Roxanne Tellier: Cheap Eats, Hot Jazz and heymacs


Remember the heyday of The Old Spaghetti Factory?  Massive as the place was, there were always lineups, and you’d eagerly await that call of your name … “Smith, party of 4!” “John, party of 3!”


But sometimes the host would simply need to fill space, and then you’d hear, “I can take a party of 6, and a party of 4.” THAT’s when I would spring into action, and ask the nearest, hungriest looking couple to join me and my escort for dinner.

You meet a lot of cool people that way. But then again, I’ve often found that most people you least expect to be ‘cool,’ can have surprising depths. You just need to plunge in.

So, over the years, whenever I’ve found myself in the position of being a party of one, or a party of two in a four party world, I’ve introduced myself to a stranger, and hey presto! Dinner is on it’s way.


That’s what happened on Friday, when Pat Blythe and I decided to try the Bloor street location of El Furniture Warehouse. I’d heard rumours about this chain, and wondered what the deal could be … how could they offer a set price of $4.95 for any item on the menu?

The El Furny chain started in Whistler, BC and spread across Canada, now boasting 11 locations, including the two in Toronto; 410 Bloor West and 432 Queen West.

Pat and I got in line behind about 20 other would-be diners. As Pat chatted with a friend who was headed home, I struck up a conversation with two young girls ahead of us in line. They assured me that they’d eaten there before, and that it wasn’t a scam … just good food at a good price. Both college students, Alecia at Humber, and Mariah at York, they were stretching their food dollar, and the annoyance of waiting in line was a small thing compared to a full belly at a decent price.

So Pat and I waited. And we waited. And after about an hour and twenty minutes, we were nearly at the door when the host said they could take a party of four. Bingo! Party of four, I cried, and conscripted my two new friends to join us for dinner.

I’m guessing the girls were at least 30+ years younger than us, which led to a little bit of shyness at first, but as we perused the menu and discussed what looked good, our conversation became more animated as we shared thoughts on what to eat.

The menu is extensive, and suitable to every appetite and taste. There are soups and salads, veggie options, red meat entrees and everything in between  … and apparently some amazing little donuts  with a caramel dip for desert, which I didn’t notice, more’s the pity.

The menu also offers an option to add an extra $4.95 to your  bill to pay it forward for a free meal delivered to local shelters each Sunday.(You can also choose to buy a beer for the chef.)

braised beef au jus

Pat wanted potato skins and a noodle salad, while I had braised  beef au jus and a kale Caesar salad.  (Soup, peppered fries, local, wild greens, yam fries or kale Caesar salad are each an additional $1.95.) Our new friends ordered a quesadilla, a turkey sandwich, and a macaroni and cheese to share. The mac and cheese was massive! We could have all swum in its cheesy depths.

Orders taken, we could now check out the décor (hippy rec room with brightly coloured twinkle lights everywhere,) and try to make ourselves heard over the din. The place was packed to the rafters with students, hipsters, skaters, and Annex locals, all trying to be heard above the sound of many TVs blaring music videos on volumes of 11. You’d have to be a very determined romantic to consider this a ‘date night’ place.

I ordered a pint of beer ($7.50.) Our water glasses were replenished as needed, and we didn’t linger for coffees. The liquor costs seemed reasonable for the area. Some of the rowdier revellers got together to experience the “shotski,” a line of four shot glasses glued along the length of a snow ski, and filled with the liquor of your choice. Bottoms up!

the shotski

Our friends assured us that their meals were yummy. Pat enjoyed her skins and salad, and I surprised myself by eating every bit of my salad and sandwich, which was really tasty, if a tad salty.

Maybe we were just lucky – I’ve read some scathing reviews about meals gone wrong and surly servers – but for me, cheap and cheerful always works. $20 for a meal, beer, tax and tip on a Friday night – can’t go wrong.


Wish I could find some pics of my early days in “Tangents,” a pop quartet that toured so extensively in Northern Ontario that I still have nightmares about snowy moose jumping gigantic nickels. Crazy days, learning how to work new wave tunes into something a cowboy crowd would enjoy.

Lead guitarist Bill Parsons went on to bigger and better things, as a composer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist performer, and teacher at the Royal Conservatory. He’s a man of many and diverse interests and talents.

bill parsons

Bill turned me on to jazz, all those years ago. We’d be playing pop to the masses by night, and listening to Miles Davis, Weather Report, and Pat Matheny all day.  I hear a lot of those early influences in his new CD now available on bandcamp, flavoured and tempered by his years of playing both improvised and classically structured music with theGlass Orchestraand Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan.

Have a listen here:


Ok, that’s it for this week. I’ve gotta get cleaned up and get ready to help with a video shoot for Shawn O’Shea’s ongoing project, the heymacs.

heymacs freeskatin

Today’s shoot will feature a cameo appearance of a Canadian icon. Couldn’t be more appropriate on this chilly fall day;the air actually smells Canadian this morning … crisp and clean with just a hint of bacon.

A Previous heymacs

I’m outta here; gotta hunt out my mukluks and tuque and pray for a Chinook, so – take off, eh? Later, hosers.


Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

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DBAWIS ButtonRoxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. She has also been a vocalist with many acts, including Tangents, Lady, Performer, Mambo Jimi, and Delta Tango. In 2013 she co-hosted Bob Segarini’s podcast, The Bobcast, and, along with Bobert, will continue to seek out and destroy the people who cancelled ‘Bunheads’. 

4 Responses to “Roxanne Tellier: Cheap Eats, Hot Jazz and heymacs”

  1. So that’s why you wanted to know what I hoovered down (damn I was hungry….all that waiting). Nicely done Veronica. We should dine out more often.

  2. I generally do not line up but, based on your revue,I will. Cool heymacs video too. Very nicely done.

  3. I thank you, and the heymacs thank you … 😉

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