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Eat & Drink

Remembering Toronto restaurants of days gone by

Posted by Ed Conroy / December 13, 2013

Ponderosa TorontoUsed to be when it came to family dining out on a budget, Toronto was spoiled for choice. The Gods of frugal yum smiled down on us, bestowing fabled chains which offered affordable eats for family friendly visits and left behind indelible impressions in our minds and taste buds even long after they had shuttered, gone into receivership or been chewed up by corporate garburators.

Toronto based chain Frank Vetere's Pizzeria was one such magical eatery: Started in 1972 by Frank Vetere, the red and green shutters and offbeat interior (mixing Carnival mirrors, cartoons and great moments in Pizza history) provided an imaginative setting, bested only by their Chicago style deep-dish toppings heavy Pizza which oozed that authentic Italian touch and was rightfully branded "the best Pizza you've ever tasted". In fact, Frank Vetere's actually trademarked the name "Deep Dish Pizza".

Frank Vetere's menu also included mouth-watering Italian sandwiches, burgers, pasta and an all-you-can-eat salad bar. Arcade games (usually Asteroids, Pac-Man, Dig-Dug or Zaxxon) lined the walls and could be operated with plastic tokens that also worked in the gumball machines, and of course every kid got a free token with their meal. Dads were happy to sink their $2 steins of house lager while the legendary free-with-dinner Frank Vetere's soda glasses can still be found at local thrift shops.

Frank Vetere'sAfter a massive expansion which saw over 40 locations arise in Ontario (22 in Toronto alone), the chain was crippled by the 1982 recession, forcing owners Foodex Inc. to sell most of their locations to Pizza Hut, who wasted little time in aping Vetere's popular Deep Dish style Pizza but without the pizzaz.

PonderosaAnother fondly remembered chain also owned by Foodex Inc. of Toronto was Ponderosa. Named after the ranch in TV's long running oater Bonanza, Ponderosa offered up affordable chopped steak, baked potatoes, all-you-can-eat salad bar, coconut cream pie and mushroom gravy smothered fries.

Ponderosa TorontoThe restaurants housed an authentic Cowboy styled atmosphere with saloon doors, stag horns, wood walls, yellow and brown uniforms for the staff and red and white checkered table clothes. Ponderosa was a popular birthday destination in the 80s, owing to the group friendly prices, kid friendly zones and fun-tastic birthday hats. Also, the deserts on display were always a sight to behold.

Sadly the same issues which had affected Frank Vetere's ultimately brought down Ponderosa, which still survives as a US chain but saw a total collapse in Canada in the late 1980s when the majority of their locations were converted into Red Lobsters (run by the General Mills Canada) at a time when our country was experiencing a massive renaissance in seafood)

Chi Chi's RestaurantChi Chi's Mexican restaurants - catchphrase "A celebration of food!" - also score high on the nostalgic food-o-meter, primary thanks to their yummy deep fried ice cream, piping hot plates and cheap margaritas. It helped that before Taco Bell got a stranglehold on the GTA in the mid-1990s, Chi Chi's was the only ubiquitous Mexican game in town.

By the 2000s, Chi Chi's fell apart thanks to a combination of bankruptcy and a fatal hepatitis A outbreak traced back to green onions served at one of their Pittsburgh restaurants. The majority of their remaining locations were unceremoniously gobbled up by Outback Steakhouse, with nary a drop of salsa left behind. Not much of a happy ending for that "celebration".

Thankfully not all of our beloved retro chains have sad endings: Mothers Pizza Parlour & Spaghetti House, another fondly remembered family joint - recently returned from the grave in April of this year. Businessman Brian Alger acquired the expired trademark to Mother's Pizza - one of his favorite brands growing up (along with the Pop Shoppe, which he also acquired) - then teamed with Restaurateur Geeve Sandu to reboot the franchise using the same original formula.

It's not hard to see why Alger was so enamoured with Mothers - Like Frank Vetere's, the ambiance was crucial to the experience. Roaring 1920s style décor with wood and decorated glass, Tiffany lamps, red and white gingham, and Black & White silent films playing on screens all around the restaurant guaranteed Mothers was a place that once visited was never forgotten. Also like Vetere's, the Pizza was phenomenal, and their 99 cent Root Beer floats with take home glass were the stuff of playground legend.

The 1980s were unkind to Mothers, and even though Blue Jays Ernie Whitt, Loyd Moseby and Cito Gaston invested in the company (there was even "Ernie Whitt Specials") and helped market it along with Duel dodger Dennis Weaver! By 1989 Mothers had gone into receivership and was bought up by Little Caesers, who disposed of the classy Mothers style and helped usher in the era of cheap tasteless cardboard Pizza (aided and abetted by other chains who shall remain nameless).

20131212-EDDIE-SHACK-DONUTS.jpgMany other deceased or decimated chains not mentioned here - The Olive Garden, Lime Rickey's, JJ Muggs, Harvey Wallbangers, Bo Peep, Eddie Shack Donuts, Bobby Orr Pizza, etc - live on in our memories and through dusty promotional glassware found at garage sales or old commercials on YouTube. Will the cookie cutter family restaurant chains of 2013 - Boston Pizza, Montana's, Milestones, Eggsmart, etc - ever be as fondly remembered as the likes of Frank Vetere's, Ponderosa, Chi Chi's and Mothers?

Retrontario plumbs the seedy depths of Toronto flea markets, flooded basements, thrift shops and garage sales, mining old VHS and Betamax tapes that less than often contain incredible moments of history that were accidentally recorded but somehow survived the ravages of time. You can find more amazing discoveries at www.retrontario.com.



