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Okay Okay = NOT Okay

  • i

Based on recommendations from hounds in the "best pancakes" thread, my companion and I headed to Leslieville this morning for brunch at Okay Okay. I would not recommend it to others looking to enjoy breakfast.

The food was very good, including the promised fluffy pancakes with blueberries in the batter. And for most of our visit, the service was good.

But we won't be going back. Here's why...

Immediately after we finished our breakfasts (2 full orders wolfed down by my companion, one by me), the waitress told us we'd have to settle the bill and move to the counter to finish our tea because "someone else needs the booth". Not so much as a "would you like to order anything else?" or "would you do us a favour and move to the counter?". We were quite simply evicted from our table.

Now, I could understand if we'd been there an overly long time (i.e. if we hadn't barely finished cleaning our plates), or if there'd been a line at the door waiting to be seated. But in fact, there was no line and the only people waiting to eat were seated at the counter, which had 4 more stools free.

Some might find it acceptable to evict diners so that later diners could have the booth, but I don't. The newcomers could have been served at the counter, with the option to take over the booth when we left.

As it stands, we simply settled the bill and left -- permanently. This incident completely undid the good experience we'd had thus far, when the restaurant made it clear that our business was less valued than that of the newcomers. With so many great restaurants in the city we have no need or inclination to return to one that would treat us that way.

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  1. Well, I went to Okay Okay about a year or so ago, and it was just okay. It wasn't the service or most of the food; it was the "hash browns", which are standard issue frozen patties, but they tasted as though they were cooked in rancid oil. Even the ones at McDonald's taste better.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Full tummy

      Really??? Oh I wish I had that experience. We looooove those damn things. Yes I know they are just standard issue patties and I could get them a price chopper for $2 or something crazy like that but they just taste so damn good there on a sunday morning with a BLT. But idnas I have to agree with you, that was pretty shabby. We've never had that kind of treatment, thankfully.

      1. re: millygirl

        I remember the first time I went there and was quite taken aback when they served me those hash browns because everything else on my plate was freshly prepared. They have since grown on me. That said, it seems like the kind of place where you should be able to get some nice, crisp-around-the-edges home fries off the griddle instead of frozen ones.

          1. re: ms. clicquot

            You know, it wasn't so much what they were, it was that they actually did taste rancid. I can appreciate junk too, and while I would prefer something more homemade (as long as it was well-made), I probably wouldn't be complaining here, if those frozen hash browns had just been fried in fresh oil. Fresh oil!

            Don't know if they're keeping the oil fresher now, but that rancid oil was nasty.

            1. re: Full tummy

              I think it is better these days. Rancid oil is just plain nasty!!!

      2. Horrible treatment. I'll stay way, thanks for the warning.

        1. +

          Okay Okay
          1128 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M1K8, CA

          1. it's too bad that you had such a bad experience as okayokay truly serves an awesome brekkie. maybe you should make a call in to management to advise how bad the service was. your experience does not sound like the kind of thing i want while i'm scarfing a pancake. at the same time....i don't think that one incident warrents a lifelong boytcott on okayokay, just needs better staff. give them a second chance........i certainly will as their breakfast is so addictive.

            3 Replies
            1. re: rayrayray

              I've never been to Okay Okay, but the inicident described by the OP doesn't sound like something staff would do without management sanctioning it.
              If something like that happened to me, I might say something to management. But I would probably respond the same way the OP did because there are so many options in this city. Restaurant management/staff should treat every customer in such a way that makes them want to return. The onus shouldn't be placed on the customer to make sure they get it right the first time.

              1. re: pescatarian

                Well said. There are too many service issues in this city. I think places with poor service should feel the effects of their indifference and/or ineptness.

              2. re: rayrayray

                sorry....should have added and didn't. i have only had excellent service from okayokay, so that's why i was so forgiving.

              3. OkayOkay turned one of Leslieville's most unpleasant diners into a respectable restaurant. That's about the only positive thing I can say. I tried their smoked salmon benedict creation. Between smoked salmon that was too salty, a prefab frozen potato patty, and packaged hollandaise, it wasn't worth eating. It wasn't cheap, and this is not a place where I can just relax and enjoy myself, so I've not been tempted to return.

                The place wasn't busy and the cook (who may or may not have been management) basically said that there wasn't any point in making what could be bought already made. I can do that at home for much less money, but don't. Why pay restaurant prices for this kind of food?

                You can get a homemade egg-and-stuff breakfast at Newell's (admittedly not my kind of place) , in a similar - though I'd argue more authentic - ambiance, for 1/3 the price. Newell's doesn't serve "benedicts", but that's no loss given OkayOkay's version.

                3 Replies
                1. re: embee

                  Agree; I also tried the smoke salmon benedict and would NOT recommend it. The salmon was chopped up, not a whole slice like I've had elsewhere. I think the menu said "homemade hollandaise" but it was tasteless.

