Tequila Bookworm (490 Queen West, west of Spadina, 416-504-7335) Complete meals for $15, including all taxes, tip and a pint. Soups and salads all under $8. Open Monday to Wednesday 8 am to 11 pm, Thursday 8 am to 1 am, Friday 8 am to 2 am, Saturday 10 am to 2 am, Sunday 11 am to 1 am; brunch Saturday and Sunday. Licensed. Access: bathrooms in basement. Rating NNN Rating: NNN
Sitting in Tequila Bookworm, I feel like I'm on the West Coast, and that's both good and bad.
Good because it's laid-back. A hippy-skirt-wearing server doesn't mind when you linger for hours over a latte reading a mag (the café is also a used-bookstore-cum-magazine-shop) and don't buy it. And bad because of all the same things.
The server forgets that I ordered cream cheese on my Montreal-style bagel ($2.59), that I wanted mayo on my sandwich and that I asked for water. But she corrects each mistake before the food reaches my table by dreamily asking questions like, "Hey, what did you want on your bagel?" at least 10 minutes after I ordered.
At 4 pm she doesn't know what desserts there are because she hasn't looked yet, though she's been there all day and a couple across from me are happily devouring a slab of chocolate cake.
A few days earlier, at lunch, the veggie sandwich wasn't available (only one avocado left, the same server said, and it was reserved for the avocado salad), there were no fruit smoothies and no house-made lemonade ($2.06). Caught them on an off day, I decided, and gave Tequila a second chance.
The chicken sandwich ($6.79) is saturated with a condiment-lover's ration of mayo and Dijon, heaped with roast chicken just like Ma's, crisp romaine and juicy tomato. The veggie sandwich, on pillowy Ace Bakery focaccia, is a melt-in-your-mouth steal at $4.95. For $2.95, add a side soup or salad.
The gazpacho could use salt but otherwise refreshes the palate. The avocado salad ($6.89) is an odd but tasty mix of toasted walnuts, avocado, shards of Asiago, red onion and a milky lemon dressing it would be better off without.
But, hey, not every restaurant strives for gastronomic grandeur, and that's fine. Sometimes we just crave a good coffee and simple sandwich in an ambience of disco balls, vivid artwork and literary splendour.