Breaded Shrimp / December 13, 2013 at 08:43 am
Love this article. Brought back so many memories for me. I grew up in another town in Ontario, but I remember my parents taking me to Ponderosa when they opened one in my home town. My parents were excited because they heard the steak was really good, but it wasn't much of an event for me personally (I was 4 years old) until we got to the restaurant and was presented with their breaded shrimp with seafood sauce. I can still remember it to this day, and my lifelong cravings for shrimp started at that very moment! I also remember when the Ponderosa closed down and turned into a Red Lobster.

Keep up the awesome work, Ed! You, Liora Ipsum, and Chris Bateman have really upped blogTO's game in the last year.
Glorpo Nut / December 13, 2013 at 09:22 am
Does anyone remember a chain called "The Counter" or something like that? It had orange and white logos with sort of a smiley face. I remember one at Fairview Mall and the Science Centre. Served cheap hot dogs, burgers and fries.
Scott Highet / December 13, 2013 at 09:49 am
This is cool
Mark / December 13, 2013 at 09:54 am
Any ads for Red Barn, Arthur Treachers Fish n' Chips, Diana Sweets or John Anderson Burgers?
BH / December 13, 2013 at 09:57 am
I remember Frank Vetere's growing up--loved it for pizza. It probably wasn't as good as I remember, but this was the 80s, so we took whatever we got.
Nina / December 13, 2013 at 10:01 am
I don't care how high up on your nose your nostalgia goggles are sitting, Ponderosa was gross. The Olive Garden is still alive and kicking out in the western provinces I believe, as is recently departed Arby's, a chain I deeply miss.
Peanut Gallery / December 13, 2013 at 10:01 am
I totally remember the UFO-pizza TV advert. Well done!
Andy in TO / December 13, 2013 at 10:01 am
What about STEAK & BERGER
Torontonian / December 13, 2013 at 10:01 am
Anyone remember Murray's at any of their locations?
Front Street, the Ford Hotel, and Yonge and St. Clair
come to mind.
CT / December 13, 2013 at 10:02 am
The remnants of a former Red Barn live on as a Mr Sub in Mississauga n Dundas st.
Oddly enough its the only Mr Sub I know of that has a liquor license!
RS / December 13, 2013 at 10:08 am
Who else started singing the jingles for Chi-chi's and Red Lobster? Just me? okay then...
Thomas / December 13, 2013 at 10:14 am
Red Lobster is at Bay and Dundas is Toronto.

Frank Vetere's Pizzeria
750 Queenston Rd
Hamilton, ON L8G 1A4

Mothers Pizza
701 Queenston Road Hamilton, ON L8K 1A1

Pizza Delight
Jeff / December 13, 2013 at 10:15 am
Pat and Marios!!!
Nina replying to a comment from RS / December 13, 2013 at 10:20 am
I always wondered why that Mr. Sub (or Mr. SubMARINE, as its sign read until about a decade ago) looked like a barn! Also on Dundas St. (at Tomken) in Mississauga are the remnants of a Ponderosa. It was a plant nursery for a while, but I think it's now empty completely.
Todd Toronto / December 13, 2013 at 10:26 am
I can't believe The Old Spaghetti Factory is still around. Not that there's anything wrong with it (I used to love it as a kid), but I haven't been there nor seen an ad for it in thirty years.

It's like discovering that the video arcade at the base of the CN Tower is still around.
Steven / December 13, 2013 at 10:43 am
Toby's Goodeats.
aisha / December 13, 2013 at 10:46 am
This article brought back so many memories. To this day I've dreamed about the chi chi's fried ice cream that I never got to try. Though I wonder if at the time many small restaurant's thought of these chains in the same way I look at today's corporate franchises. Keep coming with more retrontario!
Tuli / December 13, 2013 at 10:47 am
Yes the old Spagett's is still around- it is a national chain NOT just the Toronto Location


Sam / December 13, 2013 at 10:48 am
Taco Bell is few and far between. They used to have locations everywhere, locations up Yonge St. ,etc.

Now I only know of 1.
Kate replying to a comment from CT / December 13, 2013 at 10:50 am
Saw another one the other day - maybe along Bloor West (?) that had the LLBO sign in the window and was momentarily confused. Guess some are licensed, go figure.

