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Eat & Drink

The 10 biggest Toronto restaurant flops of 2013

Posted by Liora Ipsum / November 26, 2013

Restaurant closures Toronto2013 proved to be a boom year for restaurant openings in Toronto, but less advertised were the ones that didn't make it. Some of these places passed the one-year threshold only to close soon after, while others were gone in the blink of an eye.

Honourable mentions go out to Alimento Fine Food Emporium, C House Lounge Cafe, Jungle Juice and Toucan Taco Bar. Gone but not...oh look, something new.

Here are the 10 biggest restaurant flops of 2013 (so far).

White Squirrel Snack Shop
The original cafe is still going strong, but this Queen West offshoot only lasted one season. Having opened in the spring, the snack bar closed in early November and is now P&L Burger (a burger shack from Parts & Labour) - a bold move, considering the close proximity to a Burger's Priest.

Nejibee Izakaya
Location, location, location. If ever this adage was truer, this is the case: the premiere Toronto outpost of this popular Japanese pub chain opened in March only to close in August. The Tokyo-based franchise suffered from a hidden location with zero street presence and a misleading Google address.

Que Supper Club
Opened in August of this year, this Corktown joint attempted to modernize BBQ with fussy fusion preparations like Redneck (meat filled, bacon-wrapped) sushi rolls. Somehow this didn't catch on, the restaurant and lounge was dunzo by October.

Hoof Raw Bar
Dundas West pioneer Jen Agg (owner of the celebrated Black Hoof) debuted this seafood-centric bar back in May 2012. Just over a year later, the cool concept was put on ice, only to be recently reincarnated as Haitian eatery Rhum Corner. Perhaps not a flop so much as a case of culinary ADHD.

Slider Revolution
Introduced in late 2012, this mini-burger and sandwich specialist barely lasted six months. The Danforth eatery lost its sizzle and closed up shop in June. Coming next to 673 Danforth? A BBQ joint.

Kensington Market became ground zero for Toronto's taco obsession this summer, but it remains yet to be seen if the neighbourhood can sustain the influx of new taquerias. Over-saturation has already claimed its first casualty: this short-lived Mexican eatery that opened in June then closed by November.

Vicki'z Vegetarian Eatery
Open in July and closed just three months later, this fast casual vegetarian eatery on College at Bathurst served pretty decent food but kept terribly inconsistent hours and was just generally out of synch with the neighbourhood's lazy lunchers and bustling bar crowds. The address is soon to become an izakaya and ramen shop.

A-OK Foods
Pour one out for this purveyor of house-made ramen and Korean Fried Chicken. Opened late last year, this Queen St. noodle shop and snack bar (from the team behind Yours Truly) was shuttered at the end of October.

Smoke BBQ House
Situated at Harbord and Manning, this smokehouse opened in January only to be renamed Smoke Bourbon Bar-B-Q a mere three months later. The barbecue joint is still cooking, even though "creative differences" saw one of the founding partners leave with all the cool furniture...sounds messy.

The Melting Pot
This U.S.-based fondue franchise is going strong in the States operating 135 locations. The chain entered the GTA market in April 2012 with the launch of a Richmond Hill outpost co-owned by Food Network chef, Corbin Tomazeski, it was closed by March. Shall we just chalk this one up to the Restaurant Makeover curse or just the fact that people don't actually eat fondue anymore?

What did I miss? Add more flops to the comments below.



Joey / November 26, 2013 at 03:52 pm
Taqueria - opened on Yonge just south of Bloor - was in business maybe for 4 months, then closed down and yet another Korean restaurant has opened.
michael / November 26, 2013 at 03:54 pm
THANK GOD they got rid of those Awful mini red Pic Nic tables from Smoke Bourbon BBQ house - Great Food - now with much better seating !!!
Nic replying to a comment from george / November 26, 2013 at 03:59 pm
lol funny post, now don't use the comment section to send folks to your shitty site.
johnny / November 26, 2013 at 04:02 pm
Valentina was a great place to have a beer and decent taco on a lovely patio. Too bad.
Alex J. Murphy / November 26, 2013 at 04:03 pm
Paulette's- the owners of Delica (which makes grab-and-go lunches) opened a fried chicken and donut shop in Leslieville in summer 2012. By summer 2013, it was just another Delica. We'll see how that works out in such a laid-back neighbourhood.
Mike / November 26, 2013 at 04:07 pm
Was sad when Hoof Raw Bar closed. It was a decent place for brunch, although their wait times can be a little unruly.
Mike / November 26, 2013 at 04:08 pm
The White Squirrel place was a good concept. Plenty of people are looking for healthy snacks that aren't full blown food. But the food quality wasn't that great, and the servings were too large.

