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AZ RESTO TOUR

Eating through London, Ontario's restaurants. Alphabetically.

#26 FITZRAYS

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CUISINE: Sports Pub ADDRESS: 110 Dundas Street DATE: November 8, 2013

If you know my friends and I at all, you know we’re going to fit RIGHT IN at a sports bar.

(Ahem)

To be fair, I am actually married to a straight man. Being married to a straight man has its advantages (ahem), but it also has serious disadvantages. Straight guys wear plaid, have beards and…ugh, watch SPORTS. Like, a LOT. Ian tells me that having a deadline for your draft picks for a hockey pool is normal. I try to abide it. When we go to New York, I even go with Ian to a Rangers game or a Knicks game (if there’s one at a time when a Broadway musical isn’t playing, and hey! There’s always a chance Beyonce and Jay-Z could be there!)

But on November 8, the Friday that we headed to Fitzrays, the following was also true:

  • Ian had just flown in from Brazil and was super jet-lagged
  • It was also Mr. Straighty McSports’ BIRTHDAY
  • it was the night of something Knightsy or hockey or sporty at the JLC.
  • it was the night of my friend Cameron’s Broadway Cabaret (“an Evening of Singing AND Dancing”)

So, in a way, it was great that we were headed downtown, because we could meet up with friends before the Cabaret at the Wolf Performance Hall.

But, as my friend Jim also pointed out, it would be difficult to get a table at a restaurant that sits directly across from the JLC (or Budweiser Gardens or whatever that thing is).

A quick call proved that theory correct: they wouldn’t take a reservation for a group of 8, but as long as I got there “at 5 or 5:30”, I’d be fine.

And since, as of late, going for dinner with the elderly seems to be my cup of tea (see #25, FIRESIDE), there I was at 5:25.

The only people that seemed to be at the restaurant during daylight hours were smoking on the sidewalk, so we basically had our pick of tables. There was a 10-top right next to the door, but since it had those high stools that I can never navigate, along with a HPD (High Possibility of Draftiness), I opted for the large booth in the corner. The waitress assured me that when the rest of my party of 8 arrived, that we could pull up a couple of chairs to the end.

The interior of Fitzrays looks like it was decorated by men, and I don’t say that to be sexist, I say it because of SCIENCE.

Because Fitzrays looks like it was decorated by someone who has the capability of being colour blind. The colour scheme was the disgusting combination of red and brown, or as Andrew Varkaris would dub it, Scorched Oxblood and Swill (paint colour names Patent-Pending).

The main feature of the room, of course, is the giant bar at it centre, but given the men sidling up the side of our booth, beer-in-hand and jersey-on-torso, the flat screens foisting the wonder that is competition poker were a big hit as well.

The big hit at our table? The big (and inexpensive!) list of ciders, always a selling feature to our resident Celiac, Jess.

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Jess has made it clear to me that if anything was to happen to me, she has first dibs on Ian. I am fine with this.

[Thank God Birthday Boy went to away to Brazil in order to grow his beard back.]

Tonight’s line-up is a list of theatre all stars: Also joining our party on the way to the Broadway Cabaret: student, actor and my co-star in the Sound of Music Kenny, who finally stopped crying after the hot-pepper-horrors of #19, DEMHAI DANG.

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Kenny and I share a fear that we have undiagnosed lazy eyes. This photo does nothing to disprove this notion.

Jim, retired newspaper writer, Professional pot-stirrer and Amateur model of Broadway-swag (tonight’s attire: a PIPPIN hat accompanied by a PETER AND THE STARCATCHER tee);

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On the right is friend, artistic director, and favourite theatre gossip Tribe, returning to the blog for the first time since #10 BUDAPEST; and on the left, making his blog debut, is my beloved Thomas. Thomas and I met when he was a student, and I was in my first year of teaching. He became my singing companion (we were once belting showtunes so loudly in my office, we missed a fire alarm), my personal assistant, and my co-star and collaborator on multiple shows. My favourite person to travel to New York with (if only because he doesn’t force me to go and see SPORTS).

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And also making his first appearance on the AZ Resto tour, professional musical theatre performer, Thomas’ co-star in Spamalot, and my Insta-best friend, Nick!

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(And Kenny again, who has gone FULL BLIND at this point)

By the time our entire party of theatre nerds assembled, this sports bar was OUT OF CHAIRS.