Re Bo Peep - that was a chain? There is almost-century old Bo Peep in Scarborough. I believe Diana Sweets is still around.
valerieinto / December 13, 2013 at 10:58 am
The Olive Garden is gone in Canada? They're still definitely a thing in the States. I think the Olive Garden on Keele fed many a York U student with free breadsticks back in tha day.
Mike / December 13, 2013 at 11:26 am
I miss Ponderosa. The original building is still there in Mississauga at Tomken and Dundas. It was a garden center for a while, not sure what it is now.
Holden / December 13, 2013 at 11:26 am
Prior to JJ Muggs was simply "The Mug". My mum used to take me there. Never to be forgotten :-)
Holden replying to a comment from Steven / December 13, 2013 at 11:27 am
OMG Toby's! Of course they couldn't be left out!
Skye replying to a comment from valerieinto / December 13, 2013 at 11:39 am
That used to be an Olive Garden? It turned into a Kelsey's by the early 2000s...and still fed many a hungry York U student. That's where we went for an "upscale" dinner whenever any of us got a big paycheck!
Grant L.J. McMullen / December 13, 2013 at 12:44 pm
The last Ponderosa in Canada -- in Moncton -- lasted until 2010, believe it or not. The new Mother's in Hamilton is great: totally different decor and atmosphere, but the food is exactly how you remember it. And here in Winnipeg, we have not only an Old Spaghetti Factory but also two Olive Gardens.
W. K. Lis / December 13, 2013 at 12:56 pm
There used to be a Red Barn restaurant on Dufferin Street, south of Yorkdale. The building (and its shape) is still there, but not the restaurant.
Paul Lancaric / December 13, 2013 at 01:30 pm
I have fond memories of the Organ Grinder in the Esplanade. A little part of me is sad whenever I'm at the Bier Markt down there as it took its spot. Such a unique and wonderful place!
Xavier / December 13, 2013 at 01:47 pm
There's still a Eddie Shack Donuts in Caledon
This is the Future / December 13, 2013 at 01:51 pm
I'm not one to be overly nostalgic or to talk about the so-called "good old days". However, I have to admit that even though the food wasn't excellent by any means in the 80s and 90s, I do miss a time when things weren't so pretentious. Back in the mid-90s, if I said to my friends, "I'm going to go grab a burger from Harvey's" or "Let's go to Pizza Hut for dinner tonight", no one would have raised an eyebrow. These days, you can be ostracized from your social group for considering such options.
Cynthia / December 13, 2013 at 02:01 pm
What about Steak&Burger? I remember going to one at Fairview and another at Towne & Country mall (now CentrePoint). I think the Fairview location is now (or was, for a long time) a Michel's Baguette (or whatever they call themselves now) and the CentrePoint spot is a Pickle Barrel. And speaking of Town(e) and Country, there's Town and Country Buffet. We went there quite a bit when I was a kid just to have their prime rib.
Highlife replying to a comment from Grant L.J. McMullen / December 13, 2013 at 02:35 pm
There is still one Ponderosa left, in Fredericton. Corner of Prospect & Smythe.
pearlD. replying to a comment from Cynthia / December 13, 2013 at 03:07 pm
TOWNE & COUNTRY......the last of the great buffets!!!
Dianna Sweets....best rice pudding ever
Fran's at Yonge & St.Clair......one of the best Breakfast places in town...
The Noshery...on Eglinton Ave West..certainly did well in its day!
Peter's CHUNG KING on College
The original SHOPSY's on Spadina
pearlD. replying to a comment from Cynthia / December 13, 2013 at 03:08 pm
These were just a few of the restaurants I remember as a youngster growing up in Toronto...lots more come to mind...
timely replying to a comment from Xavier / December 13, 2013 at 03:59 pm
No there isnt.
Changed years ago.
Ponda / December 13, 2013 at 04:13 pm
Ed... Ponderosa was alive and kicking in Belleville, Ontario until 2003-04ish. One of the last. Vacant building still stands with sign.
Rick replying to a comment from Ponda / December 13, 2013 at 04:25 pm
The Ponderosa actually closed down in 2010. And yes after seeing it there I went in. What a trip.
Hosekopf / December 13, 2013 at 04:29 pm
What about birthday parties at Ginsberg & Wong at Village By The Grange? Their monster sized egg rolls were a big favourite for kids back in the 70's and 80's!
Jeff / December 13, 2013 at 04:30 pm
Chicago's Diner on Queen St.
Adam Sobolak / December 13, 2013 at 09:53 pm
As far as "endangered chains" go, Lick's ought to be mentioned--or, for that matter, if you *really* want to get scuzzy, Coffee Time (never mind those that are being reborn as Eggsmart).

Or...Howard Johnson's.
jb replying to a comment from Nina / December 13, 2013 at 11:02 pm
Arby's was slop
jb replying to a comment from pearlD. / December 13, 2013 at 11:03 pm
Oh Christ Pearl, Town & Country was shit on a stick!!
Beamer Smith / December 14, 2013 at 07:31 am
FULLERS!!! I have the dubious distiction of haveing eaten in Every Fullers in Canada.. The Dundas & Kipling one over 500 times

I miss Pizza Patio too...
Steven / December 14, 2013 at 08:16 am
I live near Lansdowne and Dupont, an area which is slowly turrning around and becoming quite liveable and still relatively affordable - Biggest eyesore however is the Coffee Time at the corner. What a dump! They must have the longest, cheapest lease in history. I swear if that would just close and be replaced with just about 'anything' , the transformation of that corner with it's crack crowd hanging out would be complete. Man it's depressing walking by that place. (I know, this is a bit off topic but just pointing out that the disgusting 'Coffee Time' franchise is still alive and well in a few locations). Please, somebody, please buy them out and tear that hole down
Mic / December 14, 2013 at 05:32 pm
Two questions: 1) Why is it that there's no place in downtown Toronto to get a deep dish pizza? 2) SERIOUSLY. Why is it that there's no place in downtown Toronto to get a deep dish pizza?
Jane / December 14, 2013 at 08:16 pm
How about Mr. Greenjeans? The original one on Adelaide at Jarvis, not the one at the Eaton Centre. Good times!
That was great food / December 15, 2013 at 01:39 am
Man I really miss all those places! They were replaced by such crummy chains, with bland food and only profit in mind. I find I have to really think hard of where to go to eat these days. Back then you didn't have to think long, they were all great! I thought things were supposed to get better over time....not worse. Bring back the great food! But they can't because the places can't afford to serve it. I remember going to Ed Mirvishes Warehouse, the last year it was open. The food! And Bobby Rubinos Rib House! Back when the waitresses wore very politically incorrect uniforms (but I loved it, I was 11). Lime Rickey's in Mississauga was amazing! If the recession of 82 or the real estate bust in late 80's early 90's didn't kill them I don't know what did but food out is not the same anymore
Taco Hell / December 15, 2013 at 02:15 am
Garbage, bring back chi chis!
David / December 16, 2013 at 12:38 am
East Side Mario's!!!!!
Sandra / December 16, 2013 at 09:40 am
Mister Donut - I still miss their cherry stick donuts
Zi / December 16, 2013 at 11:29 am
I miss Chi-Chis, Ponderosa (my mother hated it and we rarely went), but my heart belongs to the Howard Johnson's across from the Eaton Centre. Their veal parmigiana made my little 10 year old heart pittar-pat.

