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Restaurants

The Thompson Diner

Posted by Meaghan Binstock / Reviewed on August 11, 2010 / review policy

The Thompson DinerThe Thompson Diner (formerly, The Counter), the Thompson Hotel's new 24-hour diner, is a swankier take on the classic diner theme. Just south of King on Bathurst, this restaurant is decidedly more upscale in appearance than the old neighbourhood diners in the west end that I visit when in search of some good old comfort food. All sleek, retro decor, The The Thompson Diner's large space is lined with giant, velvet-detailed booths, and an elegant bar dotted with gold-coloured stools sits at the back of the room.

The Thompson DinerI'm greeted by a pleasant server in blue gingham and a bowtie, and decide to order a coffee ($2) while I wait for my friends to arrive. The coffee is a little on the bitter side, and I wonder if perhaps it's not very fresh. Forgivable at a regular restaurant, as it is two in the afternoon, but in a twenty-four hour diner I would hope fresh coffee would be on constant rotation.

The Thompson DinerFrom a large menu offering the kinds of classic dishes you would expect from this retro throw-back, we start with the fries and onion rings ($5), which come with a choice of one dip from a variety of options. We go for the garlic aioli, which arrives on the side of a metal basket containing three enormous onion rings and a heap of crispy french fries. The fries are decent, and the onion rings are also passable. Neither are particularly impressive, but it's a nice greasy starter for me and my starving companions.

It seems only right to try one of The Thompson Diner's burgers (all options available on veggie or turkey burgers if looking for an alternative to beef), and from a wide selection of topping choices we opt for the 'west coast' ($12 - top photo). The tower of a burger arrives on a wooden cutting board, generously topped with melted jalapeno jack cheese, spinach, crispy fried onions, lettuce and tomato. Extremely large and messy, it's a challenge to eat, but worth the effort as this turns out to be a satisfying burger.

The Thompson DinerFrom an enticing list of sandwiches we order the smoked turkey and brie ($12), which arrives appealingly presented on the same wooden cutting board. The sandwich is served on toasted focaccia bread with slices of smoked turkey, lettuce, tomato, mayo and lots of brie. The brie is a little overpowering, and the flavour of the turkey is much more prominent once I remove a little bit of the cheese. Nonetheless, the sandwich is enjoyable, and the nice little mixed green salad on the side is crisp and fresh (fries are an option as well).

The Thompson DinerCurious to see what they'll do with the diner-classic mac & cheese, we order The Thompson Diner's version, the double mac & cheese with cured pancetta crisp & truffle oil ($12). This indulgent dish is served in a big cast iron skillet, a mass of cheesy, gooey macaroni topped with a crispy piece of pancetta. The mac & cheese is rich, creamy and garlicky, and there's no arguing this goes beyond our expectations for this standard item.

The Thompson Hotel's retro-inspired 24-hour joint has a comfortable atmosphere, friendly service, and decent prices. The food may not be mind-blowing, but it is pretty satisfying diner food, and I can bet it tastes delicious at 3am.

Note: This post was updated on October 11, 2011 to reflect the change of the restaurant's name from The Counter to The Thompson Diner.

The Thompson DinerPhotos by Taralyn Marshall

Discussion

49 Comments

Alan / August 12, 2010 at 10:01 am
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i would really like to know when mac and cheese became a dinner classic outside of home or a dorm room?
DONGS replying to a comment from Alan / August 12, 2010 at 10:18 am
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Mac & cheese predates dorm room cheap box food, your argument is invalid.
Cheapo / August 12, 2010 at 10:22 am
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beautiful exterior
but
cheap crappy ceiling
cheap crappy lighting
could have been a beautiful art deco style diner
but no
oh well
J.E. / August 12, 2010 at 10:35 am
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Whatever you do, DON'T order a Caesar.
Ringer / August 12, 2010 at 10:52 am
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Beautiful exterior?? Are you kidding? Up close it looks like a cheap veneer of brick. And I love how the reviewer has said that the food is "passable" and expects us to love it. If the food is "fine" and "good" I have no desire to visit. It's like someone trying to set you up with someone who has and "interesting personality". The Thompson does one thing and one thing only: spend your money.
If you want greasy spoon diner food, head to the cheaper wheat sheaf just up the street.
Cheapo replying to a comment from Ringer / August 12, 2010 at 11:00 am
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I guess the whole art deco period of architecture eluded you. Oh well.

I haven't gotten close enough to see what the black cladding is.
I assumed it was proper black marble.
Ringer replying to a comment from Cheapo / August 12, 2010 at 11:31 am
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I love ArtDeco, when it's done properly. Against the contemporary background of the Thompson, it just looks out of place. I've seen gorgeous pieces of old and new juxtaposed together properly, and in my opinion The Counter misses the mark. Have have you been up close to this building? If so, then you would notice the cheap materials and how poorly it's been done (and I'm sure this is what highlights the poor design). I think the space could have been so much better used and am just disappointed and saddened by another architecture miss in this city.
mondayjane / August 12, 2010 at 11:38 am
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The review of this place sounds pretty "meh" and by the sounds of the comments the space doesn't really make up for it.

I think I'll pass on "passable"!
Chester Pape / August 12, 2010 at 11:48 am
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Rumour has it they are already on their second chef, I think this one is going to take a little while to get over the new place wobbles, check back in 3 months and see if the food has improved.
Cheapo replying to a comment from Ringer / August 12, 2010 at 11:48 am
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Well, then, if the exterior has been done on the cheap like the inside, then yeah, the whole building is a f'ing disaster. I had high hopes but once again Toronto architecture craps out another turd.
Jason / August 12, 2010 at 11:57 am
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I had my worst experience ever dining in T.O. here recently. As a friend of mine said, "I'd only eat here if I was stuck at King & Bathurst at 3:00 a.m. and every other restaurant in the city was on fire."

Horrible service, inexperienced wait staff, ho-hum food, lacklustre menu (no 24-hour breakfast???) and reservations were lost.
Jer / August 12, 2010 at 12:02 pm
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liquor license?
Jer replying to a comment from Cheapo / August 12, 2010 at 12:05 pm
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why would you ever have high hopes of anything in TO?
from sports teams to dining to architecture - it is nice, mediocre, comfortable Canadian meh - we likes it here - pretension and glory-free.
Elizabeth / August 12, 2010 at 01:19 pm
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This food looks pretty good for 24 hour fare. Better than Vesta!
Vincent Vega / August 12, 2010 at 01:38 pm
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That's a pretty f**king good milkshake. I don't know if it's worth five dollars but it's pretty f**king good.
Nib / August 12, 2010 at 02:26 pm
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$12 for burger that's mostly bun an lettuce? $12!?
hmmmm.
Safeness / August 12, 2010 at 02:57 pm
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The architecture is actually a direct mapping to the autobody shop that used to be on that corner, they decided to build that side of the building the same way. There was a posting on either this site or a similar one a while back, but I could not find it.
ASAP Tent and Party Rentals / August 12, 2010 at 03:16 pm
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Does this restaurant do catering for parties in the area?
Gloria / August 12, 2010 at 04:23 pm
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Ok, if the commentator above is right, if you don't do 24-hour breakfast, then you're not 24-hour.
Nurse Nancy / August 12, 2010 at 04:52 pm
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Serving food on cutting boards....novel idea but also a potential breeding ground for "cooties" if not sanitized properly and/or when cracks develop. Must be awkward to carry too?!?
Adambeast replying to a comment from Cheapo / August 12, 2010 at 05:01 pm
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The ceiling ruined your visit? hahaha
Sadie replying to a comment from Jer / August 12, 2010 at 05:04 pm
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yes, they have a liquor license!
the mac & cheese is to die for. this place will be great in a few months, fingers crossed.
annakarenina / August 12, 2010 at 05:11 pm
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this place is great! and a welcome addition to the neighbourhood.. my god this site has so many haters.u people all suck, very annoying.
Jason K / August 12, 2010 at 05:34 pm
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All haters can continue eating at Fran's. I mean, come on.

This place rocks. Good burgers. Is it perfect? No. What did you expect? The ceiling is OK.

Try the Thompson Spiked Iced Tea.
Chappy / August 12, 2010 at 06:50 pm
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This place sucks went four weeks after it opened. Place was dead. Took 15min to get drinks. Ordered Shrimp PoBoy with side of mac n cheese. After 10min waitress comes by and say no mac n cheese. WTF. Then I wanted to change my order, She goes back to kitchen and says can't do pho boy almost. Bunch of retards. To go McD's for 24hrs crap around the corner.
Prince / August 12, 2010 at 07:04 pm
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This place looks better than most diners, with better food, just look at that picture you dopes, look at that floor! and the booths.. (ceiling? pfft..) it looks nicer than the Lakeview and the vesta put together.
Prince / August 12, 2010 at 07:07 pm
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.. you know, I'd actually be annoyed if BlogTO came to my establishment (and I'm a fan), just scroll up, they're always 1/3 review, 2/3 hater comments.

