Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Coffee Mill in Toronto grinds to a halt

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This has been a rough week when it comes to the topic of loss. First, the death of the incomparable legend, often acerbic, sometimes offensive but always hilarious, Ms. Joan Rivers. And now, on a lesser scale but still important from a food perspective, Toronto - specifically Yorkville, is saying goodbye to another venerable food institution - the Coffee Mill.

Now please forgive me for comparing a restaurant to a comedy legend, but the Coffee Mill, like Joan Rivers, was special and one of a kind. It was an iconic eatery for the city, and it is truly sad to see it close its doors for good.

The first time I went there was about ten years ago, after a job interview. My future boss and I decided to go there for a post-interview lunch. I remember her asking me if I liked schnitzel and my answer was to grab my coat and run to the restaurant! Needless to say, I got the job and the Coffee Mill became our place to eat, discuss business and enjoy the best schnitzel in town.

The restaurant was and remained fairly nondescript. It had wooden chairs, very small tables - not cozy, but comfortable, and every time we visited at lunch it was crowded with people.

The schnitzel was always perfect. Always. The side of mashed potatoes were buttery soft and creamy. And the German chocolate cake we had for dessert was the perfect ending to a great meal.

My last visit was about seven years ago. I went there on a rainy evening with my partner, both of us huddled under an umbrella as it poured rain as we made our way to the restaurant. It was only about a quarter full when we got there, but the atmosphere was wamm and the food was still as delicious as it was when I first visited.

The restaurant has been an integral part of the Yorkville 'scene' since its opening in 1963. It was, for a time - THE place to eat and be seen. As time goes on, restaurants usually have to keep up with change or fall behind. The food and decor never changed at the Coffee Mill to our benefit, but the clientelle did. They moved on to more fashionable digs, but for over fifty years the Coffee Mill retained it's old school charm.

It had been a while since I've returned. I moved away from the city but it would be on my mind. When I strolled through Yorkville on visits to Toronto, I would always walk past and say to myself "ok Steve, you have to go back to the mill and get some schnitzel one day." I'm sorry I didn't return for one last time. I'm really going to miss it when it's gone.

Thank you to owner Martha Von Heczey, for your time and service with the Coffee Mill. It will always remain a place for great memories and food.

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