Sources: Toronto Life, April 1971 (left) and August 1975 (right).
Which of the approaches used in today’s ads help determine where you spend your food dollar—the restaurant where the owner employs their children to vouch for the quality of the dining experience, or a simple line drawing of a comfortable-looking setting that promises a break from downtown traffic?
For a contemporary take on these restaurants, we turn to Dining Out in Toronto by Jeremy Brown and Sid Adilman (Toronto, Pagurian Press, 1976). Here is their three-star (out of five) review of Gaston’s:
Gaston Schwalb knows food and promotes it flamboyantly. Inside his cozy Markham Street location, he serves generous portions and a well trained staff. Onion soup is a standout, better here than anywhere else in the city. He has rabbit ragout, delicious and dark, bouillabaisse, frogs’ legs, and excellent pepper steak. Cooking is under the care of experts, but sometimes the restless and fiery Gaston plunges in himself. There is a fixed price till 7:30 p.m., when it takes a sudden jump. If they misfire on a dish, complain bitterly.
Soon after today’s ad appeared, Gaston’s became the first sidewalk cafe in Ontario to legally serve alcohol—within an hour of receiving its license on May 19, 1971, the first drinks were served. Schwalb later pulled in just over 1,200 votes during a mayoral run in 1985 and was a frequently quoted opponent of the city’s smoking ban in restaurants during the mid-1990s.
As for Archibald’s (two stars):
Anne Murray is a regular. When Sam Sniderman (Sam the Record Man) wants to throw a surprise birthday party for his wife Eleanor, the record producer, he throws it at Archibald’s. If you recognize the movers and shakers of the Canadian recording field…you will spot them at Archibald’s. This cozy, Canadian-pine and fusty Victorian portrait-decorated steak house is one of their hangouts. Anne Murray likes it because it is near her house, and she can dine without being pestered for autographs…Nothing is in any way spectacular, but Archibald’s is dependable, warm, and friendly, and its staff is anxious to please. Portions are ample and decently prepared; lighting is a cut above the near darkness plaguing diners at many similar establishments, and a neighbourhood feeling predominates.
Gaston’s now houses Southern Accent (a later incarnation on Baldwin Street, Le Petit Gaston, is now Thai Paradise), while Archibald’s is home to Sado Sushi.
Additional material from the May 20, 1971 edition of the Toronto Star.