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The 10 oldest restaurants in Toronto

The oldest restaurants in Toronto are harder to determine than you might think. With no central database, you have to rely on the restaurant's own declarations as to their opening dates. It's also important to have some sort of criteria in place.

Bars and hotels have been excluded here as separate categories. While continuous operation isn't a requirement for inclusion, an agreed upon opening date is crucial (which is why both Gale's Snack Bar and Peter Pan Bistro are left off despite being possible candidates).

With those stipulations, here are the oldest restaurants in Toronto.

united bakers toronto

The 338 Spadina location of United Bakers in the 1920s. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

United Bakers Dairy - 1912

You wouldn't necessarily know it to walk into the current location on Lawrence Avenue, but United Bakers has roots back to 1912, first on Agnes St. in the Ward and later at 338 Spadina when Kensington Market and the surround area was a hub of Jewish life in Toronto.

Construction wrapping up at the Old Mill in 1914. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

old mill toronto
The Old Mill - 1914

I've left hotels off this list as they deserve their own category, but the Old Mill is an important exception because it originated as a restaurant and tea room over a century ago. At first it was only open in the summer months, but eventually it would become a year-round establishment.

seantor toronto

The mural at the side of the Senator dates back to 1987, but the interior is a time warp to 1948.

The Senator - 1929

Hiding out just steps from the clamour and bright lights of Yonge-Dundas Square, the venerable old Senator opened as Busy Bee Lunch in 1929. The diner was renamed The Senator in 1948 and given a makeover. Its interior remains the same today.

tulip steakhouse toronto

The Queen St. location might not be original, but the Tulip has old school appeal to spare. Photo by Martyn.

The Tulip - 1929

Unlike the Senator, the Tulip has changed locations during its 88 year run. It was originally located on the Danforth (1929-1969) before migrating to Queen St. East. It has, however, always served steakhouse favourites. The current location maintains the old school charm.

duckworth fish chips toronto

Looking arcross Danforth Ave. and Duckworth's in 1937. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

Duckworth's Fish and Chips - 1930

Opened by the eponymous Edith and Jack Duckworth at 2638 Danforth Ave. in 1930, Duckworth's has been serving up Britain's most beloved dish for over 85 years. The company is now run by its founder's grandchildren, has also produced two spin-offs.

toronto reliable halibut

The old sign at Reliable Halibut and Chips. Photo by Patrick Cummins.

Reliable Halibut and Chips - 1930

As its name suggests, Reliable has been consistently serving halibut and chips to the denizens of Leslieville for more than 80 years. The owners and signs have changed, but Reliable has never budged from its corner location on Queen between Logan and Carlaw.

lakeview restaurant

Looking east across the old Lakeview sign in the 1970s. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

Lakeview Restaurant - 1932

Cleaned up and overhauled in 2008 after a brief closure and change of owner, the Lakeview Restaurant is, once again, a neighbourhood institution. Some time before the 2008 refit the gorgeous old neon sign that used to hang over Dundas St. was lost.

frans diner toronto

Fran's Yonge and Eglinton location in 1956. Photo via the Toronto Archives.

Fran's - 1940

The first Fran's open in 1940 at Yonge and St. Clair. It was just a 10-stool diner back then, but it offered an item that'd become a fixture on greasy spoon menus everywhere: the banquet burger. Over the years the restaurant has expanded and contracted its number of locations, but it still boasts three diners in the city.

avenue diner toronto

Diners don't get much more authentic than the Avenue. Photo by Vivi Loob.

Avenue Diner - 1944

This classic diner at the northwest corner of Ave and Dav oozes old school charm that can be traced back to 1944. The menu hasn't changed much since then, though the collection of celebrity photos that adorn the walls has steadily grown since the doors opened so long ago.

bus terminal diner

Recent renovations at the Bus Terminal Diner have preserved the retro charm. Photo by Jesse Milns.

Bus Terminal Diner - 1948

It looked like this diner might suffer the fate that so many others have in recent years, but longtime patron Tim Dutaud and business partner Kevin Wallace saved the east side institution. The interior has been spruced up, but the decor and menu still scream post-war Toronto.

Lead photo by

ZensLens. With files from Chris Bateman.

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