                  1. re: Teep

                    The hash browns turned us off as well. That, and the fact that the owner/cook
                    was so surly to his waitress, who was very sweet! The place is small, so one doesn't really need to ring the bell AND yell as the server to pick up the food.
                    The attitude in conjunction with the scowling looks at customers and staff, not even the best breakfast in the world could make me wanna go there again. Sounds like it was the owner who told the server to demand that you move to the counter. Considering that it's a greasy spoon that doesn't take reservations, it seems very odd and inconsiderate that you would be asked to move!

                    1. re: ostracario

                      Funny you mention the owner scowling at the staff. I've also seen him do that but then a second or two later they are laughing. The guy server that was there for a long time has since moved on and now they have a very nice girl. She apparently worked for them at another restaurant, they have become good friends and they asked her to come work for them again. Who knows what goes on behind the stove, eh! I agree though, he could be friendlier.

                2. well...this is one of my regular brekkie haunts and I've always had excellent, if slightly brusque, service. I used to make my living as a waitress and I often feel as though I know what those servers are up against - perhaps I am more forgiving than most.

                  But in particular, I always come in with my two kids (ages 3 and 6), who never want to wait for their food to arrive, and the waitress always sets us up with an extra, immediate order of toast for my kids at no charge. This is the kind of thing that makes me taking my children out to a restaurant possible, and I have never asked for this - the extra toast just shows up.

                  I know the food isn't necessarily the greatest. (Nobody has mentioned the cinnamon margarine fake spread they use on the French toast yet!) But this is a regular, fun, low-key place for me to hang with my kids and husband, and it works for us. I've never been asked to move along, for what it's worth.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: charmoula

                    k...this is getting weird. are we talking about the same okayokay? i can't believe there would be another resto of this name on queen. i NEVER saw any of this management behaviour......and as a former server I would have called them on it. we are planning on going there this weekend so I will advise....

                    as far as their "eggs benjamin"..(thats what it is called with smoked salmon btw embee)...i would've never ordered it to begin with. sure... if they offer it on the menu, they should do it right. did you really expect this kind of place to have a fancy breakfast though? be honest. sure, great pankcakes and they can fry an egg........but it really is just a simple breakfast joint.

                    1. re: rayrayray

                      They positioned themselves as a retro styled place with upscale breakfast food, and they used the word "homemade" on their menu for things that clearly weren't. The guy cooking and serving highly recommended this dish. So, yes, I did expect the "fancy" breakfast to be good. I wouldn't expect this at Gale's, or Jim's, or Newell's, or the Logan Grill. More to the point, these places don't have any fancy food on their menus. Perhaps OkayOkay shouldn't claim to be something that they aren't.

                      1. re: embee

                        you're right. if they advertised as an upscale place you should expect upscale food. i don't really follow resto openings. if i see a new place and it looks interesting....i go. it looked like a nice place to eat brekkie. it was a good breakfast and the price was fair. regardless of whether it did not live up to expectations for some.....i had none to begin with, maybe that's why i liked it more than others did. i will still stand by the excellent breakfast i had and i think (service issues aside) it is rather unfair for okayokay to get this much bashing.

                        1. re: rayrayray

                          Not "advertising" as such, but the tone of the PR buzz, and certainly not refuted.

                          1. re: embee

                            I'm not doubting you embee, but strangely enough I've never heard or read of Okay Okay being referred to as 'upscale'.

                            1. re: millygirl

                              I tried Okay Okay because I walked by and saw that they have "eggs benjamine" and other things on the menu which seemed like they are positioning themselves as a step above greasy spoon. I did have expectations when I went in - that the food was fresh and tasty. But neither of those two requirements were met.

                              1. re: millygirl

                                People don't refer to it as upscale, but I do believe that when you are charging the prices they are charging, and when your menu presents more "upscale" items, then that is the higher standard that is expected of you. For "average" breakfast food, I can be more comfortable, eat more food, and spend less at plenty of other places. Which is unfortunate, because I had high hopes for O.O.

                                1. re: millygirl

                                  The food was so described. Definitely not the place :-)

                                  The fancy-sounding dishes on the menu, and the prices they charge, are similar to those at breakfast places such as Over Easy.

                          2. re: rayrayray

                            they do have a new waitress, but she is really really friendly. The guy they used to have moved on. He was nice enough, but not overly.

                            1. re: rayrayray

                              Maybe management has changed since you were there, rayrayray? Or perhaps the server was acting on her own when she bumped us from our table.

                              Either way, though - whether her behaviour was endorsed by management or she simply hadn't been schooled in appropriate customer treatment - management is accountable and with so many great restaurants in town I won't be giving this one any more business.

                              I agree the food we had was appropriately good for the price (i.e. not outstanding but good) and were it not for the service issue I'd have recommended the place.

                              If you know the managers and think it would do any good, feel free to pass on my feedback. It won't get them my business back but it might prevent them from losing others.

                          3. Wherever such a thing happens, this is totally unacceptable, unless you overextended your stay (i.e. 1 hour on a busy week-end). Please: Skip it, put it on your black list.

                            1. My first and last time at Okay Okay occurred when I went for weekday lunch and I had a coffee I had come in with and was told by the waitress "you'd better dump that outside or the owner will freak out if he sees you with it in here." Now I normally never walk into other eating establishments with outside food, but considering I dropped $20 eating in there and bought a pot of tea as well, what was the purpose of making me a never-again customer over a measly $2 coffee? To me, emblamatic of what's becoming wrong with hipster Leslieville, full of persnickity chefs.

