Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Carleton Tavern: Parkdale Market

Limited Menu, dive atmosphere, convenient location, bacon fail, breakfast sausage fail, poor service.

Breakfast is a very personal thing. Everybody has their own preferences for how they like it served. Egg lovers are a finicky bunch. Bacon conoisseurs are no different. Then there are those that will eat anything so long as its hot and filling.  We here at Breakfast are no exceptions, some of us are choosier than others, but we don't have impossible standards.  We sincerely think breakfast, though a humble meal is, at its best, a fine art. What we really agree on, however, is that breakfast is the catalyst for a day well spent. The day we went to The Carleton Tavern was looking pretty bleak by the time we left.

 Our wonderful neighbour (let's call him Shrick, so his true identity won't be wrongfully sullied) suggested that we try a local spot for breakfast, The Carleton Tavern in Hintonburg, convieniently nestled next to the Parkdale Market. We aren't fancy-shmancy breakfast consumers, but this place seriously pushed the limits of acceptable fare.

We didn't have high expectations when it came to the decor part of our dining experience, and quite frankly, when it comes to a greasy spoon breakfast, we rarely do. Upon entering, you get pretty much what you would expect, a typical tavern, complete with the requisite stale beer odor, dim lighting and sparse clientele sipping on their morning quarts of Blue.

Coffee is important and its the vanguard of meal.   So the moment it comes to the table, you hope that its not served with attitude when you ask for milk instead of cream. Some people like a little snark in the morning though. It's not usually for me, but I swallowed it in the spirit of Breakfast. While The Carleton Tavern has tasty enough coffee, it comes in very small cups and though refills are possible, they did not seem probable at the time. The server only once offered to refill our cups once and that wasn't until after we asked for the bill.

Our goal for breakfast today was simple... the infallible breakfast special.  The menu was bare bones, but offered a few choices, including a variety of omeletes and your basic pancakes. No frills, no fruit and nothing at all that might be construed as either fancy or healthy, except perhaps for the specialty farmer's sausage. Of course they had a breakfast special (and rye bread to boot!)!

Two eggs over easy, a side of bacon and rye toast. A second order was exactly the same, except with breakfast sausage. Simple, no?  An order that should have been pretty easy and quick to prepare in a tavern where, at 11 am, the other 6 patrons were way more interested in their quarts of Blue than ordering breakfasts that might compete with ours for the cook's attention. Our hopes were still high for a good greasy spoon fry up. We would be sorely disappointed.

Fast forward somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20 minutes, which in a busy diner would still have been a little off putting, but here it seemed downright puzzling. Did we mention that we weren't offered any coffee refills during this time? We weren't, even though our miniature ceramic cups had long since been drained. Maybe it was the late hour of our breakfast adventure (normally we eat much earlier) or the lack of caffeine, but our hopes of the perfect breakfast were fading fast.

Enter breakfast! Served on abnormally small plates, our breakfast did come as ordered. It all seemed alright on the surface, a quick glance and you would say that it was all good... but wait... once you actually took the time to take a good gander you realised that something was amiss on our overgrown saucers.  The sausage looked like wrinkled human fingers (maybe I should have tried the upgrade to the farmer's sausage), and were watery when you bit into them. As for the bacon, it was grey and tasteless. Our best guess as to how someone could possibly ruin the best tasting part of a pig is that perhaps the grill was wet when the bacon went on, but we will never know.  The potatoes were bland, tasteless and boiled. The over easy eggs were inconsistent: either way under cooked or a smidge over cooked.   Our rye toast were not much bigger than an iPhone, but at least it was well toasted without being burnt. When we asked our server for some jam to go along with it, it came too late. our server did try to hand it off to us after taking away our plates and even tried to charge us for it.

Since this experience, a we have spoken of it to a few friends and most of those familiar with the Carleton Tavern stared incredulously at us. Why in the world would you eat breakfast there? What were we thinking?  Apparently we got what we deserved.

Now for the main plate. We'll start with the less offensive of the two. The sausage and eggs. A pretty epic fail on all accounts of the breakfast experience, but it was gourmet when compared to the second order.

Carleton Tavern on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. (Unless you were stumbling in with a terrible hangover,) who eats breakfast at 11 am ??!?!? While I agree that the details of your experience paint a pretty dismal picture, the combination of the circumstances surrounding your experience as well your heightened expectations meant the place was already at a disadvantage before you even walked in. If you were to give the place another chance and go back there at a decent hour (i.e. the BREAKFAST hour instead of closer to lunch), you would likely find a place that is often busy with regulars and terrific staff who provide prompt, attentive, and friendly service. I have been going for years (between the hours of 8 and 9 am, I might add) and have rarely, if EVER, had a complaint about anything. The Carleton is the closest thing to an institution in this neighbourhood and, even though it has anything specific to do with breakfast per se, the Saikleys (the brothers who run the place) are still an incredible family who have given so much back to the community, mostly through their tavern.

    Anyway, should you choose not to return, it's just as well for the rest of us early risers who enjoy the Carleton, day or night - no competition and no whining !