How an unassuming fast-food joint became a cornerstone of the city's food scene.
Angel Panag, July 22, 2022 // Brantford, OntarioHarry Chatzis "The Admiral" in his restaurant at the corner of Dalhousie and Queen Streets in Brantford, Ontario. Photo credit Geoff Fitzgerald.
It’s been 34 years since the fryers first started sizzling at the corner of Dalhousie and Queen Street. Today, it’s not uncommon for people who have moved away to other provinces and cities to stop at the downtown restaurant for a familiar bite. Inside, the vintage menu boards list items that have been tried and tested for decades. However, far fewer know the story about the man behind the counter.
Affectionately known as “The Admiral,” Harry Chatzis’s journey into the food industry started when he came to Canada from Greece in 1955. While many chose to settle in Toronto, Harry became a part of the small but closely-knit Greek community in Brantford.
After gaining two years of experience in the kitchen, Harry and a couple partners purchased the George Street restaurant he worked at. Club 21 ran until 1964, and a string of successful business ventures followed. Finally, Harry opened Admiral’s with his son Gus in 1988. Until recently, there wasn’t a large appetite for diverse cuisines in Brantford’s food scene. Perhaps for this reason Harry, like most restaurateurs in town, stuck to serving “Canadian food.” Surely, the menu took off.
"The Admiral" a legacy of hard work and one-of-a-kind food. Photo credit Geoff Fitzgerald.
In the early ’90s, a Hamilton media network brought the restaurant’s bacon double cheeseburger to local fame. Somehow, news of the burger caught the attention of American truckers, who flocked to the restaurant in droves while on route through town.
Then came the late night crowd. After the downtown bars closed, many stopped by to try the Admiral’s now-famous Junkpile. Few things were more irresistible after a night out than the meaty concoction of roast beef, turkey, peameal bacon, ham, burger patties and chicken fingers served with a kaiser bun and fries. Unfortunately, Harry notes, the city’s nightlife isn’t as robust as it once was.
"City residents, new and old, are once again heading downtown for entertainment and a place to eat or drink."
With 65 years in the food industry, Harry has seen both the city’s highs and lows. Downtown restaurants, like Admiral’s, were some of the hardest hit during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. College and universities moved online, and office buildings sat largely empty with a shift to remote work. Nightlife was largely nonexistent, with many venues closing to never open again. However, as we reel from the pandemic, the city is also seeing record growth not seen in decades. City residents, new and old, are once again heading downtown for entertainment and a place to eat or drink.
"The Admiral" an inspiring icon of Brantford. Photo credit Geoff Fitzgerald.
In the restaurant’s 34 year tenure at the location, businesses around it have come and gone. Within earshot, vacant storefronts spring hope for new ventures. Modern buildings rise in the rubble of old ones. Still, this corner of Dalhousie and Queen has remained consistent. Through decades of service to his patrons, The Admiral has earned both his name and his place in the fabric of this city. Asked on how the business has remained steadfast throughout the years, he laughs, “We serve good food.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brantford’s native son, Angel spent much of his life living in the far reaches of Canada. After graduating from Dalhousie University, he began a career as a public servant and later in human rights. Meanwhile, remaining strongly rooted in the arts - DJing, managing musicians, producing films, and performing on Broadway. Angel strongly believes in the power the arts have to inspire, and transform communities and people. He is currently a final year Law student, and is excited to help tell stories from his hometown.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Geoff Fitzgerald is an award winning freelance photographer, second season beekeeper, passionate pet dad to an Olde English Bulldogge, two cats and two rats. With an incredible drive and desire for compelling stories and intimate portraits he focuses his skills mainly on the editorial and advertising/commercial world of photography.