Heritage and home cooking.
London’s home to some absolutely scrumptious food options, that’s obvious. We’ve got fine dining, an array of different ethnic choices, mom and pop shops galore, and the list goes on.
We’ve seen many great places come and go and, as we outlined earlier in the summer, our new and tasty restaurant list keeps growing. But, what about those gems that have been around for decades? The ones that have stood the test of time and keep the public coming back? We wanted to take a closer look at which restos (BTW: specifically restaurants, London’s oldest bars to come!) in London town have more seasoning than the rest to outline chronologically who has been around the block more than most.
Think you know which establishment takes the old-timey crown? Read on and find out, you may be surprised!
1 – Archie’s Fish and Chips
What Londoner doesn’t have memories from at least one of Archie’s three locations? Having first opened in 1985 at 153 Wharncliffe Rd. S., demand for their unmatched fish and chips grew fast. They quickly added 45 seats and then over time, opened two more locations (1348 Huron St. and 1173 Wellington Rd.) to make even more hungry locals happy.
All there is to say is if you’ve never been, go! Delicious crispiness, homemade tartar, friendly staff, and super cheap beer. Does it get any better?
2 – Michael’s On The Thames
Growing up, Michael’s on the Thames was probably your parents’ favourite restaurant. It was the place they went to celebrate special occasions and eat filet mignon, while leaving you at home with the babysitter and delivery. Sound familiar? Very likely. But, you’re older now and have a penchant for the finer things… and Michael’s has been exactly that since 1983 at their 1 York Street location.
Pick that special occasion in your life, make a reservation, request they put some celebratory message on their outdoor sign, and bask in the deliciousness that is this London staple.
3 – Muldoon’s Pizza
Westmounters, unite! Muldoon’s Pizza has been tossing pies since 1977 at 925 Wonderland Road S. This place is the definition of traditional Italian complete with pizzas coming out on silver platters fit for a wedding cake. When you walk in you’ll feel as though you just stepped into Nonna’s kitchen and yes, it still hasn’t changed a bit.
If you’ve never been, do yourself a big favour because when it comes to classic, Muldoon’s has that on lock.
4 – Marienbad Restaurant
Oh the Marienbad! What a place it is. The building itself (at 122 Carling St.) has history written all over it dating back to 1854 when it housed Josiah Blackburn’s original London Free Press. It then became the Queen’s Hotel in 1871, followed by the Farmer’s Advocate in 1921, and by 1974 the Marienbad hit the scene to “bring a taste of Europe” or to London with hospitality and Chezch comfort food.
If you’ve deprived yourself until now, get to Marienbad fast. Enjoy a foamy glass of Delirium while chowing down on their incredible menu (recommendation: the Wenceslas Cheese plate). And don’t forget to visit Chaucer’s next door!
5 – McDonald’s, Oxford and Wonderland
We know. We know. How dare we put the M-D on a list of independent, local restaurants. But! In our opinion, it’s an interesting piece of Forest City history and also goes to show how many of these London culinary staples have stood the test of time, even in the face of gargantuan chains. For a long time, I thought the 520 Oxford St. W. location was the first McDee’s in Canada.
However, it was the second, having opened in 1968, one year after the first McDonald’s Canada opened in Richmond B.C. Therefore, we have the first in eastern Canada and are certainly one of the last few places you can see the original golden arches. Pretty cool, eh?
6 – Tony’s Famous Italian
Tony’s! You are the best. London has been loving this place at 980 Dundas St. E. since 1961. When you walk in here, you immediately enter a time warp. It looks as though nothing has changed since its creation… and that’s why Tony’s is so wonderful.
Complete with old Chianti-bottle-and-artificial-grape-adorned walls, the only thing more unchanged than the deco are the recipes. Head to Tony’s, order a massive panzerotti or 10 lb pizza, inhale the deliciousness, and then sleep for three days. It’s the only way.
7 – Merla Mae Ice Cream
It wasn’t until 1963 that Nat King Cole told us to “roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” but we’re pretty sure that he was inspired by Merla Mae Ice Cream six years earlier in 1957 when it opened at 1080 Adelaide St. This place is a blast from the past in every capacity. With its pastel, mid-century diner aesthetic, incredible cones, shakes, sundaes, and more, Merla Mae brings out the kid in all of us.
If you grew up in London, you’ve likely spent many a summer evening here and if you’ve never been… get the lead out of your pants and mosey on down, kid.
8 – Budapest Restaurant
Not only is Budapest Restaurant one of the most visually stimulating places in London at 348 Dundas St., it also offers the very best in Hungarian cuisine of which M. Gustave would approve. If the chicken paprikash and Hungarian goulash aren’t quite enough for you, perhaps the live entertainment (in the form of a delightful piano player who looks strikingly like Bill Murray) and velvet drapery will win your heart.
If you’ve never been, here’s what to expect: exceptional service, beautiful surroundings, inexplicably delicious food, and the most boisterous restaurant owner you’ll ever meet. Miss Marika, stealing boyfriends since 1956.
9 – Family Circle Restaurant
Specializing in homestyle breakfasts, Family Circle Restaurant has been filling London tummies since 1955 at their 147 Wellington St. location. With its homey feel, friendly service, and staple diner menu items, Family Circle has a little something for everybody.
It’s reasonable to think that every person in London frequents this place often and if you never have, go, go, go!
10 – Delmar Restaurant
My first love: Delmar Restaurant. This place, operating at its 1677 Dundas St. E. location since 1953, could be supplanted into a North American Diner Museum (… which should exist). It’s the ultimate image of the “1950s Diner” with its orange upholstery, spinney-seat bar dining area, and glass encased single pie slices and Jell-O cubes in sundae cups.
Head to Delmar for the quintessential diner breakfast, or for mama’s home cooking like meat loaf and club sandwiches. Inside Delmar, you can feel the love, the passion, the history, and the many years of happiness it has brought to the Forest City. We’re happy to say, this is the exact restaurant we hoped would be the oldest in the Forest City.
So there you have it London! These may be weekly staples in your life already and if not, get going and taste a bit of London’s history.
Did we miss something? It can happen! Let us know if there’s a local restaurant gem that’s been operating under the same name, at the same location that should be on this list!
Feature photo of early Tony’s delivery via Facebook / @tonysfamousitalian