Experience all the charm of these four old fashioned diners

By / Magazine / March 8th, 2017 / 17

With its old-time charm, homey atmosphere and hearty servings of all-American food, the diner’s enduring appeal can be summed up in three words: things made simple. Across the country, Canada’s own greasy spoons, both old and new, evoke nostalgia with retro furnishings, old-school eats and even a few modernized classics.

Wilensky’s Light Lunch

A fixture in Montreal’s hip Mile End neighbourhood since 1932, this quintessentially retro diner, with its pressed tin ceiling, old-school soda fountain (which dispenses homemade colas) and throwback lunch counter, has become something of an institution. Virtually as old as the diner itself is the owners’ famous eponymous special — a grilled sandwich made with all-beef salami and all-beef bologna served on a roll not unlike the kaiser.

Save On Meats

Originally a butcher shop in days of yore, since 2011, the new and sustainable Save On Meats in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside also includes a retail store as well as a diner. The latter, lined with vintage tufted leather swivel bar chairs and exposed brick walls, serves up inspired comfort food that hits the spot — think cheese steak omelette, wild berry stuffed French toast and an Irish Mist Shake (made with Jameson, Baileys, milk and chocolate ice cream) — though Save On Meats’ towering burgers, both meat and vegetarian, remain its most popular attraction.

Zak’s Diner

This 24-hour retro eatery has Ottawans and traveling foodies routinely making a beeline for the Byward Market (and most recently, Kanata where they’ve opened a second location) to indulge in some homespun greasy eats and colossal shakes. Choose from a shot of Baileys, rum or vodka to turn your milkshake into a properly boozy drink, the perfect accompaniment to Zak’s lip-smacking diner fare, which includes a goat cheese chicken sandwich, onion ring poutine and a mac ‘n’ cheese burger (three deep-fried macaroni wedges served atop the house’s cheeseburger).

The Senator

84 years strong, the oldest restaurant in Toronto has mastered the art of comfort food. Riffing on the classics, The Senator’s plentiful menu runs the gamut of flavours, tastes and textures. Case in point: the diner’s namesake burger, topped with strips of crispy bacon; a toasted Western sandwich, with bell peppers toasted on the open flame; and their famous buttermilk fried chicken with country gravy.


Whether poring over the etymology of newly discovered words, researching the latest woodworking technique or tracing the history of the sweater, an avid sense of curiosity guides Katia Jean Paul. That and an insatiable desire to deliberate on the aesthetic pleasures of the world, be it fashion, art, culture, architecture, design, food or travel. While she is a minimalist dresser at heart, she voluntarily lends her palate to every and all experiments of the culinary kind.

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