Mill Street Brewery, Pearson Airport, Toronto.

February 2015

Sometimes you have to eat in an airport, or you even want to. I ducked into this place because it looked on my brainless hurried starving traveller screen “authentic”: slightly dark, full of people, alive and bustling with activity, even smelling not-bad. Boy was I wrong.

The servers are surly hardass bitches. They make no effort to hide being preoccupied with turning volume and getting tips (like every other server the world around is), but with a self-defeating bare bare minimum attention to the potential tippers. I was almost reminded of that crazy place in New York where they are intentionally rude to their customers. But there is no such high-end ironic sophistication here.

I should have been warned by this class act that the whole place is rotten from top to bottom, but both famished and in a hurry I ordered from the dead-typical pub menu “chicken schnitzel” and a beer.

Looking around there was at the other tables a mix of thirtyish noisy guys in ball caps, irritable young couples with out-of-control kids, and several very obese solo diners. The food on the tables didn’t look bad at a distance of a couple of metres, and it was too late by the time I noticed that the alluring bustling clatter of the place was partly the servers banging down huge plates and tumblers of beer with no eye contact.

The so-called schnitzel was hideous. A beaten-flat chicken breast had been dredged in a single layer of flour and stale breadcrumbs, and then left in the pan until it was the consistency of damp drywall. Next to it was a mountain of fries, warm not hot, flabby, elastic, and greasy. Everything was diminished in flavour by being prepared in some sort of nearly taste-inert (no doubt polyunsaturated) vegetable fat.

I ate the schnitzel, I was that hungry. I haven’t persevered through such an amount of empty calories in a long time (“empty” here meaning for me “taste doesn’t justify the implied weight gain”).

I understand this place is a member of a local chain, and guess it’s with reference to the whole organization that we read: “…for a truly memorable food and drink experience. Customers can enjoy a Port Steak Cobb Salad with Cobblestone stout infused ranch dressing or Beer Drenched Cedar Plank Salmon topped with maple mustard glaze while sipping on the Tankhouse Pale Ale or the Mill Street Helles Bock.“ …experience…infused…drenched…sipping… This would be sickening rubbish even if it were the truth.

I hope they’re making a buck. God knows whoever cooked my dinner has never in his life spent 25 minutes being taught very fundamental fast-food technique. They have to be paying him and the gang of otherwise unemployable servers starvation wages. The burgers run from around $14 to 17 or $18. McDonald’s beats this place for taste and quality at about half the price. Disgusting.

Food 2.0, service 1.5, ambience 5.0, value 3.0.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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