(boo! it's not exactly what "I" want, it SUCKS, it's GARBAGE, BOO new independent business!)
ugh.
gr1 / August 13, 2010 at 04:39 pm
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they need blinds. food is good. reasonably priced. servers should know what is on tap and whether it is out, don't tempt me with things I cannot have. nice bow ties btw, losers.
APOW / August 13, 2010 at 04:56 pm
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allan youre a dumbass. DINER not DINNER
Not Cheap / August 14, 2010 at 02:17 pm
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This place looks like they spent a pretty penny inside, from the photos. Those chairs and booths look quite expensive, as do the floors and the ceiling. I haven't been here so I haven't seen it up close- so maybe everything does look really cheap as some have said- but I doubt it. I wonder how many restaurants the people complaining have actually designed and furnished themselves, to know so much about how much things cost?
dobermanmom / August 14, 2010 at 07:35 pm
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i'm sure what everyone expects - the building did go up in record time, including this restaurant.

I walk by it every single day, and was shocked how quickly it was all pulled together.

It's part of the Thompson group (http://www.thompsonhotels.com/hotels)
It's a chain, so again, not sure what you expect.
dan / August 21, 2010 at 03:40 pm
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Checked out The Counter last night.

At night the space seemed really nice and classy inside, our server was friendly, food came pretty fast. Their fries were very good and came in a cute little fake deep fry basket. My clubhouse was really great too, it really filled me up. The chicken on it was pretty delicious as well.

No, it's not groundbreaking, but it was a nice diner and I'd definitely go back again. I'm not sure about all the negative reviews but I would assume t hey're probably still working out kinks if the information is right about their switching chefs etc.
Laura Bee / October 17, 2010 at 09:35 am
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I actually enjoyed The Counter, mostly for the location. Sitting in a big booth, watching the traffic go by, was actually really enjoyable late in the evening.

I think they now offer all day breakfast, which is a smart move. We had the pizzawich (too much bread) and the shrimp Po-Boy. Both were good, but not fabulous. The food going by to other diners looked more impressive. I think I'd go for a burger next time.

It wasn't the most amazing food of my life, but it was a nice, comfy diner experience. I'd go back.
Duck Confit / November 14, 2010 at 08:14 pm
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All of you need to manage your expectations.

The fact you're eating at a diner means you were too goddamn lazy to cook in the first place, let along microwave a potato or carrot and heat a pizza in your filthy oven.

The food there is decent. That's all you should expect for dinner for two for under $40-50 with tax and a decent tip.

If you want "value" don't go to a swank hotel and expect bottomless baskets of fries, and coffee, and sodas.

Expect decent fried food and decent breakfasts.

Better yet, learn to cook this food yourselves and while you're at it, go jerk off to the Food Network instead of blogging about "your experience" on blogto, you pathetic white trash.

Small-town Ontario is waiting for you.
steve / December 6, 2010 at 11:33 am
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Shortest diner review ever...

Food=tasty, service=shitty!


APOW / December 29, 2010 at 01:03 pm
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I HAD THIS BREAKFAST THIS MORNING AND EVERYONE WAS RUDE TO ME. THE EGGS TASTED LIKE DONG. I WILL BE SPENDING WEEKS&WEEKS&WEEKS BOYCOTTING THIS PLACE GOOD LUCK THOMPSON YOU'VE JUST INCURRED THE WRATH OF APOW!
JessicaBrand / February 2, 2011 at 12:05 am
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i really enjoy the counter. my girlfriend and i live in the hotel, and let me tell you The Counter has been a lifesaver. We love being able to grab amazing food on the go or sit and have a meal.

must try - turkey cobb salad, mac and cheese, calamari, fried chicken!
things to pass on - shrimp hoagie, pizzawich, iceberg wedge salad

we love going for dinner during the week. they have the best staff that actually remember you and enjoy serving you. makes the experience!
also feel bad for their overnight staff as it can get a little crazy in there late at night!

every new place has to get through some things at the beginning but i am actually suprised by the negative reviews because i think it is a little gem!
WentThereToday / April 29, 2011 at 03:52 pm
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So I went with my work team for Lunch today. The good was mostly good, the exception were the smoked meat sandwiches.

