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The exterior of the House of Chan restaurant on Eglinton Avenue West (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
The exterior of the House of Chan restaurant on Eglinton Avenue West (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

Goodbyes

A look back at 50 years of the iconic House of Chan Add to ...

I will not say a bad word about the House of Chan. Because it’s like home for me. It is the house. It’s the place I’ve spent a lot of comfortable and good time. If I want the best food in the world, I’ll usually do it on a trip. If I’m in Toronto, I want a comfortable place, good food, and I’m never disappointed at this place: I know it.

– Eddie Greenspan

I think it’s the best wonton soup in the world, and I generally will have the steamed chicken chop suey. I’m on a new health kick. I won’t eat the steak there.

– Barry Avrich

THE SCENE

I hadn't even been to Hollywood yet, and I walked in and it felt like it had the old Hollywood feel to it: the red carpet, the drapes, the booths. I was a struggling, poor student in Toronto in the eighties and I had a close family friend, an uncle, who would come to Toronto on business from Montreal and that was my once-a-month, you know, unbelievable food experience – a meat orgy – going there.

– Barry Avrich, film producer and director

It's an absolute classic, a true “joint,” if you will. The dark room, red pleather booths and the glow of the lobster tank at the back remind me of a great old place in downtown Phoenix named Durant's or even the Hollywood power spot Dan Tana's. I have to say the conundrum of going to a traditional Chinese restaurant owned by a group of local Jewish businessmen with the intent of eating a classic steak-and-lobster dinner still puzzles me, but somehow it adds to the allure.

– Bryan Colangelo, Toronto Raptors president and general manager

It's a fun place, let's put it that way. And the guys, the greeters, the managers? They knew every person who came in, that was a big feature. You could sit down and they'd start serving you, you didn't have to say anything, they knew what kind of drink you took. You don't find that kind of stuff in Toronto much. Other places have transcended it over the years. I mean, let's face it, this is a fifties-based place.

– Allan Offman

Sylvester Stallone came one night in a limo, and all our regular customers are standing around the bar waiting for a table and he says, “Could I have a table for eight?” And Peter says to him, “Well, I'm sorry, you're going to have to wait about ten minutes,” and he says, “Okay, thank you,” and he left. He went down the street.

– Penny Lyons

You know how men sometimes can't hear women speak? It was kind of like that with the waiters there.

– Joanne Kates

It's a place where, if you wanted to be left alone, they left you alone. Some places you walk into, they stare at you to see when the hell you're getting up! But not there! I don't know – everybody's just terrific!

– Mel Lastman, former mayor of Toronto, businessman

Everyone knew everyone. And you work the booths. You come in, you work the booths, and if you were at a booth you were a player. If you were at a table, you were A-list, and if you were in the back room, you were either with a large group or you were the D-list. Years later, I went there frequently with Dusty Cohl, you know, the founder of the Toronto Film Festival, and we would go there all the time, and knew all the players. They knew me, but I wasn't… you know, I wasn't born here, so I wasn't playing the six degrees of Jewish geography every time I walked in.

– Barry Avrich



All interviews have been condensed and edited

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