Barberian’s Steak House – Toronto
When Harry Barberian (age 71) died following complications of a surgery, the entire Toronto restaurant community mourned. Harry founded his eponymous steak house in 1959 and managed it until his death, attracting (artists, city, provincial, federal and international) politicians and steak-loving diners to his now legendary institution.
Toronto had some very fine restaurants that were once famous, but have closed their doors long ago, i.e Fenton’s, Winston’s, and many others. However, there are still some very fine modern restaurants in Toronto catering to a completely different clientele. It takes a long time, maybe 20 or 30 years for a restaurant to become an institution, and Barberian’s is certainly one. Barberian’s catered to thousands of hockey fans that came to town to watch games in the Maple Leaf Gardens.
After his death, his son took over and expanded the restaurant with an innovative wine cellar that contains thousands of bottles of fine wines. A corner in this monumental wine cellar has been set up for small parties (up to 20) for extensive dinners, and enjoyment of fine wines.
In 1980’s if you wanted to dine there were two choices – steak houses, or hotel dining rooms featuring pseudo-French provincial, not Provencal cuisine.
Some of the steak houses of the time are still in business (Tom John’s, Carman’s Club, House of Chan, and George Bigliardi) and many new American chain steak house establishments that serve slabs of meat. They even have the temerity to charge for vegetables and potatoes separately.
Barberian’s steaks have always been well aged, tender and cooked to your specifications. The menu is short and consists of staples that the dining-out public of a certain age likes. When his son took over, he expanded the wine list offering literally hundreds of well-selected wines, and later introduced proper steak knives replacing serrated versions that tear the steak rather than cut.
The small restaurant is tastefully decorated, appropriately illuminated and offers quiet, attentive professional service provided by long-time waiters.
In 1970’s and 1980’s when people patronized dinging rooms, they got what at the time food and beverage managers’ thought was haute cuisine but at steak houses they were served food that they understood and appreciated.
Harry Barberian consistently delivered high-quality juicy, and flavourful steaks. His son continues to manage the legendary institution on Elm Street, just two minutes walk form the Dundas and Yonge Streets subway station.