Strangely, I've never heard of Frank Vetere's pizza. I recall Mother's and I think there was one near Maple Leaf Gardens.

I agree with the destruction of all Coffee Times. Gross, nasty places. There was one near us that never had more than a counter server and one sad looking customer, but it closed and was miraculously turned into a Starbucks that is never, ever empty.
memory lane / December 17, 2013 at 04:48 pm

Does anyone remember a restaurant in the 80s at Square One Mall that had a western jail theme? I have very fond memories of eating in a jail cell booth as a child and then playing on the swingset in the outdoor centre of the mall
Linda / December 18, 2013 at 07:07 pm
Wonderful read! My father is Frank Vetere and I will be sure to pass this article on to him. He was also VP of Foodex as mentioned in the article which also operated the Ponderosa chain. It is great to know that people enjoyed not only the pizza, but the atmosphere and arcade games, beer steins, glasses etc. which were advanced marketing ideas for the times. Also the make your own sundae was a great hit as well. I would like to add that Ponderosa was the first restaurant in Canada to bring the all you can eat salad bar from the US. It seemed like a concept that would not make it in Canada and that food cost would be substantial but as we all know it remains a successful staple in many chains in Canada today.
We stumbled over here different web page and thought I might check things out.

I like what I see so now i'm following you. Look forward to finding out about
your web page yet again.
Tomko replying to a comment from Linda / January 11, 2014 at 12:31 pm
Linda - Please thank your father for his pizza. It was amazingly good. By far the best I ever had, with UNO the closest thing I know of available today. And I still have some of the glasses in daily use today.
Leslie M. Bliman-Kuretzky / February 2, 2014 at 02:47 pm
Let us not forget

Steak N Burger
Smokey Deli on Carleton street
Town and Country Buffet
The Malt Stop

the list is endless
Scott / March 6, 2014 at 01:21 pm
Wonderful site! Frank Vetere's holds good memories of growing up and eating a real pizza with real toppings. I was fortunate enough to have a location in my home town of Georgetown.I collect tokens from Ontario restaurants and have 4 red plastic 'pizza pennies' in my collection. I acquired these recently and don't remember them at our location. Anyone have an idea what you would have used them for? Linda perhaps?
Nancy replying to a comment from pearlD. / April 11, 2014 at 11:24 pm
Great read. Thanks for bringing back some great memories! We had a Ponderosa near us and I remember going there as a teenager. Loved it!! Visited the one in Fredericton in 2005 and my mom was SO thrilled to eat there again!!
barry green / May 3, 2014 at 03:59 pm
frank vetere's, so dear to me.....
i loved that jingle...
joe ingram / July 13, 2014 at 09:39 am
youngand finch west side a bit south red barn and canadian
tire store-now all oriental stores and dives
trisha / July 16, 2014 at 09:41 pm
Frank veter's was by far the best pan pizza. Pizza hut cannot compare, its garbage. They should re-open some of these restaurants now, I guarantee they would make money now!
no name replying to a comment from Mark / July 25, 2014 at 02:37 am
Actually, Dianna Sweets is not "gone". It's in holding.
They've been looking for an investor ever since being forced out of Don mills mall in Toronto, Canada. (when the mall closed and reopened as an outdoor mall)
Rent went too high for Scarborough town.
DS WILL return...soon!
no name replying to a comment from Leslie M. Bliman-Kuretzky / July 25, 2014 at 02:41 am
Sadly, Town & Country Buffet was forced out.
They wanted to continue but their lease was up and renewal was not an option @ their last location (190 Queens Quay east) due to a major renovation in the area.

no name replying to a comment from Jeff / July 25, 2014 at 02:44 am
Pat and Mario's? I may be wrong here, but I think it always was in the hands of the Prime restaurant group, (now merged with Cara foods) owner of East side Marios. No need to compete with yourself. lol
no name replying to a comment from no name / July 25, 2014 at 02:45 am
Sorry, to be more clear, I mean Prime always owned East Side Marios. Cara foods merged with Prime RG recently.
no name replying to a comment from no name / July 25, 2014 at 02:48 am
After a strong effort to restore Lime Rickey's, it has become too stressful trying to understand who holds rights to the name today. Otherwise, the new Cara/Prime would have had this restaurant fully restored, up and running by now.
(Prime reports that the rights to the name fell out of their hands a while ago...)
I suspect that someone in Toronto is deliberately holding onto the rights and keeping the place closed to keep competition down. (but that is just a guess...)
T.F. / August 31, 2014 at 09:27 pm
How about Mother Tucker's which later became Tucker's Marketplace after the '90s? There was one at the corner of Warden/Eglinton in Scarborough until a couple of years ago that moved from a block west of it when it was Mother Tucker's. Now it's a steakhouse. Best place to go for a free buffet on your birthday! : (
T.F. / August 31, 2014 at 09:31 pm
-Also really feel bad I never got to eat at Diana Sweets -there was one at Scar. Town Centre, and missed out on Chi-Chi's. There buffet used to be $2.99! I think there was one at the plaza NE of Markham/Ellesmere which later became Mr. Wong's Buffet and re-opened as Good Deal Super Buffet now.
T.F. / August 31, 2014 at 09:36 pm
Miss Steak & Burger -got to have it when they were still around at Gerrard Square. There was also a place in that mall called "The Spaghetti Barn" or something like that back then.
The Sears which used to be in that mall used to have a great cafeteria tucked away on the 2nd floor then as well. The old food court had only 2 but great eateries called "Poonies" & "Bessie's" Great times those days!
T.F. / August 31, 2014 at 09:39 pm
Over at Eglinton Square, The Bay had a restaurant tucked away on the 2nd floor as well called "The Hearth" or something like that. Also miss Victoria's in the food court there which became Route 66 I believe. Also miss Kipper's Fish & Chips there. Used to have fries with gravy there with my friends from school during lunch break.
T.F. / August 31, 2014 at 09:45 pm
The old Warden Woods Mall, later Warden Power Centre (now defunct) had a great sub eatery called "The Pantry Deli" or something like that which re-located to Cedarbrae Mall in Scarborough for a while until it closed down : ( -Made a good-sized sub. Also really miss Sub-Wing at the plaza NW corner of Kennedy/Eglinton. They had 2 subs for under $9.50 (with tax)which were pretty good!
Hamish Grant / September 3, 2014 at 07:37 pm
Ginsberg & Wong!
Gonzo / September 3, 2014 at 07:50 pm
No mention of Organ Grinder? For shame!!'

