This was our second visit to the hard-to-miss Senator Restaurant next to Yonge and Dundas. This appears to be one of the oldest establishments in Toronto and quite a place to experience.
APPEARANCE & NOSE
A massive mural ad on the side wall from the street was noticeable from afar. The front of the restaurant was also hard to miss with a neon blade sign and a front-lit 3D typographic sign proudly spelling Senator. The typeface used was cursive with a sense of age, very much fitting the theme here. On the inside, we immediately noticed the unique booth arrangements along the wall adorned in brown leather. These seating spots created a somewhat intimate option in an otherwise crowded restaurant even though the separators were not tall at all. The muted warm dark wood, dim lighting, voices humming, mirrors lining the walls…missing a jazz band and a thick cigar smoke to fully take us back to the 30s or so.
SWIRL & PALATE
We chatted up our waitress to find out some of her favorite dishes. Our choices were their Stuffed Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes and Fusilli with Veggies. After ordering, we read up on the Senator's history from the back of the menu. While 249 Victoria site has been utilized since 1860s, the original name was Busy Bee. The restaurant became known as Senator only after the war.
Meatloaf never made it to our table...we got the Senator burger delivered instead. We did not particularly mind and were kind of short on time, so no hard feelings there. For the burger itself, we found that the patty had great texture and spices, definitely freshly made which made a big difference for us. However the meat was quite thick with some pink in the middle. A side of pickles, caramelized onion, a big tomato slice and a lettuce leaf were organized around, to finalize the burger. As a side, we had thinly cut, well salted salty fries which was a well-balanced addition. This burger was worthwhile to try and served at a reasonable price.
We did enjoy having a Dijon mustard bottle on our table, which we think consistently makes for a great condiment.
The pasta arrived with plenty of oil, grilled zucchini, tomatoes, slightly dried spinach and some parmesan on top (which was not the highest quality unfortunately). Fusilli did turn out to be a heavy, filling dish compared to what we expected by the description, but very pleasant nonetheless.
To top the meal off, we had some of their Amsterdam Downtown Brown Ale on tap - an easy going option. A curious detail was that no two glasses matched on our table, all seemed to be from different collections.
With all the business around, we kind of thought that Busy Bee, while being decisively less classy, could still be a good name to describe the atmosphere around. It was akin a proper food place for us, especially considering we were heading to see a play right after. Senator made us feel different in a good way. With all the indie places and trendy cafes on every corner, there is a still a tasty piece of history waiting for you right in the heart of Toronto.