Restaurants History Toronto

What restaurants used to look like in Toronto

The restaurant scene in Toronto might have taken a while to come into its own, but it's now become one of this city's chief calling cards. There's perpetually a new one opening up, boasting the newest culinary trend and having the got-to-have-it-right-this-second meal, even if its time in the spotlight only lasts a month or so. Our social life revolves around them, for dates, work parties, nights out and those days when throwing some pasta into boiling water is far, far too much effort.

Until fairly recently (in the grand scheme of things), eating-out wasn't as commonplace as it is today. Going way back, it was a luxury reserved for the upper class, but even 30 or 40 years ago, there just wasn't the embarrassment of choice we enjoy today. The number of restaurants in our city was just a tiny fraction of the amount that now line the streets. And, being Toronto the Good, staying in was the order of the day for most families in the 1950s and '60s.

That said, Toronto did have a dining culture — even if it was less uninspired and diverse than it is today. In fact, it's those very qualities that oddly make the photos below so fascinating. Here's a look at what restaurants used to look like in Toronto, with examples dating back to the turn of the 20th century. Like the grocery stores and movie theatres of yesteryear, the fonts on the signs, the neon lights and the prices are all enough to make me nostalgic for a place I've never been before. A milkshake for 15 cents? Don't mind if I do.

For more Toronto history, check out The history of Toronto in photos.



King Edward Hotel, 1907


Agnes Street Chicken Warehouse, 1910


Sandwitches, 1910


High Park Restaurant, 1913


Bowles Lunch, 1918


McConkey's Restaurant on King Street West, 1920


Union Station Lunch Counter, 1923


Sidewalk Cafe, 1926


Table Rock House, 1927


A Good Hotel, 1945


Hamburgs and Hot Dogs on Bathurst Street, 1951


The Flame, 1953


Sign of the Steer, 1955


Bassel's Restaurant, 1955


Hong Kong Gardens, 1958


Shopsy's! 1960s


Janewood Restaurant, 1960s


And again


The Sword on Yonge Street, 1967


Apex Records Luncheon and a young Gordon Lightfoot, 1970


Steak and Burger, 1970s


Malloney's, year unknown


Coq d'or Tavern, year unknown


Stoodleigh's, year unknown


Unity Grill on Queen West, year unknown

Photos from the Toronto Archives

Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in City

TTC unions call for CEO Rick Leary to step down after near subway collision

Beloved Gardiner Expressway remnants torn down for new heart shaped Toronto park

Here's a list of places you will and won't need to show proof of vaccination in Ontario

Bernie Sanders just endorsed Jagmeet Singh for Prime Minister of Canada

Students walk out at Western University amid sexual assault reports

Ontario just surpassed a ridiculous new milestone in the number of cannabis stores

This 23-year-old MP candidate from Toronto is fighting for the needs of young people

Garbage collector caught on camera throwing out election signs