A family-run restaurant at Queen Street West and Bathurst Street, Soufi’s opened its doors in 2017, bringing Syrian cuisine to Toronto. Its last day was Sunday.
“Our mom has been sick for a year and a half. We tried to make it through the pandemic but with the no-mask rule, it’s too risky,” said Alaa Alsoufi on Sunday. “Plus, we’re tired, we need to breathe a bit.”
Mask mandates were dropped in most circumstances provincewide in late March, relieving some pressure on small businesses. But for the Alsoufi family, it made for a well-ordered exit.
“We were actually trying to reach this point, we wanted this to happen in the turning point, not when things were less certain. We were just trying to at least reach this point, it’s been hard,” Alaa said.
Founded by the Alsoufi family, the Toronto eatery has been praised as a refugee resettlement program success story.
After arriving in Canada, the Alsoufis noticed there wasn’t much in terms of Syrian food throughout the city, prompting them to start their own restaurant.
Missing from Toronto’s kaleidoscopic cuisine were knafeh and maneesh. So the family decided to fill that gap, much to their customers’ delight.
“This was a wonderful place, the food is delicious, the owners are lovely people,” said Akash Swar, a customer who’s patronized Soufi’s since it first opened. “It was really nice to have this community here and have the city get introduced to Syrian food. This is something I grew up eating back in Dubai, so its close to my heart.”
“I’m happy that they had that opportunity to share their culture and food with people here because I feel like Toronto is such a diverse city and it gives you that opportunity to explore your options and put something new out there.”
Another customer, Josh Chernofsky, lamented the changing nature of Toronto’s streets as businesses like Soufi’s close.
“It seems Queen Street and a lot of streets in general are losing their character and it includes the loss of this,” Chernofsky said. “Nothing seems to be changing for the better in the city.”
Although Soufi’s is closing, Alaa points out there are other Syrian restaurants sprouting up in and around the GTA.
“There’s a bunch of different places, mostly in Mississauga,and there is one on Yonge and Eglinton.”
The restaurant has made headlines in the past. In 2019, Soufi’s closed temporarily after their son was a target for death threats following a political protest.
Now that Soufi’s is closing on its own terms, Jala Alsoufi considers it a bittersweet moment.
“This is a project me and my family worked on really hard for five years, but now we want to focus a bit more on our family,” Jala said. “To take care of each other and we’re really happy with what we’ve done.”
“We’re proud of this. We’re proud of this space and we love our customers. It’s just time for us to close.”
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