Hamburger Dreams Come True at Allen’s Restaurant on the Danforth

Ever since I was a young thing, I have been cultivated to savour the finer things in life: good art, French wine, and fresh hamburgers. Now the last item may seem a bit surprising, but anyone who has tried my father’s notorious burgers knows the difference between the real thing and the frozen calamity that comes pre-packaged. Even going out to restaurants, I am often disappointed with the quality of the beef, and the lack of flavour.

But on Friday night, my hamburger dreams came true. My fiancé and I wanted to check out a new area of town, as we tend to stay around the west end, and blindly chose Allen’s pub among all of the other restaurants near Broadview and Danforth Ave. We were enticed by the lively atmosphere when we walked through the door; it was packed with people, and the international beer list filled up two massive chalkboards, both good signs. Although it was busy, we were seated within 15 minutes, having enjoyed an Amsterdam Framboise and a Steigl at the bar in the meantime.

The menu includes traditional pub fare from the isles, such as fish and chips, and a variety of curries, but being indecisive and unsure in a new place, we asked the waitress for advice. She drew our attention to a page of the menu we had overlooked, where she suggested I try the “chopped” steak, which she described as “like a hamburger” but made with the real deal. They also do hamburgers “a la carte” and have various other cuts of high quality beef to choose from, but the unique thing about Allen’s is that all of their beef is butchered in-house, and they are committed to hormone- and pesticide-free products whenever possible.

Although I was a little underwhelmed with what came to the table – it looked like an oddly-shaped hamburger patty without the bun – after the first bite, I went to burger heaven, and didn’t come back down from that happy place until much later that evening. They cook it to order, so what some people might consider odd for a hamburger (pink on the inside at medium-rare), it is in fact the best way to enjoy fresh beef. This is the lesson my father has been trying to teach me ever since I started eating solid foods, and I have finally learned it.

So if you’re looking for a good pub with fine food and a friendly crowd on a Friday night, look no further than Allen’s Restaurant, located at 143 Danforth Ave. You can also check out their website at http://www.allens.to/allens/aboutus.shtml, for more information on dining and special events.

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A Different Sort of Café

My old boss, who lives three blocks away from me in the High Park area, told me about a new café in the Junction called The Good Neighbour. And a good neighbour he was indeed!

This little hot spot is located at the corner of Annette and Quebec Ave., and its style is 19th century industrial meets modern chic. It retains some of that historical Junction charm: it has wire light fixtures with exposed bulbs, a few red brick walls, a wooden, warehouse floor (finished, but still with a natural look), and blends these with elements of the modern: white walls, white columns, and a coffee bar that is done in shiny, silver tiles embossed with a stylish floral design. They paid attention to small details like house numbers, #102 and 104, on the bathroom doors, and create an open space between the back hallway and the café with a large, multi-panel window. Overall, there is an airy, eco-conscious feel to the place, as fresh flowers in a variety of colours adorn the tables and countertop, and serve-yourself water aromatized with fresh cucumber and orange slices is available in glasses instead of paper or plastic cups.

They sell your usual café fare – espressos, lattes, loose leaf teas – at competitive prices, and offer delicious pastries to snack on. In the refrigerated counter section, a stylized sign in cursive writing reads “Paninis coming soon”, so you will be able to have lunch with your Americano in the future. According to the espresso expert, Nick, the Americano here is definitely worth checking out.

I was surprised to find out that The Good Neighbour had only been open for two weeks, because it was already buzzing with so many customers! There were girlfriends catching up on Saturday night’s events, people reading or working (me and my fiancé!), a group of folks chatting around the modern fireplace on comfy chairs, women who had just finished outdoor bike training, and trendy young families with new babies in tow. It was a friendly atmosphere, with lots of smiles and comments exchanged between strangers; the place certainly lives up to its name, bringing people from all over the neighbourhood together.

The Good Neighbour Espresso Bar is located at the corner of Annette and Quebec Ave., on the northwest side.

The legendary return of . . . Tiger Woods?

(Beware sports fans, read the following article at your own risk!)

Today, at 1:42 p.m. Tiger Woods made his epic return to golf. In a normal year, in a normal Masters tournament, I would have no idea what time golfers tee off, because I usually don’t care. But this year is different. This year a man who cheated on his wife with several women has taken 5 months off the golf scene, and is making his “legendary” return. Is this a joke?

I understand that Tiger Woods is human, and is entitled to make mistakes. He is also entitled to learn from his mistakes, and make a fresh start. And I can see how facing the public after such a huge media debacle could be painstaking, embarrassing, and overall uncomfortable, so my applause goes out to Tiger for that at least. What I don’t understand is why this day has become so important to popular culture, and why people were crying on the golf course when Tiger walked out to tee off.

It is as though Tiger has now gained some sort of infamy for being adulterous. He’s up there with the likes of John Dillinger, Billy the Kid, or Bonnie and Clyde. They gained superstardom for all the wrong reasons: breaking the law, escaping authorities, and generally being a danger to the public. In Tiger’s case, the laws he broke are along moral lines, and he didn’t quite succeed in escaping the media authorities, but his poor example has been set, and there will certainly be those who think its okay to follow. Or maybe the better comparison is Hugh Hefner – at least he waited until he was divorced to move into the Playhouse.

Furthermore, the media are making it seem like Tiger’s been gone from the golf world for years, when it’s only been 5 months. Do people really think that 5 months is enough for someone to recover from events that destroyed Tiger’s family and down-home image? Is 5 months enough time to get over an “addiction” to sex? Shouldn’t there be some mathematical formula based on how many women he slept with? Certainly 5 months isn’t long enough to do penance for your sins, or regain emotional stability. Maybe Tiger Woods is a robot who doesn’t feel anything. That might explain everything.