Or so they said. We jammed our bodies a little tighter in that booth, all manner of body parts touching, until they managed to scrounge a couple of chairs from the basement. But not before a couple of us would have be legally wed in some countries.

Since Jess, Kenny, Ian and I had arrived at 5:30, way before we had planned on eating, we decided to go with a platter of nachos to tide us over.

But the kitchen staff of ol’ Fitzrays had a trick up their sleeve that we couldn’t have anticipated: nachos with a jar of banana peppers, lettuce, onions, and…no cheese. BOLD CHOICE.

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And I’m really not exaggerating: we ate chip after chip, saying “where’s the cheese?” We were halfway through the plate before we came to the conclusion that there was quite literally NO CHEESE on the nachos.

If you’ve been reading the blog, you could anticipate that I would do the same thing that I did #9 BUNGALOW, or #16 CROSSINGS: send it back, and see what the server could do for reparations, right?

Well, that would require having food on the tray left to send back.

Basically, the scene went like this:

[SCENE]

(A crowded, hideously decorated sports bar. The sound of competition poker and 1000 banal conversations about hockey fills the air. A waitress, played by the actress who plays CeCe on New Girl, has just delivered a medium-sized plate of nachos.)

KENNY: (crunching on a chip) That nacho had no cheese.

MEGAN: Yeah, I don’t see much cheese on them (takes a handful of tortillas and banana peppers).
IAN: Maybe it’s one of those things where it’s in layers. (Bites into a chip while lettuce and other toppings slide onto the table below)
JESS: (finishing her second helping) I haven’t had one that had cheese on it yet.
IAN: (munching away) Oh, I think there might be cheese on the plate.
JESS: (inspecting the plate while taking another handful) If there is any cheese, it’s not melted.
WAITRESS: How’s everything?
(All mouths are full. Jess gives an awkward thumbs up. Silence. Except for the sound of Megan and Kenny eating nachos. The plate is empty).
MEGAN: So. No cheese.

This was just the beginning of Fitzrays inability to deliver. When Jim arrived, his first priority was a beer.

WAITRESS: Can I get you a drink?
JIM: (Fumbling for a menu) Yes. Yes. (Quickly scanning) I’ll have the Monkey…monkey whatever.
WAITRESS: The Flying Monkey?
JIM: Yes, that’s it.
WAITRESS: Sorry, we don’t carry that anymore.
JIM: GET IT OFF YOUR WEB PAGE THEN!
[Note: Jim’s Facebook mostly consists of open letters to politicians, and journalists. The waitress had no idea what she was getting into.]
WAITRESS: Anything else you were interested in…
JIM: (muttering) Well, you don’t have any Canadian Reds, so not wine…the Smash Bomb?
WAITRESS: I don’t believe we…
JIM: Don’t have that either. The Cobblestone?
WAITRESS: Be right back!
(The waitress returns moments later)
WAITRESS: Sir, we—
JIM: Give me the menu. What do you have?

Jim wasn’t the only one disappointed with the offerings. Nick asked for a Pepsi.

WAITRESS: Coke OK?

NICK: NOPE.

We theatre people are a finicky bunch. We like wine and cheese and the drink we ordered.

Tribe arrived, took a look at the menu, and said “Sandwiches, wings and pizza? I need a little more than that.”

By the time Thomas arrived (from a rehearsal for White Christmas in St. Jacobs, opens this week!) we decided to embrace the limited menu and try to order the specialties on the menu: wings, pizza, wraps, and might-as-well-go-for-it Chili Fries.

We asked our waitress the standard question.

IAN: What’s good? Are there any specials?

WAITRESS: Not on Fridays, no. (Pause) Wait, like food?

IAN: Specials?

WAITRESS: We have a couple little things we make in the back.

NICK: Like what?

WAITRESS: We have a sandwich called The Beast.

NICK: Sold.

WAITRESS: It’s a chicken breast with a hamburger patty on top and it’s $11.

IAN: SOLD.

Kenny ended up ordering something called THE CHICKEN DIPPERS.

KENNY: It’s just chicken fingers. I read “chicken dippers” and thought, “I like that twist”, but then I read on…

By the time our orders were placed, Fitzrays was ABSOLUTELY PACKED. It was hot, crowded, and super loud. I began talking at a level that any singer would refer to as “nodes-inducing”. Bodies were pressing into our table. Thomas told a ribald story that involved elaborate hand gestures, and got a bemused/puzzled look from a close-standing man in a puffy vest and backwards hat.

