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Earl's Restaurant in Toronto?

  • c

I know, it's terrible - I once swore that I'd try to avoid chain restuarants, but during a recent venture to Winnipeg I ended up at Earl's and was pleasantly surprised.

After a quick search, I came across this: http://www.canada.com/national/nation... - which mentioned, "The chain is now poised to move east. Earl's has its eye on a downtown Toronto location, Mr. Fuller says."

But I'm not sure when this article was published. Does anyone have any more information?

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  1. Michael Nobel is the exec chef at Earls. If Susur Lee became the exec chef at a "chain" I think we'd all be forgiven for eating there!

    3 Replies
    1. re: John Manzo
      p
      pinstripeprincess

      you know that Lee is supposed to turn into a chain venture eh?

      1. re: pinstripeprincess

        That right Susar is starting a new chain called "Lee's Fusion Hell's Kitchen"...lol. On a serious note I really can't see Earl's branching out here away from the comfort of the West Coast where they have branding and a loyal clientel. GTA is a much more difficult market to break when their food has to compete against Servcorp (Alice Fazoolis, Jack Astor, Canyon Creek, just to name a few). I believe Earl was located on Eglinton at one point before closing down after consolidation losses and retreating by west.

      2. re: John Manzo

        I thought Chef Nobel left Earls last year.

      3. I've heard that Earl's is finally coming to Ontario - and their first location is scheduled for the renovated main entrance at Square One. I've searched online but I haven't been able to confirm. Has anyone been by that site lately?

        5 Replies
        1. re: Ashtangi

          Earl's actually made the trek out here before and failed. I think the remnants of one location is now (and has been for some time) the Dundas Street Grill by the Kipling GO station. I, for one, will not be going to Earl's if it should come here. Trivia alert....Boston Pizza (another western based chain) also failed on their 1st try in Ontario....now look at them.

          1. re: robgm

            Food definitely bland. But if they can bring the microbrews with them, they might be worth a visit. The Albino Rhino was a fairly decent beer.

            1. re: Snarf

              The beers were provided by Big Rock out of Calgary

            2. re: robgm

              I believe they had a location on Eglinton east of Yonge in the early 80s.

            3. re: Ashtangi

              I've been to Earl's several times in the west although not lately. Never was particularly impressed. Typical chain restaurant (and extremely noisy). Maybe they've changed.

            4. No, they haven't changed.

              This is not good news. I wonder if they'll survive. The food is okay, the drink list is okay, and the bill is always a lot higher than I think it'll be. They're going to have to do something about their pricing scheme/value if they're going to survive, unless they head to the suburbs maybe (?).

              6 Replies
              1. re: littlegreenpea

                How would they compare to a Milestones or Montanas? It has been at least 15 years since I have been to an Earls but what I remember they were not that dissimilar.

                1. re: OnDaGo

                  Maybe I've just had luck, but everytime I've been there I've been somewhat impressed. Now I only stick to a few items - like the Californian pizza, the clam chowder, the salmon salad and whatnot, but I've always enjoyed it far more than Milestones or the other chain restaurants.

                  1. re: Ashtangi

                    While it's not my preference, the food isn't bad in and of itself. Like I said, the bill always astounds me. It's quite popular out west here, and I always just chalked it up to a city/region without much competition for good food. [hint: I'm not in Vancouver, :-)

                  2. re: OnDaGo

                    You're right. It's probably quite like Milestones in atmosphere, except I think Earl's tries to be a bit trendier.

                    1. re: littlegreenpea

                      Having lived in Winnipeg for 5 years, and having spent far too much time after work socializing at various Earl's establishments in that city, I'd say it's like Milestones crossed with Hooters.

                      The /only/ reason "the guys" went there was simply because the waitstaff were uniformly gorgeous - it was rumoured around town that the official hiring policy was to recruit from modeling agencies, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was true. Sort of a cloned skinny blond thing, usually.

                      The food was acceptable, sometimes downright tasty, definitely aspiring towards the trendy end of things, but not always succeeding. The beer selection was decent, and drink specials from time to time were good. For Winnipeg, Earl's was actually pretty fancy, and managed to attract a mixed, moneyed crowd notwithstanding the hooterization - there was little competition in this niche, as suggested by another poster. The ex-Winnipegers I know all miss Earls, and they all think it would probably do well in Toronto, at least in the suburbs.

                      1. re: gimel

                        That's the best way to put it, like Milestones crossed with Hooters. I was going to try to put it across in such a way in a previous post, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. You hit the nail on the head.

