Quiet closings leave Toronto diners hungry for alternatives

Just a few weeks ago and without warning, Smith, the beloved three-level restaurant in Toronto’s Gay Village known for its chic interior and Instagrammable brunch,  announced via social media that it had served its final huevos rancheros and strawberry cheesecake pancakes — much to the dismay of its loyal patrons.

“Farewell,” began the post on Smith’s Instagram. “It has been a pleasure to have served you on Church Street for 15 years from Straight, to Smith from late night parties, DJs, dinner soirees, to prides, breakfasts of Benedict and brisket this beloved house has been witness to many hook ups and hot dates but as such, in life, all good things must come to an end.”

Co-owned by Renda Abdo and Nadya Mancini, the abrupt closure comes just months after it was announced that another of the pair’s restaurants — popular Yorkville eatery Wish  — would be closing after 22 years in business.

While long-time Smith customers will still be able to get their brunch fix at Smith’s sister restaurant, 7 West,  sadly, this is not the case for a slew of other popular Toronto eateries, which have quietly closed over the last few months, leaving diners in the cold.

In January, long-time Junction Triangle restaurant Farmhouse Tavern suddenly closed without notifying customers. In 2020, the popular eatery spent more than $10 thousand winterizing their patio which included adding a barn.

Just a few months ago, the owners of world-renowned Chinese restaurant Lai Wah Heen, decided not to renew their lease after serving elevated dim sum to suits and tourists alike for close to three decades. When we reached out for comment, we were told that they were unsure if they would be reopening in a different location.

Not even the acclaim of  Michelin recognition is enough to keep Toronto’ s buzziest eateries afloat.

Earlier this year, Babel a live-fire restaurant in North York owned by Oliver and Bonacini Hospitality announced via Instagram that they had closed — three days after their last service.

“Gutted to be honest —  massive efforts from great people. Sad to see it go dark,” wrote one customer.

“I’ve never been more disappointed about a restaurant closing. This was our go-to spot for the last few years. The food was amazing!” commented another.

While the restaurant  cited the “many twists and turns of the pandemic” as their reason for closing, some on social media were quick to point out that others reasons might be at play.

Others, like Portuguese chicken stalwart, The Rooster, which shut down for “temporary” renovations following a fire in 2021, remain closed two years later.

So just why are so many well-known restaurants in the city closing up shop without giving their loyal customers a heads up? Take a walk down any of Toronto’s streets and you’ll find  a number of  boarded-up windows, while more often than not, customers are likely to experience deleted social media accounts, disconnected phone lines, expired websites and owners who are almost impossible to get a hold of.

Regardless of the reasons, the Toronto dining scene continues to move forward, with a dozen hyped restaurant opening for every quiet closing. But for some customers, the closures have been difficult to bear.

“It’s hard enough when your favourite restaurant closes, but to not even find out until it’s been out of business for weeks or in some cases, months is even worse,” said Jennifer Dobrovnik, a patron of  Smith’s.  “When you’ve been a customer for such a long time, you almost feel personally offended that you weren’t notified beforehand,” she said.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO