We're at Gatsby's, in a booth with no springs left in the seat, with music blaring so loudly we have to bawl at each other. I'm thinking that I've eaten a lot of good meals lately and I'm about due for a bad one, and if the start of this dinner is any indication, this is going to be it.
I ask what the soup of the day is and our server goes to find out. First she asks the bartender, who shrugs. Then she asks the passing cook and he says how should he know, he started at five o'clock (an hour ago). She then goes to the open kitchen and returns with the answer, apologizing for her co-workers. We order the soup (tomato vegetable) and the hummus, and take a look around.
Out front, a small patio area is bright and provides a great people-watching spot on Spring Garden. Inside, Gatsby's is a very long, very dark bar. The open kitchen is up front and has a case displaying pizzas by the slice. Down one side runs a row of booths, the other side is home to a neon-lit bar. In the back there are VLTs and a poolroom.
It has very much a party-bar atmosphere, although it's quiet right now.
Out comes our food and we dig in. The hummus ($4.99) is the consistency of wallpaper paste, with all of the flavour one would expect wallpaper paste to have. Garlic, lemon juice, salt—all missing in action.
Tomato vegetable soup ($3.99) is best left in the pot, where it apparently has already spent too much time. The vegetables have turned to such mush as to be unidentifiable and the broth is like watered-down pasta sauce. When our server returns to clear, she mentions she knows it was a bowl of soup, not a cup as ordered, but the kitchen gave her a bowl. (I'm charged for the cup.) I'm getting the impression there's not much communication between kitchen and servers.
Our main courses look great as they arrive, but one taste puts all hope of a decent meal to rest. The spaghetti with meatballs ($9.99) is a food-borne illness waiting to happen—the meatballs are both cold and deep pink inside. The meat content might be in question: My first tentative bite has revealed a lot of filler. "Sweet spaghetti sauce" is indicated on the menu, but this sauce tastes like a cross between commercial chili sauce and dessert topping—revolting. The spaghetti is grossly overcooked and hasn't been drained properly—there's a pool of water in the bottom of the bowl.
The Thai chicken stir-fry ($9.99) is an unappetizing mass of bottled sauce and pre-cooked rubbery chicken slices over bland rice. We leave most of our food untouched. Our server's voice is asking if she can pack up the leftovers for us, but her face is saying she knows it was awful (judging, at least, by her expression and tone).
As we're leaving, the cook indicates the pizza in the hot case on display and yells to someone in the back, "How long do we leave this crap out here for?" Nice.
Undaunted by this one unfortunate visit, I return for a couple of pieces of pizza to go. Despite the cook's reference, I'm optimistic that the pizza will be decent as it has a fairly good reputation. Sadly, the cook is right. Tough crust, bland sauce and scarcity of toppings mean I can recommend neither the chicken fajita nor steak and cheese pizzas.
Gatsby's has a fabulous location and there's a lot to do if you want to have a few drinks and play some pool. As for the food, Gatsby's is not so great.
Gatsby’s5675 Spring Garden429-9999Daily 11am-2am
Be borne back ceaselessly into past Liz Feltham reviews online at: foodcritic.ca