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Over the last two-and-then-some years, Toronto has lived through many shocking restaurant closures. Even so, the announcement that Grand Electric would be closing for good at the end of the month generated some seriously high-voltage waves through the city's foodscape.
Co-owners Ian McGrenaghan and Colin Tooke broke the unexpected news in a heartfelt Instagram message posted on August 11, in which they noted:
“Emerging from the pandemic has been a challenging time for us all, and it has become clear that the restaurant industry is still finding its footing.
“While we take time to figure out what that means for us, it has become clear that we need to give our little taco restaurant a break.”
Grand Electric might be “little” (as in cozy) in physical size, but the beloved Parkdale taqueria’s role in Toronto’s restaurant scene over the past 11 years has been anything but.
Way back in pre-pandemic times, Tooke was a chef at Jen Agg’s legendary Black Hoof, where McGrenaghan was front of house manager. The two were also roommates and one boozy night, the two started riffing on the kind of dream restaurant they’d want to open one day. As McGrenaghan confessed to the Toronto Star back in 2011, it would be one with a “bar vibe, open late, cool brown liquor and reasonably priced food.”
As for the food, it had to be tacos. “Ever since I’ve been cooking I’ve wanted to do food that people crave,” Tooke told the Star. “Not like ‘breaking the boundaries’ or ‘that’s something I’ve never seen before.’ I wanted to do something that’s like crack — and at a price point that you can eat it again.”
The dream restaurant became a reality known as Grand Electric. When the dim-and-dusky taco shack opened for business at 1330 Queen Street West, it jumpstarted the (then non-existent) Parkdale dining season and created a fierce and unabated rage for nuevo Tex-Mex food, bourbon, and rambunctious musical playlists.
Accolades were swift and unrelenting. Here at home, NOW gave conferred a whopping five “N” rating upon it, with the reviewer “blow(ing) a gasket” over the pulled pork belly and Baja-style fish tacos Below the 49th Parallel, Bon Appétit sat up and took notice of “the buzziest taco joint this side of Big Star.”
Over the last decade and a bit, the GE love, and long line-ups, have never let up. Reacting to the sad news on Instagram, one poster summed up the general sense of loss:
“that hurts! 😭 I will never forget the first couple years of waiting for the phone call that my table was ready for GE. One of the best phone calls because sometimes it took forever. Big ups to y’all - always been a Toronto staple since I can remember.”
Grand Electric is located at 1330 Queen Street West. Until the end of the month, it’s open Tuesday to Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m.