universal grill toronto

Beloved Toronto diner is closing after 24 years

One of the Annex's most cherished diners, Universal Grill, has announced that it's closing for good. 

The brunch destination at Dupont and Shaw took to Instagram over the weekend to tell its followers that it is now permanently closed after first shuttering its doors temporarily when the lockdown began. 

"It is with heavy hearts we are making the announcement that Universal Grill is now permanently closed after an incredible 24 years of serving Toronto," wrote the restaurant. 

"The financial strain associated with being closed during the COVID-19 crisis was beyond what we could handle." 

It is with heavy hearts we are making the announcement that Universal Grill is now permanently closed after an incredible 24 years of serving Toronto. The financial strain associated with being closed during the COVID-19 crisis was beyond what we could handle. There are many people to thank for making Universal Grill so special and able to thrive for so many years. Firstly, Thambirajah Inpanathan, the genius behind Rajah’s dry ribs. Rajah has been the true backbone of Universal Grill and without him, it would not be the same. He has been with us since the beginning and is the hardest working person I have ever seen in a kitchen. His dedication is beyond words. Thank you Raj. We love you. Next, our brunch chef Sean Keenan who has never missed a weekend of serving up what some might say was Toronto’s best brunch. For the last 16 years he has been there, just as eager on the last day of service as he was the first. Thank you Sean, you amaze everyone. Our staff… we wouldn’t have lasted as long as we did without the love everyone put into our little restaurant, both front and back of house. Everyone pitched in and wore multiple hats. I don’t think it’s too often you see staff stay employed at a restaurant for up to 10 years or more… and then keep in touch, and remain friends once ways are parted. Thank you. Our customers.. imagine generation after generation of families choosing to visit us. Engagements, weddings, births, anniversaries - you allowed us celebrate with you, and we cherish that. Dear friends were made, thoughtful conversations had. Thank you all the way back to 1996. It’s been a wonderful journey, Toronto. Xoxoxo. #since1996 #tbt

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Once a diner more than a century ago, the building at 1071 Shaw Street became home to Universal Grill in 1996, where it has switched hands a couple of times since then. 

What's weathered the storm of time has been their Dutch-style buttermilk pancakes, fresh out of cast-iron pans, and some perfect Huevos Rancheros. 

The restaurant also took a minute to thank some of their longtime staff, including Thambirajah Inpanathan, the "true backbone of Universal Grill" and inventor of a favourite menu item: Rajah's dry ribs. 

The also shouted out their brunch chef Sean Keenan, who had been working at Universal Grill for the last 16 years. 

"Our customers... Imagine generation after generation of families choosing to visit us. Engagements, weddings, births, anniversaries - you allowed us celebrate with you, and we cherish that," wrote the restaurant.

"Dear friends were made, thoughtful conversations had. Thank you all the way back to 1996. It's been a wonderful journey, Toronto." 

Lead photo by

Universal Grill


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