/1036144202.html

Mike / February 27, 2009 at 09:27 am
First I heard of Dooney's was in a book I picked up in Vancouver - it's a great read:


Later, I learned that the cafe itself was just as good. It will be missed.
Skip / February 27, 2009 at 09:36 am
Wow! I just saw them on Restaurant Makeover not that long ago.
canuck1975 / February 27, 2009 at 10:05 am
I worked @ Starbucks when that whole Dooney's thing happened. We had flyers and everything! Really, it was just silly.
Ted / February 27, 2009 at 10:24 am
This reno was long overdue. Even the old owner knew that and brought in Restaurant Makeover (that failed miserably). It takes guts to renovate a business in these terrible financial times and think it will only improve the neighborhood. It's time to change with the times and stop living like it's 1985.
Dooney's is done and as a matter of fact it was done long before the new owner took over.
Shaun Smith / February 27, 2009 at 10:44 am
Yet another victim of Restaurant Screwover.
Chris / February 27, 2009 at 12:25 pm
I'm not sure that Restaurant Screwover was the entire problem. I've only had the displeasure of eating there once - and it was horrible. The staff was awful, the food was overcooked, bland and just plain awful.

A makeover reality show can only go so far to wrecking a business, if the staff can't cook or open a bottle of wine - who cares what the place looks like.
Jimmy / February 27, 2009 at 06:23 pm
Well, the person who bought it from Marchese is a silver-spooner from North York who's dad bought the business for her and who had never worked an honest day in her life. She fired all the existing staff without respecting labour laws, and apparently did the same thing just now (papered up the windows, closed the doors, and started renos without giving staff the proper notice.)

It's a shame, really. Despite the rough edges (occasionally bad food, consistently surly service) it was a great joint, the kind of place that makes you feel like you actually live in a neighbourhood. It will be missed.
Greg J. Smith / February 27, 2009 at 07:02 pm

I agree the service *was* bad, but I really enjoyed the patio in the spring/summer. I spent a lot of time at Dooney's while in grad school.. <wipes tear from eye>
Sam / February 27, 2009 at 08:17 pm
Jimmy so smart of you to quote others that did not do their homework. Therefore showing you would jump to conclusions rather than to investigate the truth. Seems you know the owner and know for a fact that she has never worked at any job. Fired? As I heard it most of the old staff quit as soon as she took over. She did not break any labour laws and you would know that if you knew anything about the labour laws in Ontario. The staff knew for several months about the renos, and were told that as soon as everything was a "go" the place would close. There was no "midnight run".

Get your facts before you post quotes written by someone else. Apparently you didn't even read the blog above as it is not blaming anyone and no one really knows whats going to happen to the space. It states a shock of a 25 year old business going through a change. It also shows somewhat of an anticipation of whats to come.

I just don't understand people that live in the past and refuse to see change as a good thing.
Rebecca / February 27, 2009 at 08:28 pm
Jimmy, I love how you said "silver spooner from North York who's [sic] dad bought the business for her" as though no one's ever received help from their parents when starting a new venture before. Maybe people shouldn't automatically let their jealousy get the best of them when they hear a story like that - as Sam said, until you know the facts or the person, it's not really your place to make that kind of judgment.
Kelvin / February 27, 2009 at 09:15 pm
Do hope they open up again - agree that the service was never that good (I remember once waiting almost an hour for the food) but there was always a certain charm to that place.
pageslap / February 28, 2009 at 01:23 am
I've eaten there twice.

First around 2003. There was an almost fascinating amount of birdshit on the patio table, the staff blithely ignored us, and when we finally got fed, the grilled chicken breast in my sandwich was completely raw in the middle. I don't mean a touch of a pinkish hue, either. That thing, though cooked on the edges, was bright pink and translucent in the centre- to the point where I assumed they'd accidentally brought me rare grilled tuna and took a bite, oops. Tasted like chicken, practically still clucking.

I showed the waiter, who wordlessly took the plate and wandered back inside. When he returned it a few minutes later, they had opened my (bitten) sandwich, re-grilled the (bitten) meat, re-assembled it, and brought it back with no apology. In other words, they put my partially-eaten food back on the grill- total health violation.

After sadly pecking at my gross bird sandwich, I decided to soothe my jangled palate with an order of peach pie for dessert. Under the lattice-top of the pie, I noted dollops of green mold on the congealed peach filling. I showed this latest indignity to the server, who listlessly offered me another slice of the same pie, which I declined. The finale to this horrendous lunch was that they charged me full price for that shitty, inedible, gastroenteritis vector of a meal. That was the only time in my life I ever I skipped a bill. Unbelievable.

My second time at Dooney's was in 2006. My lunch date really wanted to eat there, and I am such a gentle and nonconfrontational soul that I went along just to be nice, despite my bad previous experience. The service was normal, and my tomato soup was tangy and tasty. I detected no hint of decay in it, so I guess things can change.

Nonetheless, I'm not sorry Dooney's is gone. Dooney's never felt welcoming and that 2003 visit could not have been more disgusting / unsanitary. I'm not so nice that I'll forgive such a bad experience.
Kaleb / February 28, 2009 at 12:37 pm
I'll miss walking by that place and telling people the only time I ever went there I got dumped by my girlfriend. Nah, I won't miss it.
rek / March 1, 2009 at 02:09 am
So I guess "Sam" and "Rebecca" are the silver-spooner herself, or friends of same?

I've lived in the neighbourhood for about 5 years and always meant to go in some day, a little moreso after seeing it on RM a few months ago. Oh well.
barbara / March 8, 2009 at 03:42 pm
I worked at Dooney's one summer in the mid 80s, and even though it has been bought and sold and reworked several times since then, I say good riddance. It was one of the worst places I've ever worked, and it sounds like terrible management practices continued with each change of owner. Oddly the cafe tended to inspire its regular customers with sentimentality while they defended their romance with cafe culture against the forces of Starbucks etc.
Dudester / March 11, 2009 at 12:00 am
The staff were always awful at Dooney's. I'm glad their gone. I had a date there once and they accused her of being "unhygienic" because she sat cross-legged on the chair. That put me in a weird position. Never saw her again.
Archie / March 24, 2009 at 10:16 pm
Walked by there today and looks like a great spot. If the food tastes as good as the place looks, it will be awesome.
lyja replying to a comment from apetimberlake / June 8, 2009 at 03:13 pm
Graz has opened up a new place just around the corner at 296 Brunswick (where The Poor Alex used to be) it's called The Annex Live. It's a great spot, and features live music Wednesday through Saturday nights....
Kate replying to a comment from Chris / September 26, 2009 at 02:50 pm
I went to Dooney's a few times and was never overly impressed. I was ignored by the staff mostly, which was a huge improvement over the rather rude treatment I received the last time I went. I was trying to decide what to order and was told "Hurry up already" - there was hardly anyone in the place, but the staff member wanted to go sit with friends. Never went back.
Liam / February 21, 2012 at 04:17 pm
I'd been going to Dooney's for the better part of 2 decades.

Had good - sometimes great - food, even with some organic ingredients, although I missed it when they reduced the selection of desserts. Service was OK, I didn't have problems, used to chat with the staff and they were always friendly. Great coffee. You often saw journalists doing interviews there.

Came back to Toronto last weekend and was sorry not to find Dooney's.
omar replying to a comment from michele / June 14, 2013 at 02:35 pm
hola micaela,:)recuerdas a los cocineros? yo también trabajé en Dooney años atrás.quisiera me ayudaras a localizar a Joe ,el preparaba la ricas pizzas de Dooney ,pero yo no se su nombre completo,o si tienes su correo por favor.
por otra parte recuerdo que renunciaron los cocineros molestos por la nueva dueña de Dooney, Marney se llama creo,desde que llego ella empezó a hacer cambios completos en dooney.Ella joven sin experiencia cierto muy cierto,solo hubiera dejado a Dooney como estaba,,el negocio ya estaba bien y sus cocineros increibles!! saludos :)
omar replying to a comment from michele / June 14, 2013 at 02:39 pm
hi michele, :) remember the cooks? I also worked in Dooney years atrás.quisiera help me locate Joe the pizzas prepared the Dooney rich, but I do not know his full name, or have your mail please.
moreover remember who gave the cooks upset by the new owner of Dooney, Marney is called I think, since he came she started to make complete changes in inexperienced young dooney.Ella true very true, only Dooney had left as it was,, business was good and amazing cooks! greetings :)
Pamela / November 24, 2014 at 02:53 pm
There's a restaurant called "Dooney's" (or so says the liquor license application signage) going into a former convenience store on Bloor just east of Ossington. Is this a revival of the old Dooney's?
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