Hidden on the corner of Queen West and Shaw, this place is easy to miss if you blink, sneeze or text. Once you find it, the decor could be described as a chic saloon and is reminiscent of a number of other emerging urban eateries.
It may take a minute to get recognized, but when your existence is noted, you have the option of a table, the bar or the outside area which gives you a front row view of the sidewalk sporting a cast of interesting wandering characters with CAMH (the large mental hospital) serving as a fitting backdrop.
After being seated and listening to one of the waitresses flirt with the guy sitting a few seats down, I felt like either a third wheel or an extra in a match.com ad. When MY waitress finally arrived, I asked for her cocktail recommendation. She suggested the “County Picnic” which was humourously a mix-up between the “Sunday Picnic” and the “County Drive In”. I opted for the latter which a smooth bourbon based drink with a bit of cream soda that got better with each sip.
Gone is the standard potato salad….replaced here with the Warm Potato Salad Supreme, a visually appealing offering of tender potatoes laced with flavours of mustard, saltiness and a creamy base better than mayonnaise. Even better is the fact that I can order a perfectly cooked a la carte fried egg to blanket it (or with any dish for that matter). I would highly recommend it.
The fried calamari tacos were a bit Jeckyl and Hyde. Although nicely presented, the grilled radicchio was a bit too brown and soggy on the edges. I took those pieces off. On the other hand, the remaining components of the taco blended well together and the calamari was cooked well. I was warned about the heat of the accompanying scotch bonnet sauce that was offered but I’m glad I took the plunge as it offered a different spice and flavor typical of the normal cayenne based hot sauces served with these dishes. The price point is a bit high as well ($15 for two tacos). Other places are serving similar tacos for $3.50-$5.00 a piece.
The dessert choices were minimal but the chocolate mousse was very acceptable and nicely presented. The fresh, sweetened strawberries were a great contrast in flavour and texture and a nice twist on the traditional dessert.
If you have good food, be proud of it. Don’t let the need to maintain the laissez-faire Queen West attitude impair the patron’s dining experience. It’s ok to smile, recommend your favorite choices and pronounce it scotch bonnet, not scotch bonn-A.
Good food, not so good service. This place has a chance, especially if they continue their attention to detail regarding the food. A seasonal and changing menu would keep me coming back out of curiosity. However, if I wanted to pay for the cold shoulder, I’d hit up a Jane and Finch McDonald’s and order a 7 dollar combo instead of dropping 60 bucks here.