What do you say that hasn't already been said about a restaurant featured just this week on the front page of the Barrie Advance, and who's walls are peppered with framed newspaper articles from the past? Not just local papers have proclaimed its virtues, the Toronto Sun has seen fit to write some kind words too, it seems. The Midway Diner on Bradford St. must be doing something very, very well to have such praise heaped upon it. There's only one way to find out what!
My family likes to eat. Any excuse will do. "Whew, that was a hard morning of garage sales! Let's go eat!" That's a very common one with my husband and youngest son. I mean they just saved a bunch of money buying things we didn't need anyway, so better celebrate with a breakfast out somewhere! I was actually shocked this weekend when they came home to get me before their chow down, saying "We're going to the Midway Diner so you can write about it." Wow, I smell a new excuse forming - going out to eat so Mom has something to blog about. I'm okay with that.
Apparently, Midway has been dishing up meals in this location for over 50 years now. I'm thinking this must be the current Barrie record for restaurant longevity. Can anyone top that? I'd love to hear about it. The building itself housed a shop, McGowan's General Store back into the 1930s, as shown in this fabulous old photograph courtesy of Sean McGowan, a member of the superb Facebook group 'If You Grew Up In Barrie ... You Remember ...' If you love old Barrie, as I do, you must check it out!
Now, as my teen son put it, the exterior looks a little 'sketchy', but that's only paint and it appears that some money has been spent on the interior, so don't be put off by the outside. The dining room is open and uncluttered, decorated in black and white tiles, painted in sky blue and bright yellow. Choose a booth, a table or slide onto a stool by the counter. Check out all the old head shots of long ago Hollywood stars on the walls. With my sub standard eyesight, I thought I glimpsed a nice photo of Elizabeth Taylor, but my husband corrected me - it was Tim Curry in drag. I think I need to change eye doctors.
A very friendly server brought us menus and offered us drinks. Based on recent newspaper photos I've seen, our waiter might even have been co-owner Matt Jones? My husband and son ordered their usual standard breakfasts, but were thrown a curve ball when offered a choice of home fried potatoes or fried mashed with onions. The son stuck to the tried and true, but Ron and I ventured into new territory and went with the mashed. So 2 bacon and eggs were ordered and a spinach and feta omelette for me.
The dining room buzzed with conversation. Servers moved in between tables chatting away as they worked and the atmosphere was more like having a meal at a relative's house than a restaurant. "Where's the rest of your kiddos?" one server asked of an obviously regular regular. I was also struck by how stress free all the employees looked. Some places, everyone looks frazzled and overworked, but not here, even though the restaurant was quite full during the time we were there.
Our food arrived and it looked great. Eggs cooked perfectly all around. Fried mashed was excellent! And our son's home fries were just like the kind you make at home in a frying pan. Everything was very tasty and our coffees were warmed up regularly. Our Saturday breakfast at the Midway dinner was a quality, well made meal and we went away happy with that.
Midway doesn't need much improvement. Maybe a can of paint, but I'm sure that's on the 'to do' list, and perhaps a debit machine as my husband prefers his handy dandy bank card over cash any day. I can certainly see why the regulars keep coming and I know for a fact that some are at least third generation diners, possibly more. The secrets to running a long term successful business are few, I would say - do something very well and just keep doing it.