A colleague who has been in the area for over 10 years mentioned that this place really saw the development of Spadina. We were curious to find out what is behind the success of this place.
The tiny storefront did not look promising on passing. A constant flow of people in and out made us more and more tempted to go and check out this lost gem.
Very unpretentious on the outside which is part of Avenue Open Kitchen's undeniable charm. Hand written boards detailing what's on special, cash only sign, vintage furnishings - a throwback in time.
We got a proper seat, but noticed that a lot of folks came for takeout or just sat at the low bar area around the open kitchen. There was a lengthy list of options to choose from and the prices were quite reasonable too. We narrowed our list down on a Montreal Meat Sandwich combo with a Daily Soup plus a Chicken Souvlaki on a Greek Salad. We had to confirm if there is any alcohol was available, but it turned out there are no plans for that due to the lack of space.
We sat waiting for our sandwich and souvlaki while marvelling at the portraits-lined walls. We found out from our waiter (owner's son) that Avenue Open Kitchen has been around for 34 years and counting. We saw portraits of his parents on the wall through time and then saw both of them working the kitchen and cash register. The soup arrived first and was instantly welcomed for its home-made feel. It was definitely not from a can, we felt like our grandmother cooked it. Thick linguini and generous chunks of chicken made a almost perfect match accompanied by diced carrot and celery. The only negative side to it was a bit too salty for our tastes.
Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich came loaded with thinly sliced meat. We noticed a slight herbaceous flavour adding to the overall very enjoyable meal. It was between two thin slices of rye bread. What made the dish for us was a side of home made pickle on the side. When we asked for a second one, it was fished out straight from a vintage metal container in front of our eyes and forked into our plate. Our waiter was no snobby professional, a very down to earth man, we found charm in that. The Chicken Souvlaki came on top of a generous portion of Greek Salad with feta cheese and olives. The grilled chicken, cooked tender and crispy, was thrown other the pile of neatly organized vegetables, as promised, with tzatziki sauce on the side. We have to note that while we appreciated the generous portion, we did find it hard to eat as the plate was not large enough to accommodate for mixing the greens. To top off the experience, we ordered their Rice Pudding. What a delight! Milky, tender, smooth - it was served with a container of cinnamon on the side (for those of us picky about what is the ideal amount). It was just perfect in all ways.
When we were getting ready to pay, we overheard a small conversation that our waiter had with a couple of ladies, leaving. They forgot to take out cash and he simply asked them to sign their names on the bill and come back later. That just happened on Camden, next to Spadina and Richmond. We could not believe our ears about the level of trust expressed here. This kind of approach makes a restaurant experience for us.
To summarize, Avenue Open Kitchen is a clean vintage diner, but calling it just that does not do it justice. It has all the staples: open kitchen with fryers, ancient fridges, furnishings stitched with history, casual chatter instead of music. It also has soul given to it by a Macedonian family from Greece who opened it thirty four years ago. Thank you!