Two readings to do for Monday, countless exercises spread throughout this week, and a project proposal due the next: welcome to classes at UTM. I need sustenance to fuel my workload. And, no, a dry packet of Mr. Noodles and a leftover can of Coke is not the most tantalizing of dinner options. I hop on the 1E at Dundas and Mississauga and jump off six minutes later at the Erindale Family Restaurant.
The atmosphere upon entering the restaurant is cozy and comfortable. Familiar Top 40 tunes play on a radio in the kitchen and a Canadian sports team plays (and loses against) a U.S. team on a TV above the door. I am warmly welcomed by one of the owners and invited to take a booth along the perimeter of the restaurant. The menu has a huge variety offering your typical diner fare including hamburgers, sandwiches, and pastas, and spare ribs, fish and chips, and pork schnitzel. A selection of their dishes is also featured on the daily dinner specials board for a dollar or two less than the listed price.
Following a recommendation from the owner and noticing it on the specials board, I choose the veal parmesan with spaghetti and garlic bread. Feeling guilty at the thought of that sad vegetable in my crisper, I choose the salad starter. Within five minutes, the salad arrives. It’s a traditional house salad (think iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and red onions) with my chosen dressing thoughtfully served on the side.
As I finish up, my main course is served. I’m given grated parmesan and hot chili flakes for the table. I like the freedom to add as much seasoning as I please to my dish. I despise those waiters who think it’s appropriate to stop sprinkling parmesan or grinding black pepper before I say “stop”. Plus, there’s nothing that wins me over more than the option of a little spice (in the edible sense, of course).
The veal parmesan is tender, with a crispy coating and gooey cheese, hot and melting on top. For me, though, the spaghetti is the highlight of the dish. The homemade sauce is nicely flavoured with big chunks of green pepper. The spaghetti noodles are al dente and good-quality. The garlic bread is perfect for mopping up the leftover sauce on my plate. As I work through the dish I realize how generous the portion is. However, in the end I defeat it.
Despite how my stomach feels I am not one to turn down dessert. Particularly when the menu includes homemade rice pudding with cinnamon whipped cream. It’s homey, warm, and actually quite soothing.
The Erindale Family Restaurant is family-owned and operated. The atmosphere reflects this. It’s new to the neighbourhood, only six months old, but it’s already a student favourite. I’m told the pasta is the most popular dish among students for both dining in and takeout. The owners have run similar restaurants across the province, including as far north as North Bay and the not-so-distant Brantford.
The restaurant reminds me of Fran’s, the famed Toronto diner chain, but with more heart. The ambience and food are familiar, but not tired. The price is very student-friendly. For under $20 I had a three-course meal and left a hefty tip for the quick and caring service. Meanwhile, for breakfast I could have had two eggs, meat, homefries, and toast for only $5. Or for lunch a homemade burger or sandwich with fries and soup for $8. For regular menu items the restaurant offers a 10% discount to all UTM students. I will definitely be trying the soup, which is made in-house every day. The fettuccini jambalaya sounds equally tempting.
The restaurant would be the ideal setting for an off-campus study spot, a meeting location for a group project, or a casual catch-up with friends. The 1, 1C, 44 and Dundas Express all stop near the restaurant. Despite two previous restaurants opening and closing relatively quickly in the same building before, the owners are hopeful and excited—and so they should be.