OKAY OKAY (1128 Queen East, at Bertmount, 416-461-2988) Complete meals for $15 per person, including all taxes and tip. Average main $9. Open for breakfast/brunch Wednesday to Friday 8 am to 3 pm (lunch noon to 3 pm), Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 3 pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Licensed. Cash only. Access: short ramp at door, booth seating, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
To a boomer soundtrack from an AM radio tuned appropriately to CHUM, recently reborn Okay Okay nails the rock 'n' roll diner aesthetic.
Fondly remembered by some (OK, just me and the Cameron's Duncan Buchanan) in its previous life as Tony's, this lowest of low-rent dives has been lovingly restored to its not so greasy spoon glory days by the Mockingbird's Carey Wesenberg.
Much of it's original, right down to the wobbly dishes and cut glassware gleaming in the quilted stainless steel display case. Above a now-glossy black arborite lunch counter, a row of rabbit-eared portable TVs beam down on a full house firmly planted on a row of reupholstered stools or in one of four booths that line the wall opposite.
Buchanan will be sad to learn that the basement washroom (it was so small you had to drop your pants first outside its outhouse door before backing into its cramped quarters) has been replaced by two shiny new white loos. He'll also be relieved to know that the sign out front still says Tony's, which should make it easier for him, at least, to find Okay Okay. The rest of you are on your own.
Although a few old-timers show up for the basic breakfast - two eggs with fried potatoes, toast and bacon, ham or sausage ($4.99) - most of Okay's clientele are recent arrivals to the area, gentrified folk who don't flinch at spending 12 bucks for a fry-up. And while I'm sure there are those in this neck of the woods who see the demise of old-school diners like Tony's as yet another sign of crass commercialization - there goes the neighbourhood indeed (see sidebar, this page) - others will inevitably cheer Okay's arrival, especially if they own property nearby.
We steer clear of what the limited card describes as Cold Cereal (a bowl of Froot Loops or Frosted Flakes with milk, $3.50) and Rib-Sticking Oatmeal ($4.99) and focus on the house's fabulous flapjacks. Available in two versions - banana and the far superior blueberry ($6.49) - they come three to a plate, soured with buttermilk, thick with fresh fruit and drizzled with maple syrup.
Eggs Benny get worked two ways: as expertly poached Eggs Béarnadette ($10.99) layered with sautéed spinach, sliced peameal and Béarnaise, and Eggs Brunhilde ($11.99) overlapped with grilled asparagus, Kristapson's smoked salmon and a hollandaise that claims to contain horseradish. Both come sided with a wedge of seedless pink watermelon as well as deep-fried potato fritters that taste commercial and recall fish-and-chips, hold the halibut.
This morning, the Scramble of the Day ($5.99 to $6.99) - the Daily Scram, our burly server calls it - turns out to be more of a loose omelette sloppily stuffed with caramelized leek and creamy Brie ($6.49 with toast) than the fluffy eggs we expect. Still, we like. But we're less than enthused about being charged 75 cents for a refill of coffee-shop joe ($1.25). Seems kind of cheap to us.
Starting this week, Okay introduces a retro diner-correct lineup of Wednesday-through-Friday lunch specials, coronary-inducing classics like the house triple-decker grilled cheese sandwich ($6.49/$8.49 with fries). And though they'll never replace Tony's $3 lunch du jour - day in, day out, a bowl of split pea soup straight from the can paired with a packet of saltines, followed by a previously frozen fried hamburger patty sided with griddled home fries and two slices of Wonder Bread slathered with oleomargarine (ketchup optional) - they're sure to make Okay Okay even more okay, okay?