DDD:Toking at Tommy’s Joynt although Cheech was the Californian

I was excited to drop into Tommy’s Joynt for an afternoon bite.    Touted as San Francisco’s original Hofbrau, it has been serving a menu centred on carved meat sandwiches since 1947.  They take pride in a no frills attitude and keeping prices low.  In fact, the only three  menu items over ten bucks are the famous Buffalo Stew, braised  oxtails with pasta (served Monday) and  braised  lamb shanks with vegetables (served Thursday and Sunday).  The hunks of meat sitting in the cafeteria style chafing dishes right inside the door while the rest of the place is a seating area complete with a bar serving local craft draught, international bottles and  cheapish cocktails. The cast of characters ranged from young to old, regulars to tourists and hipsters to those with with artificial hips.  The decor is a reminder that it’s been open for almost 70 years.  Hundreds of knick-knacks fill the walls, shelves and any other square inch of available space.  It’s like a yard sale on steroids.  They’ve never changed their style, they just added to it. It’s like a timeline of post WWII Americana scattered all over the place.

Apparently Tommy’s is “Where Turkey is King” so I strolled to the counter and ordered the roast turkey sandwich for $6 along with a side of mixed pickled beans for $2.65.  The guy behind the counter pulled out the bird, carved some meat off the bird and slapped it on a fresh baguette with a side of au jus.  As magical as Tommy’s was, they still couldn’t solve the dry poultry issue.  You can’t keep a turkey in a chafing dish and expect it to stay moist.  That said, the au jus added flavour and moisture to the sandwich.  The bean salad was pretty typical.  I thought things like the barrel of complimentary pickles (complete with a sign telling you not to abuse the pickle pecking privlegdes) to the  strategically placed mustard jars were a nice touch.

Turkey Sandwich $6 with Pickled Bean Salad $2.65
Turkey Sandwich $6 with Pickled Bean Salad $2.65

My Take

Tommy’s Joynt is a west coast version of a Hofbrau, a casual German eatery with focus on beer and food.   Having no idea who the place is named after, I figured it might be Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong fame). Ironically, Cheech is the Californian (Chong is a good old Canadian).  I mean, the psychedelic paint job on the outside, the easy access to copious amounts of food, some clientele that look like they have hot boxed a few million times and even the fact it has “joynt’ in the name makes my theory somewhat viable. In fact, after a drag one might relish staring intently at the numerous trinkets which populate the walls and shelves.  That said, the food was reasonable, the vibe was good but it just didn’t give me the “high”  some of the other Diners, Drive-ins and Dives did.

Food- 3.5 Guyz

Service- 4 Guyz

Vibe- 4 Guyz

Total- 11.5 Guyz

Tommy's Joynt on Urbanspoon

Review:Montreal:Old Montreal:Brit and Chips

I was in Montreal for a conference and had a bit of a lunch break.  I’m not much for the generic cafeteria food that fills the convention centre, so I decided to talk a stroll into old Montreal to see what kind of lunch options there were.  I had a few glasses of wine the night before, so some grease and a little hair of the dog was on the menu.

So I found it rather ironic when I stumbled across Brit and Chips. I mean, as an anglophone with a pedigree from the British Isles, I felt rather naughty seeking out such an ethnocentric joint in Old Montreal.  At the same time, I knew nothing would appease my needs better than a greasy piece of fish and some kind of ale to wash it down.

The place was  small and was extremely crowded although it was at the tail end of lunch hour (part of me highly suspects that lunch is rarely limited to only an hour in Quebec) but luckily there was a table available in the make shift patio which was set up outside the front door. I was quickly greeted by a server  was quick to take my beer order.  I opted for a Fuller’s London Pride ($7.50) to further flex my anglo chest muscles amongst those who may otherwise opt for a Kronenbourg or something like that.

The menu is simple.  You choose a fish and whether you want fries or not (all the choices are $10 and $12 respectively).  What’s interesting is that each fish is matched with a particular batter so it’s the first time I had to weigh the type of fish against the batter and decide which I wanted more.  I’m not sure to this day if you can mix and match, so maybe my dilemma was a moot point. I was torn between the cod and the maple syrup batter on the haddock.  In the end, I chose the latter and went with the batter.  For a downtown Montreal restaurant, it was pretty good…at least enough to forgive the fake newspaper which lined the serving vessel.  The batter was crisp enough  and was well proportioned to the moist fish within. I thought the tartar sauce, which is often overlooked, was a solid companion to the main.

Haddock and chips in maple syrup batter $12
Haddock and chips in maple syrup batter $12

Going along with the theme of the the British pub, there are also pasties, pies, sausage rolls and even some Indian influenced tandoori popcorn shrimp and curry fish cakes. I couldn’t help but order up a sausage roll and pork pie as my colleague shook his head at the amount of grease that was put in front of me.  Both the roll and pie were authentic, even down to the nasty (in a good way) mustard. I could only “mustard” up the courage to eat about a quarter each as my colleague watched in utter horror.

