It’s a neighbourhood pub with ambition.
The red velvet-lined banquettes scream “Aren’t we neat and eccentric!” while the hanging rack of mismatched, hepatitis-stained beer steins assures “But we’re not even trying!”
We sit down at a table too small to fit all four of our knees underneath it. Apparently we should have left some of them at home. We make food selections off a central chalkboard because the “menu” is just a Xeroxed piece of paper with fresh (as in, still damp) gravy stains on it (at least, I hope to god it was gravy) and Andrew gets something on tap that he pointedly refers to as “not a stout.” It’s not the usual pub grub coming our way: there’s goat cheese to be had, and porcini mushrooms, and other things that aren’t wings and onion rings.
There are two men sharing a table nearby. They don’t exactly eat off each other’s plates, but they do halve their portions for sharing. I spend the next hour trying to decide if they’re gay. The fringed scarf trend really throws off my gaydar. Maybe the difference between gay and straight really has become that negligible.
The low lighting clearly appeals to the lugubrious kids and their dubious dates. Stacks of alternative newspapers cater to the theatre students who come to discuss truth, beauty, and America’s Next Top Model , but a bookcase full of important titles beckons to the intellectuals as well (unless you take a closer look, notice the uncracked spines, and revise that to pseudo-intellectuals.) You can see how the prop chess set and the scotch list play into the sweetly contrived ambiance, but the mood music, well, that’s another story.
Now, I suppose it’s possible that I might have interpreted the music as sexy if I was Merv Griffin, but the truth is, 70s game show themes are rarely my cup of tea. I was telling Andrew about my sudden compulsion to “Come on down!” when the music literally changed to the intro to The Price Is Right. And then it got stuck there for 20 of the most temple-throbbing minutes of my life. Thank goodness the music was so loud as to preclude so much as the attempt of conversation because otherwise I fear that I would have treated my fellow patrons to words not even seasoned pub-goers are comfortable with.
Our food arrived, rather quickly I thought, mercifully quickly, by wait staff that seemed blissfully unaware of the noise pollution assaulting our ears and who were friendly in that not-too-friendly sort of way. I watched Andrew pick perfectly harmless tomatoes off a burger that was thicker than any human jaw could hope to conquer and navigate legendary wedges the size of walruses. Walruses! Oh, the bulk! The sheer bulk of them!
The pile of potatoes defeated him in the end, but I ate his tomatoes so they wouldn’t feel self-conscious, thus restoring karma to the universe, or so I thought. Perhaps I was a tad unfair to the venerable restaurant business in a past life (or, more likely, a past post) because I can only assume that what happened next was destined to be.
Just as I was getting into the groove of The Price is Right, maybe jonesing for a little plinko, the music came to a scratching, screeching halt and something even better replaced it. I can only describe it as a fusion of blaxploitation\super hero music, porn-style. The lights went down and I braced myself.
I imagined a drag queen in thigh-high kinky boots, rocking an extravagant Tina Turner wig and eyelashes extending halfway to Maine making her grand entrance.
I anticipated the arrival of a slick dude with a plume in his hat and goldfish in his platforms who would shuffle between tables, slapping people on the back and winking at anything in a skirt. Or at the very least, I thought a caped man suffering from disco fever might make an appearance, but you know what happened?
Nothing. Nothing except for a fat guy in a very open-collared shirt taking the mic and complimenting himself on the music selection so far and psyching us up for his imminent vocal stylings .
We left immediately. We grabbed our coats and headed out into the chill to see what trouble we could find, or if trouble would find us, and on Elgin street, neither is to be discounted.