Also, my saddest loss is Mr. Smiley's. Amazing greasy spoon between Lawrence and ellesmere on Vic park. Le tear.
Heather replying to a comment from Jane / September 3, 2014 at 07:50 pm
Jane! I loved the old Mr. Greenjeans too. A restaurant in the middle of a greenhouse-y florist and gift shop. I can say that that is where I was having lunch when I heard that Elvis had died. I don't even want to know how long ago that was!
Lisa / September 3, 2014 at 08:59 pm
What abiut Elias Brothers AKA Big Boy??? Betst memories ever! Its also still alive and well in the US.
Linda M / September 3, 2014 at 09:04 pm
For upscale, there was Ports of Call. the British pub was great, also Caesar room and Bali Hai Room.
Ponderosa was fantastic. Mr. Vetere wish we still had one instead of all the other boring fare.
Also, don't forget the best Mac & Cheese was at Simpson's café in the basement.
Linda M / September 3, 2014 at 09:07 pm
OMG, forgot the Goulash Pot on Yonge St
Joanna Armstrong / September 3, 2014 at 09:30 pm
I still miss the Underground Railroad on King Street East, just west of Sherbourne. Loved the corn bread and sweet potato pie. Now that building is empty, as the furniture store that was there just moved out. Great spot for a restaurant, with a really nice patio area.
Joanna Armstrong / September 3, 2014 at 09:31 pm
I still miss the Underground Railroad on King Street East, just west of Sherbourne. Loved the corn bread and sweet potato pie. Now that building is empty, as the furniture store that was there just moved out. Great spot for a restaurant, with a really nice patio area.
NV / September 3, 2014 at 09:41 pm
Crock and Block
The Buffet, upstairs at Eaton's in Yorkdale.
Mr. Submarine
and Open Window Bakery, not a restaurant, but great grab and go food.
Carmela / September 3, 2014 at 09:44 pm
I remember Kresges (sp?) counter. Brings back many memories
chris / September 3, 2014 at 10:06 pm
Kreskee's My dad would take me there for a hotdog before going to MLG. Or Harvey Wallbangers. Remember when Dominion Stores had a lunch counter?
I worked at the Fullers on Dundas in HS.
NV / September 3, 2014 at 10:10 pm
Forgot to add Lord Stanley's. Was a lot better before it became Medieval Times.
Christopher / September 3, 2014 at 10:50 pm
No love for Ginsberg & Wong?
Russ replying to a comment from chris / September 3, 2014 at 10:54 pm
Yes I remember the Dominion Lunch counter, some places you could also get Blue Jays tickets there.
Foodie / September 3, 2014 at 10:54 pm
Movenpick at Yorkdale
Magic Pan Eaton's Centre
Sai Woo on Dundas&Bay
Bemelmans Bloor&Bay
Bregman's Yonge&St Clair
Shrimp Kitchen on Bathurst
How I miss them.
Sal / September 3, 2014 at 10:57 pm
Rainforest Cafe - Yorkdale

Chicago's - Queen St W

Mr. Jerk - Dundas and Yonge

Green Mango - Yonge St

Toby's Good Eats - Various Locations
Sal / September 3, 2014 at 10:57 pm
East Side Mario's - Eaton Centre

Lime Ricky's - Eaton Centre
Trudy / September 3, 2014 at 10:59 pm
Mother's Pizza AND Pizza Delight!
Chavez replying to a comment from Sal / September 3, 2014 at 11:01 pm
AGREED Chicago's on Queen had great burgers, great wings. Bar up front, seating in the back. Good spot.
bobbi / September 3, 2014 at 11:11 pm
Portofinos The Lobster Trap The Magic Pan and sunday mornings at The Pancake House. Heavenly
Larry / September 4, 2014 at 01:37 am
Does anyone remember a BBQ Chicken restaurant in Toronto called Pick'n'Chicken....Just like Swiss Chalet, but before them...Great chicken...By the way, Frank Vetere's & Mother's were great inexpensive places to eat...Fran's restaurant another good one as was a nice spot called Peppio's....All of these restaurants served good and inexpensive meals....Raise my hat to days gone by....
Andrew / September 4, 2014 at 07:21 am
Ginsberg and Wong at Village By The Grange. Little known fact, they opened a second location in 1987 on Steeles West a few blocks west of Bathurst. It stayed opened for about a year in a half before it closed down. The little experiment that didn't work. It was mismanaged, crazy university-types and teenage staff running amok, eventually people stopped coming.
John / September 4, 2014 at 05:10 pm
Ginsbergs was great! They had some great food and generally great service. Not going to miss GreenJeans though - what was once a really fun place became a dated, lousy food and service shell of its former glory. Miss Pete and Marty's and Lime Rickey's as well.