                2. Earl's is a popular chain in Western Canada that has inspired many successful concepts. I think that the theme restaurants currently offered in the GTA will feel their arrivial to the scene. Usually a fun place to hang out at.

                  1. I was just in Winnipeg and was pleasantly suprised, though I think that the comparison to hooter's is unfounded. Yeah, they CLEARLY higher a "certain" type of wait staff, but this is a pretty column policy at many trendy places. Very much a Milestone's type place. Last time I was there, the serving personnel was in fact very similar to Earl's

                    I posted a review on the Western Canada board which I'll just paste here for reference (to look at the full post go to http://www.chowhound.com/topics/435122, which is very long and includes reviews of 8 or 10 places I visited):

                    Earl’s on Main. I am not a big fan of the “box” restaurants that seem to have taken over the city (i.e. Winnipeg), Earl’s being one of the biggest, along with the Keg. But….after the lunch I had last week on the patio I really have little to complain about. I was on an expense account for this meal, and ordered the curry planked salmon ($17.99) with the curry sauce on the side: probably some glop with too much curry powder, I thought. Shame on me. The salmon was moist, almost perfect, served on light garlic mashed potatoes, with roasted carrots and beets (!!!). Roasted beets are always a nice surprise and these were small, scrumptious, with a nice give to the tooth. But the curry sauce made the meal! It was a gentle balance of coconut, fish sauce and curry , and a real testament to how multi-cultural Canada has really become if a place like Earl’s is willing to serve fish sauce based sauces to lunching businessmen on the prairies! Honestly, I was surprised at how nicely it tied the entire meal together and would go back for it. HIghly recommended.

                    1. Earl's is opening it's first Ontario location at the redeveloped Don Mills Shopping Centre at Don Mills & Lawrence.......... Square One is on the list of possibilities and they are searching for a flagship in downtown TO still.......... our company does their real estate.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: brunchengagementparty

                        The GTA can seemingly support an infinite number of mainstream chain restaurants (Outback, Kelsey's, Jack Astor's, Milestone's, Philthy's, Alice Fazooli's, Pickle Barrel etc.). Earl's is no worse than any of these, and as others have pointed out, their menu and ambience veer a little more to the trendy side than some of the existing places. I've seen the menu change pretty regularly too, which is always nice.

                        1. re: egon61

                          I'd like to see Cactus Club Cafe come here from out west. For those that don't know it's one of Earl's competitor chains out west and likely much better (I say 'likely' as I've never been to an Earl's but I have been to CCC). Think Milestone's but MUCH better.

                          1. re: magic

                            Cactus Club and Joeys Global Grill are/were owned by the Earls group or members of the Earls group....

                            1. re: robgm

                              Oh yeah? That's surprising considering the supposed quality difference. Good to know.

                        2. re: brunchengagementparty

                          But Earls at Square One opened in April (Official opening July 31)

                        3. Anyone been to Square One lately? It's been at least 6 months since they started renovating that space - I imagine they must be close to opening.

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: Ashtangi

                            You want a chain? Go to McDonald's.

                            Seriously, I don't know why any "chowhound type" would ever set foot in a place like earl's unless out of necessity (i.e. non-foodie friends influence). There are hundreds of better restaurants in Toronto where you'll pay less for waaaaay better quality. If you want trendy atmosphere, there are hundreds of better bars. I used to live in Calgary and people would flock to the place for exotic fare such as "pesto chicken" and "mediterranean salmon" or whatever. They've probably thrown curry into the mix now.

                            Sadly, I predict success for a place like Earl's. A step up for the Keg/Milestones/Red lobster etc. crowd. Where is square one?

                            1. re: grandgourmand

                              Square One is a giant mall in Mississauga, at Hurontario and Burnhamthorpe. The restaurant had not opened when I was there in December.

                              Personally I'm glad that it's coming out here... yeah, it's not the most exciting or the best value, but not all of us are graced with exclusively having adventurous gourmands as friends. For a fun meal out with picky eaters, Earl's is not bad at all... decent-to-pretty good food at decent prices, drink specials, and better than pretty much anything you'll find in a mall food court. They have great fries too, if I remember right.

                              I'd say that it's a step down from Keg & Milestones though. You're not going to get prime rib at Earl's. I haven't been to Red Lobster since I was young enough to get the 'treasure chest' after the meal, so I'm not sure about that.

                              But yes, I think I DID see curry on the menu when I was back out West this summer! Or at least satay.

