The food: the hamburger at Allen’s
Last week, I went to Allen’s on the Danforth in Toronto to have a burger because I used to think their burger was the best in Toronto, and I wanted to write about it, give Allen’s its due.
E arrived there first, at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday, and was seated on the wooden bench at a table for two on the pleasant backyard patio, which can hold about 50 people, but was occupied by only 10 or so customers.
I showed up five minutes later, and tried to sit down in one of the cheap plastic chairs that are the only non-bench seating available. I found them too low (the table top was at my chest level when I sat in one) so I pulled another small table over to the one E was sitting at, and sat beside him on the bench, both of us facing the same way.
The waitress came over right away. “Are you expecting a larger party?” When I said no, she said, grim-faced, “Well, we’re going to need that table back.” And though there were at least 30 seats available at that moment on the patio, she wasn’t kidding.
We should have stood up and left, I suppose, but we didn’t. We told her we would be out in less than a hour, she did not take the table away (she didn’t need it yet, it seemed), and we ordered two burgers and some mixed sweet potato and regular potato fries to share.
The burger was good and juicy, its meaty flavour was not sullied by overpowering garlic or spicy notes, the bun was eggy and toasted, and I did like the blue cheese that came with it. But we were given two tablespoons of anemic relish in a small container for two people, the water I asked for was served in a plastic cup (E’s beer merited a glass), and the waitress was terse and unsmiling for our entire 40 minute visit.
Hell, I’m not looking for tablecloths, crystal or attentive service when I go out for a burger. The cafeteria style lineup at places like Shake Shack, in New York city, where customers eat delicious, high quality, and inexpensive food out of paper containers off trays, suits me fine as long as the counter people I deal with aren’t rude.
But after being a semi-regular Allen’s customer for 20 years – and being made to feel unwelcome this time and on a few previous occasions – good burger or not, I won’t be going back.