By YP Contributor

Easy Come Easy Go

Strats, as it’s referred to by some long-time Toronto east-enders, is a landmark bar and lounge (with a killer Queen Street-facing patio) in Leslieville. You can still buy a heaping plate of enchiladas for under $10. And although it hasn’t been a live-music venue since the late 1990s, Stratengers still has the Paul McCartney-meets-James Brown vibe it would have had when Dharam Vijh and his brother purchased the former movie theatre in 1989.

The Barenaked Ladies played Stratengers before they hit the big time. Holy Cole once took the stage. But that was before Dharam and his brother saw a future in casual dining. “We were too big for small bands, too small for big bands,” Dharam says, explaining a shift in Toronto’s music scene. The windows were opened, the stage was removed and Stratengers built a menu that would leave customers feeling full – both in the belly and in the wallet – and coming back for more.

All my recipes, right, wrong, good or bad; they’re all mine. - Dharam Vijh, owner
Stratengers, Restaurant and Bar, Family Friendly, Breakfast, Patio

No Confusion Fusion

“I call myself the dollar store of the restaurant business,” Dharam says. “We’re not fancy. Basic food, basic ingredients, nothing spectacular, but homemade.” Pizza, nachos, naan with curry — most recipes he learned from his mother, while other dishes are inspired by the places he and his brother have lived and studied: Italy, Texas and Asia.

But for diners on a limited budget, young families and working-class east-enders, Stratengers is a blessing and a good alternative to Leslieville’s higher-end establishments. “They have to worry about every dollar they spend, so I have to worry about every dollar I take from them,” Dharam says.

Besides, he adds, an empty room doesn’t do anything for anybody. Little-known fact: The name “Stratengers” is completely made up. Dharam says it means nothing, except that it sounds Texan.

Stratengers, Restaurant and Bar, Family Friendly, Breakfast, Patio

Thank You For Smoking

Few things have changed over the years at Stratengers. Enchiladas have been $9.99 since 1999, Dharam could fire up the restaurant’s wood stove for pizza with his eyes closed and regulars don’t even look at the menu before they order. Although smokers, who once enjoyed an upstairs indoor smoking lounge are now sent outdoors due to Ontario laws, Dharam still carries a lighter in his pocket.

Retirement may be looming for Dharma, but he says he’ll likely stay close to the kitchen. “I can teach you how to cook a butter chicken in 10 minutes,” he says with a smile. If you ever find yourself in Leslieville looking to paint the town red on a budget, or enjoy a satisfying home-away-from-home meal in a relaxing, welcoming environment, Stratengers is the way to go.

Stratengers, Restaurant and Bar, Family Friendly, Breakfast, Patio
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