restaurant flops

The 10 biggest restaurant flops in Toronto for 2014

New restaurants in Toronto continued to open at a frenetic pace in 2014, leading to a "survival of the fittest" kind of climate. Veteran restaurant operators and freshmen alike were responsible for more than a few new concepts that turned out to be merely a flash in the pan.

Honourable mentions to Samuel J Moore, Ricky Ricardo's, Bero, Ardor Bistro and Hot and Spicy.

Here are my picks for the biggest restaurant flops of 2014 (so far).

Olde Town Bistro & Oyster Bar
The first casualty of 2014 was this seafood-focused restaurant, which opened in November 2013 with the ambition of attracting a more casual breed of diner than its previous incarnation, Lucien. The new concept flopped a mere three months later, and by spring, was already operating as East Thirty Six.

Ole Ole
The three-storey King East restaurant with a Spanish-meets-Mexican menu replaced Kultura in September 2013 and was gone just five months later in February 2014.

Burger Bass
This short-lived mom-and-pop operation intially attracted a great deal of attention (and unsolicited advice) on Reddit when it opened in January this past year. The online support didn't translate into sales, and by May, the burger shop was shuttered.

Sandoozles Smokehouse & Pub
Opened November 2013 and closed by June of this year, this BBQ joint just couldn't cut the mustard. Equally to blame were the gimmicky name and the fact that the menu, featuring brisket and pulled pork, didn't deliver on the promise of what real barbecue ought to be.

Estrella
Opened in the fall of 2013, this massive North York taco bar aspired to emulate the success of Big Star with a menu that "borrowed" dishes and even its design from the Chicago taqueria. Clearly it doesn't pay for restaurant operators to take the easy way out - Estrella was closed by June.

Red Sauce
I was sad to see Red Sauce go. Opened in late January of this year and closed by Labour Day, the Italian-American sandwich shop and cocktail bar (from the owners of Acadia) was home to a line-up of hero sandwiches, garlicky caesar salads and negroni on draught. Prices were a tad high, but speculation has it that the restaurant may have had other troubles filling tables.

Lucky Red
The Banh Mi Boy spin-off opened just after Canada Day with a menu featuring bowls of lo mein and deep fried dessert bao; by August, the struggling take-out concept reverted back to the trusty Banh Mi Boys menu of Vietnamese sandwiches and Korean tacos, but in September, when that still didn't draw the anticipated crowds, the eatery shut completely. Owners David, Phil and Peter Chau plan to reopen with a totally new sit-down concept, complete with bar menu.

S. Lefkowitz
Ezra's Pound was transformed into Toronto's first hummusia on a whim in March, but by mid-October, the windows of the Middle Eastern-style snack bar were already papered over.

Cleo Restaurant
In a sign that this year's prolific trend of Middle Eastern eateries has potentially reached maximum saturation in Toronto, this sit-down restaurant at Yonge and Lawrence opened in the spring, but by fall, the address already had new tenants. The Scratch Kitchen is set to open in the coming weeks.

Social Bar Cafe & Desserts
Queen West's Chococrepe underwent renovations and rebranding this year to briefly become the licensed ChocoCrepe Cafe Cocktails & Co. and then Social Bar Cafe & Desserts in July. By the end of October, the creperie was gone for good and has been operating under new ownership since as Del Ray So-Cal Cantina.

What did I miss? Add more flops to the comments below.


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