marilynne restaurant

Someone from Toronto fled city life to open a restaurant in a 130-year-old fire hall

A Toronto chef is opening his own restaurant in a 130-year-old fire hall in Grey County after fleeing the city where he worked in restaurants for over a decade.

Brandon Bannon is currently in the process of transforming a fire hall into what will eventually be Marilynne Restaurant, which will also encompass a catering business.

The restaurant will serve modern farm-focused Canadian comfort food. Think croquettes, fried chicken sandwiches, roast beef sandwiches, chili and French onion soup, plus coffee or local craft beer to wash it all down.

He was once part of the management team at Food Dudes, and has also worked at Estia, County General and Antler. In March 2020, Bannon and his partner had actually moved from Toronto to Ottawa to follow work opportunities, which quickly either went remote or dried up completely.

Marilynne already opened for takeout as a cafe in October 2021, but has yet to open their dining room.

Bannon posted photos to social media of the dining room's progress over the past four months, showing the transition from a blank space to a rustic hangout with a wraparound bar.

"I've moved back to where I grew up to do good food on my own terms, to build an amazing team, and to be closer to some of Ontario's best producers," Bannon wrote in a caption accompanying the photos.

Bannon was born just a block away from the fire hall and grew up 15 minutes south, on a farm near Dundalk. His family has been farming in Grey County since the 1890s, and he spent his summers on family farms and has been working in kitchens since the age of 10.

The restaurant is named for Bannon's grandmother, as he's following in her footsteps: in 1967, she herself moved from the Toronto suburbs out to the country with her husband to learn to farm. 

It had come up for sale when Bannon and his partner were in the middle of planning their wedding. Bannon's mom, who still lives on the farm he grew up on, was actually the one who sent him the listing.

"The previous owner completely rescued the building from demolition and put a lot of work into fixing structural and electrical issues. He also built it out as a restaurant so a lot of the bones were in place for us to come in," Bannon tells blogTO.

"The work we've had to do has been largely cosmetic, moving a few walls, redoing the floors, building out a new bar, overhauling the main kitchen and we're completely transforming what was a large warehouse storage space into a full commercial kitchen, with walk-ins."

He's hoping to open Marilynne for dine-in as soon as next month.

If escaping the city sounds like you're dream as well, good news: they're hiring experienced back of house and front of house workers.

Lead photo by

Brandon Bannon

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