As for toronto establishments, anyone remember Sam the Chinese food Man?
Robert5521 / September 4, 2014 at 09:49 pm
M. Derbecker / September 5, 2014 at 03:08 pm
Always had a weakness for Rib O'Beef at Yonge & Eglinton and Fairview. Or The Mill restaurants at Fairview and at York Mills & Leslie. Or Fullers - Yonge and Sheppard.
toguy / October 2, 2014 at 09:30 am
How about H. Salt Fish and Chips? They had a store on Avenue Road South of Wilson among others. Eventually most of them ended up in mall food courts.
Brett Johnston / November 20, 2014 at 03:59 pm
I worked at the Pizza Patio/delight at Birchmount & finch and that place was the most fun for a teen/early 20's.

I had a "Mother's" lampshade too, I forgot how it was acquired.
meatballs / November 20, 2014 at 04:21 pm
Mothers I'm too young for, though I remember my parents used to take me as a very wee'un to one in Ghettobicoke near the 401 and Kipling. I remember it was right next to the highway and a big Firestone tires sign.

Ginsberg and Wong was awesome! The Young Lok on the other end of the centre was a decent place too, their scallion pancakes were to die for. They slowly lost floor space and eventually it was just their location up in North York Centre. I still remember their order slips where you could specify the speed of service: "I have all night/I am catching a place/I have to by out by X:XX"

Before it was Diana Sweets, it was Joe Birds at the Don Mills Centre. I'm also remembering there was a Jack Astor's in there before the chain overexpanded and went to shit.

People missing deep dish pizza might recall the inventors, Pizzeria Uno, had a place down on Front near Jarvis. I loved it there too.

Toby's was okay but they burned the burgers sometimes (same complaint with Fran's). They did, however, do a peanut butter smoothie that was to die for. Then they stopped doing it. Now look where they are! NOWHERE!

Anyone remember Victoria Station? As a train loving kid, it was a dream come true to go there.

Mr Grumps, anyone?
John the Waiter at Vetere's / December 27, 2014 at 03:05 am
I was a waiter at Frank Vetere's on Eglinton West, the first Vetere's restaurant, and the official training store. I eventually became a manager at other locations including Carlton by the Gardens, Bloor by Yorkville, Towngate in Agincourt, Pickering and Kingston Rd. I have to say that there is no comparison in food quality regarding pizza and minestrone soup anywhere, even in any high end restaurant today. Our food was prepared fresh from scratch, until Pepsi and Pizza Hut bought us out and destroyed their competition.
Old Vetere's buds still get together today and are very close friends, since we grew up in those stores, and I have to say that I fondly remember the great times and the wonderful people that I had a pleasure to serve in those days, that I still meet today.
It was a pleasure to hear from Linda, Frank's daughter and was happy to hear that he's still with us. Frank, the ex Napolitano from Tip Top Taylors fame, him and Mr Fuda created Foodex and had one of he best management training courses in the industry. many people opening private restaurants would come to Foodex for training, often nicknamed "Pizza U", or the "U of P".
Yes, a "Frank Vetere's Restaurant" would do well these days,we have often thought about it.
Anyway, hats off to all those who remember Vetere's, and a salute to Frank and the family, I wouldn't mind meeting any of you sometime............
jody / January 10, 2015 at 10:11 pm
Does anyone remember a 1970's restaurant/pub by the name of raine's & major's ? I'm sure it's not still around but I remember my parents going there and raving about it !?!? Can't find any info on it, but if it's still around would love to check it out !!
Donny / January 10, 2015 at 10:55 pm
Does anyone from the 80's in Mississauga, Burlington, Oakville area remember a place called Johnny 5's or Johnny 9's place? It was Burgers, Video Games, Milk Shakes, Fries.
Deborah / January 17, 2015 at 08:22 pm
I am astounded! I was looking for a reference to Fuller's Restaurant (where I worked as a teenager) and instead of that I found some old commercials I wrote. There's one from Frank Vetere's (In this crowded world of hamburgers..) and one from Ponderosa. I haven't seen those spots in years.

And, Larry, yes. I remember Picken' Chicken. The one I knew was on Weston Road near Jane.

Deborah / January 17, 2015 at 08:23 pm
Meatballs -- Yes. I remember Victoria Station. I used to go there in the 1970s. I also liked Piccadilly Tube, down the street on Yonge near Dundas.
julie replying to a comment from Kate / March 1, 2015 at 09:16 pm
Bo-Peep wasn't exactly what I would call a chain, but there were a couple or more locations in the GTA area. I worked at the one on Kingston Rd. in Scarborough and I know there was at least one other one operating at the time, and that was in the mid to late 80's. It was owned by the Manos family, wonderful people to work for.
Paul_in_Ottawa / March 29, 2015 at 11:09 pm
The Proud Popover…one of the early restaurants in the Eaton Centre back in the 70's. Like the Magic Pan, I think it might have been a US chain. Love this thread!
Paula-Ann / April 9, 2015 at 02:17 pm
I am glad that Mother's is back in business. Went for my Birthday - yumm!!!
Rich / May 5, 2015 at 11:18 pm
Lindy's steakhouse on Yonge north of Gerrard. Best steaks and great prices. Real old time flavour!
Natalee replying to a comment from Steven / May 22, 2015 at 08:13 am
Well done! Forgot about that place until you mentioned it.
LPR replying to a comment from W. K. Lis / June 15, 2015 at 12:48 am
Where EXACTLY was this Red Barn on Dufferin?
James Stronge replying to a comment from Linda / June 25, 2015 at 11:31 pm
Hi Linda,
Wonderful Man
I remember meeting him when I was 12 or so in 1974
my brothers brought me to Pharmacy and Lawrence.
I had a great time .Lots going on always.
Hope he is doing well . great man for his insight for
the future for restaurant business
god bless James Stronge
Brett / July 5, 2015 at 01:53 pm
Wow, this brings back a lot of memories, and it's awesome to see the comments are still coming in long after the article was posted.

