6 STARS. JULY 27, 2007.
J. SPRATS DELI, 444 ST. MARY AVENUE.
Breakfast Special $4.35 after tax (coffee included)
The first impression of Jack Sprats (or J. Sprats as it’s named on the sign but not the menu) is “where the hell is it?”. It’s located above the Pony Corral on the south-west corner of Kennedy and St. Mary, downtown. It’s name is displayed above the Pony, but unless you’re across the street you won’t see it. You have to go through the large doors west of the Pony, where you will undoubtedly brush elbows with people in power suits who have better things to do than lounge around sucking on yolks. Once inside there’s still no obvious sign of the place; you must go up the stairs (carpeted stairs… who does that besides hotels?) to the glass-walled diner.
The atmosphere is actually quite pleasant in the restaurant. The abundant natural lighting from the huge windows was a definite plus. We sat by the window (it would actually be difficult to have been seated not by the window) and revelled in how the windows curve over the seating area which allow us to look directly up and see the blue sky. Very nice. The place was immaculately clean, saving for the small window into the kitchen that has plastic guards hanging down, bespeckled with the flecks of a thousand breakfasts. There was some worry as to whether or not our food would actually be coming out of there, but we were relieved to see only dirty dishes get jammed through. It wasn’t crowded, but it still managed to feel cliquey as it largely caters to the people who work in the building.
Our waitress was quick, efficient and friendly. We got ample creamers for our coffees and our waters came in satisfyingly large glasses instead of the tiny juice cups.
Our food came surprisingly quickly, even given that it wasn’t busy. The reason for this, we presumed, was the hash browns. They ended up being the low point of the whole experience. Instead of getting sliced/chopped potatoes, they seem to have delved into a huge vat of pre-prepared potato cubes, fried to an unnatural brown solidity. Looks great in a commercial, but not so much on my plate. I feel they’re a lazy shortcut to providing your clientele with essential starches. True, it bolsters speedy service and lower prices (I imagined each cube to be 1/2 potato, 1/2 carbon dioxide exhaled from some poor factory worker earning three cubes an day in Bangladesh where [again, I imagine] they were crafted) but they weren’t appreciated by our gang of goers.
They actually dominated the plate, spilling onto my eggs which I didn’t favour.
The bacon was crispy (almost too much) and shrivelled like a shrinky-dink, but was decent. Everyone’s eggs all came as ordered (four people, four different styles) excepting that they don’t poach, they baste. No worries. The toast was amusing: my rye came buttered on the small sides and was unsliced. It was perhaps taken from a stack of pre-toasted bread as it was quite chewy when it got to me and luke-warm. I pictured a toast-machine churning it out with inhuman regard for what side it should be buttered on. One of us got multi-grain bread which looked enticing and came with an extra slice!
The waitress made sure we were good before going on her break, leaving instructions to get the other waitress if we needed anything. No prob. As we ate, the view of St. Mary gave us ample eye candy; we spotted friends, vagrants, clusters of children and all sorts of things for us to comment on. Our bill came with everything separated without even having to ask and was sitting on the table minutes after the food came.
The coffee was free refills and I was impressed with how efficient an operation it was. Sort of factory-like; reminded us of German engineering which sparked amusing conversation comparing the efficient Germans to the siesta-loving Spaniards. The bill came with a customer comment card, and while I was tempted to just list this web site, I actually don’t want to get on anyone’s bad side who are responsible for the things I put in my mouth. I made sure our displeasure with the potatoes was known though, and praised the multi-grain toast.Their Interac machine had no option for tips so I had to tell them to add it on the amount. This always makes me feel uncomfortable and I wonder if it’s a ploy to get people to tip better. If you have to say it out loud, you don’t want to sound cheap.
The hash browns were a real let down, and the location could be a lot better, but otherwise it was a pleasant dining experience.
Best quote from the meal: “This ass tastes stale” by Heather (Not in regards to the food we were eating).