Sunday, May 17, 2009

ikea restaurangen...yes, that's swedish!

I feel like it has been a while since my last post, and I don't want my adoring fans (my mom) to feel like I have abandoned my blog, so I will explain the reason for my absence. Since the sack of potatoes... I mean the baby arrived, the condo has slowly felt like that scene in one of those Star Wars movies where the walls are closing in on them (and trust me, I tried to come up with a better reference but I just can't get that scene out of my mind). Baby crap is taking over my life! As I sit on my sofa typing away while the kid sleeps in our den/baby-room/solarium, I am literally surrounded by baby junk, I can feel rolled up baby socks under my ass, I think I smell a dirty diaper that must of rolled under the sofa, and YES it just rolled there, I didn't throw it under there because I was too lazy to take it to the real garbage...anyway, where was I, oh yeah, complaining about the baby crap. There is not a single inch of my living room floor that is not covered in some toy or blankie or left over MumMum cookie, I feel like I'm sinking in baby quicksand. The point is our 650 square foot Toronto condo no longer fits us (to be honest it barely fit us before, but we were never home so we didn't notice...oh the days of being able to go out whenever we case you wanted to know, there is a single tear streaming down my face as I look out the window longingly). So last Monday we made the decision to put the condo up for sale and move into a house. We met with our realtor on Tuesday, the condo was listed on Wednesday, and it sold on Thursday...what was that about a real estate crisis???!!!??! I don't know what I was thinking but I thought I would have a long time to get used to the idea of moving, well I don't, so let's just say I've been a little freaked out. I'm not sure I'm ready to be a grown up and do something selfless for my kid, like move to the burbs so they can have a nice backyard and not be stuck on a wait list for soccer camp because of the high demand in the city (the 'city-moms' I know have scared me with stories of camping out nights before in front of rec centres to get their kids in the good programs...and apparently you can't just let your kid watch tv and play on the driveway 24-7....they need programs!) I like to pretend I'm still 'cool city girl', the problem is that 'cool city girl' can only afford a house in crack-whore yeah, I'm a little stressed. So that's the reason for my lack of entries, but I'm back. In my recent week of house hunting and realizing how intensely poor I am as I near the end of my maternity leave, the husband and I decide to hit the cheapest 'restaurant' ( I use ' ' in describing this place as a restaurant because I think the title might be up for debate) - the cafeteria style restaurant at IKEA.

Now, when reviewing the IKEA restaurant a couple of things have to be made clear. First of all, it's a self serve counter, meaning wait staff are not around to screw up or piss me off, definitely a bonus. Second, it's freak'in IKEA, what do you expect??? I don't expect much, maybe on par with the fly infested buffet lunch in that really crappy all inclusive resort I stayed at in Cuba (maybe the half a star rating it got should have tipped me off...but I was young and naive...okay it was only last year...leave me alone!) ...and to tell you the truth it's a little better, except the omellette bar, gotta say, IKEA does not have an omellette I miss that trip, scary Maria behind the counter spitting on the frying pan to check its temperature, what a vacation (that single tear remains on my cheek). 

If you enjoy eating tasty, well prepared food that is both creatively presented and unexpectedly delicious...this is NOT the place for you. If you need a place where your baby can make a lot of noise and mess alongside numerous other annoying children, a place where the food is very cheap and the taste doesn't really matter because you are going to wolf it down like a pie-eating contest champ before your kid has a tantrum, a place where they have a microwave to heat up your baby food because the 'princess' won't eat anything that is at room temperature, well if all these apply to you then come on in, pull up a cheap poorly constructed bright coloured chair and take a load off, pop a few swedish meatballs, some cheap hotdogs, and count down the days until your little one is big enough to go to the playland and you can come have a coffee by yourself for the first time in months, maybe years, while you enjoy the benefits of free daycare....just imagine it, date nights at IKEA, and I checked, they serve alcohol!

helpful hint: stay away from the $1.99 pasta're better off going hungry!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Grenadier Cafe, coffee's crap but we still love you.

