Toronto restaurants are lucky to make it to the three year mark. To make it to 20 years is a rarity, but 50? This is cause for celebration.
Bardi’s Steak House is situated on York Street just north of Front, on a block designated historic. With the Royal York across the street, and the convention center, Rogers Centre and ACC within walking distance, diners are a mix of regular clientele, bankers and brokers from the Financial District, and tourists and folks in the area for nearby games and events.
The restaurant opened their doors in 1966 under Philip Bardwell, who was called Bardi’s for short and since Sardi’s in NYC was popular, he thought it was a good association. Alex Manikas came on board in 1976 as an investor, but got caught up in the romance of the business. That was 40 years ago. Now he owns the place.
The restaurant is filled with history – original song sheets from the 1920s and 1930s hang in the main dining room. Even the frames are old.
Alex describes it as "We are an old-school New York steak house. We are not pretentious. We are what we are. We make no excuses for it."
The two level restaurant is more traditional on the main floor, with the second floor more modern, giving people an option of ambiance.
The second floor includes a private dining room for up to 16 guests with marble fireplace and a stunning wine cellar boasting a versatile collection.
The restaurant continues to be primarily a steakhouse focusing on steak. "We are a destination in terms of good quality steaks," Alex says, "We realize they don't eat steak five days a week, so we put a lot of emphasis on this."
Bardi’s steaks differ from many steakhouses:
1. Bardi’s was the first restaurant in Canada to bring Certified Angus Beef from the US in 1993.
"They are superior to begin with, in terms of tenderness and flavor," Alex says. These purebreds have nine to ten characteristics of aging and marbling.” The restaurant now also carries Certified Angus Canadian Beef. All steaks are cut on the premises.
2. They only wet age their steaks.
Alex is "not a big fan of dry aging. For me, it approaches the point of being rancid, and loses a lot of moisture. It’s too gamey to taste."
Bardi’s wet ages their meat for around 45 days. "Everything beyond that doesn't serve any purpose. The benefit of it can get lost."
3. You won’t find wagyu on the menu.
"It's expensive and too rich," Alex says.
4. The whole she-bang.
This is one of the few steakhouses where a side is included with your steak (most offer these items only a la carte). Choose a baked potato, hand cut fries or rice.
The menu is pretty traditional with some signature apps and mains of chicken, salmon and ribs with a BBQ sauce that won top place in a 1986 contest and the recipe remains the same. Another long-standing item - the monster shrimp cocktail has been on the menu since day one. Alex says, "People think it’s lobster."
While other items have been added over time, Alex is quick to say, "We’ve never gone with the trends. I’ve seen a lot of restaurants come and go. People come back."
As fine dining restaurants continue to close their doors and more restaurants adapt a more old school approach to their menus, Bardi’s menu is right on point.
There is also a lot of emphasis on wine. In addition to the well-stocked cellar on the second floor, there are a couple in the basement as well.
The upstairs one is state of the art – climate-controlled, hermetically sealed with low-voltage lights and coated windows to protect the bottles from the dining room lights.
New selections are added every year, but "we have our sources in place," Alex says. And unlike other steakhouses, bottles are not outrageously prices. "We don't take huge markups on wines. I would lose sleep over that. I also tend to age my wine a lot longer so that people are getting their value."
The other standout of the restaurant is the dedication to great service, fromthe time you enter to when you leave.
"I have lots of memories by virtue of repeat business. I pride myself on treating people properly and developing relationships," Alex says.
It’s no wonder there have been proposals and weddings here. One couple that met here years ago on a blind date now comes annually to celebrate their anniversary.
It doesn’t have to be a special occasion for you to come to Bardi’s. But they sure do make it one upon your visit.
Bardi’s Steak House is open for lunch and dinner Monday to Friday, and for dinner only on Saturdays. Take out is also available.
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