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This guy wishes he could do jazz hands like Thomas.

Our food came out fairly quickly. Our waitress and second girl expedited wings (Thomas and I), Kenny’s dippers, Jess’s fries, Tribe’s wrap and Jim’s pizza. The only problem: they brought out two rather rinky-dink chicken sandwiches instead of THE BEASTS that Nick and Birthday Boy Ian had ordered.

2nd WAITRESS: Chicken sandwich?
(A pause)
THOMAS: I don’t think anyone ordered a chicken sandwich.
2nd WAITRESS: Well, that’s what these are.
(Another pause)
IAN: We ordered THE BEAST.
(Waitress 2 returns to the kitchen. She returns, quickly, accompanied by our waitress.)
WAITRESS: These are THE BEASTS.

I can understand the confusion. Because the candidate for MISNOMER-OF-THE-YEAR, THE BEAST, looked like this:

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It was a bun. With a chicken breast. And meatball. Mayyyybe a meatball. A smalllll meatball.

A schmear of meat is what it was.

And it made Nick, who had sneered at the proffered Coke instead of Pepsi, look like THIS:

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The boys, resigned to the fact that they would surely have to eat another meal after the evening of Broadway, quietly started eating their non-Beasts.

Heading around the table, the reviews were decidedly MIXED:

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KENNY: These fingers are good. They know how to do chicken. But the fries…

NICK: The fries are awful.

KENNY: Terrible.

NICK: These are… Costco fries.

And Jess, whose entire meal consisted of those fries, as well as chili that might have come from a can, was inclined to agree.

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JESS: You know, when you’re fine with not finishing…

Tribe felt that his Chipotle pita was “pretty good actually”, but was less-than-enthused about his Caesar salad.

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TRIBE: This Caesar salad is like a salad from Grade 7. (Megan nods; everyone else looks puzzled) You know when you first make a salad, but you don’t really know how to make it, and it’s kind of SUSPECT? MEGAN: Like, those Caesar salad kits?
TRIBE: Yes! And it’s just gross.
THOMAS: It’s like bagged salad.
KENNY: To be fair, it’s not like the jock guys that eat here really give a crap about salad. As if some guy in his jersey is like (adopting a fey voice) “Yessss, can I get my nice Caesar salad that I like?

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Thomas and I both got wings: he got honey garlic, and I tried two different kinds: Montreal Steak Spice dry wings, and Sweet and Hot sauced wings. My dry wings were great: a little small, but perfectly cooked, and not greasy or fatty at all.

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The Sweet and Hot ones, however, were cold. Like, from-the-fridge cold. I can only think that the sauce was in the fridge, and was so cold that it immediately chilled the wings.

Those went back to the kitchen, and came back a moment later, warmed but a little soft. I am assuming they were microwaved, but overall still tasted pretty good.

By this point, Jim was tapping his rock-pizza crust on the side of his plate, letting the sound ring out above the din of the crowded restaurant. Even more infuriating: the Frank’s Red Hot he ordered was subbed with Tabasco, and then he was charged $1.25 for it.

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This pizza looked terrible. And I’ve eaten pizza from the GROCERY STORE like a PEASANT.

JIM: This is awful. I will never be back.
JESS: To be fair, this isn’t really a place we’d ever come anyway. It’s a beer and wings place. Neither of which I can eat.
JIM:You’ll be back. You’ll be back to pick up the jock guys.
JESS: (addressing the table) That’s not a thing. (to me) Don’t blog that.

(I’m a JOURNALIST, Jess. I must report things AS THEY HAPPEN.)

I guess when you are a sports bar across from the biggest sports venue in Southwestern Ontario, you really only have to have beer and TVs. You don’t have to have:

  • Canadian Reds
  • Most of the wines listed on your website
  • Pepsi
  • Frank’s Red Hot
  • a burger patty larger than 1oz
  • a decent Caesar salad
  • warm chicken wings
  • real French fries
  • cheese on your DAMN NACHOS

But you know, you could. Especially if you wanted your karaoke nights improved by the dulcet tones of these theatre divas.

We paid, and headed off just as whatever sporting event was about to get underway. The eight of us bounced down Dundas street, off into the night. Despite our disappointing dining experience, we were about to see “an Evening of Singing and Dancing”; somewhere where our jazz hands and tales of ribaldry could truly be appreciated.

1.5/5 stars

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