THE COFFEE MILL (99 Yorkville, at Bellair, 416-920-2108) Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a $4.50 coke float. Average main $10. Licensed. Open daily 10 am to 11 pm. Access: six steps to door, washrooms off-site in basement. Rating: NN Rating: NN
I'm a shade too young to have memories of the Coffee Mill when it opened 40 years ago. Back then, young hippies mixed with older Yorkville gallery-goers at the only place in T.O. outside of Little Italy where you could get cappuccino. More important, the Coffee Mill had the city's first and only patio.
Today, a stone's throw from film fest venue the Cumberland, ladies in Chanel suits and smart hats lunch in the pretty courtyard, barely able to chew because of the botox paralyzing their face muscles.
The post-retirement patrons around us are eating salads ($4 to $9.50) or scoops of tuna and egg salad ($3.25) sparingly spread on slices of buttered rye bread.
We're here for hearty Eastern European fare. Veal paprikash ($12.50), a huge stew of melt-in-your-mouth braised Provimi in a rich tomato and paprika gravy, is accompanied by a large side of tiny dumplings and garden salad.
Unfortunately , the single cabbage roll ($9.50), stuffed with minced pork and just enough rice to adhere, even when paired with paprika-laced sauerkraut and sour cream, fails to hold my interest. A pile of mashed potatoes is too much for my slight friend to manage, but we make a note to return in the future when we need to stretch our CPP cheques.
Our second visit is disappointing. A large, lightly-battered Wiener schnitzel ($8.50) pokes out of a dried-out toasted bun, and we have to abandon the bread and call for hot mustard. The small Hungarian goulash soup ($5.50), a good deal with lots of stewed beef, potatoes, celery, carrots and dumplings, is oily and lacks flavour.
As we wait for the bill, my friend grows impatient to leave.
"It's kind of spooky being the youngest person in the place when you're 40."
"I know, but enjoy it while you can."