Carman’s steak house closes for the summer
Carman’s—the ivy-shrouded steak house in the gay village—is closing its doors for three months starting in June. The closure piqued our interest for two reasons: it was announced via radio, and it comes in the middle of the restaurant’s 50th anniversary year. We spoke with one staff member, who said the place has previously shuttered during the summer months and assured us that the scheduled closure isn’t recession-driven—it is meant to “give everyone a break.” Further phone inquiries were met with suspicion and more than one hang-up.
The steak house and former club, where most mains are priced above $50, is a bit of an anomaly in its neighbourhood and on the Toronto dining scene. Carman’s golden age was back in the ’60s and ’70s—a heyday memorialized on the menus with grainy photos of Nat King Cole and Lorne Greene posing with then-youthful owner Arthur Carman (who, after 50 years, still runs the place). As a hard-working young chef, Arthur opened the restaurant at its current Alexander Street location in 1959. Accolades from local and American publications poured in. It was one of the few spots in the city that stayed open after theatre performances, attracting a late-night but sophisticated crowd. Toronto Life food writer James Chatto described his dinner as a “delicious, garlic-rubbed, charcoal-broiled strip loin” when he dined there in 1977.
Recently, though, customers’ reviews of the carnivorous cuisine have been mixed, and diners have headed elsewhere for their beef fix, leaving the Victorian-style steak house more a relic of better days amid an ever-changing neighbourhood. Here’s hoping the nostalgic steak house that survived for half a century can get its act together and reclaim some of its former glory when it reopens in the fall.