There is no doubt that moving from your tried and true neighbourhood to another is terribly daunting, but it doesn’t hold a candle to moving to a new city. For On the Danforth’s Kayla Calder, Toronto was made significantly easier by her moving to the Danforth.
Bourbon, and oysters and professionalism,
I’m going to say it: this neighborhood is one of the few reasons I haven’t crawled back to Ottawa—or my parents’ basement—with my tail between my legs. That being said, I moved here knowing practically no one, and certainly no one who lives on the Danforth.
My first venture inside The Auld Spot sealed the deal. While walking the avenue to introduce a visiting friend to my “local” (that I didn’t have), I quickly pointed to the first place I saw: The Auld Spot. “I love that place across the street,” I told him. (Read: I’d never been there).
We walked inside to find the lights dimmed, and—despite the late hour – the pub was bustling. Now, I could wax whimsical about how delicious the Caesars—made with fresh horseradish—were, about the way the oysters were served at the perfect temperature and adorned with a delectably tangy lemon wedge, or about how much food envy I experienced after seeing my friend’s burger arrive at the table. I could offer virtual high-fives to the creators of the atmosphere, and even fist-bump whoever created the pub’s playlist (if I were the type of person to fist-bump anyone).
I could do all of these things to convince you that The Auld Spot is the best pub on the Danforth, but I won’t. Why not? While these things are wonderful perks to frequenting this spot, they are not what truly makes this pub my favourite spot on the Danforth.
My first fateful visit brought the drink, the food, but also the drama. About halfway through our meal, a young man wandered into the pub wearing a Leafs jersey and a drunken scowl. Despite having walked in entirely on his own, he immediately sat down at the booth behind us and proceeded to hit on the lady at the table and drink another man’s beer. We were in shock.
The server we shared with the couple came over and asked the man if he’d like to move to a new seat and chaos, of course, ensued. Having worked in the restaurant industry for years, this wasn’t my first rodeo when it came to the drunk and disorderly. I cannot fully comprehend the level of patience and understanding the staff at The Auld Spot had on this occasion, though I can say that they handled the situation incredibly well.
Despite the barrage of “WHO’RE YOU? THE KGB?” and “THEY DRUGGED ME. THIS PUB DRUGGED ME!” the server was completely professional. Instead of giving in to provocation that included name-calling and body-pawing, the server tried to play along and have a simple conversation with the man while the police were called. This soon led to a switch off with the bartender, but he was able to remain calm and professional in the face of the belligerent man’s swearing and spitting. Twice as impressive a feat once I share this: the bartender was easily twice the size of the interloper.
The true climax of the drama came when the police arrived. Two uniformed officers attempted to talk the man down and convince him to leave the pub. When he wouldn’t comply, the police tried to lead the man by his arm and he became hysterical. He thrashed his way out of their grasp, knocking over glasses and chairs, grabbing and throwing food off the plates of unsuspecting patrons, etc.
Already impressed with the staff’s patience in this situation, I cannot give enough credit to the way this outburst was handled. The bartender followed the man and the police outside, moved the only patio table indoors swiftly and succinctly, and shut the garage door, leaving the pub to watch the altercation on mute. But we didn’t need sound to see what happened next: the man again thrashed free of the police’s grasp, and attempted to run into the street, right into oncoming traffic.
I don’t know what the man had to drink (or had ingested in general) but I do know that the staff member at The Auld Spot saved his life. Quick as a fox (and quicker than the police officers), the bartender jumped into the street and pulled the man back to the sidewalk, as a Lexus GX460 roared past. A calm after the storm, the man was handcuffed and put into the cruiser, and the bartender walked back into the pub oblivious to the praise he was getting from patrons. He was solely focused on who had emptied their glass in the excitement.
It’s not often I have such a memorable restaurant experience as only a guest. More often than not, I base any opinions on the food, the service, or the basic cleanliness. After seeing how compassionate, patient and levelheaded the staff at The Auld Spot is, they could serve me rotten avocado off the floor and I would still call it my favourite pub on the Danforth, as long as they offered me a side of fresh horseradish.