The food: Dundas Street West sandwiches
On a quick trip to New York last week, I caught a preview performance of Roundabout Theater’s production of The Tin Pan Alley Rag, a new musical about the lives and music of Irving Berlin and Scott Joplin.
The show did not elicit from me a single joyous musical theatre tear (a mark of excellence in my personal rating system), and I thought the way the book dwelled on the early deaths of both composers’ young wives (used to demonstrate what the two had in common other than being cultural outsiders who were musical genii) was pretty maudlin.
But what a great score! The songs and music were wonderful, I found the scenes when the composer characters talked (all too briefly) about how they wrote their music fascinating, and I loved hearing the two leads (a charming and sweet-voiced Michael Therriault and a rather stiff Michael Boatman) sing Irving Berlin’s Play A Simple Melody – a delightful tune in counterpoint from 1914(!), which was, for me, the highlight of the show.
Also simple, and a recent eating-out highlight, was “the sandwich” – containing a fried egg, bacon, tomato and cheddar cheese – that I ate at Musa, a restaurant on Dundas Street West in Toronto. We had intended that day to try the oft-hyped Saving Grace nearby, but, discouraged by the large number of people lined up outside Saving Grace, in the rain, we went to the larger Musa instead.
The thrift shop décor (and recycled tacky coffee mugs) at Musa gave us pause, but the golden challah was warm and well-toasted, the fried egg cooked just right, and the combined ingredients of the sandwich altogether satisfying.
Soon after, we returned to Dundas West to try Saving Grace on a weekday, and again found a lineup outside, though empty tables, also of the thrift shop variety, could be seen within the bright but rundown interior. (The sole overworked waitress seemed to be having trouble keeping up with her triple roles of hostess, waitress, and busgirl.) The weather was fine, so we waited this time, were seated after about 10 minutes, and ordered sandwiches warm and cold from a menu that listed them alongside breakfast foods and a few lunch items.
We tried the corncakes, which I thought had a rather industrial shape and texture, though E found them tasty, flecked as they were with coriander and green onions.
Our sandwiches, in contrast, looked very home-cooked (and a little sloppy). My cold sandwich – an old cheddar, avocado, tomato combo on what was billed as toasted whole wheat raisin bread with rosemary mayonnaise – sounds better than it tasted, which was ordinary: my perfect home office lunch sandwich on Epi fruit and nut bread is way better, partly due to the superiority of the Epi bread.
E’s hot sandwich, listed on the menu as “brie pear walnuts honey on open baguette,” was also not as good as the brie and walnuts sandwich he sometimes makes at home on a superlative baguette from Thobor Boulangerie Patisserie Café.
So the next time I want a simple, satisfying brunchy sandwich near Dundas and Bathurst, I’ll return to Musa. And the next time I want to clear a lovely melody, I’ll listen to an Irving Berlin song, or to one of Scott Joplin’s wonderful piano rags, like my current favorite, Sugar Cane: