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Restaurants

Penrose Fish & Chips

Posted by Debbie Ohi / Reviewed on November 19, 2007 / review policy

Fish & chips at Penrose
So what if it's deep-fried and bad for you? It's hard to care when you're diving into a big plate o' fish and chips at Penrose's (Mt. Pleasant, south of Eglinton), one of the oldest fish & chip shops in Toronto.

Jeff and I are not the only ones in search of artery-clogging goodness; inevitably there's a line-up whenever we visit. If we want our fish & chips to go, they'll sprinkle it with malt vinegar and salt then wrap it up in newspaper, just like the old British custom.

Or you can eat inside. I love the Stuff-On-The-Walls diner style interior with old menus, signs, photographs from old Toronto, and (of course) a fish:

Penrose swordfish
You can get halibut & chips for $8.80 or haddock & chips for $7.00. Halibut only: $5.80, haddock only: $5.00, chips: $3.00. A bowl of Penrose's chunky homemade Maritime chowder is $4.50. I'm not a big coleslaw fan but I order it anyway ($1.00) just to see a bit of green on the table.

Boylans cream soda
I usually order the halibut. The combination of the crunchy golden coating and moist halibut meat inside is irresistable. The servings are smaller than the ones at Chippy's but that's better for me, right?

In addition to a wide range of regular soft drinks, Penrose also carries some other interesting beverages including Boylans "Old-Fashioned Pops" for $1.75 each: orange cream, black cherry, birch beer, old-fashioned orange and cream soda.

If you've still got room afterward, you can order a slice of pie for $2.25 ($3.25 a la mode); they have apple, strawberry/rhubarb, blueberry, pecan and sometimes pumpkin, depending on the season. On Fridays, you can get lemon meringue pie for $3.50, made by 86-year-old matriarch Marion Johnston; she's usually behind the counter as well. Apparently she's been making the pie every weekend for nearly 60 years (!). How cool is that?

A side note for those Barbara Streisand fans out there: Penrose is one of the diva's favourite Toronto take-out places.

Mmm, just writing this post makes me want more fish & chips. Maybe it's time someone did a taste comparison of Penrose's fish & chips to the ones at Chippy's or Harbord Fish & Chips.

In the name of culinary science, of course.

Anyway, make sure you get to Penrose early for dinner; it closes at 7 pm (6:30 on Saturdays).

Penrose apple pie
Frying hours: Tue-Fri 11a-7p, Sat 11-6:30p, closed Sun and Mon.

20080124_penrose.jpg

Discussion

42 Comments

Christine Bentley / November 19, 2007 at 07:13 pm
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CTV has a video about the place here:
http://toronto.ctv.ca/tl/static/mytoronto.html
Debbie Ohi / November 19, 2007 at 09:36 pm
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Thanks, Christine!

To others looking for the video: the title of the video is "Fish & Chips" (searching for the text "Penrose" won't help).
Chester Pape / December 2, 2007 at 02:03 am
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Been going to Penrose for years, a little less often of late, and when I read your review I thought you were nucking futs, The Penrose serves only Halibut, went today for lunch and sure enough they've added Haddock to the menu.
Helen & Glenn Dodd / January 12, 2008 at 05:22 pm
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After seeing Ken Shaw advertise this This fish and chips place on a comercial for my Toronto on CTV News. There was no name mentioned but i was determined to find it being a fish and chips lover to see if they was as good as they claimed.

And you know what, They were better in fact they were the best damm fish and chips i ever tasted and i will tell every one i know about them.

Thanks to Ken Shaw and Christine Bentley of CTV News for bringing Penrose Fish and Chips our lives
Sonia / February 22, 2008 at 09:20 am
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My school's just down the street from Penrose. My friends and I try to "penroe" it a couple times a month

