Ever walk into a restaurant not knowing what the experience would be like? The Eyeopener’s investigative critics set out to find out. Choose your next meal carefully using our patented (or not) clock rating system.
The Pickle Barrel Grand
312 Yonge St.
(2.5 clocks out of 5)
The Pickle Barrel is only a good place to be if you’re really hungry and have a lot of time on your hands. Portions are plentiful. Service? Not so much. I arrived the Tuesday before last incredibly hungry, so I admit that I was ready to become irritated if I didn’t get what I wanted — and got what I didn’t want. Josephine (see her review of the Hard Rock Cafe, next page) and I arrived at the restaurant just after 7 p.m. As soon as we walked in, we were seated at one of their “tables for two” — they have awesome circular booths, I might add, if you are with more than one person. At least the ambience was nice. The food was pretty great too.
It’s too bad the service didn’t match.
Six minutes after being seated, out waiter tok our drink order and we gazed confusedly at the restaurant’s large selection.
Compared to most restaurants, it has a huge menu.
One thing that amused me was that they had far more vegetarian options than most places. Josephine and I counted nine in all — not including dessert or sides.
Within seven minutes of the waiter asking us what we wanted to drink, our wonderful non-alcoholic — we’re underage! — drinks arrived.
At this point, he took our orders. I ordered the vegetarian soy burger. Josephine ordered fish and chips.
Moat meals take more than 15 minutes to cook. This is, apparently, not the case at the Pickle Barrel. Within 14 minutes, our gigantic portions appeared on our table. As we munched away on our food, which was OK — I only liked the burger once I’d removed the pickle, ironically — I wanted to take advantage of my free pop refill. And things took a turn for the worse.
Generally, servers passing by ask you whether you want refills — but they were wither too busy to notice everyone at this point or, well, just too busy.
Many waiters rished by our table to aid others, but not once did anyone stop to ask how we were doing or whether or not we needed anything.
Fifty minutes after receiving our meals, we were finally stuffed and had given up on waiting to be asked about the bill or dessert. Since out server was nowhere to be found, we asked a passing staff member for our cheque. Within eight minutes, we received our bill, paid it and received out change.
An hour and 25 minutes after we had arrived we were out the door with fuller stomachs and emptier wallets.
Despite being satisfied with my food, I was a little upset with the service. Would it have killed someone to just come over and ask how we were doing? And we need more than one fabric napkin — what would we do if we spilled food or drinks all over ourselves during an important dinner? Freak out, apparently.
But while the service wasn’t what I expected, I don’t really have that many criticisms of the restaurant’s products. I’ll have to go back for one of their desserts sometime (their main courses didn’t leave much room). Maybe I’ll get a good server.
— Seema Persaud
The Imperial Pub
54 Dundas St. E.
(4 clocks out of 5)
The Imperial is a good place to go for a few pitchers and some wings. The Ritz Carlton it ain’t, but that doesn’t bother us.
Shortly after arriving at around 7 p.m. last Tuesdat, we were told that the staff was in the midst of a shift change-over and that we couldn’t order anything for a few minutes. At first, this seemed horribly unreasonable. (Never deprive Eyeopener editors of their beer. Seriously. It’s a federal offence.) But we were overreacting.
Only two minutes after being allowed to order, we had two pitchers of beer. Happy us.
Only two of us were hungry. Arts & Entertainment Editor Karon Liu’s only stipulation was that he didn’t want anything that was fried. Unfortunately for Karon, this was the Imperial — where nearly everything is fried. He settled on a corned beef sandwich (which he later called “average,” though he conceded that it’s not standard pub fare).
I was craving my home province’s delicacy, which is not only fried, it’s fries with cheese and gravy. We ordered at the same time and received our food 16 minutes later.
The service was great overall; someone checked in on us every once in a while without smothering us. (We were, however, told not to out our feet up on the couches. We wouldn’t put them on our mothers’ couches, after all.)
Be prepared to ask for your food or drinks at the bar and bring them back to your table. That’s standard.
But you’ll get what you asked for.
— Kerry Wall
The Ram in the Rye
63 Gould St.
(3.5 clocks out of 5)
For all the complaints about bad service at the Ram in the Rye, the Eyeopener’s past two experiences there weren’t all that bad.
It didn’t take forever to get our food and our servers were quick, courteous, friendly and helpful.
Yeah, we sort of went in with low expectations. But given the angst directed in the campus pub’s general direction — especially last year, when a certain campus paper (hint: it’s not this one) devoted and entire editorial to the quality of the service at the Ram in the Rye — low expectations were the way to go.
While the campus pub doesn’t rival a fast-food restaurant in terms of speed, it’s a good place for a relatively inexpensive night out.
This past Wednesday, we had menus two minutes after we asked for them. While it took 20 minutes to get our pitcher of beer and just under half an hour to get our food, compared to some of the service we had at the Ram in the Rye in recent years, our server from this past week deserved a medal.
She went out of her way to refill water and to ask about the quality of our food. She seemed genuinely concerned with our dining experience and knew the menu inside-out. We never had to flag her down; she seemed to know exactly when to show up. The Ram in the Rye isn’t the fastest place in the world. But it’s gotten better and it gets points for trying extra hard.
The Hard Rock Cafe
279 Yonge St.
(3 clocks out of 5)
The Hard Rock Cafe has a nice atmosphere, good service and good food — just beware when it’s busy.
We were taken to our seats immediately and a waitress came by and took our orders not long after that. Drinks arrived 10 minutes later. Food quickly followed another 10 minutes after that.
When we first arrived, the restaurant wasn’t very busy and the waitress checked on us every few minutes. But as the night went on, the tables filled up and she stopped by less. This is to be expected, but it got a little out of hand.
By the time we were done, the place was packed. Many watched the baseball game at the bar. A different waiter cleared our table. We asked him for the bill. Two minutes later, our original waitress returned with it. Despite the fact that the staff couldn’t handle the large crowd that came in towards the end, I’ll be back.
— Josephine Lim