It’s the kind of place that you walk into and time seems to stand still. Since 1986, the Beacher Café has been a landmark at the corner of McLean and Queen Street East. You’ll see it drawn on a city mural at the Toronto Convention Centre, and read about it in the Lonely Planet. It has the atmosphere of a place like the old TV show, “Cheers” — a place you can go to, “where everyone knows your name.”
The restaurant was purchased by Peter Martineau in 1999, and for most of the past almost 20 years, owned and operated by Peter and his wife, Kumiko. They actually met in the restaurant!
“I was a student visiting Canada from Japan,” says Kumiko, ”I walked into the restaurant and Peter served my friends and me.”
Peter also remembers that day; he even remembers the table where they sat, “table 61”.
As Peter recalls, he certainly didn’t make an impression as a waiter on Kumiko. Accustomed to a much more formal approach in Japan, Kumiko was shocked at how Peter chatted so casually and stopped to greet other customers. “She thought I was a very bad waiter, and told me so!”
Although Kumiko returned to Japan to finish school, she came back a year later to marry Peter. Today, they both continue to work at the restaurant, and have two children. Their son often is seen working at the family business.
Family is a big theme at the Beacher Café. “We have customers here now that represent 4 generations,” says Kumiko. “It’s very special.” Kumiko often reflects on the culture in Japan, where it is more common to see several generations together, and where life isn’t always so fast moving. “At Beacher Café,” she says, “family also extends to those who come in on their own. We become their family, and if we don’t see them for awhile, we worry about them!”
Inside the café there are various reminders of the café’s past. Over the bar for example, is a hand carved wooden sign that says, “P. Martineau Hotelier”. The sign was given to Peter from his father, who saved it from Peter’s great grandfather’s business in Quebec. There’s also a piano from Peter and Kumiko’s home (Kumiko is an accomplished pianist).
Those in the Beaches may remember the Beacher when it was first set up in 1986. It was smaller then, and situated between a variety story and a small gallery. At first the café was owned by Chris until Peter bought it.
Known for its famous breakfast menu, every weekend there are long line-ups to get into the cafe. For many years it’s been touted as the “best eggs benedick in the city”. The restaurant also offers a great dinner menu, newly re-invented these days by their new Chef Bran.
The dinner crowd usually includes many family gatherings, couples at “deux tables” and people on their own happy to join the Beacher family. If you’re lucky, someone may even sit down and entertain the crowd on the piano.
“Come in any time”, says Peter, “and we’ll find you a place to sit and make you welcome here.”
The Beacher Café
2162 Queen St. E.