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Donlands Diner grand opening serves up East York identity boost

John Tory, owner Anna and Mary Fragedakis cut the re-opening ribbon -GARY W-P

Mayor John Tory, owner Anna Tsirakidis and Councillor Mary Fragedakis cut the celebratory ribbon -GARY W-P

It was billed as the Grand Re-opening of a Donlands Avenue neighbourhood institution, but the celebration for the new-look Donlands Diner the afternoon of Monday, May 29 also featured a lot of boosterism for the former Borough of East York.

East York boosters Mary Fragedakis & Alan Redway -GARY W-W

East York boosters Mary Fragedakis & Alan Redway -GARY W-W

In addition to Alan Redway (a former MP and mayor of the municipality and member of the new East York Hall of Fame board of directors) and Ward 29 Councillor Mary Fragedakis —described by current City of Toronto Mayor John Tory in his remarks as an ardent advocate for the area at city hall— the throng filling the room heard from East York Historical Society president Pat Barnett and several locals who grew up in the area centred around Donlands Avenue.

The eatery, formerly known as Donlands Restaurant, has been in operation at 417 Donlands Ave. just south of O’Connor for 62 years and counting.  This past October it was taken over by Anna Tsirakidis, daughter of the chef, George Dimitriou, who originally cooked in the room in the 1960s and eventually bought the building.

Anna welcomes crowd as Pat Barnett and John Tory wait to speak. -GARY W-P

Anna welcomes crowd as Pat Barnett and John Tory wait to speak. -GARY W-P

After years of the family renting the space to other owners —including longtime fixture Peter Veras, who retired years ago after running it for more than a quarter century and was happily beaming at the event— Mrs. Tsiradikis came in determined to restore the room, where she spent a lot of childhood hours, to its former glory. This winter she undertook a major renovation to transform it into a retro-modern style living museum of nostalgia for the area and the era of the 1950s-60s.

Walls are adorned by nostalgic graphics of movie and Pop icons and one features photos of the area in bygone days that were secured with the help of the EYHS.  The menu continues to offer favourites from olden times such as open-faced sandwiches and other traditional Canadian-style dishes —including one with two kinds of bacon that the mayor solemnly vowed to order on a return visit!  As our own staff has attested, the eats here are tasty, affordable and satisfying.

Beaming Toula and Sharon with Mayor John Tory -GARY W-P

Beaming Toula and Sharon with Mayor John Tory -GARY W-P

Guests at the event were treated to pre-ceremony light sandwiches and after speeches and a ribbon-cutting (as a gleaming black 1956 Lincoln Continental owned by Anna’s son-in-law sat parked out front) enjoyed a sumptuous selection of items from the restaurant’s kitchen.  Longtime servers Toula and Sharon were kept hopping taking around platters that included chicken and beef skewers, spring rolls, pizza and other lip-smackingly appealing finger foods, all washed down with champagne and topped off by a delicious home-made celebratory layer cake.

The restaurant is open from 7 a.m. till 4 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday and Wednesday through Saturday from 7 till 8 p.m.

-Gary Webb-Proctor

Donlands Diner 029

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