Zoe at Farmhouse

A look at the business from an insider’s perspective to showcase the many ways in which F&B shapes our world. Today we’re visiting Farmhouse Tavern, arguably the restaurant that kickstarted the Junction’s now enviable restaurant scene. With a new owner and the longstanding chef still in the kitchen, the newly revamped restaurant has made a welcome return.

all interviews have been condensed and edited

Owner number one

Darcy MacDonell
Founder and former owner, Farmhouse Tavern

I joke all the time I should have bought a house in the Junction instead of opening a restaurant, I would have made more money. When we opened Farmhouse there were no restaurants, now it’s the highest calibre, with places like Dotty’s, Lucia, Honest Weight.

I took over an empty space, I got lucky because a TV show needed a place to film a restaurant being refurbished. That helped a lot because they put in a fair bit of money into renos.

Initially I thought being on the show would help with publicity, but it didn’t air for a year and once it did it never really had an impact, but it certainly gave us a leg up in furnishing the place and decor. A lot of the original inspiration came from Joe Beef; chalkboards, barnboard, servers really knowing their stuff.

We opened our doors and it took maybe two months before it just kind of blew up. We had a nice review in the Post, we made the BlogTO and Toronto Life lists. We had a good amount of positive press in those first 6 months. Over the years we were featured on the BBC and NPR. We were just blessed with a crazy amount of press.

We probably wouldn’t have made it the way we did without brunch. Just the level we were able to execute at, for such a casual spot, got us on the front cover of the Star. Everybody loves the Farmhouse brunch.

Nancy Thornhill
Former owner

The Junction Triangle used to be a fringe neighbourhood, but it’s become much more than that. It’s a really nice part of the city to have a small business, everyone is so supportive. When I bought it from Darcy, it had already been Farmhouse for 10 years and we kept it Farmhouse because we kept it farm to table – pretty much everything we put on the table came from within 100 kilometres.

On a day to day level I really loved working with my staff, it was quite rewarding. Selling it was really hard, but in the end it was an awesome experience because of Ori.
I love Ori. He was the listing agent when I bought it and he’s always been a regular at the restaurant over the years. When I decided I was going to sell he was the first person I called. Christian was amazing too, he was incredibly easy to work with. He represented both myself and the buyer and he was always on it.

Once it was listed, some of the staff were interested. I’m so glad that Zoe and William are taking it over, they’re committed to the same ethics that Farmhouse has always stood for.

Zoe Salhia

I was managing and serving at Farmhouse and William was bartending. When Nancy decided she was ready to sell, she asked me if I wanted to buy it. I’ll be honest, I’d always had it in the back of my mind, but I was on maternity leave so it wasn’t exactly the best timing. In the end though, we just couldn’t pass it up.

I grew up in the suburbs and I had always wanted to move back once I had kids, but William convinced me to give the Junction a try first. This area feels like a mini suburb, a tight community, with all the benefits of living in the city. We love it here.

The biggest challenge when opening a restaurant with a baby and a 5 year old was just finding the time to get everything done. But we have a great circle of friends, we’ve figured it out. One of those friends is an electrician, that’s been a huge help. And we still have the same chef, Eoin Ramsbottom, who’s been working here since the early days with Darcy, so the dishes that everyone loves won’t change.

After we took over and closed to renovate we were reminded every day how much the locals love this place. Every time we were outside working, getting the place set up, people would stop and ask when we were reopening, telling us how much they miss brunch. We had a yard sale and met so many of the neighbours. Everyone talks about the pancakes and the burger. The love for the burger is epic – that’s definitely what people miss the most.


CHI Real Estate is a commercial brokerage focused on F&B. Everyone who works here comes from the industry. We’re former chefs, owners, pizzaiolos, baristas and bartenders, and we know restaurants from the inside out. 
If you are interested in opening a restaurant, or selling one, CHI Real Estate can help. Get in touch with our team today.