The Senator Diner: One of Toronto’s Oldest Restaurants

Senator exteriorAs much as I talk about being a City Girl and knowing about Toronto, I felt like a bit of a phoney when I didn’t know much about one of the oldest diners in the city, The Senator Diner. Nevertheless, there’s a lesson there, and the lesson is – Twitter is a beautiful thing. Recently I got a tweet from one of The Senator staff that sparked my curiosity. After a full day of all things real estate I was meeting a friend for a drink around Yonge-Dundas Square and decided to drop-in to The Senator for a bite before getting into to the wine.

Senator barThe Scene… The Senator is located just steps from Yonge-Dundas Square, at 249 Victoria Street. Operating since the early 19th century, walking into this place felt like I was walking onto a movie set. The long and narrow interior, with a long bar counter to the immediate right and row of booths on the left running all the way to the back of the restaurant, it’s authentic without being kitschy and trying too hard. Although there’s not much to the decor, it has a warm and inviting feeling.

Senator club sandwichPlay-By-Play… Walking in I’m greeted by a polite server offering my pick of booths to sit in. The place is empty, which surprises me as I was expecting to see the pre-theatre crowd grabbing a bite before the curtain goes up on Wizard of Oz at the Cannon. But in no time, the place is buzzing. As with most diners, you’d expect the dinner menu offered to be traditional North American home-style cooking – the Caesar salad, burgers, fish and chips, mac and cheese. Well it is… and it’s not. It’s quality comfort food made using local ingredients. The burger ($14.95) is not just a burger, it’s made from Cumbrae naturally raised beef. The Club Sandwich ($14.95) is made with a thick roasted chicken breast, perfectly crisp bacon and fresh tomatoes. I go for the Club sandwich with a side of french fries, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a generous portion which I have a hard time finishing wanting to leave room for dessert.

Senator carrot cakeI decide to stick around for dessert and after contemplating a few options which also include a brownie with vanilla ice cream, I opt for the carrot cake. It’s a good portion big enough to share, but probably from the bought-in variety. The coffee, however, is pretty damn good. From the coffee beans (custom blend from local micro-roaster Dark City Coffee) to the premium quality milk from Sheldon Creek Dairy, the richness and flavour can be easily compared to coffee from some of Toronto’s independent cafes like Dark Horse or Jimmy’s Coffee. I was not expecting that kind of quality and was pleasantly surprised.

Senator coffeeThe Wrap… I’ve heard people talk about this place in the past but I guess I didn’t really pay attention. I’m glad that The Senator has survived all these years without turning into another “spot of the moment”, over-designed and over-thought. This place is not as much concerned about staying on trend with its appearance as it is about what is on the plate. And frankly, when I’m looking to stuff my belly with good-old-fashioned comfort food, that’s all that counts. I’ll definitely be back, maybe for breakfast next time.

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Brunch at Gusto 101…did I mention it has wine on tap?!?

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