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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Wheels Up

I escaped blizzardy Manitoba for a warmer climate today as I have arrived in Toronto, Ontario for work. I'm not fond of traveling to Toronto with the Maple Leafs doing as well as they are, but there was almost nothing said about the Leafs in my wandering of Pearson Airport or while in the cab to the hotel. I did get acquainted with the Leafs in a unique way within my first hour of being here, but the falling rain and 10°C temperature made me forget about wintery Winnipeg for an hour or two as I settled into my temporary digs in The Big Smoke.

I don't normally review restaurants on Hockey Blog In Canada, but I decided to venture over to Wendel Clark's Bar and Grill for dinner once I had checked into the hotel. A short five-minute walk from my hotel, Clark's quaint restaurant was actually pretty quiet compared to what I may have been expecting. There were ample televisions showing both the Brier curling event and the Red Wings-Leafs game, so I settled in for a night of sports and good eats.

There was less Maple Leafs gear and pictures on the wall than I expected as well. You'd think an athlete who played for as long as Clark did and was as beloved in this city as he was would have a few more artifacts on the walls of his restaurant. Apparently, that's not the case as the restaurant was cozy, but a little cavernous with all the empty seats. Nonetheless, I settled in at a table in the back where I had a good view of multiple televisions.

The young lady serving, named Olivia, was a delight. She was quick to bring me an adult beverage on special, and she was attentive to her tables. I felt she might have really benefited from a second server working with her, but the bartender who basically stood against a wall all night did zero to help her. When he did decide to lift a finger, he was nearly useless. He retrieved my plate after I finished eating, but didn't bother to take the condiments or ask me if I wanted a refill on my beverage. Apparently, the idea of a restaurant generating revenue was lost on him. But I digress.

I decided to go with something simple to see how the chefs or cooks in the back operate. I ordered some deep-fried pickles to start and followed it with a buffalo chicken sandwich as my entree. The pickles were alright in that they had a crispy exterior, but they had cooked too long and didn't have that distinctive crunch as I bit into them. It doesn't take much to make deep-fried pickles so I wasn't expecting the world in ordering them, but they were a decent starter.

At this point, I should note, the Leafs were leading the Red Wings 3-0 in the second period.

I received the buffalo chicken sandwich minutes after finishing the pickles, and it looked more like it was a deep-friend chicken breast between the buns. There was a massive leaf of lettuce, a tomato slice, but there was very little hot sauce as I had chosen. The bowl of shoestring fries were fine in both texture and taste, but I had my concerns about the sandwich. In any case, I needed to bite into to give you the full story so the next few moments were spent biting and chewing.

And tasting very little buffalo sauce.

I'm not sure how the wings are seasoned in the kitchen at Wendel Clark's, but the majority of places where one can buy wings has them tossed in a bowl with a selected sauce. It was clear that the chicken in the middle of my sandwich had not been a part of that process at all. It seems that it was deep-fried to get the breading crispy, followed by hot sauce being dripped onto the top of the chicken. Overall, the taste of the chicken sandwich was fine, but it just wasn't very "buffalo" in nature. C'est la vie, right?

Back to our server in question, Olivia was working her tail off as three additional tables had come in during my time at the establishment. Our bartending hero was still doing his best job being absolutely useless in taking only my plate from in front of me, so it was a few minutes until Olivia returned to my table to ask if I needed anything. I informed her that I was doing well, but would need the bill when she had a moment.

Olivia returned a few minutes later with the bill and the debit machine, and she came with a message. She said, "You've been the most polite customer I've had. Thank you for that."

We had a short discussion after she paid me that compliment, but that's not what's important. It's hard for me to understand why Olivia hasn't been promoted through the business with her attentiveness to detail, her customer focus, and her general pleasant demeanor. Food aside, I'd go back just to sit in Olivia's section again because she worked her butt off in keeping customers happy when she had little to no help, she never lost the smile on her face while serving her section, and she made my meal better than what it was. If someone from Wendel Clark's is reading this, she deserves to be rewarded for her excellent work because she's the reason I'd come back.

Overall, the food was average, the drink special was decent (bottles of craft beer for $5?), and the atmosphere was pretty good. Let's be honest here, the overall marks if we don't include the efforts from Olivia would be middling at best. A lack of requested sauce on the "buffalo" chicken sandwich really did the food marks in, so my final grade for Wendel Clark's would be ★★★ out of a possible ★★★★★. However, if you're visiting the Vaughan location, ask to sit in Olivia's section if she's working. She was a pleasure, and she alone deserves a ★ for making my dinner experience 20% better.

Oh, and the Maple Leafs hung onto win the game over the Red Wings by a 3-2 score.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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