Kid critics are on to something at Oddfellows

Kid critics are on to something at Oddfellows

Pumas vs. Oddfellows: Eat the Street munches down Queen West (Photo by Davida Aronovitch)  

Saturday night at Oddfellows looked like a feast scene out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Kids from the nearby Parkdale Public School—Pumas, as they’re known—invaded the über-hip restaurant as part of the ongoing performance art–dinner series called Eat the Street. There was more root beer than red wine, the decibel level was in the stratosphere, and there was a refreshing dearth of inhibition. The kid critics are rating Queen West’s hottest restaurants as part of a project by the art group Mammalian Diving Reflex (they’ve already hit The Drake and Czehoski, among others), which has given the teen squad notepads and one simple instruction: show no mercy.

Oddfellows chef Matty Matheson offered the kids three options: a quail sandwich, a deer burger, and mac-and-cheese. The Last Supper–style communal table was perfect for cross-plate pollination, and brutal honesty was in no short supply. When one of the adults, York University Children’s Studies professor Jeffrey Canton, received his meal before everyone else, he offered some his buffalo (adults were able to order from a different menu) to the kids. One unabashed pundit pulled a face and simply said, “It’s bad.” Our order of six-cheese macaroni with Coca-Cola-braised pork belly was delicious and a hit with the schoolyard set. The roasted cherry tomatoes proved a bit mushy for Tenxin, who plucked them out of the dish and deposited them in a napkin. Canton, who has attended three dinners so far, loves the reaction. “I’ve had a really good time,” he says, “I’ve shared some great conversations with the kids.”

The teens were equally adept at negotiating social awkwardness. When two penis-shaped pepper shakers were set on the table (accoutrements that might have derailed a dinner date), there was blushing, but little more. One teen even gave an eye roll and popped out for a quick chat on his cellphone. “He’s talking to his business,” teased a friend. Thirteen-year-old Femisha, with whom we share our mac-and-cheese when her made-to-order vegetarian meal is a no-show, takes careful notes on the experience, but she doesn’t rise to the bait when an adult asks, “Are you gonna give the chef heck?” She just smiles and simply explains that “they misunderstood my order.” We’re impressed. Good conversation, anything-goes table manners and no service-based tantrums? These kids are on to something.

We’ll be all ears at the May 11 award ceremony at the Gladstone to get their uncensored opinions on all the restaurants they’ve sampled.