The Two Types of “Good” Toronto Restaurant


A LARGE CITY, Toronto has many restaurants. There’s no shortage of the ordinary, the mediocre and the downright bad. Today we are considering the two principal types of dining establishments held forth by their champions as good.

Good Restaurant Type 1

The first category of good restaurant is usually owned and operated by a family of recent immigrants to Canada. The food is delicious, satisfying and cheap. Often, considerations of overhead dictate that these restaurants will be found in out-of-the-way or as-yet ungentrified neighborhoods. The decor will be simple and plain and functional, and at most there will be a half-dozen or-so tables, always occupied. A wait of a few minutes for a seat can be expected, but the wait will be more than worth it. The owners will have worked hard to ensure value for your dollar. Good, simple food will be the focus, and word of mouth will ensure steady and repeat traffic.

These restaurants will usually serve the dishes of the owner-operator’s origin, the recipes having been handed down across the generations. The reputation of the restaurant will therefore be a matter of family pride. Some shabby restaurants will operate along these lines, but the good ones will be prized by those who frequent them. For forty dollars, you’ll be able to take your family out for a great dinner.

Good Restaurant Type 2

The second category of good restaurant is owned by a twenty-something lifelong Torontonian. His ambition is to showcase a unique dining experience that will be called “totally awesome” by the coolest Toronto food bloggers, and all of his efforts will therefore be focused upon getting a certain kind of review from a certain kind of reviewer. Most of the tried-and-true principles of the industry will be violated in the interest of doing something unique, special and precious.

Ironic ugly artwork will hang on the walls, and instead of ordinary furniture and cutlery there will be patio furniture or beanbag chairs and the guests will be expected to eat with their hands or with leaves from the rain forest. The food will be laboriously overworked until it looks like something from an indie album cover, and nothing will cost under $30, including the dainty appetizers. The whole point of your evening will have been to be able henceforth to tell those in-the-know that you’ve been there too. You’ll leave hungry and disappointed, but as Toronto is filled with shallow herd people, restaurants of this type will be highly praised and heavily patronized.

These restaurants serve “genre” food that comes from everywhere and nowhere at once. Everything is a fusion and a heirloom. The water is free-range, organic, gluten- and cruetly-free, hand poured and triple kettle distilled by the guitar player in a Red House Painters cover band. A pretentious meal would cost your family $250, if they let you bring your children, which they don’t.

If you live here, you know already that good restaurant type 2 is by far the dominant type of restaurant in Toronto, and that every day a new one is opening in places like the Junction and Queen West. In fact, they are taking over. A good example of restaurant type 2 is 3030, on Dundas West in the Junction, which one reviewer has termed (perceptively) “a hipster’s Chuck E Cheese.”

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