What’s on the menu at the Lakeview, the recently revamped 90-year-old Dundas West diner
Including milkshakes, club sandwiches and buckets of fried chicken
Name: The Lakeview
Contact: 1132 Dundas St. W., 416-850-8886, thelakeviewrestaurant.ca, @thelakeviewdiner
Owners: Fadi Hakim, Adrian Montes de Oca, Peter Avenins, Frances Bell and Alexander Sengupta
Chef: Jason Hemi (The Haifa Room)
Fifteen years after the Lakeview’s last renovation, the 90-year-old Dundas West diner was ready for another refresh. To shape the vision for the Lakeview’s next chapter, co-owner Fadi Hakim tapped the team at nearby Milou, bringing on Adrian Montes de Oca and Jalil Boukhari as co-owner and general manager, respectively. “Diners are closing left, right and centre—the style of dining has changed,” says Montes de Oca. “Figuring out how to make a diner fit today’s terms of dining was a bit of a challenge.”
The Lakeview has had several false starts—with different chefs and different menus—since it reopened this April after a brief closure. Jason Hemi, executive chef at the Haifa Room (another restaurant owned by Hakim, located right across the street) now helms the kitchen, reviving the diner’s comfort-food menu with fresh ingredients.
For a restaurant so interwoven into the local community, it’s fitting that the Lakeview’s evolution has been guided by a crew assembled from other neighbourhood restaurants. “It just needed that love and respect that it deserved—and fresh eyes to come in,” says Bokhari. “When faced with such history and a community that’s so driven to preserve it, we really had to listen to what people wanted out of this place.”
They made a few cosmetic upgrades, including a very-much-needed renovation of the washrooms and a more thoughtful menu, but the Lakeview still aims to be the place it’s always been: one where families arriving for an early breakfast feel equally welcome as post-bar crowds in need of a late-night snack.
“It was important for us to maintain those core values,” says Bokhari, “and make it somewhere you can come with your kids and have a milkshake or come for a night out with friends.”
The Lakeview’s new menu, which includes things like disco fries and stacked sandwiches, doesn’t stray far from the standards regulars know and love, but its dedication to fresh ingredients is new. According to Hakim, the kitchen had been relying increasingly on frozen foods over the years. “Now it’s about applying better ingredients and better cooking techniques to the staples that already exist,” Boukhari says.
“Everything is approachable, comfortable and familiar,” says Hemi. “I don’t want to push. I don’t want to alienate anybody or overcomplicate anything—I just want it to be what someone expects it to be.”
Hemi also wanted to lean in to the indulgent dishes diners expect from the Lakeview by making fried chicken a focus. It crowns salads and waffles, gets stuffed into sandwiches and comes straight-up in a big bucket.
“Whimsical plating, diner classics—it’s exciting to have the menu be true to what this place is,” says Hemi. “This is the first step of a larger return to a fun diner, a fun greasy spoon.”
Bokhari wanted to continue serving the budget-friendly beers and decadent milkshakes that Lakeview is known for while also introducing a selection of more sophisticated offerings starting at $12 a glass. Bottles of classic French and natural wines are now on rotation. “I wanted to include wines I can have with my friends who are into wine as well as ones I can have with my mom without her being too weirded out,” says Bokhari.
The cocktail menu emphasizes well-made classics. “The Lakeview is a place where you kind of escape into a different era, so I wanted to have the classic triangle martini glass with pimento-stuffed olives in it, served ice cold,” says Bokhari. “Every drink on the menu is recognizable.”
A draught beer program is in the works, but for now, bottles and cans of stalwarts like Labatt 50 are balanced by offerings from local brewers like Burdock and Longslice, the latter of which the diner has partnered with to create its own Lakeview Pilsner.
Most of the updates made to the 120-seat restaurant are so subtle that Hakim says even regulars can’t spot them—and that’s exactly what the team was going for. “You have to be so careful not to ruin what’s already here,” says Montes de Oca. “We tried to match everything as close as possible so it doesn’t look like it’s only a month old.”
The front- and back-of-house spaces were given what the team describes as “an overdue deep cleaning.” The ceilings were repainted, a new speaker system was added and the lighting was updated. The wallpaper in the main dining area was swapped out for a wall of mirrors, giving more dimension to the room.
“It was really important for us, in a city where so many old establishments are getting torn down or built over, to maintain its integrity,” says Bokhari. “This room has so much history.”
The front façade is still undergoing renovations, with a new takeout window offering soft-serve ice cream and milkshakes in the works for later this summer. The patio is also slated to get a refresh, which will see more greenery added along with new tables.
The updates are ongoing inside as well, where Bokhari says he wants to add design elements that reflect the Lakeview’s legacy in Toronto. “We’ve done so much research on Toronto’s history to find ways to integrate it,” he says. “Eventually, we’re going to put more art on the walls that tells those stories.”