                              1. My husband and I will also not go back to OkayOkay. We went several times (my husband is a fan of the awful potato patty hash brown!) but each experience seemed to get worse. We went right when it opened and the French Toast was delicious but every time we went back it seemed the quality went down until it was almost the equivalent of the patty hash browns and not worth the price they were charging.

                                I found it to be over-priced for what they were serving generally. We ordered two sides of bacon once and when we were served, we got a single plate with 4 slices of bacon. We mentioned that we had ordered two sides and was told that they had given us two sides but put them on one plate. When I questioned the small portion (we had received more bacon when ordered as as separate side dish the last two times we were there) the answer I received mystifies me to this day. They said that some bacon slices were larger than others and that's why we got 4. I also find the fact that they charge for coffee refills a bit on the cheap side - charge a quarter more and give people free refills.

                                Beyond the food, it is a very small uncomfortable space unless you are in a booth. We were seated at the counter once but the stools are so close to the counter that we had to sit with our legs off to the side (I'm 5"9" and he's over 6').

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: MEMac

                                  I used to love Okay Okay, and frequented it often in the summer. My last two experiences have not been great!! Food is not as fresh, or well prepared.
                                  The Chef and staff, except for one waitress, had all changed...I haven't read all of the replies...I think ther must be new owners.

                                  1. re: uberguy

                                    Yup, new owners took possession just after christmas.

                                    1. re: Mr. Millygirl

                                      I've dumped on Okay Okay here before. I'm bumping it up because I was dragged there for a lunch meeting and found some real improvement. It still isn't great and I won't be rushing back, but the food yesterday did not justify a trashing.

                                      The neighbourhood publicity before they opened suggested an upscale all week brunch kind of place in a retro diner atmosphere. Based on that, I ordered a smoked salmon benedict kind of concoction. It was pretty bad. Others have responded that I shouldn't expect fancy schmancy food in a diner, but this place had pretensions. It wasn't offering honest diner food like, say, the Logan Grill or the (defunct) Canary.

                                      The latest owners redid the front and dubbed it OK2. It's much the same inside, as is the menu. Ever the glutton for punishment, I ordered the same egg concoction. I'm suffering a short term memory lapse, but I think the current name of the dish is Eggs Brunhilde. Surprise - the dish was good. Not great, but good.

                                      The two poached eggs were perfect, with a nice runny center. There was a generous portion of grilled fresh asparagus, which was also perfect. The smoked salmon portion was ample this time - actually one of the largest smoked salmon portions I've been served in Toronto. It wasn't the best quality smoked salmon available, but was eminently edible.

                                      The "hash browns" were still prefab frozen potato cakes, but these were crisp outside, creamy inside, and greaseless. They sure weren't hash browns, and they had a neutral taste, but they made a perfectly fine base and were better than a knife cut, under toasted English muffin.

                                      The Hollandaise was a disappointment. The menu claims it's made with real eggs, butter, and lemon. The portion was stingy and the sauce wimpy, though it was a bit lemony.

                                      The coffee, though freshly brewed and refilled without asking (I wouldn't have asked) was reminiscent of burned swill.

                                      So now I'm curious. Can anyone else out there comment on a recent experience, good or horrible, at this place?

                                      1. re: embee

                                        I can comment on a relatively recent experience. A couple of months ago mr. clicquot and I stopped by for brunch. It wasn't too busy and we didn't have to wait for a table. We sat outside but it started to rain so they moved us inside. We ordered and waited...and waited... Finally, almost an hour after we'd sat down, we politely asked how much longer and the waitress was quite snippy, saying that it was busier now because of the rain (?? there were the same number of patrons as before, we were just all inside now and the restaurant still wasn't full). Finally we got our meal and it was fine, if nothing special. I don't think we'll be rushing back anytime soon.

                                2. we just went this past weekend. i had two issues that sound like they go back quite a ways...

                                  1) the lame hashbrown patty in a diner touting (and charging for) pricey sausage and eggs. I prefer the new Leslieville Diner a couple blocks further east. No pretense, no surcharge, and real homefried potatoes.

                                  2) what makes the 'move to the counter' thing even WORSE is that they installed the stools TOO CLOSE to the counter, so it is impossible to sit there comfortably if you're taller than 5'2". normally it's kinda fun to eat at a diner counter, watching the cooks sling bacon, eggs, and flapjacks. too bad the only way I could sit there was to turn sideways.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: leslieviller

                                    We were there easter weekend, and that same miserable waitress is there. She was soooo grumpy that we decided not too stay. It was such a fantastic day, weather wise, and we just didn't wanna put up with her sour puss. We went over to Joy Bistro instead. Sat outside and had a decent meal. What's with the girl??

                                    The owner must be okay, okay with it - to keep her on. For us, there are lots of other places along Queen to get yourself a breakfast, Might as well give our money to someone that's pleasant and wants our business.

                                    1. re: millygirl

                                      Nice, that's the way to do it. Good for you. No reason to stay for that kind of attitude.