I live in what is currently considered to be the hippest foodie neighbourhood of Toronto, at Dundas and Ossington. Within a 6-block radius you can get: certified Neapolitan pizza, rustic Italian food, experimental seafood, gourmet waffles, Asian/fusiony ceviche, Cuban-French food, tequila-based cocktails…and oysters.
Most of these places claim to be all over the local/sustainable bandwagon. Ontario meat, Monforte cheese, organic flours: check, check, and check.
But try impulsively going to one of these places (as one does, in one’s neighbourhood), and nightmares can ensue.
Do. You. Have. Reservations. is the first thing the hostess at Enoteca Sociale will say to you, in a somewhat admonitory tone. It may be 5pm or it may be midnight, the restaurant will be half full or packed, but that is always the first hoop to jump through. Who makes reservations to go for a drink and a snack around the corner? You sheepishly admit that you did not submit to their online booking system. You may get a place at a common table or at the bar but if you want to sit on the patio – get in line. That line may be three weeks long.
It’s over a year since I’ve tasted the lovely pizza at Libretto, because the hour-long wait makes me (and my friends) feel like idiots.
And then there is Fishbar, one of the newest places to set up shop on Ossington. A great review by Joanne Kates and a longing for oysters drew me, The Consultant and The Architect there one weeknight. It was 9pm and we hadn’t yet had dinner. Fortunately, there was an empty table when we arrived. Unfortunately, we had to wait twenty minutes until we were allowed to sit at it. There’s something slightly humiliating standing around waiting for a table that no one else is sitting at, but we dealt with it with good humour.
More time passed as we waited to order, even more as we waited for food. We asked for bread. We. Don’t. Do. Bread. said the surly waiter. Oh. But. The. Table. Next. To. Us. Has. Bread. I said, earnestly. The waiter argued his point (bread only comes with a particular course) but finally relented, with a petulant sigh. It was 10pm by the time we were slurping back oysters. By 10:30, our salad and frites had not yet arrived. As though we were delayed learners, the hostess (the waiter was nowhere to be seen) very patiently informed us that they like to serve their ‘tapas style’ dishes separately.
The Architect said, It’s Been Nothing But One ‘No’ After Another. We told the hostess we were leaving. The Consultant finally found the waiter and asked for the bill. It included the salad and frites we’d never received. We asked to see the manager. I. Am. The. Manager. he said haughtily.
I’ll spare you the man’s temper tantrum, his accusations, his hysterical tearing up of the bill (we did insist on paying for the food we’d eaten). I. Accommodated. You. he said dramatically at one point. Say what? You. Did. Not. Even. Have. Reservations. And. I. Accomodated. You.
We went back to my place and had a lovely midnight snack of French rosé, local corn, green salad, and my homemade ginger-cherry ice cream. It was the best neighbourhood meal I’d had in quite sometime.
People, we’re not getting to good value for our money. Small portions, attitude, and big bills (we paid sixty dollars for four oyster and a glass of wine each!).
I am pledging to never spend more than ten dollars for a meal for the next six months. If that means hole-in-the wall, take out, or eating in, I’m good with that.
If that means I have more change to give to panhandlers and buskers, even better.
Where do you eat for ten dollars and under? Where do you get reasonably-priced food and hospitality too? Whats’ your experience of haute locavore cuisine?