With International Women’s Day on the horizon, we were beyond excited to speak with Fran Hakim, from one of the most iconic diners in Toronto (and Hollywood!), The Lakeview. She owns, manages, and stewards the joint with her husband Fadi Hakim, a lifelong restaurateur connected to another strong woman who played a big part in the creation of the diner’s most beloved dish, the Club Sandwich.
“My husband’s mother, when she came from Lebanon, was gifted a Chatelaîne magazine. In the back, there was a recipe for cornflake chicken, and she used to make it for my husband all the time when they were kids.” That’s the hero in this Lakeview classic, which is served with bacon and tomatoes on potato bread with sweet chili mayo. And boy is it popular.
The Local Diner with International Appeal
Speaking of popularity, not only has The Lakeview been the backdrop for a host of actors in famous movies, like Tom Cruise in Cocktail, John Travolta in Hairspray, and Willem Dafoe in Boon Dock Saints, it grabbed the attention of another recognizable name, Guy Fieri. Featured in Diners, Drive-ins and Dives a few years ago, it shone a spotlight on some of their heavy hitters, like the Apple Pie Milkshake and their Freedom Toast. And it was great for business. “Once he came, we were never not full for like 5 years. It was just constant people coming from all over North America.”
When it comes to that tasty menu of theirs, Fran is super involved. Working with chef Randy in the kitchen, she’s constantly jamming on how to change things or make them better. She also collaborates on the specials, like the Juicy Lucy, a mouth-watering burger stuffed with creamy cheddar and spicy jalapenos. Deliciously creative if we do say so ourselves.
“Always Open”. Except through Covid.
A hustling, bustling location day, night, and super late night, The Lakeview has been open 24/7 since 1940 for brunch-goers, lunch lovers, dinner diners, and late-night revellers. That is, until Covid hit. Like everyone else in the industry, their business was at a standstill, so they used it as an opportunity to take a much-needed break to spend time with family, not even staying open for takeout. After a couple of months, they were eager to get back into the swing of things, but they were faced with the same restrictions as everyone else. That’s when Fran got crafty.
“When Covid hit, our space was empty, so we offered amateur filmmakers to come in and film for free. Hilariously, we got in so much trouble for it as it was right in the beginning and we hadn’t really thought it through in that municipal regulatory way. We really did just want to give back to the community.”
Serving up Good Vibes with Different People at Different Times
One of the coolest things about The Lakeview is its attraction to all walks of life, depending on the time of the day. And Fran is all about it, saying, “It’s one of my personal favourite things from the restaurant. Depending on the time you go, there is a different vibe.” From seniors and people who live in the neighbourhood at lunch to a younger dinner crowd to the late-night partiers, The Lakeview is a tasty destination for people of all ages.
No matter who walks through those doors, Fran feels as though she’s the steward of a place that has been there for over 80 years, long before her and will likely be there after she’s left. “We just really want to keep the quality as good as possible, maintain the space as much as we can and just be there for the people of the city.”
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