I strongly recommend you avoid them. At $12, I have never seen a worse value for any sandwich in my life. I think there were 4 slices of smoked meat, the meat was maybe a centimeter thick. There was quadruple the amount of bread than meat, and the smoked meat itself (what little there was), was dry, but not entirely flavourless.

Anyone who has ever had a smoked meat sandwich at Caplanski's, Open Kitchen or at any half decent deli, will understand what a travesty this was. When I asked the server about it, she was also shocked and told me the manager was going to come over. Needless to say, the manager never arrived and after around 15 minutes of waiting, I finally gave up and ate the sandwich, I was so hungry at that point.

I might consider going back, the food was mostly good, but I'll be having the Club next time.
Dr. Gonzo / November 13, 2011 at 08:24 pm
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I don't usually post restaurant reviews but this place is so bad it deserves to get ripped on. My husband and I ordered the all day breakfast and the granola and yogurt. The sausage and eggs were cold and overpriced. The coffee was terrible. The service was slow to the point of non-existent. Overall - it is an absolute waste of money. Do not go here. If this place survives more than a year I will seriously begin to question the standards of Toronto brunchers.
alana / December 14, 2011 at 02:16 pm
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they charge 15 dollars to use the internet.

WANKERS!
Justin Nance / February 4, 2012 at 11:39 pm
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We eat at The Counter regularly and love it! Good food, fair prices, and great service. Plus it's open 24 hours a day!
Elio / February 1, 2013 at 10:20 pm
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We go there quite often for late night dinner. Excellent grilled cheese, sweet potato fries with spicy mayo And the soups are generally quite good. Service has always been good.
SEO / February 17, 2013 at 01:32 pm
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Great for dinner but not an A++ Restaurant still worth eating there
Resta_Rich / May 8, 2013 at 04:16 pm
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Rating 8/10

Best 24 hour place i have been too in TO. Food is always nice and hot and needless to say tasty. Don't expect healthy alternatives from a diner, their menu is great and hearty and coming from a healthy eater like myself this place is definitely worth a cheat day. Their fried chicken is bomb, and pecan pie is always good. Service has always been great, and i would definitely come back here to indulge.
ARVIN replying to a comment from steve / June 30, 2013 at 04:19 am
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Yonigga,Fuck mans was there tonight,food was dodo,Niggas calamari was soggy,fried chicken didnt have one herb or spice,i wiped my finger on the napkin,out of the 4 pcs they gave me i yammed like 1 and a quarter,Fuck the the mac and cheese tase like nothing,They should kill themselves.Only white ppl would eat this shit.And ppl from mars cuz they never know what food is.WORST Food ever,Go to mcdonalds,its down the street,well worth it,Well atleast the service was ok.THIS IS A REAL REVIEW OF THE PLACE NOT SPAM
ant / July 12, 2013 at 12:07 pm
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you should have internet on you at all time dipshit , its not longer a question of believeing/prevalence , do you even wana be relevant at all?
Cass. / February 8, 2014 at 11:28 pm
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The WORST restaurant in Toronto. Horrible service, painfully slow and cold, overpriced food. The first time I went, it was alright, I went again a few months later and what a mistake that was! I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, so I went back again and what I fool I was. I never write reviews but I want to save someone their money, time and appetite. I have NO idea why this is in the top 3. It's horrendous.
Reviewer / July 6, 2014 at 12:54 am
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The Grilled-Cheese-Burger is two grilled cheese sandwiches as the bun & is delicious... For $17 (which sucks). See you there.
cyrille / September 17, 2014 at 10:47 am
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The service there is terrible and painful to watch

Went there for breakfast on Sunday morning 11:00 and was not really busy, no queue, free tables. Once seated we have waited at Least good 10 minutes to finally get noticed by our waitress to ask if we wanted to something to drink we said we are ready to order she replied I come back in few minutes for your order. We finally order, food is ready 6 plates (2 breakfast,2 toasts they served them on different plates, side of fries and a fruit salad) it took them 4 times to bring them 3 different peoples. To pay same thing take forever we had to insist to finally pay,

After reading the reviews and my experience I come to the conclusion that you have to avoid this restaurant for breakfast lunch

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