Unfortunately though I think the concept will get the blame, not the execution.
Alison / November 26, 2013 at 04:11 pm
I was surprised that Melting Pot closed. I went a few times, and it was always busy
George / November 26, 2013 at 04:23 pm
The more I see Corbin Tomaszeski on TV, the less I want to frequent any place his name is associated with, despite nice memories of the lunch I had at another place of his that died at the AGO. I know most chefs have a healthy ego but he just comes across as a crass know-it-all who thinks putting a little candle over a pizza is the bees knees.
Collin Ng / November 26, 2013 at 04:40 pm
I don't believe A-OK was a flop, as it was more so an experimental side project by the Yours Truly crew no?
chef robert / November 26, 2013 at 05:17 pm
restaurants need to lower there prices or people will never come back. honestly, it's the biggest turn off. $20 for burger and fries or $12 for half a sandwich. get real!
DJ / November 26, 2013 at 05:58 pm
Slider Revolution was terrible. It replaced Three's Company which never had an empty seat. Slider Revolution had nothing but empty seats. Why the hell was there hype for that place? It was terrible. No tears. We want Three's Company back.
Nick / November 26, 2013 at 05:59 pm
Sad to see some good ideas not succeed. Lets see how about stop opening restaurants that serve ; TACOS, PIZZA, BURGERS , AND SANDWHICHES god damm hipsters like really you all think the same maybe open up a Seviche bar, a CARRIBEAN Salad bar and so forth innovation people and to Chef Robert i agree ! WTF is this 14.99 for a burger and a side of fresh cut fries is 6.99 ? F-off
SAD / November 26, 2013 at 06:01 pm

They made a goddamn FANTASTIC Cubano sammich

Where am I supposed to get that now?
DJ replying to a comment from chef robert / November 26, 2013 at 06:07 pm
I'll gladly pay for good food. And you can certainly pay more than that for mediocre food at franchises.
dildobaggins / November 26, 2013 at 06:24 pm
Keriwa cafe closed down,there seemed to be quite a bit of hype. I heard it was good jus wish i had tried it before their doors closed.t
Sad but true replying to a comment from Mike / November 26, 2013 at 06:26 pm
The White Squirrel Snack Shop failed because it was rarely even open. To make money, you need to be open and you need to sell things. I tried going a few times.

The times it was actually open, I had the same barista each time, but I never got that welcoming vibe that tells me this was going to become "my" coffee shop. Too much indifference from the staff.

But most of the times I went, it was just plain closed. I went at reasonable times, like 10 am on a Saturday morning, or 5 pm on a weekday. Closed. One Saturday morning, it was raining and pouring at around 11 am. I decided I would try to take shelter in the cafe and buy an espresso. My usual server was in there, behind the till, but the cafe was closed. He noticed me at the door soaked from head to toe. He just looked back down at his till.

It might sound like I'm bitter because he didn't let me in. C'mon, I don't expect businesses to let me in when they're closed. But why would a cafe on a busy stretch of Queen Street be closed at 11 am on a Saturday?

I think this placed deserved to close down. Sad but true.
Really? / November 26, 2013 at 06:34 pm
Really? Smoke Bourbon BBQ, is amazing! And it's usually quite full. The food is probably the best BBQ I have ever had. I don't get why you would call it a flop?

jd replying to a comment from Joey / November 26, 2013 at 07:14 pm

I use to hit them up when they were in the underground path. But how could they be serious with the place on Yonge? I never saw it open. Did they ever even update their website that they moved?

Every time I walked by they had some excuse on the door of why they were closed. Like, We're down at the EX, come see us down there...
Frustrating replying to a comment from Sad but true / November 26, 2013 at 08:47 pm
I agree. Contrary to popular belief, customers don't usually just leave their money on the curbside with the promise that the cafe might actually open its doors at some point in the near future.

Also, the food at White Squirrel was pretty bland.
Alex / November 26, 2013 at 09:16 pm
Can someone tell me which restaurant the picture with the map wall is from? I really like that map. Though the rest of the layout doesn't seem conducive to a resto.
Codliver Oil replying to a comment from Collin Ng / November 27, 2013 at 02:36 am
It may have been an experimental side project, but it was still a flop. These two things are not mutually exclusive, no? If it were a successful experimental side project, making oodles of money (pardon the noodles pun), then surely it would still be open now? Entrepreneurs tend not to close down successful businesses, experimental or otherwise.
Donna / November 27, 2013 at 06:15 am
Does anyone have any stories of Rob Ford visiting any of these restaurants? If so Id love to hear
A.S. / November 27, 2013 at 07:41 am
A-OK was just a project by Yours Truly and was only intended to last a short time. They've said they intend to move on to something different. Not a flop, that's pretty unfair to publish.
S.M. replying to a comment from A.S. / November 27, 2013 at 09:52 am
I don't think it's unfair at all. I commend Liora for writing an article with a definite opinion and teeth, not just some bland report about what opened and closed in 2013. I'm a big fan of her restaurant reviews. BlogTO has been much better since she started writing most of the reviews. Before her, every restaurant was considered "spectacular"...even the flops.

