I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
I still reserve the right to use the word “adorable” in describing a restaurant.
Today began with a pair of false starts. I arrived at the Wandering Traveller, across the corner of the Coast Inn of the North, only to discover that it had booked an event and was closed for lunch. It also had a duplicate entry in Urbanspoon, as it was no longer called Wandering Traveller (Sassafras Savories, I honestly preferred the old one). I hope to tackle that one next week. The exact same thing happened later at the European Bistro. As it turned out, I had already reviewed it under the name Nancy Os.
I had to now either take in a hotel restaurant like Connaught or Grammas or tuck into a parking spot and try out Margo’s Cafe. I imagined this quaint little location fills a niche with the banks and insurance places surrounding it, a provider of food beyond the cellophane-wrapped submarine sandwiches and cheddar-ham wraps of in-house delis. Margo’s is cute, and not just because of its under 20 all-female staff (that is a factor). Less than a dozen tables insures of cozy atmosphere, with nostalgic framed posters and large canvases probably procured from the novelty wall at Winners.
I know I said I wouldn’t review a cafe, but Margo’s balances that line between café and bistro. Yes, you order from the counter, but most of the food isn’t waiting on plates for immediate pickup. The selection I found was a motley crew of wraps, soups, and sandwiches. I asked for a recommendation and was offered the open-face chicken sandwich. What arrived was a gravy-drenched plate consisting of a baseball of mashed potatoes, a ladle of unseasoned steamed vegetables, and the aforementioned sandwich. The chicken was a landmark of lethargic mediocrity, with gravy lathered chicken trimmings sitting atop of untoasted Wonder Bread. For those spared this unfortunate example of bachelor-evening-desperation, when untoasted sliced white bread is covered in any liquid, be it gravy, butter, or mayonnaise, what results is close to pudding.
The metaphor of bachelor-evening-desperation is accurate under reflection. Consider it: you’re single, returning late from work. You’re starving, but only have your mother’s chicken/turkey in the fridge from yesterday’s holiday meal. So you do what any single person would do—you drop down some Wonder Bread and microwave the leftovers. That’s what this was: a dish I decided I’d never make myself again, the food I never look forward to—next day leftover improvisation. My mother has more pride than to pull this kind of crap off. She at least would have the imagination of making a pot pie, or at the very least, toast god damned bread.
I was recommended this depressing plate against the soup and sandwiches I saw other patrons enjoying. Those don’t look half bad. I should have expected this given the obvious fact that there appears to be four waitresses and no chef. The period between ordering and receiving was less than two minutes, a clear indication of microwave use. Margo’s must have developed a following given the crowd, or perhaps it’s the only choice for a speedy lunch against the competition, expensive locations like Cimos and North 54.
As I finished my meal, another customer started up a conversation with me. She was of the attractive sort and inquired about my puppy. After the initial misunderstanding passed and humor had settled in, I added that if I wasn’t allergic to them, I’d chat up a storm with her about my puppy. And that little fleeting moment was the only good thing I took from Margo’s.
As for where I work, even with access to above average deli food on site, I still only enjoy a single granola bar for lunch. Outside of my reviews, I’m not much of a big lunch eater. If I was fifteen years younger and without the emotional scars that have developed in the interim, I’d return to Margo’s regularly, faking loyalty for brief moments of elation in talking to its staff. It reminded me back when I was 24 (like a lifetime ago) and a frequent visitor of the local Second Cup for the sole purpose of making an impression on one of its employees. Not being a coffee drinker, you could imagine this was difficult. How many different flavours of Italian soda can one person enjoy?
I digress. Seriously, don’t go into Margo’s unless you work nearby and are in need of five-minute protein…and haven’t packed a bag lunch.