diners toronto

The 12 oldest diners in Toronto

All diners in Toronto are old school, but only some are truly old. While plenty of newcomers try to channel that retro style, this batch of all-day breakfast purveyors and Greek grills are bonafide OGs.

These are the oldest diners in Toronto.

The Senator
This family style diner on Victoria Street first opened in 1929 as the Busy Bee Diner. The restaurant claims to be Toronto's oldest operating restaurant but didn't take its current name until 1948. In the years since, the place has been refurbished, but ownership has kept its Toronto Refrigeration Fixture Company fixtures in tact. It's still a go-to for comfort food.

The Lakeview
The neighbourhood institution on Dundas West was overhauled in 2008 but dates back to 1932. Open 24-hours, you'll find the tables populated with stacks of pancakes, burgers and mac 'n' cheese balls at pretty much all hours.

Buffalo, New York-native Francis (Fran) Deck opened the first Fran's in 1940 as a 10-stool diner situated at Yonge and St. Clair. Deck's claim to fame is the Banquet Burger - that blissful combination of burger, cheese and bacon - which he claims to have created in the 1940's and appears on today's menus loaded with peameal bacon, melted cheddar and a bourbon maple syrup spread.

Avenue Diner
The diner at Av and Dav proudly boasts that it's been in business since 1944. Inside you'll find decades worth of autographed photos from celebrities that have passed through, likely enjoying the very same plate of eggs and burgers served to this day.

Bus Terminal Diner
This east Toronto institution has been kicking it old school since 1948 and to this day retains its colourful kitschy interior replete with chrome details and plymold booths. The menu stays true to short order staples including all day breakfast, old fashioned burgers, and souvlaki.

Times Square Diner
The current operators took over just before the turn of the last century, but this Wilson Heights diner has been around since the 1950s. Inside is full of retro charm and is teeming with bygone relics like in-booth jukebox players and original Hamilton Beach milkshake blenders.

Mars Food
This diner on College Street first opened in 1951 though ownership has changed hands throughout the years. It's known for fast-filling fare, and you'll find the cook here slinging bacon and eggs and corned beef hash at all hours.

The Amazing Ted's Diner
This diner on Old Kingston Road in Scarborough isn't just '50s-styled, it's been in business for over 60 years. Founded by Ted Petkoff in 1954 as Ted's Variety and Coffee Shop, it's received a bit of a face-lift, but still preserves its nostalgic charm. The menu sticks to familiar fare and specialties include three-egg breakfasts and triple decker sandwiches.

Vesta Lunch
Open since 1955, the classic 24-hour diner at the corner of Bathurst and Dupont looks like it could be plucked right out of an Edward Hopper painting. The menu is a bit of time capsule featuring hot open faced sandwiches, breakfasts, burgers, and blue plate specials.

Avenue Open Kitchen
The old man on the phone tells me Avenue Open Kitchen has been around since the the '60s but won't elaborate on the exact year. I don't blame him, he's probably really busy. The tiny diner on Camden just off Spadina is as popular as ever, with local office workers and regulars piling in for all-day breakfast, julienne salads, hot sandwiches and burgers.

Jim's Restaurant
It was 1964... or maybe '65 (not even the owners remember) when this Leslieville restaurant first opened its doors. It's been a neighbourhood fixture ever since, though speculation has it that it's not long for this world. Fill up on pancakes and souvlaki dinners while you can.

Patrician Grill
Opened in 1967 by Louie and Helen Papas, this King East grill has been in the family ever since. Prices have risen with inflation, but little else has changed. The iconic (and original) neon sign still marks the entrance and the interior boasts cozy and deep booths. House specialties include the meatloaf (served Fridays only), classic grilled liver and onion dinners with home-style rice pudding for dessert.

Did I miss any? Share your diner nostalgia in the comments.

Photo of Mars Food by Jesse Milns.

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