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Soup’s on: A 105-year-old restaurant maintains Jewish food heritage in Toronto

Black and white photo of one man and three woman standing in front of restaurant doorway

"People stepping off the train at Union Station for the first time would get word that the restaurant was a safe haven, welcoming newcomers with comfort foods from the old country."

By

Ruthie Ladovsky

Intangible heritage

Published Date: 08 Sep 2017

Photo: Rose Lieberman, Rose [Hanford?] Green and Aaron and Sarah Ladovsky in front of United Bakers restaurant, Spadina Ave., Toronto, 1920. (Photo: Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, fonds 83, file 9, item 16.)

Article by Jennifer Goldberg, from an interview with Ruthie Ladovsky.

If you’re going to order just one thing at Toronto’s United Bakers Dairy Restaurant, choose their split pea soup. The item has been on the menu for 105 years and the recipe hasn’t changed at all. It’s still one of their best sellers. “Everyone comes here looking for the foods they’ve grown up with,” says co-owner Ruthie Ladovsky. “For a lot of people in our community, that’s our split pea soup.”

Ladovsky and her brother Philip are third-generation family owners of the dairy-only restaurant that’s been a staple in Toronto’s Jewish community for over a century. Their grandparents, both immigrants from Poland, opened United Bakers in 1912 in the downtown area once known as The Ward. It was the heart of Jewish city life at the time. “My grandparents wanted to run a restaurant that everyone could come to no matter where they were from or what area of Judaism they practised,” says Ladovsky. (The dairyonly menu meant they didn’t have to worry about the rules around serving kosher meat). United Bakers quickly became a fixture for Jewish immigrants looking for a good bagel and a reminder of home.”People stepping off the train at Union Station for the first time would get word that the restaurant was a safe haven, welcoming newcomers with comfort foods from the old country,” such as gefilte fish, blintzes and pickled herring.

Today, the Ladovskys serve those exact same dishes to fourth generation diners who still flock to the restaurant for family meals. Many recipes remain the same as the ones their grandparents developed, which is precisely why the restaurant still experiences lineups out the door. “A lot of younger generations don’t bother making the traditional dishes these days,” Ladovsky says. “It’s nice to be able to come to a place to get those things that are part of your heritage – the things that feel like home.”