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Largely the Truth

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Review: Tom & Jerry's Restaurant | 2828 East Hastings Street | Vancouver

17 May 2010  ·  by Brennan Storr  ·  Be the first to comment!

Tagged under food reviews restaurants vancouver diners

Update, June 2015:  Tom & Jerry's Restaurant is no more.  This is no loss.

There’s something about a greasy spoon diner that speaks to me. I don’t know if it’s the waitress impatiently popping her gum because she’s got places to be or the diners who nurse their coffee for hours because they don’t or if it’s the food that manages to simultaneously take years off my life while provoking awkward stimulation in my marital area. Whatever the reason, I’m forever dragging my friends and family to places like the Grade A Restaurant on Granville, where seven dollars gets you bacon, eggs and hashbrowns, or, if you’re feeling continental, hashbrowns and an Eggo waffle fresh from the toaster. An extra dollar-fifty gets you a mug of coffee with a residual taste of bleach to prove that the tableware is scrupulously clean. When it’s time to go, the chef himself will ask you how you enjoyed your meal - he’s able to do this because he’s also the person handling the cash. Once your transaction is completed you can watch him skip over that handwashing nonsense and immediately return to work scooping handfuls of shredded potatoes onto the grill. With his bare hands.

As a man with a weaker intestinal constitution than a child on immunosuppressants I should be avoiding restaurants where the staff wince after dropping off your food but I don’t. I’m more comfortable in a greasy spoon than I am in the Shark Club or Prime Steakhouse and that is how, again and again, I end up in places like Tom & Jerry’s Restaurant. Nicky & I were in Vancouver for the Alice Cooper/Rob Zombie concert at Pacific Coliseum and had planned on dinner at the Hurricane Grill until we realized it was a Canucks game day. Since there was no way we were going to manage dinner at a crowded sports bar and then make it across town to an early show at the Coliseum we decided to look for something closer to the venue. Our choices were limited and after excluding a handful of contenders for reasons like “It’s probably a mob front” and “the entryway looks like the yawning maw of some awful beast” we ended up at Tom & Jerry’s.

Not pictured: the salt shaker's
imposing prison tattoos.


All but a handful of tables were occupied and the servers had their hands full so we stood and waited with another group angling for seats. No one minded waiting but after being passed several times by servers pointedly avoiding eye contact we started to wonder if we weren’t being given a hint. Finally, a host who realized that we were either too thick or too hungry to consider eating elsewhere came over and told us there were no open tables nor would there be for some time. I have endured awkward silences before, with my stunted social skills you come to expect them, but the one that followed us pointing out three open tables visible from the door was really something special. After a great deal of eye-rolling and shoe gazing we were grudgingly led to a window seat and left with menus.

 

The glass has no comment.


Our server was considerably more personable despite her having to wait on an entire restaurant full of concertgoers, most of them drunk and making as much noise as possible, desperately afraid that no one would notice how outrageous they are. We decided on a trio of appetizers rather than entrees, the potato skins ($7.99), nachos ($10.99) & Cajun shrimp, the price of which I failed to note. After placing our order we took in the restaurant while enduring the primal howls of Canucks fans as they watched mercenary millionaires punch each other and intermittently chase around a puck. Tom & Jerry’s is a lived-in kind of place; some of the tables were scarred, the floors were not particularly clean, the salt & pepper shakers looked like they’d been in a fight and our glasses appeared to have been in service long enough to deny taking money from Karlheinz Schreiber. The food arrived quicker than I expected and once we got a good look I knew why.

We’ll start with the nachos, which, in their defense, were topped with freshly cut bell peppers and pickled jalapenos that had some bite. Everything else was simply awful. The cheese had congealed, the chips were slightly soft and I’m almost certain that the entire package had been cooked in the microwave. I’ll admit that the “Cajun” prawns were a bad idea from the start; ordering sea food in a place that looks like a worn-out Denny’s is as self destructive as snorting vodka but we tried it anyways.

The Burrard Inn, another one
of my bad habits.


Lesson learned then, because the dish looked as though someone had plucked a handful of cocktail shrimp out of a bowl of staff party leftovers and sautéed them with chives and butter. A lot of butter. Finally we come to the potato skins which, in contrast to the previous two dishes, were actually served hot. That is not to say they were cooked all the way through, mind you, only that they were served directly from the oven. I did not know such an item could be served “al-dente”.

The meal’s sole bright spot was our waitress who provided a level of service that, under the circumstances, can only be described as miraculous. If I were forced, like her, to spend an evening catering to a diner full of baying cretins I would fold immediately and flee to the staff bathroom to smoke reefers the size of my forearm in an attempt to render myself insensate.

His stage show may revolve around shock-rock schtick that’s twenty years past its due date and he may dance like an elderly, dignified transvestite but Alice Cooper still knows how to get a crowd on their feet. Most of what I know about the man comes from his radio show and a guest spot on the sitcom Dave in the mid-90s so his standout performance that night was a pleasant surprise - I wish I could say the same for dinner. No one expects a place like Tom & Jerry’s to serve gourmet cuisine; in fact I’d be disappointed if they did, but what came out of the kitchen that night was embarrassing, even for a greasy spoon.

 

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