First Look: The Depanneur | Post City

First Look: The Depanneur, a café, corner store and supper club mash-up on College Street

BY JON SUFRIN | Sep. 14, 2011 |

When Len Senater got out of the graphic design business to get into food, he knew that he wanted to eschew the traditional restaurant model. Most restaurants are too impersonal, he says, plus, the financial risks are too high to get truly creative. After taking over a run-down convenience store at College and Dovercourt and spending months on the renovation (“it was more like an exorcism,” he says), Senater opened up his hybrid creation, The Depanneur, in late August.

The concept: By day, The Depanneur acts as a particularly green-focused grocery store and café. Cooking essentials like organic produce and dairy line the shelves, while coffee (from I Deal $2-$4), breakfast sandwiches ($3-$4) and organic ice cream (from Organic Meadow, $1-$3.50) sate the to-go crowd. Particularly observant patrons may notice that nearly all the furniture is on wheels: the interior makeup of the place is mutable to make room for The Deppaneur’s alter-ego, the Rusholme Park Supper Club. Currently in its beta-testing stage, Senater would like to see the supper club as a regularly-occurring event hosted by different chefs and food-lovers. The host will be responsible for a prix-fixe menu and will join the guests in a family-style dinner. Ideally, theme nights will occur: a literary themed dinner, perhaps, or a musical dinner where the dishes are based on songs. For Senater, the space is all about creating a unique experience.


Welcome to the new food order | Toronto Star

Len Senater in front of the old convenience store he aims to convert into The Depanneur, a coffee shop that will convert into a supper club in the evening. (VINCE TALOTTA / TORONTO STAR) 

Welcome to the new food order

Toronto’s A La Cart food-cart program didn’t die in vain. Creative ideas abound for new eating spaces that break the traditional restaurant model.

By DAVID SAX | Sat., May 14, 2011 | Toronto Star

Len Senater has a plan, or more accurately, a scheme. Over a lunch of reheated homemade Indian food in his kitchen (“It’s leftovers,” he offers with a shrug, “it’s what you have for lunch”), the 40-year-old designer paints a picture of a food-focused community space outside the boundaries of the traditional restaurant. Next month, in an old convenience store at the corner of College St. and Rusholme Park Cres., Senator will open The Depanneur, a low-key coffee shop that during the day will serve coffee (no espresso), tea and toast.

Coffee shops are nothing radical, but his plans for The Depanneur at night make Senater a bit of a maverick. He’ll close to the public, push together the tables and host the Rusholme Park Supper Club, a sort of permanent pop-up restaurant with a rotation of chefs, menus, concepts and diners.

“The idea of locking myself in the back of a restaurant, slaving away to cook the same thing for people I never meet, does not seem to be a fun way to spend my days,” says Senater. “I asked myself, ‘How could I get closer to food in a fun way while avoiding the traditional pitfalls that plague the restaurant model?’”

It’s a question that many in the city are asking these days, especially since the disastrous A la Cart food-cart program was mercy-killed by City Council last month. That doomed experiment — inspired by food lovers and chefs to bring more diverse choices to Toronto’s streets — was micromanaged and strangled by bureaucracy, bankrupting owners and disappointing eaters.

But it did not die in vain.