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Why Some Restaurants Struggle on Toronto’s East Side

Toronto is a divided city; you’re either an east sider or a west sider and never the twain shall meet. Well, it’s not quite so dramatic, but there are definite differences between the two, especially when it comes to dining.

Sure, the east side has its share of excellent and buzz-worthy restaurants – many travel east of the Don Valley just to line up at Lady Marmalade or Bonjour Brioche around brunch-o-clock.

But not everyone enjoys such a charmed existence. Carlos Catallo sees the ups and downs first hand at the County General’s Riverside outpost. While this location is currently for sale, he notes that being for sale is very different than closing.

He does, however, notice clear differences between his restaurant’s two neighbourhoods. Riverside, he says, is much more mellow. “It feels very different, it feels very subdued. You can look out the windows on a Saturday night and see nobody on the street.”

On West Queen West, on the other hand, he sees much more foot traffic as people tend to hop from one place to another on weekends. But, he’s tried to fit his restaurant into the Riverside neighbourhood by offering a mellower atmosphere with quieter music and a more relaxed concept.

La Carnita’s Andrew Richmond echoes that sentiment. “I feel like there’s kind of an untapped market in relation to, or in contrast to, what’s going on in the west end,” he says.

“I think they are definitely very different demographics and you’ll notice that in your sales, you’ll notice that in your customer base, you’ll notice that in what people want and how they dine and how they drink. It is a different world….”

While most customers still consume alcohol he notes, they don’t drink as much and they also don’t stay out as late as those on the west side. Unsurprisingly, he also sees more families at La Carnita East.

These aren’t the only two Toronto chefs who’ve had experience on both sides of the city. Rock Lobster, for instance, popped up briefly in Leslieville before closing last year.

For now, however, Richmond, is looking forward to the incoming developments in Leslieville and Riverside, including the Broadview Hotel. And while his restaurant’s for sale, Catallo’s still making a go of it in Riverside too.

Photo by Jesse Milns.

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