Senator Restaurant
By YP Contributor

A Storied History for Patrons and Servers

When Senator manager Allen Gottschalk started working at the famed diner in 1985, he never imagined it would turn into his lifelong career. Having just graduated with a degree in architecture, Allen intended to work at the diner until his career was in order. While he did work at a firm for a time, the direction in his life shifted when he realized how happy he was working at the Senator.

“I didn’t know it would be like this,” he says. “As time went on it was just amazing. It’s like one big family here. And that’s the key.”

It seems the historic diner has that effect on people—both for those who work there and the generations of returning customers. The landmark building has been on Victoria Street since 1860, and has been a diner since 1929.

Originally called Busy Bee Diner, which featured an open kitchen and a simple dining counter, it transformed into the Senator when George Nicolau took over in 1948. Since then, the restaurant has kept the original design and fixtures, which adds to its timeless feel. It’s most recent owner, Bob Sniderman, took ownership of the restaurant in 1984.

It’s like one big family here. And that’s the key. - Allen Gottschalk, manager
Senator Restaurant - Organic Maple, Beef for Burgers from Cumbrae's

Homemade details

The crowd at the Senator ranges from hungry Ryerson students grabbing a snack between classes to theatregoers enjoying a meal before a show at one of the nearby venues; Massey Hall , Ed Mirvish Theatre, and the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre are all within walking distance.

Allen, who manages the diner alongside Anne Hollyer, sees his fair share of regulars, many of whom have been coming for meals since he first started working behind the counter. He credits their loyalty to the high quality of food.

While diners tend of have a reputation for serving standard meals with frozen ingredients, that’s certainly not the case at the Senator. All the dishes—from meatloaf to their popular mac n’ cheese—are made with fresh, high-end ingredients. It doesn’t stop there: the orange juice is freshly squeezed, the baked goods are done in house, and the jam is handmade with love by a woman named Rose, who used to work at the St. Lawrence Market. Little jars of jam and honey are sold by the old-fashioned cash register in front of the restaurant.

Allen calls the style of food “upgraded typical diner food” and the homemade details “little touch ups.” He says that the menu does change from time to time, depending on the chef. For a period of time the menu featured a number of Italian-leaning items, which is a contrast to its current menu, which has more of a smokehouse feel, with items like buttermilk fried chicken, house smoked salmon, and crab cakes.

Senator Restaurant - Organic Maple, Beef for Burgers from Cumbrae's

Full of memories

Despite what’s on the menu, it’s the quality of food that keeps people coming back.

“People want consistency. That’s what they like,” says Allen. “They want to go walk in somewhere and know we’ll be there and know they’ll be getting really good food.”

In his nearly three decades at the Senator, Allen says his favourite part about working there is the people. “There so many memories, it’s unbelievable,” he says. “Old staff always come back to see me. The clients all get to know me. It’s wonderful.”

Senator Restaurant - Organic Maple, Beef for Burgers from Cumbrae's
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