we love it there
mani / April 15, 2008 at 01:49 pm
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I will go try this place, but an establishment to my family for Fish and Chips has been Duckworths on Kingston Road. There is another on the Danforth but I'm not sure if its the same family. Alternatively, if your north, they recently opened in Orilla.
John / September 12, 2008 at 05:15 pm
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OMG!!! I cannot believe what a dump it is. As a Brit, I was on holiday in Toronto and went in to see what all the fuss was about. The fish was burnt, the chips were soggy, and the place was nearly empty. I asked a simple question to the prissy bitch guy behind the counter and he gave me sassy attitude. Honestly, the portion was small, the meal was mediocre at best and the attitude stank. Face it: it closes at 6.30pm on a Saturday; that is, a place to buy your dinner closes at dinner time. Smug? Complacent? I don't know. All I know is that a place like that would NEVER survive in the UK. I hope the place closes down soon. Disgruntled Scotsman.
Drew / September 23, 2008 at 04:43 pm
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John, you are so right! I was just in there last night and the food is terrible. I think the restaurant would be nice if they fired the staff and got someone who could cook. Shame we have to go all the way down to Queen Street East to get decent fish and chips.
jane / October 7, 2008 at 02:07 pm
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"You have to try the halibut and chips at Penrose on Mt. Pleasant", "Penrose has the best fish and chips", "celebrities would have fish and chip from Penrose flown in to where ever they are, because it's so good!" etc... I've been hearing how wonderful the fish and chips are at Penrose for the longest time from my boyfriend, so we were in the mood for some fish and chip for lunch today, and we drove there and found the place very easily. We walked in, before I could even look at the chalkboard menu hung high up behind the counter, we were "greeted" by NOT a "hello" or "how are you" but this aggresive "to go or for here!" All that was going through my mind was, I feel like we on an episode of Seinfeld, and instead of the soup nazi, we are dealing with the fish and chips nazi!!! lol. Under any other circumstances, we would have turned around and walked right out... but "ok" I thought to myself, I really like to see what these fish and chips are all about... so I gazed over to the menu and ordered 2 halibut and chips to go. I went back out to the car and had my boyfriend wait for the orders. He came out shortly with 2 large paper wrapped orders of fish and chips, my mouth started to water right away! "I can"t wait!" we said to each other, we get home 10 minutes later, dropped everything and opened up the paper wraps. In front of us, are 1 tiny piece of halibut each in this dark batter, it looked like the oil these fish were cooked in had to be 3 days old, and the chips looked 3 days old too!!! " what a rip off!" we said to each other. $21 for this? Still with high hopes for it to taste good, I dug my fork in to the Halibut, it was soggy, halibut is suppose to be a tender fish, but this was NOT! It was the most disappointing experience for the both of us! Needless to say, we will never go back to Penrose, and will tell our friends and family how awful everything was about Penrose Fish and Chips, everything from the rude service to gross food.
Cameron / November 21, 2008 at 01:19 pm
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Penrose must have gone down the tubes judging by these past posts! It has always been tasty, fresh and friendly when I have been there. Too bad, I know a few people who would be disappointed to hear such news.
Rachel / November 21, 2008 at 01:22 pm
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If you're looking for great fish & chips in the Leaside area check out Olde York Fish & Chips on Laird just south of Eglinton. Great taste, nice people & quick take-out if you don't want to eat in their cozy restaurant.
Liz replying to a comment from jane / February 13, 2009 at 05:14 pm
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Jane, I have no idea what you are talking about. Just because of your comments my co-worker and I were thinking twice about checking out this establishment. We decided to do it anyway and base our opinion on our own experience. I am certainly glad we did because not only were we greeted by the greatest hello's and smiles it was one of the best tasting fish & chips we have tasted and believe me being from Newfoundland I've have the freshiest of fish. As a matter of fact we are heading there again tonight.
Wally / March 17, 2009 at 08:20 pm
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I think the reviewers need to start including the weight of the fish in their reviews. That would scare a few people away from places like Penrose. Just an idea - what do you think?
Johnny Cruizer. / March 31, 2009 at 03:38 pm
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I just visited today and had a great experience. Check out my review at www.longestlunchbreak.com
Heather / July 29, 2009 at 03:44 pm
