For those of us working in the entertainment district, we're the envy of the Bay Street PATH diners with our bevy of choice. We've got Burrito Boyz, Quesada, Ravi Soups, the diner on Peter Street, Parsi, Lettuce, Zupas to choose from. Not far away is New York Subway and Ghandi and there are a million and one sushi, shwarma and sandwich joints in between. We're lucky and we like to flaunt it.
Its a place I'm sure you've walked past many times before. Next to The Gap on the south side of Queen, it looks forgettable from the outside and I didn't think it would last longer than a few months because lunch in the district, as I noted gives a lot of choice for a hungry office dweller. Was another diner really necessary for the 'hood?
For months, my cash strapped coworker has been bringing back enormous plates of food, stinking up our work area with garlic and onion and roasted meats and for these months I had no idea where he was getting his lunch from. Last Friday he returned to the office with what I would like to call the last straw; A souvlaki plate piled high with salad, coleslaw, pasta salad, a bit of rice, fries and of course, meat. I could smell the tzatziki from 20 feet away, so I had to go and ask just what he was eating. His reply was Famous BBQ, the joint I'd been walking past for too long.
Today, in a fit of Monday Rage I set out to Famous BBQ because I knew that comfort food was what they could serve me. And if there was no quality, there'd at least be quantity.
It was busy when I got there, which is always a good sign. Nothing special about the decor, but what struck me was the owner at the cash, not a few years older than me shaking everyone's hand and saying hello in between his order calling to the open kitchen a few feet behind him. Soon, it was my time to order and he asked me for my name and my order. "Souvlaki please" I replied. He then said that I had a few choices to make and I was so amazed at his control over the transaction which seemed sincere and for 30 seconds he took care of my order, ensuring it was exactly how I wanted it to be.
"We have chicken and pork souvlaki today, Eller although we've also got a spicy pork souvlaki too." he said. I was amazed for someone spoke more than a few words to me during a busy lunch takeout. I chose the spicy pork and he began to write out my order on my foam clamshell. "We have Italian, oil and vinegar, Thousand Island, Greek and French dressings for your salad."
Once our transaction was finished, he invited me to step aside or take a seat while he repeated the same personable service with everyone else, stopping during minute long lulls to clear tables and to welcome regulars back to his place and say goodbye to those leaving the neighbourhood. Amazing.
My food was cooked to order and so once it was ready he nodded at me and I returned to the counter. "Eller, are you new here? I don't think I've seen you before." He asked me to return soon and I left, hearing him greet others with something so foreign to the Queen St. strip; Hospitality.
I got back to my desk and almost immediately, I had people swarming my workspace asking me where I'd got my lunch. I was too busy to talk though, as I had huge, tender chunks of pork to contend with and a generous amount of tzatziki to bathe it in. It was garlicky yet balanced with what I thought was a bit of tandoori (different, but delicious) spice to add a kick to the meat. My salad and coleslaw was also good. Crispy, fresh and light although I barely touched my fries or rice as it was all too much food... for a mere $9.
I'm still burping garlic in the way that only a good lunch can do to a tummy. And I thought I'd recommend Famous BBQ here for those of us who already know that great meals on the district are a wonderful thing, so that lunch can become even better.
Famous BBQ Express
385 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V2A5, CA