Partner and I ended up spending many hours downtown yesterday, because we went to see the Kids in the Hall at the Jack Singer, a show that was scheduled for 7, but because of a rock slide on the TCH en route from their show the day before in Vancouver, the whole think was delayed until 9:30. Imagine a couple thousand KITHies, including a pair dressed as the Sizzler Sisters and at least one cabbagehead, all being pissed off outside the Epcor Centre- not pretty! But we tried to make the most of if,and with two hours to kill we traipsed down Centre St to espy the state of construction (VERY COOL) of the Encana HQ, sat and regarded ducks and geese amidst a superbly multiculti crowd at Prince's Island, and then, after being rebuffed several times for desert (Divino closed for the long weekend, Blink closed for a private event, and yes the renos appear to be done, Catch not taking walk-ins), we settled on Tribune and had a chocolate trio w/ flight of desert wines. Excellent, especially the semifreddo "fudgesicle" with brownie hidden inside. I really want to try Tribune again.
What was really amazing about this unanticipated two-hour stroll was that downtown (Stephen Ave at least, and the park too) was HOPPING. And I mean packed with people- yes it was a gorgeous night, but people here are supposed to (1) head to the mountains on the 2-4 weekend, and (2) never set foot in downtown, especially at night. The patios were packed and so were restos inside; on the drive back from the show we saw the same gaggles on 1st (eg La Brava, the Shisha place at 10th and 1st, which I thought was hurting for business was overflowing, as were the sidewalks in general) and 11th (big crowds outside Amsterdam Rhino and Broken City, eg) and needless to say 17th was a zoo. It was great. Whoever says we roll up the sidewalks here and in particular that downtown is dead needs to get out more. I was very, very impressed.
AND we ran into forumer Alau and her fiancee (she spotted me- love these organic f2f meetings with chowhounders; this makes four that I know of), which was neat.
Oh, the show was excellent! Lots of new material, so we didn't have to sit through "chicken lady on a blind date" or "simon and hecubus do hypnosis" for the third time in three tours (2000, 2002, 2008 for me).
ANYway, enough of the editorial about the state of our downtown. One thing that really shocked me was that the windows at Palette Coffeehouse at Art Central are papered over with a very serious looking advertisement for a place called "De Ville," and in smaller letters, "luxury coffee and pastries." Okay, I found out from talking to Brad, co-owner of Tribune, that they've sold Palette, but all he would guess it "it's a high-end coffeehouse." This is the thing: This was the supposed-to-be-secret location for the new location of Phil and Sebastian, a deal that, or so I heard, fell through some months ago since the owners didn't want to sell (or something like that). I don't know all the details but am very surprised to see, now, what doesn't look like mere re-branding (who does this with a coffeehouse anyway? I can see renovation, but complete re-branding?) but a complete change in ownership and, one hopes, focus. Palette was so-so; I know nothing about this new place. So, yeah, any insider info would be very much appreciated.
This is the second floor of Art Central, Centre St and 7th Ave. I'll keep an eye out.
Oh, another DT tidbit: Fantino Fusion is dead, and the spot is becoming a(nother) Original Joe's. I like the idea of less high-end on Stephen Ave but last time I was at OJ's (Kensington) the "Philly chicken sandwich" was one of the worst things I've ever ordered- not nice shaved grilled chicken but a solid lump of dry white meat with some sort of nasty teriyaki on it- not an easy thing to screw up but they did. Let's hope for work in the kitchen side there and another nice patio.