The Queen West restaurant scene is reeling now that one of its longest-running boîtes has called it quits. Mr. Pong's - or "Mr. Pong's Real Food, Home Of The Jumbo Egg Roll," as its street signage once boasted - has closed, according to its answering machine. A favourite of drunks because of its easy-to-remember phone number, of stoners with the munchies who wouldn't know any better anyway and of those foolish enough to crave cheap, crappy Canadian-style Chinese food in the middle of the night, Mr. Pong always delivered - literally - in a ridiculous red and white Firebird with a huge sandwich board depicting a panda strapped to its roof. We blame bad aerodynamics and the soaring cost of gas.
In its place, the storefront west of Bathurst has split into two new spots - one a sports dive called Mega City , the other a soon-to-launch falafel facility known as Syrian-dippity .
Still's new life
A few blocks east, Tex-Mex trat Tortilla Flats (458 Queen West, at Augusta, 416-203-0088) has taken over the former Still , the short-lived resto lounge in the beautifully renovated former Duke of Connaught . But whose bright idea was it to paint the building's meticulously restored brick facade a bilious shade of fluorescent yellow?
Sayonara Sushi Bistro
Although it was one of the first cheap Japanese restos on the strip, after floundering in recent years, Sushi Bistro (204 Queen West) has finally gone belly up. On the other side of Bathurst, the room that has previously been home to both Munster Hall and the Ancient has morphed into Paddy Murphy's (751 Queen West, at Tecumseth, 416-360-7272), yet another Oirish pub.
A second west-side space with a long list of ex-tenants - among them Blue Agave , Bar Inferno and Helen's Hash House - will soon be a Gabby's (783 Queen West, at Euclid), the family-style franchise that advertises itself as a "proud Canadian company that's been serving Toronto since 1989." How time flies!
The placard nailed to the front of the long-vacant Boom Boom Room announces that another franchise - Hero Certified Burgers (650 Queen West, at Palmerston) - is set to open in March of 2005. We're still waiting.
Any short-order cooks looking for a kitchen gig might want to head over to Sweet Lulu (859 Queen West, at Niagra, 416-203-2228), the as-yet-to-launch sushi factory in the dearly departed Cities . As a note taped to its door explains, Lulu is looking for staff who not only have work experience but "wok experience" as well.