I have vivid memories of most of these restaurants, and particular locations. I grew up in Scarborough, and I remember Frank Vetere's on the south side of Eglinton between Midland and Brimley — my grandparents would take me there for my birthdays, and I always got a handful of those "Pizza Pennies" for the gumball machine. Moving a bit east, there was Mother's in that little triangle formed by Eglinton, Brimley and Danforth Road. I remember that shrimp was a pizza topping option there, and we had our grade 8 graduation party there (from Robert Service Sr. PS down Danforth) Ponderosa was on the north side of Eglinton, approaching Bellamy. Loved the salad bar and eventual sundae bar. And then go a bit further east, turn north on Markham and you'd eventually hit a great big Chi-Chis north of Ellesmere. Kickass enchiladas.

When I was a kid, there was a standalone Mr. Submarine on Eglinton east of Kennedy, right at the little road that took you into Kennedy Station (which was new at the time). That Mr. Sub location was ALWAYS crowded. I have no recollections of ever seeing the place empty. But then around … '87 or so, it closed and moved to a new plaza that was built at Midland and Eglinton. And that old location, which still stands there to this day, has been one failure after another ever since. I don't think any business lasted more than a year or two there before shuttering. Even a scuzzy Coffee Time couldn't last there. I always wondered why no business could survive in that location after the success of that Mr. Sub. Heck, I wonder why the building's owners keep trying instead of bulldozing it and turning into a parking lot for Kennedy commuters — surely that would be more valuable than a derelict restaurant with weeds poking through the pavement.
john / July 13, 2015 at 02:52 pm
What about Lindey,s steak house on young st
Mike Pearson / July 17, 2015 at 08:53 pm
Queens Pizzeria All you can eat Wednesdays Spaghetti Night
Rick Schofield / August 21, 2015 at 10:31 pm
Red Barn came to Canada with its first store at Lawrence and Pharmacy in Scarborough, opening on July 9th, 1963. The next week, a second one open on Lawrence just west of Markham beside the bowling alley (Later a cinema). The third Scarborough store opened in 1964 at Brimley and Eglinton. Food was cheap and of decent quality...better than today's McDonald.
'80s kid / September 11, 2015 at 07:14 pm
I remember that western themed restaurant in Square One too! For years I have been trying to remember what the name of it was. Does anyone remember?
Don / September 24, 2015 at 01:29 am
What walk down memory lane! It's incredible how many restaurants we have all visited, and enjoyed, over the years!

However, there is one restaurant not mentioned, unless I missed it, which we truly miss: Miller's Country Fare on Dundas in Etobicoke. It started up in the late 70s I believe and was open until about 2005-06. The owner's name was George MacDonald and he was a fine man. He still owns the building I think. Wow, do we miss Millers! The chicken, pioneer bread, apple pie! Did I say, pioneer bread? Mouth's watering just thinking about it... The owner was very community minded and every school in the area received his support in one way or another - his huge, chocolate chip cookies were given away by the hundreds!

Millers knew how to decorate for the season and his holiday-themed meals were so popular, you had to eat in shifts! Over the years, we calculate our family ate there over 1000 times! Our daughter was there when she was about two weeks old and our weekly and by-weekly visits continued until she was over 20 years old! We were all sad when it suddenly closed. Lack of parking had a lot to do with it but we always felt that George was spending more time away from the restaurant (at his farm) in the last few years and the restaurant suffered.

Ah yes, we miss Millers! Anyone else out remember it as fondly as we do?
Don Wainwright
A.E. Stanton / September 27, 2015 at 03:36 pm
Any Senior Citizens out there who remember the names of some of the finer dining spots / special occasion spots - in the 60's and 70's? There was a lovely one on Front Street over top of the RatsKeller but I cannot remember the name. it was a Viennese style.

Winston's had a great Fettuccini Alfredo and Zabbaglioni (spelling?0 for desert.

Barbara Miller / October 4, 2015 at 08:51 am
During a visit to Toronto in the early 70's, I went to a restaurant that I thought was called The Warehouse. It was a huge place that was filled with Tiffany-type hanging lamps. Having found no mention of it in this article and comments, I'm wondering if it really existed. Don't remember anything about the food, but will never forget the lamps.
Peter Zimmermann / October 9, 2015 at 05:45 pm
Hi Barbara,

I think the place you remember was called Ed's Warehouse. It was on King Street next to the Royal Alex Theatre which became the heart of the theatre district. The restaurant was started by Ed Mirvish of Honest Ed's fame. He also bought and saved the theatre spending a fortune at a time when the future successes of the theatre and dinner crowd establishments was much more speculative.
Peter Zimmermann / October 9, 2015 at 05:52 pm
I remember all too well Diana Sweets "Coach 'n Four Restaurant in the Don Mills Plaza, I worked there as a busboy from around July 1971 to April 7, 1973. The reason I remember the end date so well is because that was the day that I quit, but that's another story. It was one of Diana Sweet's classier locations with a piano player Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. It also had a huge fireplace as part of a centre wall that had fire-side tables on both sides. Having been a good "Boy Scout" it was my job to start the fire (winter only) for almost 2 years.
John / October 16, 2015 at 10:20 am
I remember Coach "n Four restaurant in Don Mills very well. I used to go there for lunch while attending Don Mills Collegiate. When they closed it down, it became a Grand & Toy.

