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Villain: Restaurant Makeover

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains of 2007––the people, places, and things that we’ve either fallen head over heels in love with or developed uncontrollable rage towards over the past twelve months. Get your dose, starting Boxing Day and running into the new year, three times a day––sunrise, noon, and sunset.
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Now in its fourth season, Food Network Canada’s Restaurant Makeover—wherein both established and struggling restaurants are overhauled with a prohibitively limited budget and time—is still riding strong on their adopted mandate of putting Toronto restaurants out of business instead of picking it up for them. Even if you’ve never caught an episode of this somewhat entertaining garbage can of a show, you’re no doubt aware of its dubious reputation as the kiss of death for most any establishment it touches (Taste T.O. even recommends playing “Restaurant Makeover Deathwatch” with your food-nerd friends). Since its inception, we’ve seen the post-makeover demise of Jeremiah Bullfrog’s on Queen, Oasis on College, Innocenti on King, Via Oliveto in the Annex, Lüb on Church, Eduardo’s (formerly Latitude) on Harbord, and Mississauga’s Rubicon Grill (to name a few). Some before the episode even makes it to air.
Add to that the recent closure of The Office at Islington and Bloor, widely recognized as one of the first sports bars in the city, after its makeover only succeeded in alienating what regulars it had left (middle-aged sports dudes just don’t need brie nachos or sandwich breads they can’t pronounce). Le Cafe Vert on Queen East reportedly completed their makeover and re-renovated to undo the changes. Grapefruit Moon threatened legal action and accused the show of crafting their makeover into a ratings-grabbing “Shocker Episode.” (From Torontobrunch.com: “Her requests to keep the aura of the original place were ignored as the show painted over the exposed brick wall with a metallic silver and the new equipment was not ready by the completion date.”) Even Massimo’s pizza—named by Torontoist, a leading source in pizza criticism, to be the greatest delivery pizza in the city—has suffered from its makeover.
We couldn’t be luckier that this nationwide show with such a high fail rate films the the large majority of its episodes in our city. Though to be fair, the shelf life of a Toronto restaurant is negligible to begin with, so for already struggling establishments, there isn’t much that can keep them in business. Either way––note to Toronto restaurants: Don’t do it! It’s a trap!
Photo of Church’s Bulldog Cafe by beenbair from Flickr.

CORRECTION: JANUARY 2, 2008
This article originally claimed that the Living Well Cafe on Yonge was one of the restaurants that was renovated for Restaurant Makeover. It was not. Torontoist sincerely apologizes for the error.

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