The Best Greasy Spoons in Toronto
The best greasy spoons in Toronto are a tribute to a vanishing subspecies of eatery. There used to be dozens to choose from - even hundreds - but retirement and health code violations have thinned the ranks in the last few years. The menus are almost interchangeable, and prices vary by only a buck or two, so preference often comes down to a cook's touch with the home fries, or notable breakfast acumen.
Mostly, though, we choose our favourites based on some indefinable calculus of authenticity, where original fixtures and low staff turnover are divided by an indefinable vibe to create greasy spoon alchemy.
Here are the 12 best greasy spoons in Toronto as voted by readers of this site.
It’s hard to miss how the Patrician tops this list; it has location, location, location written all over it, situated midway between a newspaper (the Sun’s King East headquarters) and the canyons of the business district, in the heart of the city’s original downtown. It gets extra marks for being so well-preserved - that tiny two-person table near the door would have been renovated out of existence in a more self-conscious greasy spoon - and the staff push the ambiance to eleven with their bottomless wellspring of friendly sarcasm. More »
In the middle of the night on this lonely stretch of Dupont, the Vesta looks like an out-of-town tryout for Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks at the Diner. All counter and no filling, its picture windows right on the street make eating there almost a performance. And let’s face it - any place that lives by the slogan “Reputable Since 1955” isn’t guilty of overreach. More »
Kids from the local school line up by the cash for the fries and gravy, while the packed tables inside testify to neighbourhood loyalty in the face of Roncesvalles’ quickening gentrification (dampened though it might be by streetscape renovations.) I can personally vouch for the grilled cheese - two generations of my family have thrived on it. More »
This Eastern Avenue bolthole isn’t trying to impress anyone; tiny and just a little bit grimy, it’s as uninterested in impressing you as it is in overcharging for diner basics, and prices hover around the late ‘80s, not adjusted for inflation. Soak in the realness as you listen to the rumble from the busy street outside. More »
A diner that’s gone through finishing school, you’d be tempted to call this Av and Dav eatery a cunning recreation, but it’s been here since 1944, and the polish is really only skin deep, though the souvenir t-shirts are made by Roots. The tony neighbourhood means a buck or two added to the prices on the menu, and the regulars couldn’t be further away from a hard luck story. More »
Another homely relic in an upscale strip, Good Bite is to nearby Mars Uptown what Chuck Berry is to Sha Na Na. The staff couldn’t be friendlier and breakfast packs the place out most mornings. Only in business since 1969, but it feels like it’s been here since Eglinton was a dirt path and this stretch of Yonge looked like Aurora. More »
A tiny place on a garment district side street, the Avenue has been left to wave the flag for diners since the Stem closed its doors. The good news is that the food is way better than the Stem was for most of its last decade; the bad news is that you’re not going to find a seat if more than a dozen people decide to sit down for lunch. More »
Truth in advertising - this was once a real bus terminal, serving the city’s far eastern fringe back before the TTC had the monopoly on transit. Over the years it has developed a thick layer of flair inside, from movie memorabilia to a truly comprehensive collection of easy listening album covers. The food is a bit more ambitious than standard diner fare - the cream of chicken and broccoli soup would do a place with tablecloths proud. More »
It looks like the kind of place where hot-rodders should be congregating at dusk, revving their hemis and buffing chrome, but this stretch of St. Clair isn’t drag-race friendly, so the Dairy Freeze will have to get by on its signature steak sandwich and some seriously addictive fries. More ‘70s flannel flag than ‘40s film noir, the Dairy Freeze is one of the last remaining latter-day diners that once based its name - and its reputation - on its shakes. More »
The tide has ebbed back over Mars, whose late ‘80s popularity spearheaded a citywide diner resurgence, and left behind outposts in the Beaches and midtown. The crowds are thinner and the once-famous baked goods conspicuous by their absence, and Mars has returned to its humble origins, a little more worn and retrenched to its short-order roots. More »
A shrine to all things Leafs, the Bloor Jane is also a relic of Bloor West’s long dry spell, when the strongest thing you could get on this side of Bloor was a cup of coffee. Bright and airy, the Bloor Jane features a hefty corned beef sandwich and shakes as thick as shag carpet. More »
It goes without saying that you’ll find souvlaki on the menu at this Danforth diner whose name has inspired a red-and-white colour scheme and an idiosyncratic worship of the Red Wings. Dark and manly, the big TV over the bar is tuned to cable sports and the vibe is just a little bit wise guy. More »