Cabbagetown Restaurants of Yesteryear

georgeimage2By Duncan Fremlin, Real Estate Broker

This isn’t exactly a history of food in Cabbagetown but we have had a few restaurants of note over the years, some great, some not so great.

On the low end of the restaurant food chain circa 1972 would be the legendary Norm’s Open Kitchen on Dundas near Pembroke.  This was a 24 hour establishment where the food was secondary.  They serviced the ladies of the night and their clientele.  I never did enjoy a meal there but when working on the all night garbage truck as a summer job, it was a great place to park our truck and watch the goings on.

Also on Dundas was the Ontario Restaurant catering to the police and staff from 51 Division.  It was an unlikely mix with uniforms sitting at one table with ladies of the night sitting at the next.  The meat loaf was quite good.

On the higher end of the food chain in those days was Le Petite Café and Bumpkins, both on Parliament.  For Italian, you could always rely on Leo’s, a mom and pop operation across from Norm’s, and after dining there you could stroll across the street and enjoy Moe Kaufman and Ed Bickart perform their jazz offerings at George’s Spaghetti House. NO COVER CHARGE.  Hard to imagine today.

Of course every neighbourhood and small town in Canada had the mandatory chinese restaurant with slow take out service.  We eventually got a Mexican joint with cold beer.  Don’t forget the old reliable Parkway Restaurant which catered to the breakfast and dinner crowd on a tight budget.  You could always meet a neighbour there.

We had a wine and cheese bar for awhile (near Winchester) but it didn’t last long.  Cabbagetown wasn’t as refined then as it is now.  In fact, one of the more popular establishments in the early 1970’s was the Winchester Hotel.  They didn’t serve dinner but a huge jar of pickled eggs supplied a great snack while you were waiting for the tray of draft to be delivered.

As far as food stores are concerned, it was all about family run operations such as the fruit/vegetable market on the SE corner of Amelia which sold to the rooming house crowd.  As Cabbagetown became more gentrified, someone opened a more boutique style of food store called Pan at Carlton and Sackville.  As it turns out, that was the future.

We can still enjoy Patty’s fare at the Epicure after more than 25 years.  The German deli on Carlton is sorely missed (loved that marzipan).

If the pickled eggs got your mouth watering and you’d like a literary walk down memory lane that will include many restaurants not mentioned here, read any of Hugh Garner’s detective novels from that era and before.  The characters in his book have eaten at many of these fine old establishments.

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