Guess who’s coming to dinner: Queen West restaurants are under siege by child critics

Guess who’s coming to dinner: Queen West restaurants are under siege by child critics

Parkdale kids are to eat their way along Queen West (Photo by Ramon Abasolo) 

Continuing its “performance art that doesn’t suck” mandate, activist group Mammalian Diving Reflex is teaming up again with the students at Parkdale Public School. The last time, it was for haircuts; this time, it’s to eat their way down Queen Street in the name of art. For the campaign, appropriately called Parkdale Public School vs. Queen Street West Part 2, the “Pumas” (the name given to the school’s teams) are pitted against selected Queen West restaurants. The kids will eat, then write up show-no-mercy reviews to be posted on the event’s blog.

In addition to the avant-garde guidance of MDR’s Darren O’Donnell and Natalie De Vito, the Pumas will have a little neighbourhood help. Coca‘s chef, Nathan Isberg, will give the kids a food tutorial before unleashing them on restaurateurs. The Toronto Star‘s food critic, Corey Mintz, will help kids with their critical writing skills. Scheduled dinners run from March 26 to May 7 at such locations as Mitzi’s Sister, The Drake and Oddfellows. All are open to the public. The event ends with an awards ceremony at The Gladstone.

Like the thrill-inspiring MDR project Haircuts by Children (which is exactly what it sounds like), the message is simple: young people have important, often overlooked opinions and creative potential. And in a time when—as chef Marc Thuet has said it—everyone is a food critic, it seems only fair that kids should count, too. Young at heart, O’Donnell wants to access kids in unconventional ways. “Adults are always trying to control kids,” he explains. “I was a child. I have strong credentials, and I haven’t really relinquished them yet.”

It can’t hurt that this happens to be a year of comfort food on many high-end menus, which are offering ample kid- and recession-friendly selections. It looks like The Drake’s six-cheese gourmet macaroni and cheese is about to be put to the ultimate test. Will it be a home run with the schoolyard crew, or just a rich man’s KD? We’ll be following the Pumas’ binge to find out how the hip strip stacks up to the unspoiled palate.