I must admit, It has been a while since the last time I ventured out to Parkdale. When it comes to bars and restaurants, anything past The Drake Hotel or the Beaconsfield Pub has been somewhat of a foreign territory to me. But I have been following the changes in the neighbourhood and read a few great reviews on Grand Electric, so when my friend suggested the spot for an impromptu Saturday night dinner, I was all over it.
The Scene…Located at 1330 Queen West, it’s just east of Brock Ave on the north side. Basically, if you’re going west on Queen and have passed the train tracks, look for the winding line-up of customers eager for good eats on a shoestring budget. Lets be honest folks, if you’re there to critique the interior design and the food presentation, this is not the place for you. The atmosphere is loud, lighting is dim and food served in aluminum plates is full of flavour. Bare tables are set with dish-towel napkins and self-serve water carafes. No cutlery in sight other then a fork for the salad. Things WILL get messy.
This place is all about tasty food, fun atmosphere and unpretentious service. As far as vibe goes, Grand Electric lives up to its name with a loud room of engaged diners chatting over the sound of some pretty decent hip hop, but if you want any part of it, be prepared to get in line early. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations and it’s at capacity at around 35 people. But is it worth the wait? YES.
The Play-By-Play…My group of 5 is in line at 5:30pm, and it’s a good thing too because when the doors open at 6:00pm we are one of the last ones to find a table without waiting. First thing’s first – staring at the lengthy collection of Bourbon, seldom matched in the city, we order a few bourbon sours which deserve recognition, a margarita which is a bit disappointing, and beer of which I forgot the name (sorry) but it smelled like fresh coffee beans and tasted like chocolate.
After we mop up every last bit of the guacamole – heaven on a chip – otherwise described as mash of perfectly ripe avocado with lime and salt, surrounded by organic corn tortillas accompanied by fresh tomato salsa and topped with puffy pig skin dusted with chili powder, the tacos arrive. These small gems are anything but traditional, and at $3.50 each (or 3 for $10), we try them all. But out of all there were two favourites ordered over and over and over. The Pork Belly al Pastor had a fresh flavour with a sweet hint of pineapple, and the Baja Fish, made with light pieces of fried tilapia was topped with grated cabbage and radish.
There aren’t too many choices of dessert. You have a choice of three, but I’ll make it easy for you – take a pass on the key lime pie and pecan chocolate cake in a jar, and go for the churros…when in Rome, right? This little fried doughnut-like dessert is so addictive, you can’t just stop at one…so GE serves two!
The Wrap…This is not a place to linger. This is a place to drink, eat, have a few laughs and move on….otherwise you’ll be getting the hairy eyeball from the drooling few standing in the entrance waiting to be seated. The staff is friendly and accommodating, so if there is a wait get your name on the list and go for a drink down the street. They take your number down and call once a spot opens up.