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Sep 9, 2012 11:41 AM

Toronto Kosher Restaurants

It is my observation that the average life expectancy of any kosher family restaurant in Toronto is about five years or less. Why should this be? I' m excluding Pizza and Hamburger joints as these are not really places for a quiet, relaxing meal. Does the same situation exist in your city or not? What are restaurant owners in Toronto doing wrong?

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  1. The average restaurant fails within its first year. It's a hard business. If anything it sounds like Toronto restaurants are doing something right to last 5 years.

    3 Replies
    1. re: avitrek

      Any new places or places of note to recommend?

      1. re: whitewater

        Casual Israeli hummus place called Saluf. North of 7, West of Dufferin.

        1. re: mamaleh

          We've been enjoying Saluf. It tends to be less crowded than Dr. Laffa, but the menu is similar. The Morrocan salmon and chicken kebobs are great.

          Glatt Express, in the shops of the Promenade, has good take-out pad thai, curry and shawarma. The prices are surprisingly low - only $8.99 for a huge shawarma luffa.

    2. I agree with you, Doctormhl1. I visit family in Toronto at least twice a year, and I find it amazing that there are almost no family restaurants around despite the size of the community. They don't even seem to have a fighting chance. As far as I know, the only meat one currently open is Marron which has very limited seating and the only dairy one is Bistro Grande (and possibly Milk 'n Honey). Marky's was kind of middle ground for a long time, and that one did last multiple generations but recently closed its doors. Toronto is a "foodie" city and ethnically diverse, and there really should be more exciting options. My husband's theory is that the demographics are changing, and kashrut observant families are having more children and cannot afford to patronize these restaurants on a regular basis. They only dine out on special occasions, but will order take away or fast food more frequently - Tov Li and Dr. Laffa are busy almost any time of day. I hope Marron can make a go of things. They seem to have a solid business model with a limited menu varying in price and appeal to the local non kosher keeping clientele, and good control over their seating and food inventory. I think real sit down kosher restaurants in Toronto need to appeal to the general public and just happen to be kosher. That means meeting some very high expectations given the quality of non-kosher options in the city, and competing with establishments that are open 7 days a week. I know that some of the kosher restaurants in LA try to make up lost days for Jewish holidays and Shabbat with catering revenue.

      6 Replies
      1. re: mamaleh

        What do you mean by "family restaurant"? To me that term means a place where the family can go and sit down to a decent meal, and doesn't Toronto have several such options? Chicken Nest, for instance; isn't that still around? Last time I was there, albeit a few years ago, it seemed to be just such a restaurant, and while the food wouldn't win any awards it was decent. So has it closed recently, or do you mean something else?

        1. re: zsero

          Chicken Nest may fit the bill for some.

          1. re: mamaleh

            There is also Dairy Treats, which always seem to be packed. There do seem to be more options in Thornhill.

            1. re: njkosher

              Might be just my definition of a family restaurant, but to me Chicken Nest feels like a diner and Dairy Treats is a cafe. I think Toronto is lacking options where Bubbie and Zaidie can take their baal tshuva children and well behaved grandchildren out for a good meal in a proper casual dining bistro or restaurant environment without feeling like they are compromising quality or service for kashrut. There are plenty of non-kosher family oriented restaurants like this in Toronto specialuzing in Chinese, Greek, Indian and Italian cuisines. Even a steak house would do.

              1. re: mamaleh

                "Chicken Nest feels like a diner and Dairy Treats is a cafe. "

                Yes, that's exactly right. But aren't those types of restaurants? As I suspected, we're ascribing different meanings to "family restaurant". To me a diner or cafe is the epitome of the family restaurant. It's where you take the family for a relaxed meal together, where the food, decor, and service are nothing special but decent, and so don't distract from the company and conversation.

                1. re: zsero

                  I think if you're looking for "fine dining", Marron may be the closest thing that you have now, and I thought it was very good when i went several years ago. Perhaps Bistro Grande might work, but I have never been there.
                  All the other restaurants, I would think fit the bill for family dining.

      2. If it's going to succeed, a kosher restaurant that is more than fast food needs to appeal to customers that aren't kosher as well. People won't pay more for less quality when they have a choice.

        Dr. Laffa succeeds because it appeals to those who want authentic Middle Eastern (and specifically Iraqi/Israeli) food, and it gets plenty of Israelis who don't keep kosher. While there are other Middle Eastern places, you can't find that many that bake their own fresh laffa, or that make sabich sandwiches, or that have amba available.

        Some kosher restaurants try to be all things to all people (no, sushi doesn't need to be on the menu in pizza joints or steakhouses), and end up pleasing no one.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JRKyummy

          If Dr. Laffa is authentic anything or good- even acceptable - then I can claim that I am the rightful claimant to the Polish throne.
          Special mention of the conveyor belt laffa on Bathurst St, which is good for wiping tables.
          Ba Li is a pleasant meal and the salads are quite good for outside Israel.

        2. I had a great dining experience at Ba Li Laffa on Moztei Shabbat. We were a group of parents, grandparents and young children. Atmosphere is Israeli bistro casual and food was very good and reasonably priced. Parents were able to enjoy good food and a glass of wine from the bar with dinner, and noise level at our table was perfectly acceptable for the environment. Wishing Ba Li Laffa hatzlacha!

          1. We just tried Marron, and it far exceeded our expectations. It's good by any standards - not just good-for-a-kosher-place. It's definitely fine-dining as opposed to family dining.

            Ba-Li Laffa is decent. The laffa is better at Dr. Laffa, but the ambiance is better at Ba-Li Laffa.