Address: 463 Church St.
Hours: 12:00pm – 3:00pm, 5:00pm – 12:00am
Dinner for 2 w/tax & tip: $150
**** (out of five)
“I’ve been in this business for a long, long time,” George Bigliardi tells me in the kitchen of his Church Street steak house. “Years ago people used to go to Buffalo to eat. There were only three hotels where you could get a good meal — the King Eddy, the Royal York and the Benvenuto. That’s all.
“Things have changed,” he adds, “but they’ve changed for the better.”
Things have certainly changed in the neighbourhood around George’s restaurant since he opened in 1977. Church and Wellesley evolved, becoming one of the most prominent gay neighbourhoods in North America, while George saw a sizable chunk of his clientele disappear when Maple Leaf Gardens closed and the CBC moved to Front Street. The phrase often used to describe Bigliardi’s is “old school,” but it fits, from the autographed pictures in the hallway to the dark wood panelling and the lovely pieces of architectural salvage around the dining room, artifacts of an even earlier age of Toronto dining.
The star of it all, though, is the steak, which is as it should be. George enthusiastically talks about his product, and the no-nonsense way it has to be treated.
“When customers invite me to a barbecue, they keep playing with the steak. They keep turning it and turning it. You cook one side, then the other. It takes about 10 minutes to cook a steak ... A little salt or garlic salt is our only seasoning.”
A lot has changed since George opened his place, but the primal appeal of a good steak is something that abides, and deserves to be housed with dignity and respect.