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I have been going to Penrose for over 30 years and have always enjoyed the best of fish and chips. The lady behind the counter, Marion, is the owner and they have been there since the 50's. They must be doing something right if they are still in business when so many other businesses on Mt. Pleasant have packed it in. I do agree, however, that the guys who do the frying can be rude and brusque. However, they won't be fired, nor should they be, because they are the owners son. The daughter in law works there too. I guess they could use a quick course in manners, but I wouldn't want to spend most of my day in front of frying oil with no air conditioner (that might be something they could spend some of their profits on, but I doubt if after all this time that they will). Yes, the portions are way too small, I always order two pieces of fish (one extra piece) and it does cost a lot - but it is worth it and I only go there for a special treat. Halibut is very expensive to buy and their numbers are apparently depleting, so they have to make a profit. Oh, well. Marion is always so cheerful and friendly that it makes up for the two miserable boys.
David / January 31, 2010 at 02:45 am
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@ John, I suppose if restaurants that survive in the UK are your benchmark for quality than Penrose must have offended you, considering it's better than any of the flavourless, over-mayonaised dreck I had when I was over there!
Tom / March 9, 2010 at 12:09 pm
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2 of the worst fish and chips I've had in my life;The Sea Shanty in London, England. Skin on and bones in under the batter! Other places were like that too in England. Better fish and chips in Scotland and Ireland. And Penrose on Mount Pleasant in Toronto. Small fish,2 ounces raw, and burnt tasting fries. Look at their fryers when they are cooking, it looks foamy. Old Grease. I keep reading good reviews of this place, and tried it at least 10 times. Never again. Go to Olde York on Laird.
John / April 10, 2010 at 11:54 pm
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Just ordered lunch for my family (wife and two boys) and its was as good as the first time (many years ago...). Yes the size is small, but enough for the average joe. Marion was nice and the boys are friendly and funny. I plan to go in again next time with the whole family.
Ron / May 12, 2010 at 12:49 pm
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Food is great but if the elderly lady serves you, prepare to be hungry after you finish eating. She only gives half the amount of fries as the other employees! I don't go there as often as I would like to because of this.
Vanessa / June 8, 2010 at 05:00 pm
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Just got finished eating my first Penrose to-go halibut and chips, and have to say it was delicious! Just enough food to be full but not "can't stand up" full. The chunky fries are so good and the fish was just greasy enough to satisfy my greasy-food craving. The people working this afternoon were fantastic, and Marion was so nice! I want to go back on a Friday for the lemon pie, as that would make the experience even better. My only complaint is that the restaurant smelled a little funky, but this is only a minor problem and certainly wouldn't affect my want to go there again.
ki / July 8, 2010 at 10:33 pm
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mediocre at best. Want good fish & chips, ungreasy, fresh and good quality? Try highstreet fish and chips on underhill rd. (lawrence/404).
Jun Seok, Park / September 26, 2010 at 03:29 am
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I finally went there a couple day ago and ate Fish&chips(last time I visited there but they were closed at 7 p.m). the fish was a little bigger than general fish&chips and taste was so great like not too much oil ! the price was $8 for regular one. I've seen some pictures of old Toronto in the restaurant while eating and it was pretty fun. I wanna go again next time. :)
k dawg replying to a comment from John / October 14, 2010 at 06:32 pm
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I remember the fish and chips in UK were much better. I enjoyed Chippy's on Queen West.
Food is a subjective thing. I don't understand the fuss about this place. Didn't get a good vibe off the people serving either.
k dawg replying to a comment from jane / October 14, 2010 at 06:42 pm
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agree
Darrell Smith / November 4, 2010 at 02:00 pm
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I just tried Penrose fish and chips and onion rings and coleslaw.
The chips were much to big and the fish batter was almost burnt.
The coleslaw was reasonable as was the onion rings but even the newspaper everything was wrapped in looked like I did an oil change on my car!
If this grease doesn't clog your arteries I don't know what will.
This place should be called Penrose heart attack on a plate.
I feel like I had an order of grease and a side order of fish and chips.
Would not recommend this to my friends.
Staff also appeared miserable and no one smiled even when I told them I was a new customer trying out their product.
Total with tax was over $31.00 dollars.
2 fish and chips
medium coleslaw
small onion ring.

