Whether you’re a born and bred Torontonian or a relocated Canadian of sorts, you’re aware of how rapidly this city is expanding, and it is exciting to be a part of the growth. Countless times, we’ve heard our beloved Toronto compared to the great and vast American cities of Chicago and NYC. Last night we were at the Lakeview Restaurant, and we think it helps solidify the validity of these comparisons …
New York is notoriously the city that never sleeps. But our nocturnal experiences in Toronto over the past year or so have made us realize that it, too, fosters a serious late night/early morning culture. Any city that supports a network of night crawlers must have good, accessible, all-night eateries. They can serve as a last stop to fill the belly before bed, or a quick fueling station before the party goes after-hours. The Lakeview reminds us of 24 hour diners in NYC: full of young drunks, and cheerfully sketchy. Yet there is something very satisfying — maybe even profound — about the experience of eating with your fellow partiers in an environment like that.
The Lakeview originally opened in 1932. Presumably, at that time, one could actually view the Lake from Dundas and Ossington. (If you have any information on this subject, please, dear reader, enlighten us! We’re balls at topography, but we love to learn!) In 1947, the restaurant was reopened as The Lakeview Lunch, which was its longest incarnation and the one many Torontonians best recall. From what I could gather, reading reviews and reminiscences, it was a loveable (?) dive. A BlogTO review from 2007 (http://www.blogto.com/restaurants/lakeviewlunch) is affectionate, but many of the comments vehemently contradict the reviewer’s impressions. Regardless, it seems obvious the Lunch was in need of a major overhaul, which is what it received in 2008.
Today, the place looks and feels amazing. As others have noted, it embodies charming kitsch dujour — just like countless other places in Toronto. The difference is that at the Lakeview, there’s a solid foundation of history underneath that retro textured wallpaper. And … well … maybe it was the joint we’d smoked prior to entry, but I swear you can just feel it.
All history aside, though, the place is slickly run by some very clever people who understand their target market. The music is indie, the servers are alternawhatever, and the food is retro trash. Yes, they serve disco fries! The words “organic,” “free-run,” and “naturally raised” all appear on the menu. It’s a neighbourhood place. And it is, literally, always open. For those countless members of our generation who crave tradition, authenticity, and a sense of community … it’s bangarang magic.
And that’s what we want it to be. We probably won’t ever head there for brunch, lunch, or dinner. We’re blessed with so many great restaurants in our area that can serve up those traditional meals far better than The Lakeview can. It is, after all, a diner. But it’s majestic, somehow … rich with past. And at three am, it is everything we crave.