Restaurant defies time through 50 years of service in Burlington


Published May 3, 2024 at 3:41 pm

steak lobster seaford Nelson Burlington 50
The inside of The Lord Nelson on Plains Road East in Burlington.

Ask anyone in the food service industry and they will tell you how tough it is to survive.

High costs, changing trends, competition, staff turnover, and pandemics can all contribute to an early exit from the marketplace.

So when a restaurant lasts 50 years there must be something special going on, something that has enabled it to withstand the test of time and dining habits of customers who are in constant search for something new.

The answer, according to the operators of The Lord Nelson in Burlington, is to commit to tradition while keeping an eye on new trends.

“Our customers have enjoyed the familiarity that we present,” explained John Tassoulis who along with his wife Vaso now runs the steakhouse and fine dining restaurant on Plains Road East. “Our menu has remained pretty constant over the years,  it has withstood the test of time. We have kept things pretty much the same, but still added a few new twists to keep everyone happy.”

The name of the restaurant derives from Nelson Township and Port Nelson, two early communities of what is now Burlington that were named after Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson of Great Britain’s Royal Navy, considered one of the greatest naval commanders in history.

Tassoulis said he started at the restaurant as a busboy in the early ’90s where he met Vaso who is the daughter of then-owner Nick Vamvakas.

“I guess you can say I married into the business,” jokes Tassoulis.

After he and Vaso left to pursue other ventures, they returned to run the restaurant when Vamvakas retired.

“We came back right at the beginning of the pandemic so we faced an uncertain future,” he said. “But we kept going and through the help of loyal customers we have managed to survive and thrive.”

Tassoulis said what keeps customers coming back is the atmosphere and friendly confines of The Lord Nelson, which is backed up with the traditional menu favourites of steak and seafood.

A glance at the menu shows such time-honoured dishes as oysters Rockefeller, shrimp cocktail, Dover sole, filet mignon, and cherries jubilee.

“The food we serve is very traditional but it still works, they are still favourites with our customers who want to experience that kind of fine dining,” he said.

As proof, Tassoulis points to the fact that The Lord Nelson now caters to a third generation of customers.

“We are seeing the grandchildren of our original customers now coming in with their dates,” he continued. “That’s pretty special to see and shows we must be doing it right.”

The restaurant was opened in 1974 by a group of Greek immigrants who were eager to bring their dining ideas to Canada.

He said his father-in-law was originally a waiter before taking over the restaurant and that manager Valentino Gallo has been on board for the past 25 years.

As for his wife, he said Vaso has been a part of The Lord Nelson since she was a child and has been the thread that runs through the history of the restaurant.

This week The Lord Nelson celebrated its 50th anniversary with a series of special dining events for regular and long-time customers.

As for the future, Tassoulis said The Lord Nelson will keep doing what it does best by providing good food and a friendly atmosphere.

“We like to think it’s like Cheers (the ’80s television program),” he said. “It’s a place with a lot of familiar faces and traditional food and a place where you can go where everyone knows your name.”


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