I would prefer to waste my money on Swiss Chalet for that price!
I am still feeling grossly oil slicked from all that grease.
D Smith Toronto
Mack / February 5, 2011 at 01:55 am
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I've had better. I'll never trust reviews from the net again. Fish was very bland and tasteless! Not what I was expecting. $33 for Halibut for 2 and should have stuck with Old York whick IMO makes much better qaulity product. French fries were good but I don't go specifically to eat fish and chips for the fries. Friendly wait staff...unfortunately we won't be back!
May / March 12, 2011 at 02:48 pm
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I love Penrose! I went back to the UK before Christmas and of course had fish n chips-sad to say Penrose had them beat! Staff is friendly and service is quick-next time I'll have to try the Lemon Pie!
Jeff / April 18, 2011 at 10:07 am
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Penrose Fish & Chips is an institution. It was opened after WWII by Roland and Marion Johnston. Some of the reviews I've read are quite strange, but I think I understand. Many people today expect to get their food 1)for nothing (halibut does not jump out of the pacific onto your plate as easily and as cheaply as you'd like) 2)expect a song and dance with their meal 3)young hipsters who don't understand what a small restaurant was like in the late 40's and 50's don't get it (um, fish and chips is not low fat diet food youngsters, that's why it tastes so good). For every person who loves the old vibe at a place like Penrose, others will wonder why it hasn't "kept up with the times". Many of the items you see on the walls are the personal fishing gear used by Roland while fly fishing in New Brunswich during the summers when Penrose traditionally closed it's doors for a month. If that's not old school (and very cool too) I don't know what is. Penrose has been a family affair since day one. You may not get big in your face happy go lucky smiles when you go there, because the personalities of the people are just not like that. Remember too that these people work from early morning until evening standing, over a hot frying vat, and the cooking area has always been front and centre, not tucked away in the back somewhere. That changes things. When you take fish to go, it may not be as crispy if you sit down at a plate, that happens to all fish, it's unfair to say that this would only happen at Penrose. Penrose is awesome, always has been, and always will be. The proof is also how emotional people get about it. It's Fish and Chips, for about the price you are paying to go to McDonalds, let's put that in perspective. If you've been open over sixty years, you must be doing something right. Going into Penrose and sitting in one of the original small booths is like going back in time, and that is just the way it should be. If that is not your type of thing, don't attack these hard working folks who've been at it forever and who are loved by thousands, it lacks class and civility. The same people blindly will go to McDonalds and fork out 6-7 bucks for a filet-o-something no questions asked but go to Penrose for hand cut halibut and fries, and not watered down pop and home made pie by Marion and have a problem with that? Hmmmm, that smells fishy. Go to Penrose and enjoy the fish and chips and put your ego on hold for a bit. You'll see that all the people that have been going there for 30-40 years around you may be onto something.
Fallerboy replying to a comment from Heather / April 19, 2011 at 02:25 pm
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Dave Johnston does not have a son! I should know, I have worked there. He hires local kids from the area and I am good friends with Kevin, his manager. Just know that working in that environment is no picnic. It is hellishly hot and sometimes there are lineups down the street. The people who work here don't put on an act. When they are overworked or ultra busy they will not smile and tell you how wonderful the world is. But I promise you, if you go when it is not busy you will have the privilege of talking to some very friendly, funny, and genuine people.
Milos / May 14, 2011 at 07:39 pm
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Great place to eat. One of the best fish&chips I've ever had! Lovely, warm atmosphere, I am coming back soon!
Randolph / May 17, 2011 at 09:19 am
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Never had a problem with the fish and chips. Always enjoyed the food.
MikeM / September 9, 2011 at 03:31 pm
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I spoiled my tastebud with freshest and really tasty Fish and Chip back in Tofino. I don't think I would ever be satisfy with anything in Toronto.
Michael / November 10, 2011 at 01:04 pm
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Ex-pat on a first visit today and was a perfectly nice "British" fish and chips meal. OK the potion was maybe a little small for dinner but perfectly fine for lunch. Tasty batter, hand cut chips. Greeted by the staff when I came in, seated, good service. Absolutely no complaints. If its in any way local to you, try it. Yummy!
Erle Swadron / April 6, 2012 at 09:59 pm
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Today was Good Friday/ Passover/ my 1st time at Pernrose. Totally delightful experience. Outside, the lineup was over 1 hour long for takeout. But, table service was immediately available. Not only was the food excellent; but, everyone was so friendly in spite of the hustle/ bustle and interested in me and my comments. I am now their newest regular. Thank you, Rosemary [Lemon Meringue pie is my fave]. Vanessa [fab service and smile], Katie[a papered pastry chef] and especially Marion the matriarch/ energizer easter bunny.] This business started when I did... 1950. Thank God, we are still both going strong.
JW / October 17, 2012 at 12:17 pm
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Great fish & chips and the staff were great.
Ben / December 13, 2012 at 03:13 pm
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The best fish and chips in the city. The staff are very friendly. Nice environment. It may have a limited menu, but really who orders anything but the halibut and chips.
Dee / February 23, 2013 at 07:33 pm
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So, just went to Penrose and the prices have gone up...one piece of halibut is 9.95, the halibut and chips is 12.95 and the poutine is 5.75ish. Their fish sandwich is 11.00 (no fries)...which is a bit pricey given the portion. Their take-out prices are cheaper by a margin. I guess and increase is to be expected after 5 years. They are still in the average range for decent fish and chips. I was impressed by their fresh cut fries, a bit disappointed by their coleslaw (definitely not homemade) and their portions were a bit small for my taste.

Overall, good fish and chips. They've been around for years and I presume they will remain for a while longer. It looks like they have a steady and loyal client base also. Sad to say though, I left hungry. Not sure if I'd go back again...maybe for a light snack.
Zella / May 12, 2013 at 05:15 pm
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