In my attempts to maintain my sanity and try to fool myself into thinking I still have a social life since the kid arrived I joined a 'mom group' for new moms. Now, detailing the various conversations, my own opinions of the ladies, and over all mom-gossip would fill an entirely other blog, so I'm trying to stay focused here and move this topic onto reviewing the restaurant, so the point is, met a bunch of moms, figured out who I thought I would like, weeded out all the losers, and now I get together with a small group for lunch weekly at the Grenadier Cafe in High Park, the subject of this post. (I won't tell you which day we meet, wouldn't want any 'fans' hounding me while I'm out with my friends, I like to keep a low profile .... I also like to pretend anyone other than my mom reads this blog)

The High Park restaurant is a place where I can truly say, within a single visit I can go from loving it to wanting to stab the stupid waitress in the throat with a fork (which is often made difficult considering she never brings me one). We've been going there since the kiddies were immobile and barely opening their eyes to now requiring high chairs and constant entertainment, and throughout these months of visits I still can't decide if I love it's quirky charm and low-key atmosphere, or hate it for it's incompetent wait staff and bad coffee.

Let me take you through a typical visit to give you an idea of the good, the bad, and the ugly of this place, and you can decide for yourself if its worth it or not.

On a weekly basis we enter the restaurant in a parade of adorable babies in strollers being pushed by women who are getting better looking by the week, and I mean that literally, we all looked like crap those first few weeks and it has now gotten to the point where I have noticed some of the moms brushing their hair before leaving the house, and a couple have even put some mascara on, bravo ladies! As we walk in there are numerous elderly patrons oohing and aahing over the little ones, which we all of course love, score one for high park. "Our Table" is always available and the backroom is pretty vacant most of the time making it so we can spread our baby crap across 5 or 6 tables guilt free...I know, this place sounds great. We all sit, say hi to each other's babies that have been hidden behind puffy jackets and blankets, and wait for the waitress, and wait, and wait, and....well, you get the picture. Now we are a group of new moms on mat leave, meaning we will take adult conversation wherever we can get it, so most of the times we don't notice right away that we are being completely ignored, and when I say ignored, I mean the waitress will walk by us a few times and not even make eye contact. Eventually it will get to the point where we realize that our throats are drying up from dehydration and the babies are getting hungry and need baby food heated up, so we try to get her attention. In one of her sprints by our table we yell in her general direction that we would like some waters, she looks our way and nods, which in most countries is a signal confirming she has heard our request and is prepared to fill it, unfortunately our waitress is not familiar with this custom and not only leaves us waterless, but also does not provide our children with the opportunity to eat warm food, leaving no alternative but to give them sweet potato that is still half frozen in that ice cube shape, the poor babies are getting frost bite holding onto these cubes with their tiny fists, gumming away at it, trying with everything in them to make the burning hunger feeling in their tiny little tummies go away....maybe I went too far with that, let's just say the kids are cranky they want to eat and the mamas are cranky because they want to eat, it's not a good scene. 

Eventually we are looked after, sometimes she'll return with the baby food we have asked her to heat up, but sometimes she'll forget to bring it back. Some days our orders take 5 minutes, other days they take an hour, don't really get it considering we all order the same thing every week. Then the bills are another story all together, we have got to the point where we will all just stand near the register and hope she eventually notices us so we can pay her.

So you may be asking yourself, why do we keep coming back to this place, well, when you are a mom in Toronto your options are a little more limited and your criteria for a good restaurant change a little, no longer does food quality take precedence, accommodating the babies become the priority and regardless of the waitress who has obviously spent a lot of time on the 'short bus' there are pluses that cannot be denied:
  • there is space for 8 or more strollers around the table, this is a huge bonus in the city where sometimes you are actually turned away when you try to enter a restaurant with a stroller (stupid pretentious Torontonians...oh how I miss being one of those)
  • there are piles up on piles of high chairs - because nothing is worse then looking forward to a nice warm meal out that you didn't have to prepare yourself, only to have to hold a squirming baby on your lap while you try to eat it, restaurant meal + baby on lap = severe heartburn
  • it's never that busy so we can spend hours loitering and no one bothers us (if I don't see the mess at home it doesn't really exist, so the longer I'm out the better)
  • there is A LOT of free parking, which again in the city is hard to come by (or you can do like me and go to the lot next to NoFrills in Bloor West, spend hours in the 'village' then buy one item for $5 and get your parking, i've become such a cheap-ass since having the baby, next thing I know I'm going to be saying that I won't buy those shoes until they go on sale!)
Just for those reasons I'll put up with a crappy waitress, messed up orders, bad coffee, and overpriced eggs (if it's after 11am).

(okay, get ready, the only time I'm going to be nice, it's coming up)

...and really just the company alone makes any crap I have to deal with worth it...there's my little nod to the high park moms;) back to being bitchy.