In 1951, the Spring Garden Public Library went into operation; Brothers began smoking meat and prime minister Louis St. Laurent’s government had just increased the “old-age pension.” There was no Tim Hortons, no Macdonald Bridge. But seniors near the Northwest Arm could spend their increase at a modest little eatery called the Armview.
For most of its years, brothers George and Charlie Tsuluhas owned the Armview; recently the reins were passed along to George’s son Peter. Along with partners George Kapetanakis and Billy Nikolaou, the new owners are preparing to usher the Armview into the next 50 years.
I drop by after the renovation to see if homage has been duly paid to history, and indeed it has. The interior instantly evokes “classic diner,” but with modern touches. One side of the restaurant is a lounge with a glassed-in smoking area, the other side a comfy neighbourhood eatery with booths lining the walls and stools at the counter.
The menu is a mix of old-style comfort food (liver and onions, pan-fried haddock), modern updates (portobello mushroom burger) and Greek and Italian favourites (lasagna, lamb, souvlakia), reflecting the expanding tastes of diners while keeping with the tried-and-true. I note with interest the expanded wine list and drinks menu, another indication of the updated direction the new owners are taking the Armview.
We choose breakfast and a burger, comfort fare. There are certainly cheaper breakfasts than the all-day “Big Armview” ($7), but certainly not many bigger. This monster plate comes loaded with three eggs, hash browns, three slices of toast and pork well represented in the form of sausages, ham and bacon. The hash browns are well seasoned, there is no excess grease on the meat and the toast is hot. Eggs are cooked a little longer than the requested over easy, but they’re still delicious.
The Dingle Tower Burger ($10.50) is a double beef patty with cheese, tomato, lettuce, garlic mayo and a dill pickle quarter, teetering on the plate next to a pile of fries and some coleslaw. The patties, I am pleased to report, are not the prefab burgers that abound today, but rustic, hand-shaped, real ground beef patties. I can taste the garlic the next day (which I think is a good thing, but some may not agree). The french fries are the pseudo-handcut fries, the frozen ones with the skin on, but they’ve been fried golden brown and aren’t too bad, and the coleslaw is fresh and crunchy.
The milkshakes are reminiscent of an old-school malted shake, thinner than the thick shakes we’re used to from fast food places, but every bit as rich and satisfying.
Service certainly harks back to the day when the customer was king—we’re greeted with warmth, tended to with sincere interest and thanked when we leave. The swinging doors to the kitchen open long enough for me to hear a voice from inside asking about another table—“Are they enjoying it?”—and the affirmative response from the waiter.
Longevity in this industry is rare, and must be considered an accomplishment. Another achievement to be commended is the new owners’ success in bridging the old and new, moving the Armview into the present while not losing sight of its storied past. I raise my milkshake glass in a toast to the Armview—here’s to another 50 years.
Armview Restaurant and Lounge7156 Chebucto Road 455-4395 Mon-Thu 8:30am-10pm, Fri-Sun 8:30am-11pm
A toast, to the web. More Liz Feltham reviews online at www.foodcritic.ca