                              1. re: CuriousCat

                                I don't think picky eaters are restricted to chains. Just about any restaurant in toronto serves at least a chicken breast or steak main. he/she can order the latter well done all they want. I'm graced with having picky friends that don't require chain restaurants. If they did, they wouldn't be my friend.

                                I was joking about the Red Lobster, thing though. I admit it's worse than Earl's. By a long shot.

                                1. re: grandgourmand

                                  Re: Red Lobster... thank goodness, I was thinking maybe all that Albino Pale Ale had burned off my tastebuds! ;)

                                  To be fair, my Earls excursions happen mostly in Calgary when a bunch of downtown workers were getting together for dinner... it's central and doesn't require travel or thought. (Hey, I *tried* to get them to go to different places, but I was outnumbered 4-to-1 and I'm not going to twist the arm of the sweet old lady I used to work with.)

                                  When you're in a city with a decent transit system, the choices open up. Definitely wouldn't make a special trip just to eat there though, esp. not all the way to Mississauga. Still, it's better than Kelsey's.

                                  1. re: CuriousCat

                                    "better than kelsey's"...that sums it up.

                                    anyhow, when in a tight spot on restaurant selection, that's when you pull the old: "would love to, but i got food poisoning there once"

                                    1. re: grandgourmand

                                      Haha! Perfect, I'll have to remember that one!

                              2. re: grandgourmand

                                *shrug*, some of my favorite dishes are at Milestones. Chains are fine if you know what you're getting into.

                                1. re: winder99

                                  CityTV just did a story on calory counts for meals a high end chains.. the Turkey club at Milestones came out to 1,800 calories if memory serves right and the asian ribs at the Keg came to 2,800...

                                  1. re: OnDaGo

                                    thats.. scary but not surprising at all.

                                2. re: grandgourmand

                                  personally i welcome earl's. just another big box resto in toronto and (for me) another option when i have a picky eater crowd. but what is a "chowhound type" anyway? i always thought it was someone who loves to eat delicious food. your 'delicious' is different than mine so that is kind of a harsh statement.

                                  1. re: rayrayray

                                    "chowhound type" = i agree with your definition. don't think earl's serves delicious food.

                                    as far as being harsh, though, it's just my opinion and no more harsh than any of the hundreds of different views expressed on this site over who serves the best burger, what'd you think of restaurant XYZ, etc, etc.

                                    if you enjoy earls, godspeed to you. i just lament the fact that we're getting another chain.

                              3. Can't say that I'm excited or that I care. I have been to the new earls in Winnipeg and I must say it is one of the nicest chain restaurant Ive ever seen. It really is beautiful! But the food is soooo mediocre and unexciting and I would not make a trip to the suburbs for it. It is one of the better chains in the west though.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: mlukan

                                  Accidentally happened into an Earls on a recent vacation to Colarado.
                                  It was the grand opening< never heard of one before.
                                  staff were friendly (in flapper outfits)
                                  Was not "floored" by the food , enjoyed not being dissappointed.

                                2. Just had a taste test last night. we had 4 drinks - viva diva martini - that was good
                                  a margarita i cant remember, becks pints and a red wine.
                                  the food menu was alright. some thai inspired dishes, stir fry wasnt great. the salmon wit mashed potatoes was good. and the cheddar beef burger was good.
                                  the dessert was a cocunut dish, which was tasty.
                                  free food tastes better!

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: pizzahutnik

                                    Do you know when opening day is?

                                    1. re: chai

                                      it's already open...opened now for a few months...worth checking out! i love their dry ribs! especially goes well with beer! haha

                                  2. I saw "Earls" on an episode of Chef At Large

                                    I thought this was a steak house? :(

                                    What do they specialize in? I always enjoy trying new steaks

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: duckdown

                                      in winnipeg, they specialize in superhot waiting staff and hostesses.
                                      otherwise, the food is like a good version of Kelseys

                                    2. baaaaaahhhh...next thing you know, Joey's and Cactus Club will be moving eastward too. i moved out to calgary last fall and have been subject to the west-coast chains' cleavage-ladened waitstaff. perhaps that's why my guy friends love earls/the met/joeys...

                                      i do have friends who enjoy chain restaurants because they know exactly what they're getting, but i cannot bring myself to spend $50 on pre-fab food, especially b/c my background in the food industry, i just can't get myself to pay for food that i eat 5-days a week as a part of my food development job.

                                      as for the comments on the calorie count at chain restos - it won't be any better at a top-notch resto if you're ordering anything with a cream sauce. fat and salt makes the world go round and food taste good.