BACCHUS ROTI SHOP (1376 Queen West, at Brock, 416-532-8191) Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a Moosehead. Average main $10. Open Tuesday to Saturday 11 am to 9 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN
I'd heard that Bacchus had undergone a major reno a couple of years back, but nothing prepared me for this.
Pushing open the door, I find that Parkdale's favourite roti resto now sports chocolate leather club chairs, small knee-high tables lit by ironic antler chandeliers, and a mid-century modernist bar topped with a state-of-the-art espresso bar across the back wall. Then the penny drops. I've walked into Blondie's, next door, the trendy new coffee joint that doubles as a cocktail lounge.
Once in the right building, I'm again taken aback, this time by the 25-year-old fast food joint's snazzy new look. A long off-white banquette now runs down one side of the narrow storefront, and the walls are papered pale green. A row of oversized upside-down lampshades hang from the ceiling, the work of Restaurant Makeover, I'm told.
Did owner Dick Bacchus not know about the defunct TV show's curse? Some say most of the eateries overhauled by the program's so-called experts go out of business soon after.
"A few of my customers warned me about it, but I don't have time to watch TV," says Bacchus. "I'm always working."
Lucky for him, the Makeover crew couldn't find fault with his food and didn't change a thing. When Bacchus first opened back in 85, the roti roster stuck to tradition: Guyanese-style curried chicken, goat or beef with the odd potato or chickpea the only veg. The customers had other ideas.
"There used to be a lot of artists living around here, and they wanted healthier food," recalls Bacchus.
To keep them happy, he and wife, Suzanne, introduced spinach to the mix, followed by eggplant, green beans and sugary butternut squash (all veggie combos $8.47). The wraps themselves were upgraded to whole wheat flour, soya margarine giving them a faux buttery finish on the grill. They even added options of cheese and burrito-style rice ($1.49 each).
The kitchen's creativity doesn't stop there. Bacchus's butter chicken roti ($8.99) may take its inspiration from Gandhi, but it's better executed and three bucks cheaper. Sweet potato frites and creamy coleslaw (both $3.99) make the perfect sides.
Food can trigger memories, and the first bite of Bacchus's currant roll ($1.89) does just that, flashing me back to my sainted Scottish grandmother's almost identical interpretation of German strudel, only here by way of the Caribbean and Parkdale.
Who says multiculturalism doesn't work?