Spotlight on The Senator!

A familiar red neon sign warms the facade of Toronto’s oldest restaurant, recognizable from almost a block away. The Senator Restaurant, at 249 Victoria Street, is one of Toronto's oldest continuously operating restaurants. 

Originally opened by Robert Angeloff as, The Busy Bee Lunch in the late 1920s, heavily serving the surrounding theatre district of early twentieth-century Toronto. Steps away from Massey Hall and the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres, as well as several other vaudeville stages, The Busy Bee Lunch was one of an increasing number of restaurants in the city aiming to entice audience members to stop in before or after a show for a bite to eat.

​​​​​​​George Nicolau, an entrepreneurial Busy Bee chef, purchased the company in the late 40s and changed the name to The Senator Restaurant in 1948, which it would keep for the next 80 years. In 1949, Nicolau took advantage of the chance to apply for one of Toronto's first liquor licences, turning the lunch counter into a more formal restaurant and giving customers the option of enjoying a drink with its new evening dinner service. George retired in 1962 but the Senator continued to be operated by his family; with Nick, his son, working the stoves and nephew Cecil Djambazis and their wives Merlyn and Triada taking care of the customers, the Senator earned recognition for having the “best egg salad sandwich and coffee” in town.

Looking south on Victoria St. from Dundas St.

Saved and renovated in 1984 by Bobby Sniderman, Son of Sam Sniderman, owner of the famous record store, Sam the Record Man. Bobby expanded the business, opening a hub of The Senator Restaurant at the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls. Sniderman also spearheaded the renovation and reopening of The Senator’s second floor: today known as Top O’The Senator. During the renovation, much of the building’s original 1860s details were uncovered and preserved. Today, the second-floor functions as a private events space as well as venue for live music performances. 

And ever since, the Senator restaurant has evolved to become a dining landmark synonymous with the City of Toronto. The success and reputation of the restaurant has been the result of their commitment to sourcing the finest quality ingredients and making many products in-house. 

Currently closed for take-out, the Senator team continues to do their part in the community - working with Dixon Hall to supply meals for shut-in seniors.

Watch an episode of 2020's Play The Parks On Location at the Senator Piano Bar

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