I’m not embarrassed that in nearly three years at UTM I haven’t been to a single pub night. I am embarrassed that in nearly three years at UTM I’ve never eaten a meal at the pub. But now I don’t have to be. Last Wednesday, between classes, I enjoyed dinner at the Blind Duck pub for the first time.
However, I made the poor assumption that just because I never went to the Blind Duck, neither did anyone else. Sure, when I arrive just before 5 p.m., it’s relatively quiet. But by the time I meet my dining companions, choose my seat at the bar, and place my order, the place is packed. It’s odd—I’m on campus, surrounded by a bunch of other students, and seated, but unlike in lecture… I’m relaxed. It’s a fun yet soothing chaos, if that makes sense. Some guy in a baseball cap plants himself in my seat, where I’ve left my bag and coat while I went to place my order. The girl behind the bar laughs at my questions about the menu while pouring beer and soft drinks. But all that doesn’t matter. It’s an escape from all the pressure and drive for perfection outside.
I decide on a signature dish: the Duck Club with a side of sweet potato fries and a Tropik Splash pineapple ginger juice. My dinner dates go for the vegetable quesadilla and the chicken tikka masala wrap. The Blind Duck’s blackboard menu above the cash register doesn’t clearly indicate that only one side dish is available with a sandwich, wrap, or feature dish, and that upgrades such as Caesar salad and sweet potato fries cost extra. The staff weren’t able to accommodate my request for an order of half fries, half salad with my sandwich.
There are inconsistencies between the blackboard and the online menus, each advertising different items. However, the menu is surprisingly extensive, with pub favourites, including an array of appetizers and salads, chicken wings, pizza, burgers, and fish and chips. Breakfast is available from 10:30 a.m. to noon, daily.
Despite the growing line at the cash register, our orders arrive (unfortunately not all at once) within 10 minutes. The vegetable quesadilla arrives first. It’s underwhelming: simply cheese and veggies in a grilled tortilla. Next comes the chicken tikka masala wrap. It’s my friend’s first time trying chicken tikka masala and her second time having Indian food. She enjoys it even though it reminds her of cranberry. By this point, I’m a bit worried about my own dinner choice, but once my Duck Club arrives I’m not disappointed. With no duck in sight, it’s a triple-decker club sandwich with charbroiled chicken, turkey bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. The charbroiled chicken is a pleasant surprise—not the sad, processed sliced chicken I was prepared for.
I know bacon lovers will hate me for saying this, but I actually liked the turkey bacon and didn’t notice a difference from the real deal. The bread was so-so. It was your typical whole wheat sandwich bread. I wish it’d been toasted and perhaps a better brand, which would’ve made the sandwich more special. I doubt that the sweet potato fries were fresh-cut, but as my friend who ordered the vegetable quesadilla agreed, they hit the spot, and the accompanying chipotle mayo dip was a nice touch. I’m not much of a juice or soft drink person but I was thrilled by the hit of real ginger in my juice.
My meal’s total came to $10.15. And while the dishes are perhaps overpriced in comparison to restaurants off campus, the prices are fairly competitive with similar sit-down lunch and dinner options at UTM.
I’d recommend sitting at the bar. I could catch up with my friends while gazing into the kitchen. It’s a quiet thrill to watch my food being prepared while dining out. Next time you eat out, ask if it’s possible for a table in view of the kitchen—you’ll realize why the Food Network is so entertaining. I couldn’t see a clock in the pub, and if I wasn’t a bit of a keener I could’ve sat at the bar all evening and missed my next class. Next time I’d like to eat on the terrace outside. And although I didn’t see it on the menu, I’d like to try the macaroni and cheese I saw other students eating, or one of the salads.
I’ll admit that the Blind Duck isn’t a four-star Michelin restaurant, but it’s not trying to be. It’s a student pub and I wouldn’t ask anything more from it. It’s the ideal on-campus escape; I hope more students can frequent it. We need a truly student-run food provider on campus, and by encouraging businesses like the Blind Duck, maybe that’ll be realized.