David's By Day/Buzz By Night 413 Spadina Road, at Lonsdale, 416-482-7871. Complete lunches for $25 per person (dinners $50), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $10/$20. Open daily 7 am to 10 pm, for lunch from 11 am weekdays, noon weekends, dinner nightly from 5 pm. Licensed. Access: one step at door, tight tables, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NN
If, as F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote , the very rich are different from you and me (they have fatter wallets, for starters), nowhere else is this more evident on the local dining scene than at David's by Day in Forest Hill Village.
Where else would a bleached and bronzed patron come straight from a backyard tennis court and order a steak sandwich ($10.50) to go, hold the bread? But, then, perhaps she knows that the 5 ounces or so of thickly sliced AAA Alberta rib-eye topped with molten mozzarella and caramelized onion splashed with telltale balsamic comes on a very ordinary grilled hamburger bun that's not worth the carb intake, Atkins diet or not.
I've sensibly selected David's veggie version ($5.95), very thick slices of dark Russian rye stacked with roughly chopped avocado, cheddar, sliced English cuke, pink field tomato, romaine, alfalfa sprouts and a ring of raw red onion. I can only assume that the reason both come sided with a handful of cheap supermarket potato chips is to placate the large number of small fry in the house.
They're everywhere - seated indoors with nannies, eating house-baked muffins topped with Smarties in David's shabby-chic dining room decked out in construction-grade chipboard, or outside on the sunny curbside patio with their Eddie Bauer-outfitted families, grabbing a bite before they head for Muskoka.
Dressed in my best Value Village clobber, I've enlisted my own nuclear family to help me infiltrate this foreign territory, a neighbourhood so isolated from the rest of the city it might as well have a moat around it.
The most mature member of our party - the 12-year-old - sticks to tradition with the house burger ($6.50 with potato chips), an impressively juicy as-advertised 7-ounce patty with the usual fixin's on a hamburger bun we've come to recognize. Why, here it is again recycled as croutons on the mediocre side Caesar salad with which she upgrades the burger ($3).
Meanwhile, Mom has been coerced into combining two first courses as a fashionably light lunch. A summer salad of al dente haricots verts dressed with grainy honey Dijon passes muster ($5.50), but scampi ($10.95) - scampi! - turn out to be eight regulation tail-on shrimp in white wine and lemon served in a miniature cast-iron skillet. Dad makes do with vegetarian lasagna ($12.95), a not particularly large portion that seems to be 70 per cent sauce.
As a chronicler of food trends since, oh, the Eisenhower era, I am always horrified when some reprehensible blast from the past rears its gruesome head. Such is David's Cal-Ital grilled portobello mushroom ($6.95), an otherwise meaty 'shroom drenched in overpowering balsamic, crumbled with bland feta and blanketed with oddly sour caramelized onion. On a hamburger bun. With potato chips. Good thing I didn't go for a Caesar salad, too.
After dark, David's by Day morphs into Buzz by Night, where well-heeled swells tuck into Surf & Turf ($28.95) and lobster linguine ($18.95).
We'll leave them to it.