Monday, October 15, 2012

Peace and Chicken Grease: At UTSC's very own Rex's Den

Let’s be rational here; university students are probably NOT the ideal population group to review restaurants. By definition alone, we’re incapable of giving an unbiased opinion about food retailers. Why? Pray tell?

BECAUSE WE ARE ALWAYS HUNGRY! We’re surviving on extra large double/doubles, scrounging up leftovers out of sketchy looking tupperware, adding up every last dime and quarter to buy beer   juice, and munching on week-old pizza crusts. We couldn't possibly turn down a hot meal (well, maybe if there were a tooth in it or something), and would probably go so far as to actually PAY for one, provided our budget allowed it, or more accurately, provided we were willing to forego little luxuries like water and Tylenol for the next week or so. How then, are we supposed to sit down, order a meal that ISN'T engineered by Kraft Foods or Great Value, and manage to be critical about it in between inappropriately sized bites and  ginormous gulps of  beer   iced tea?


Well, turns out it is possible. I took a crack at it. Oh, speaking of me, (yes, I not-so-subtly steered this spectacularly one-sided conversation towards myself as soon as I could) I’m Maha. I’m a 4th year Environmental Science & International Development major. I’m almost out of here, so naturally I've taken to speaking my mind freely and perhaps a tad more obnoxiously than usual. I love UTSC, creepy buildings and all, and it’s an honour to be able join the Pulse team and take this opportunity to write about various aspects of our little Scarborough community.  I journeyed down to our campus restaurant/bar Rex’s Den on Thursday evening, to check it out in a new light and hopefully come back with a few words to jot down about it. DISCLAIMER: this is not so much a review, as it is just a general observation. I've eaten there way too many times to be able to seem ‘shocked and awed’ about anything at this point, but I believe it’s important to put certain realities about our campus right out there. I suppose we could go so far as to call this a pros and cons type of deal.

Issue Numero Uno: Time.
My experience visiting the den has taught me to manipulate timings according to when I ACTUALLY want to eat. What this means is, that because I like to eat dinner at night, naturally, I need to get to Rex’s Den in the evening. It’s the only way to be able to finish my food without having to traipse out of there at closing time with half my burger hanging out of my mouth. When a friend and I walked in there Thursday evening, we were promptly seated by the hostess, and then promptly forgotten about. It took 19 minutes for a server to show up, only to tell us that she’d thought we’d been there for a long time and thus, didn't need a server at all. Yeah, I don’t get it either. We ordered immediately, (I didn't even scan the menu!) sat back, took our coats off, settled in. Pretty much everything you do when you’re getting ready for a long wait, short of signing a lease.

Issue Numero Dos:  Food
It’s simple; the food at Rex’s is good. It’s actually slightly more than good. Some of it’s great! The fries are delicious, the chicken is salmonella-free whilst also being tender, and the Coke tastes like Coke. Was it irritating that they were all out of straws? Yes. Was it irritating that I didn't get a napkin until AFTER I had a ketchup mustache  Yes. But the quality of what I scarfed down was high, and the server was friendly enough to have earned a decent tip. Well, not Four Seasons decent, Olive Garden decent.

Over the past 18 months, Rex’s den has undergone a major transformation. They've developed and refurbished a bar that supports a wildly stressed-out student population. Their menu changes regularly, but then, so do their chefs. It manages to maintain a zesty vibe by collaborating with campus partners and hosting events frequently. In the past two months alone, they've screened the American Election Debates, hosted poetry events for UTSC’s Queer week, and held private club events. Their staff suffers through some raging criticism about long waits and sub par service, but it’s been a crunch for them to manage the constant hiring demands. Their management is constantly criticized for being either over- or under-staffed. Result? The servers won’t be happy if they don’t get enough shifts to pay that phone bill, and the customers won’t be happy if they don’t get a napkin for their ketchup mustaches.

Food is a lot about politics. That’s what our campus’ food options battle through every year; financial issues with the SCSU, university rules and regulations, first-years barging in and out with resumes, so on and so forth. BUT IT’S (post) THANKSGIVING PEOPLE! The time has come to take that deep breath and be a little grateful about the fact that we even have a place to eat where we don’t have to hold the trays ourselves, and that we’re alive at all, and that we’re not at Ryerson, or York. Whoa, went WAY off topic there. Back on track, I think it’s safe to assume that most of us will take what we get, and continue to visit Rex’s, for the live music, the sweet potato fries, the soft booth seats that aren't so harsh on certain areas and lot’s more.

Eat well oh fair/medium/dark ones! (I don’t know how politically correct that was).

Peace and Chicken Grease UTSC.

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