Sausage Roll $4
Sausage Roll $4
Pork Pie $6
Pork Pie $6

When I went inside to pay, I noticed a soft serve ice cream machine promising an authentic chunk of a Cadbury Flake if you ordered one.  I couldn’t resist and found it a nice end to a decent meal.

Ice Cream with Cadbury Flake $2.49
Ice Cream with Cadbury Flake $2.49

My Take 

If I ever chose to film “An Anglophone in Montreal”, I would definitely film a scene here.  The fish and chips and even the environment rival any chipper in English Canada. From the fish to the mustard to the greasy yet flaky crust of the pork pie, the place screams authentic even when they infuse a little maple syrup into the mix.  There is no shortage of chic cafes, adorable bistros and fine dining in this fantastic city but if you want to be a limey for an hour, this is the place to go. Not only is the food good, there is little risk of getting a sabot in the back of the head for ordering fish instead of poisson.

Brit & Chips on Urbanspoon

Where’s Salty?:The Case of the Missing Culinary Clan

There’s an ongoing marketing campaign looking for salty, a cute little salt shaker who went missing when Knorr cut salt by 25% in their Sidekicks side dishes.  His buddy pepper searched the earth looking for him and Knorr went as far as to offer the consumer 25K to find him.

Missing- Salty

Honestly, I don’t know where salty ended up but I think he is stuck  somewhere on the island of misfits  with a bunch of other items that have mysteriously disappeared from restaurants tables over the past few years.  Long, long ago there used to be a carousel of condiments glued to tables containing recycled bottles of Heinz ketchup with a questionable upper crust and a peeling label, a half-empty squeeze container of mustard that magically never empties and a token three packages of tartar sauce with faded yellow edges and no expiry date. Instead, this contraption has been replaced by a floating candle, house made hot sauce or a centrepiece expressing the sadness and lament toward those who do not adhere to a locovore diet.

In all seriousness, salt and pepper shakers have gradually faded into oblivion like molten lava cakes and dandelion greens. Salt went first and despite a tough fight, pepper followed after a spell of confinement in large wooden mills controlled by smiling food servants keen to add the perfect amount to your pasta or salad. Chefs have taken the liberty of seasoning food perfectly, eliminating the need for table dwelling peasants to finish the dish based on their personal preferences. 

Tap water has also vanished, replaced by “still or sparkling” or something identified only by Q water which flows from a draught tap, usually at a cost of three or four bucks a person.  Fountain pop is almost extinct as the pednulum has swung from environmental protection to reliving the nostaglia of yesterday by selling premium sodas in bottles reminiscent of the thick horn-rimmed glasses worn by Uncle Fredrick  and popularized again by the  server cracking the top open with his tattoo-riddled forearm. 

Bread baskets have had the biscuit…literally….replaced by baked goods full of buttermilk, jalapeno/cheddar or black olive and sundried tomato. Gone are the overly hard butter packets and  ramikins of whipped butter.  Instead, shallow bowls of organic oils with droplets of Modena balsamic vinegar grace the tables now.

A suggestion of brewed coffee after a meal often raises an eyebrow or two followed by a response along the lines of  “Sorry, sir, we do not serve brewed coffee but I would be happy to get you an Americano”.  I just shrug my shoulders and dream of the days when the Bunn machine was pumping out half-ass coffee much to the pleasure of Timbucktoos and ICCs (see Argueing with Venti Caffiends post for more details).  I just can’t picture Phyllis the waitress of times yonder whipping up frothy vanilla lattes instead of ripping open a portion pack of coffee grounds and slamming the filter into the reinforced steel basket. Equally as sad is the removal of triangular desserts such as pies and cakes; they have been “deconstructed” or sentenced to death by consumption out of a mason jar.

The endangered Bunn coffee machine

In 1994, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Ficton unleased a pletheria of memorable quotes into pop culture.  One in paticular was Vincent’s (played by John Travolta) proclamation about a milkshake, stating  that “I don’t know if it’s worth five dollars but it’s pretty f”ing good”. Urbanspoon now defines a five-dollar shake as ” something that’s more expensive than its worth; even if its pretty damn decent”.  Almost 20 years later, the five-dollar shake mentality reigns supreme and is rooted in the philosophy of many eateries.  In other words, sell the customer something that is more expensive  than it’s worth by using a combination of personal testimony (I order the fois gras gravy with everything on the menu…it’s especially great with the nicoisse salad) and creative vocabulary (aioli vs mayonnaisse, gherkins or cornichons vs pickles, tomato jam vs ketchup etc.).

Five-Dollar Shake

I understand that the restauranteering  is a competitive business and that upselling is a necessary evil to ensure maximal profit margins and prosperity, but the alienation of the fundamentals of traditional dining (eg. salt shakers and complimentary bread and not messing with Grandma’s apple pie) is saddening.