These Toronto Restaurant Owners Reveal The Inspiring Stories Behind Their Businesses
Because cuisine isn't just about the food.
One of the best things in life is exploring your neighbourhood and finding local eats that take your taste buds on an adventure.
Since the pandemic (and with Canadians living busier-than-ever lifestyles), ordering in has become a common way to discover new cuisines — especially with delivery apps, like SkipTheDishes, making it easy to find restaurants to try.
Local eateries are the lifeblood of any dining scene, which is exactly why the delivery platform teamed up with some of its restaurant partners to create Local Goods.
Local Goods is all about sharing the unique stories of restaurant owners with their communities, and there are already two Toronto restaurants to check out — The Lakeview and Patois.
Located at 132 Dundas St. W., The Lakeview has been the backdrop for tons of movies over the years, including Cocktail and Hairspray.
According to general manager and co-owner Fran Bell, the 24-hour restaurant's popularity skyrocketed after it was featured on an episode of Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Since then, diner enthusiasts from all over the world have come to try its iconic specials, like the apple pie milkshake.
Unfortunately, during the pandemic, this tourism came to a halt. While The Lakeview pivoted to accommodate the new normal, they discovered a silver lining.
"We really realized that people that live in the area love The Lakeview," said Bell.
The restaurant itself has been around since the 1930s, and Bell's husband, Fadi, and his business partner bought it 10 years ago. One of Bell's favourite recipes is the club sandwich with cornflake chicken, inspired by the recipe Fadi's mom used to make when he was a kid.
One of the rare food spots in Toronto that's open all hours, the diner welcomes hungry bar-goers, event attendees and shift workers at any time. Bell says seeing people from all walks of life is one of her favourite things about the restaurant.
"The whole atmosphere changes 5 times a day," she said.
Whether it's young people on first dates to elderly married couples, celebrities or groups of friends, The Lakeview brings people together and connects all generations.
"They are just as special as all the rest," she said of her customers.
From a cozy local diner to a Jamaican-Chinese fusion restaurant, Toronto's food scene reflects the diversity of the city itself.
Craig Wong, owner and head chef of Patois on 794 Dundas St. W., makes Caribbean-Asian soul food that'll transport you to the tropics.
Even though being a chef wasn't on Wong's radar growing up, he eventually found himself working in Michelin-starred restaurants across Europe. Then, when it came time to open his own restaurant, he decided to create something different.
"I wanted food that would be like our home, and cooked our way as opposed to a professional way," Wong said. "That is how Patois came to life."
The restaurant takes its name from Jamaica's national language, but, for Wong, it also symbolizes the fusion of cultures he associates with his upbringing in Jamaica and his Toronto-based life now.
"So many cultures have passed through Jamaica," he explained. "It’s very representative of the multicultural place of Toronto."
Much of Wong's inspiration comes from special memories like eating rotisserie chicken at the Bastille Market in Paris or his grandmother's experience running canteens in Jamaica.
Even the rum punch takes its inspiration from a tour he took of Appleton Estate in Jamaica.
"One of my uncles worked for Appleton for over 50 years [...] and he couldn't even get me the recipe," said Wong. "It was a secret recipe that I had to reverse engineer.
"If you come to Patois [...] and don’t order a rum punch, you are not doing it right."
Toronto is overflowing with food stories like those of Fran Bell and Craig Wong, and SkipTheDishes wants to bring you more of them.
Experiencing the personality and passion of the owners is easy when dining at a restaurant. With Local Goods, you can now enjoy that special flavour when you order in too.
To learn more about Local Goods by SkipTheDishes, check out their website or follow them on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.