Keep up the awesome work, Liora!
Dubs replying to a comment from Frustrating / November 27, 2013 at 10:10 am
I agree that this place should have been open more, this seems like a no brainer. However I disagree with statements about the food and service. Every time I went in there they remembered my name and were extremely nice. I got a full run-down of the menu with a description and personal commentary on every item. I ate there probably 5 times and every time the food was dope. The Iraqi breakfast sandwich was unreal. Sad to see it go, especially for another fucking burger joint.
Dubs replying to a comment from A.S. / November 27, 2013 at 10:12 am
I think its ok to call it a flop, but I would add that I dont think it was because of the efforts put into making it a good eating experience. The food was really good and the service was great, I think it was location that kinda fucked them. Something about that 'Shaw We Go' sign looming overhead didnt sit right...HAving said that I ate there a few times and would have gone back...
Gloria / November 27, 2013 at 10:39 am
Yeah ... like the commentator said, White Squirrel was just never open. I don't think it was open for dinner on weekends, which is just killer. I had heard their burgers were quite good. Oh well.
duder / November 27, 2013 at 11:06 am
Nejibee Izakaya was just ok...while it wasn't bad, there was really nothing to distinguish it from the Guus, Don Don, etc. Plus, as the article indicates, the location was just horrible. I went there on a Saturday night and it was almost completely empty.
Matt replying to a comment from Alex J. Murphy / November 27, 2013 at 11:30 am
Ugh. I was so disappointed. I talked to the girl at the counter there and she said that the donut sales were outpacing chicken sales. The owners decided to continue offering donut sales but to rework their menu. Sucks, because that was probably the best fried chicken I've ever had.
Mr. Banana / November 27, 2013 at 12:04 pm
The problem with many new eateries is that they try to sell you a gimmick instead of good food.
jeep / November 27, 2013 at 02:33 pm
Re: Negibee.. I dont agree with the location argument. I think they just didnt execute their food properly.

The current incumbent, Teppan Kenta ( is doing quite well. A friend brought me there one time, and then he frequented a couple of times more, and now I am dreaming of going back. If anything, the location is preventing Teppan Kenta from being crowded and overloaded by people who are curious...
More of the same replying to a comment from Mr. Banana / November 27, 2013 at 03:07 pm
Not only that...the problem with many new eateries is that they try to sell you the *same food* that everyone else is selling.

In Europe, they laugh at North Americans, because they subscribe to this stereotype that we just sit around and eat burgers all day and everyday. When I lived in Europe, I used to say, no, no, no, it's not true, we like burgers, but that's just an exaggeration. But then, when I moved back here...well...there's an oxymoronic "gourmet" burger shop on every corner. And there seems to be no abating to this trend.

Honestly, enough burgers and tacos and banh mi and all that. Let's try to get creative. The market for these things is oversaturated. Actually, I praise the new Saffron take-out at Queen and Spadina. True, there are some roti shops around, but it's nice to be able to go out and get a tandoori wrap on the go in the downtown. And the cut-up roti is pretty unique, as far as downtown offerings go.

I'm just trying to say, there would be fewer "flops" if people were to actually try and come up with new ideas, rather than more and more and more of the same.
Street replying to a comment from S.M. / November 27, 2013 at 06:54 pm
Liora Ipsum, said author of this piece in name, is merely just a take on Lorem ipsum. And Lorem ipsum is a placeholder text commonly used to demonstrate the graphic elements of a document or visual presentation, such as font, typography, and layout, by removing the distraction of meaningful content.

If her parents named her this, then I commend them - quite the little joke. But I'll hazard a guess that it's Mr. Tim S. - owner of Blogto - writing these pieces cause he's too cheap to hire more than 4 or 5 writers at $3 an article.
Tom A replying to a comment from Alex / November 28, 2013 at 11:06 am
Alex this photo was taken from White Squirrel on Queen West
Tom A replying to a comment from Alex / November 28, 2013 at 11:07 am
Alex, the photo was taken of White Squirrel cafe on Queen West
Tipicular Fixin's replying to a comment from SAD / December 21, 2013 at 11:13 am
For a decent cubano and medianoche, go check out La Cubana on Roncy.
Jimmy / December 22, 2013 at 09:43 am
Although some of the eateries may have lacked organization or originality, I think this article really highlights the difficulties many new restaurant owners face. There has been a huge increase in competition in the GTA in recent years, and with rents of high visibility main street locations soaring, overheads have become unreasonably high and profits non-existent. I agree that food prices are on rise and many restaurants no longer seem to offer value for money, however these market prices are a direct result of high taxes, exorbitant rental rates and produce costs. It's tough to be a successful restauranteur in this city. I wish any young entrepreneurs launching new ventures in 2014 the very best of luck.
Jimmy Forget / December 22, 2013 at 10:17 pm
Well said Jimmy. Don't forget high labour costs for the most basic positions.
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