14.6.07

BARCLAY'S STEAK & SEAFOOD



1921 Lawrence Ave. E., Scarborough, ON


Why I now love the 70s: This is the sort of place that wouldn't have appealed to me when I was a teenager here in the early 1980s. Who cares about a mansard roof and a crappy 1970s backlit plastic sign? However, 25 years later it looks almost quaint as the Scarborough neighbourhood of Wexford changes all around it...mostly to places that claim they're "100% Halal."

Not that there's anything wrong with Halal: Don't get me wrong, I'm all for ethnic diversity and I absolutely LOVE what's happening to my old neighbourhood (which is perhaps why Shauntelle and I have chosen to live just a five minute drive away), but this place speaks to the Scarborough that was mostly populated by the Wonderbread crowd, with a few Greeks thrown in for good measure. There was a Red Barn and a Mister Donut across the street, a block away was the "Dixieland Fruit Market" and the guys that ran the many stripmall convenience stores wouldn't know halal if it came up and bit them.

You say it's your birthday? Yup. Which is why we came here. Scarborough's finest steakhouse...perhaps its only steakhouse, which is fine by us, because it was pretty good, actually. Three correctly-prepared martinis between us to start, filet mignon for the lady and a 16oz rib steak for me, two glasses of house red to wash it all down and the bill went just a tad north of $100. Try that downtown.

So why all those great floor-to-ceiling windows if you're just gonna cover 'em up? Driving by all these years, I always figured this building had to have been something else before it was Barclay's. It's a little Modernist glass pavillion with a stretched shingled roof over top, which, while nice, doesn't convey that men's club atmosphere you want with your dead cow. I asked the waiter if this building was purpose-built as a steakhouse; after I explained what the heck "purpose-built" meant, he went and fetched another waiter, an older Greek guy who'd been working here since the early 80s. Fascinating stuff: turns out this was built as an A&W Family Restaurant in the late 1960s, which explains the Modernist/Mansard marriage, but then it changed after just a few years into a non-A&W family restaurant. Sometime around 1975, it turned into Barclay's Steak & Seafood, which is when, I assume, they papered the windows save for those little ovals with the B logo.

The decor: Actually not as dated as we'd have liked. Yes, there were the great curved booths and the bar certainly looked smack dab out of Love Boat, but the upholstery and wallpaper were probably changed sometime around 1991. However, the aforementioned B logo in the windows, the font on the signage outside, the just-snooty-enough waiter in a slightly rumpled tux and the 70s Muzak percolating from ceiling speakers gave it all a very Barbary Coast in Vegas in 1979 kind of vibe, if ya know what I mean.

Thought about: How we may have to eat here for my next birthday.

Phase O? Well, we are eating steak and potatoes in the country that sort of invented it (unless it was the U.S. or Brazil?) so I guess it's Phase O. If not that it's certainly Phase 1...


-D. LeBlanc

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