Best restaurant for age 16-18 when I was a kid was The Organ Grinder & The Old Spaghetti Factory. Best coming of age restaurant was The Sailor's Pub at Ontario Place. Best "dressup" or "fancy" restaurant was the "54th Floor".
Lorne B / October 30, 2015 at 10:54 am
Does anyone remember the chicken palace around yobge and college
Also there was a steakhouse in yorkdale shopping centre does anyone remember the name
How about the embers steakhouse in the Prince George hotel
Toronto My Way / November 20, 2015 at 08:13 pm
Arthur Treacher's, Frank Vetere's and Ponderosa, ah the memories. Almost seems like Toronto was a fun place and has lost some of its charm. Or is nostalgia tainting my view of the 70s/80s?
Dave C / December 3, 2015 at 02:01 pm
What about P&S burgers on Sheppard across from the old Ctire in willowdale...awesome o rings. used to hit PM's on Yonge south of Summerhill after a night at the Ports..
Carol / December 5, 2015 at 06:48 am
HI I used to go to the Bay Front restaurant at Bay and Front St every Friday for their Mac a cheese - which is still the best ever. I want to try to find the recipe. This restaurant closed in the 80's I think. Can you help?
Tim replying to a comment from Grant L.J. McMullen / December 15, 2015 at 11:49 am
The Ponderosa on Fredericton lasted about the same time as Moncton.
Tim / December 15, 2015 at 11:56 am
Does anyone recall the Copper Kettles? There were 2 I think. One in Thornhill and the other in Scarborough. Long gone now.
Debbie / January 9, 2016 at 11:17 am
We Rembrandt the copper kettle on Lawrence ave in Scarborough . They used to give coupons for discount meals etc. Cheap night out for newly weds in the early seventies. This is fun
To look back at all these restaraunts visited as children and adults, miss some of them.
andy / January 16, 2016 at 12:22 am
looking for the name of the roadhouse that was located in the plaza on the north east corner of finch and leslie in the 70s help
Gwen / January 22, 2016 at 11:09 pm
Ps was this shit. So was chi chosen and Charlie Cs
Gwen / January 22, 2016 at 11:10 pm
P& S was the shit! !
Michael T / February 1, 2016 at 02:31 pm
The best pizza in TO in the 50's and sixties was from George's Spaghetti House. Another during the same time period was called Mama's on Eglington Ave west of Bathurst. They served rectangular pizza which were very greasy and tended not to base their recipes on tomato sauces. Fabulous pizzas.
Phil / February 17, 2016 at 11:50 pm
Before they built the TD bank buildings, there was a hotel there named the Prince George. It's restaurant, the Embers, served the best lobster in Toronto.
The Savarin on Bay Street was the best buffet.
The orginal Shopsowitz on Spadina and across the street from Switzers. Both delis. Shopsowitz served hand cut beef..corned beef,pastrami etc. while Switzers served machine cut. Both fabulous.
Chinese food at the St. Charles on Yonge above College had an organist at the upstairs restaurant and a gay bar on the main floor!
At Bathurst and Wilson, another great deli, Pumperniks flourished 1960s.
How about the Noshery on Eglinton Avenue?
These were before and around the 1960s
Anyone remember them? How about Czarda on Bay for great Hungarian food plus famous Transylvanian meat platter. Also a gypsy violinist roamed.
Phil replying to a comment from Michael T / February 17, 2016 at 11:53 pm
Loved George's. Once had spaghetti and snails there. It was fabulous😋 If you were lucky, Moe Kaufman played in the band and could be persuaded to play his famous Swinging Shepherd Blues. Don't get much getter than that👍🏻
Phil replying to a comment from Lorne B / February 17, 2016 at 11:56 pm
Loved the lobster at the Embers. It cost $2.50 a meal and I thought my dad was so rich being able to afford those high prices🙄
Phil replying to a comment from Barbara Miller / February 17, 2016 at 11:58 pm
That was calld Ed's Warehouse. Owned by Honest Ed Mirvish on King near the Royal Alex. They only served roast beef, I think.
Phil replying to a comment from Barbara Miller / February 18, 2016 at 12:24 am
I keep remembering more. The Honeydew at the Odeon Carleton. After a movie, my mom would take me there for a real treat, A hot dog and a glass of their honeydew...orange juice.
The original Courtyard Café in the Windsor Arms for brunch.
Across St. Thomas, Le Provençal
Church and St. Charles, La Chaumiere.
The Bali Hi at the Ports of call. You felt like you were in a tropical jungle with rain storms. The water trickling off the corrugated iron roof of the bar in the jungle.
In Etobicoke there was the restaurant at the Valhalla Inn. Fine dining.
Anyone remember the Cork Room on Bay?
Childs Restaurant. Diana Sweets?
How about real French pastries at the Patisserie on Yonge, just south of St.Clair. or Hunts Bakery everywhere.
Phil replying to a comment from Andy in TO / February 18, 2016 at 12:26 am
Steak & Burger, great fod...reasonable prices
Phil replying to a comment from Torontonian / February 18, 2016 at 12:28 am
Murray's was in the Park Plaza too!
Elaine / March 12, 2016 at 02:57 pm
Does anyone remember The Highland Dairy (great milkshakes!) in Scarboro, Ont? Also The Palisades Restaurant on Kingston Road (area where Kingston & St. Clair met was called Stop 17 in the early 50's). Kennnedy Road was about Stop 14. This was way before Scarboro having postal address of "Toronto 13". Anyone recall St. Charles restaurant on Yonge Street - the expression "meet me under the clock" meant meet me at St. Charles. How about The Silver Rail?
Bill / March 28, 2016 at 05:42 pm
Hi Tim & Debbie

I seem to remember a Copper Kettle restaurant on the corner of Dundas Street W & Burnhamthorpe Crescent back in the late 1960’s. What stands out in my memory was the innovative free-standing-sign that was in the shape of a kettle. It was fashioned with small swatches of copper-colour-metal-strips that would gently shift in the breeze, thus, giving the illusion of movement. If I’m correct, a Second Cup coffee chain presently occupies the location today.
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