The Passing of King Fahd

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia died earlier this morning. His half-brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, has been named monarch.

Things could get interesting…


On Assignment

I’m in Toronto on assignment, as it were. Or, rather, as on assignment as a freelancer pursuing his own article can consider to be. If all goes well, I’ll have bagged three interviews this afternoon, with the owners of the Canary Grill, Mars Restaurant and the Liberty Street Cafe. I’m working on an article about long-time restaurants which defy the truism about the three most important elements of a successful business being location, location, location; who have stayed put and prospered as the neighbourhoods around them completely transformed.

It’s the Canary Grill that sparked this article. This restaurant has fascinated me because of its location: at the corner of Front Street and Cherry, where it has tenatiously held on since the 1970s. Back when I was a child growing up in Downtown Toronto, anything west of Yonge Street was rough and tumble, and anything south of King and west of Parliament was wasteland — an impression reinforced by a trip my parents and I took at an impressionable age to Knob Hills Farm at the corner of Cherry and Commissioners, a long way from the TTC and in the middle of the most barren industrial lands that I’d ever seen.

Visiting the Distillery District with สัตว์ใต้ท้องทะเลDan recently, I was struck by how much beauty there is in the area. The industrial buildings that remain are old, and in the case of the Distillery, transformable into a remarkable neighbourhood of lofts, brew pubs, art houses and more. My sense of the neighbourhood now is that of a blank slate. The Distillery District represents the farthest east that urban revitalization from the St. Lawrence neighbourhood has gone. Beyond, the tracks have been taken up; buildings have been knocked down; fields of white gravel and scrub await reconstruction.

And in the middle of all this stands the Canary Grill, in a turn-of-the-century brick building, waiting to see what comes up around it. What stories can the owner tell, I wonder? Well, I’m about to find out.


Update

I’m sitting in the Second Cup at 1 University Avenue, watching the city go by and wondering to myself: where are all the crowds? It’s five in the afternoon; there should be crowds!

Actually, I was wondering about the lack of crowds sooner, when I was impressed how quickly the streetcars made time, unimpeded as they were by traffic, and then it hit me: it was the August Civic Holiday. Which explains why two of my three hoped-for interviews didn’t come through.

I had an excellent lunch and interview with the owners (both old and new) of the Mars Restaurant. Some of the quotes they gave me were pure gold. There’s an excellent story here: the old owner with 48 years of experience in the place (owner for the last 25 years), selling to a recent immigrant from Sri Lanka with a love of the restaurant business, and then sticking around to make sure the new owners know how to keep the old customers happy. I also got a good photograph of the two, which I hope gets used, but probably won’t because (a) I’m not a professional photographer and (b) I don’t have professional equipment. We’ll see.

The Canary Grill was closed when I got there, unfortunately; the result of the August Civic Holiday. It’s a shame that whenever I try to visit, they seem to be closed. However, I did get a good picture of the building. I’ll try to arrange a phone interview of the owners for later this week.

The Liberty Street Bistro owner also called me to cancel because of the holiday. Oh, well. But still, one good interview is good work, and the other two should follow shortly.

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