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Let’s eat! Sudbury is a one-arch town and always will be

For this week’s installment of Let’s Eat, Hugh Kruzel visit Deluxe Restaurant on Regent Street, a Nickel City institution for five decades

After all these years there are still some constants. Drive along Regent Street and you can’t miss the single arch that marks Deluxe on the streetscape. 

“We have been here a long time,” acknowledges Marsha Smith, one of the owners.

Ryan’s IGA, The Caswell, The Coach House, The Mandarin, Texaco, Deluxe and Gloria’s: that was the geography of the Four Corners in the 1960 and 1970s. 

In a shared social media post, Pierre Zundel said that Deluxe is “one of my favourite spots.” Zundel, now president and CEO of the College communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick, was past interim president and vice-chancellor of Laurentian University.

What an ideal location. At one point, there was even one in North Bay.  In six years, the trajectory was ever upwards.

There once was a Deluxe at every entry and exit point from the city. The Kingsway, Notre Dame, east-west, north and south there was a Deluxe. Quite an entrepreneurial move. 

“Forward thinking,” agrees Smith. 

Now there remains the Regent Street Deluxe and Deluxe Drive-In 17, at 1313 Lorne St., near the Big Nickel turn-off. 

“Other members of the family run it,” Smith said. “I don’t know some of the stories of the early days. I wasn’t born yet. I can tell you I grew up here. My parents taught us to respect everyone and to always be courteous!” 

Smith takes customer service to the next level, quickly responding to the need for an additional straw as someone exits the drive-thru. “I started here as a teenager… and here I am.”

“Sometimes, we are four generations on site. The one great granddaughter wants a ‘shaky milk’ and so they come to visit Grandma. Here is a picture of my grandkids — they look so much like our own kids did.”

What about the colours?

“Orange was the colour of the ’60s. We can’t possibly think of changing it.” 

Opening day was Oct. 3, 1968. 

“At the very beginning, they were seasonal, May to October. Sam Lolas still is my father’s hero, he married Lolas’ daughter, Marie, my mom. Sadly, Sam died young. It changed the Deluxe direction.” 

The addition in 1984 has proven valuable today. 

“They were so forward thinking in adding a drive thru. We think about how smart they were everyday these past 16 months.” 

Many say the best fries in the city are here at Deluxe. “They are local potatoes,” confirms Smith. What else brings customers? “Chicken on a Bun and Super Cheese and Bacon are almost neck-‘n-neck in requests and are as iconic as the sign,” Smith said.

Her father, Tim Zografopoulos, emigrated from Greece and bought the Regent location in 1971. Soon an uncle was invited from Australia. 

“My uncle came with his wife and they lived next door, working alongside my dad and mom for 32 years. They retired in the early 2000s and my husband, Peter, and I bought their half. They were all once young and eager. My parents, my family, they all worked very hard.” 

They came from a place and time where that was how it was. 

“Before COVID the biggest benefit I got from being here was seeing my parents every day. My parents would work with us and do some maintenance. My dad in his 80s and still works hard. My parking lot is beautiful … that’s my Dad. He has pride in this place, and what we do. He was here sweeping yesterday.” That single “golden” arch was captured forever in a painting done by artist Bruno Cavallo.

“Now we run it with my brother, Bill. Bill likes to do things for the community. Peter and I come in each morning at 6 a.m. and prep. Then we work until, well until we can go home. We are not a franchise — it is just us. What will the future bring to us? I don’t know.” 

It is a great concept that has had a long life. It is sure to continue. 

 “When in high school, it was the spot for us who were coming of age, where we'd go after high school dances or before the party. Deluxe is just one of those unforgettable places that is hard to replicate. It's real, authentic and never disappoints,” longtime fan Greg Oldenburg said.

“The restaurant misses its people. We miss our regulars. We never had car hop here, the property was always a bit sloped,” Smith said. That slope is beneficial. My favourite spot is the table in the south-east corner. Sun-warmed in the winter it has a view right down the road. You can often watch the sunrise from that tangerine and white banquette.

“We serve the whole menu starting in the morning. There are many people who are coming off shift at the hospitals and other places.” Nurses, paramedics, essential services, they come here for the dinner that their body clock is saying is now. 

“Now because everything is to-go, breakfast is mostly sandwiches. Eggs are delicate and it is hard to eat two eggs in the cab of your truck. At 11, we have to stop doing breakfast as we need the grill.

“Back in ‘68, the menu started out with burgers and fries. Then the rotisserie machine came, so we made chicken dinners. So moist but crispy, with that last few minutes in the deep fryer. Our famous sauce came a few years later. Friday was always fish and chips.” 

More than Strawberry, Chocolate, and Vanilla the milkshakes are just as they always have been: cold, creamy, and not too thick. “It’s almost always been Sealtest.” 

The employees clearly like keeping traditions. 

“Our staff is important to us. Like a family. This place is like a learning centre for those starting their first job, and they take on what they experience through their lives.  Some stay; some have been here their whole life. Some 20 years! We appreciate them all. We don’t have a high turnover here. Our kids have worked here.”

Demographics have changed. People like coming to Deluxe because they always have. More people were eating at home even before COVID. 

“You know Deluxe. It’s on your way home.  If we know who has come to us as a customer, we always try to reciprocate. Doing business with others like us is important. We support our community and the local family businesses that are all across Sudbury,” Smith said with a smile.

Deluxe Restaurant
1737 Regent St. or 1313 Lorne St. (Deluxe Drive-In 17)
7 days a week
Sunday: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Monday to Thursday: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday til 10 p.m.
Saturday: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Breakfast offerings are over at 11 a.m. daily, but you can order lunch starting at 7 a.m.

Hugh Kruzel is a freelance writer and committed foodie in Greater Sudbury. Let’s Eat is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.