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Great meal at Allen's on the Danforth

CeeQueue Dec 8, 2008 06:57 AM

After researching quite a bit on these boards, I'd chosen Allen's for an early dinner after taking in a matinee theatre performance. I was particularly interested in having a medium rare burger -- trying what's been widely acclaimed as Toronto's best burger. But then I found a patch of reviews saying Allen's servers are rude and arrogant, the service slow and the food overpriced and overrated. So we'd changed our plans and were going to try Rebel House instead (certainly couldn't find a bad review of that establishment). As it would happen, Rebel House was closed for a private party, so we defaulted back to Allen's -- with a bit of trepidation.

Well...our server couldn't have been nicer, more charming, attentive or helpful. The food was all excellent, with one notable exception, and my burger was certainly one of the best I've ever had (I still miss the medium-rare offerings from the long-defunct Abundance on Church near Adelaide). My companion made the rookie mistake of ordering one of the proffered specials without asking the price, so was shocked to find her beef tenderloin priced at $45. Still, it was so well executed and served with such perfectly done and presented sides (champ, broccoli and a phenomenal onion-mushroom sauce on the side) that she really had nothing to complain about.

Our calamari starter was also really good -- tender and slightly crispy with a great chipotle mayo sauce for dipping. I prefer when there are more of the squiddy looking bits with all the tentacles, but it was still excellent and not even remotely rubbery -- as can so often happen with calamari.

Her ice cream filled chocolate eclair was also terrific, though a bit tricky to eat. My rhubarb crisp was the only sour note of the evening -- almost no "crisp" to offset the tart mushiness of the rhubarb, and what there was was mixed into the mush and only provided a tooth-jarring hit of extreme sweetness that just didn't bring any cohesion to the dish. I'd ignored the waiter's recommendations of either the eclair or the lemon brulé tart, though. Next time I'd have one of those.

Still, we were both quite glad we tried this restaurant and would definitely go back, and the service could only be described as exemplary. We went on a Sunday around 5:30 and it wasn't that busy when we arrived, though got quite busy toward the end, and we still never felt neglected and certainly no one was rude or arrogant, but all were friendly and helpful.

I wonder if some of the reviews I read that said that were old enough that there have been changes made at Allen's to correct those problems? Or perhaps, as some have said, it's very hit or miss. Time will tell, but we'll definitely go back and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to friends.

Of course I still very much want to try Rebel House as well.

CQ

  1. a
    acd123 Dec 8, 2008 07:46 AM

    I really like Allen's too. The food is good, especially burger, and I like the feel of the place.

    I find the Rebel House burger to be dry. I love the Rebel House for pints and maybe a snack bu the food is not that great. I do like the cheese pennies for a snack but they could be a little less greasy.

    1. f
      fussychow Dec 8, 2008 08:12 AM

      I have always been very happy with Allen's for a casual meal. Their burgers are consistently great, and the chicken curry is always tasty.

      Rebel house burger is a bison burger, if I remember correctly, so it's a little dry-er because there's less fat, but the daily bread, their spinach salad, their mac'and'cheese are always spot on.

      2 Replies
      1. re: fussychow
        CeeQueue Dec 8, 2008 10:12 AM

        I'd heard the bison-beef burger could be a bit on the dry side. I was craving some frites and the sausage platter. I'll definitely get there soon.

        1. re: fussychow
          h
          hungryabbey Dec 8, 2008 04:52 PM

          I wasn't that impressed with the mac and cheese. I found it lacked a bit of flavour and was too try, almost seemed like it had been precooked, then reheated.

        2. r
          radiopolitic Dec 8, 2008 08:24 AM

          They still have their beer selection?

          1 Reply
          1. re: radiopolitic
            CeeQueue Dec 8, 2008 10:10 AM

            Allen's has four blackboards, each maybe 4'x4', filled with their beer selections -- printed quite small in chalk.

          2. shekamoo Dec 8, 2008 10:42 AM

            I seriously admire Allen's burgers and the fact that you can have them rare....so I frequent the place DESPITE the service which I have never found to be exemplary, unless you mean that in a negative way of what ought not to be done. an example: last saturday, I ordered a rare cheddar burger and was delivered a well done burger with no cheese. being audacious enough to point the matter out, the waiter got visibly angry, told me I had said well-done, took the burger away, came back with apologies 3 minutes later with THE SAME WELLDONE BURGER telling me he had found my rare order.......I dont know what was more insulting, the behavior or the assumption that I wouldnt know the difference...

            1. Shorttyred Dec 8, 2008 10:52 AM

              Reading such nice reviews i am tempted to give Allen's another try. It was banished from my family's list after two TERRIBLE experiences a couple years ago (service and food). I love the patio in the summer, and do miss it, so perhaps in the warmer weather i'll give it another try.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Shorttyred
                foodyDudey Dec 8, 2008 10:56 AM

                Maybe I'll give it another try also, I'd be happy to see that it has changed. I had more than two terrible experiences there. I can't even post what my wife said after our last dinner at Allen's. It truly was bad, and I don't know why the employess thare can be so arrogant. I guess they depend on the "regulars".

              2. s
                szw Dec 8, 2008 11:52 AM

                Sorry for going off on a tangent, but is Rebel House show NHL games?

                1. p
                  Pincus Dec 9, 2008 06:48 AM

                  This makes me want to go there to see what kind of service I get.

                  1. pescatarian Dec 9, 2008 07:04 AM

                    I was at Allen's about a month ago with a group of 8 women. I think the service was very good. The food was ok, although nothing outstanding. Several people at the table ordered the famous burgers. One person seemed to love it, the others thought it was good, but didn't rave about it. Many ordered the sweet potato fries. I tried a couple and they were just ok to me. They were soggy and too thick. I was glad I didn't order them because I didn't think they were worth the calories and I have had others that were much better. I had the black bean soup and it was bland - nothing bad about the texture or anything, but it needed some kick. I also had quesadilla and they were ok, but VERY greasy - like when I picked up a wedge to take a bite, grease would drip out of it.
                    Basically, the food and atmosphere served a purpose for that evening and it's conveniently located for me, but I wouldn't rush back. Service was not the problem though - it was pleasant and efficient.

                    1. dinin and dishin Dec 11, 2008 06:22 AM

                      Is it just me?
                      $45 for pub food?
                      Are you serious. I've eaten at Allens many times and while there food is good enough, I can't believe they would ever produce anything worth $45 a plate. And it is absolutely outrageous for the server not to give the price of something that pricey and out of sync with the pricing on the rest of the menu. I would hope that if that ever happens to me I have the guts to express my shock to the server and the manager.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: dinin and dishin
                        The Chowhound Team Dec 12, 2008 12:15 PM

                        We've split some general debate on the subject of specials and the prices over to Not About Food. You can find it here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/579645

                      2. a
                        Aardvark Dec 13, 2008 07:22 AM

                        The only time that I have had a less then good experience at Allens was when they were extremely busy. I normally avoid this by going early like you did. Still the best burgers IMO.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Aardvark
                          AzulH Dec 17, 2008 11:25 AM

                          I would reinforce the good reviews from CeeQueue, acd123, FussyCow et al above - we had a fine lunch; good seafood chowder ( a bit pricey at $7+) , above average burger and well prepared Calamari etc. Sevice was excellent particularly taking into account a busy holiday season crowd.

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