Participation in vicious Winterlicious part of Mark McEwan’s civic duty
During an interview with CBC’s Metro Morning on Friday, Mark McEwan used the term “Wintervicious” to describe the imminent foodie festival—or rather, he relayed that this is how one of his staffers refers to it. McEwan’s swank restaurant Bymark apparently experiences a degree of madness in dealing with the Winterlicious rush—and it’s not the only one. We have heard that popular restaurants like Bymark and the stars in the Oliver & Bonacini universe (Canoe, Auberge du Pommier) install dedicated phone lines just to handle the sudden deluge of diners clamouring for a reservation.
We understand what McEwan’s guy is saying, but many diners claim that they too experience something vicious at Winterlicious. Like, say, the quietly escalating prices. Lunch for $10 to $20 and dinner for $20 to $30 were once standard, but this year, as one blogger complains, many restaurants have quietly inflated pricing to as much as $30 for lunch and $45 for dinner. In some cases, this is the equivalent of getting a complimentary appetizer. And then there’s the competition for tables. No matter how quick one is on the redial, it is almost impossible to get through to many participating restaurants. Increasingly, diners write off the whole event if they haven’t made reservations on the first day; and there are those who find the phone frustration (dedicated lines or no) taints the experience. As a Chowhounder declared, “I know I won’t be waiting on the phone for two hours to try to secure reservations at Bymark or Canoe anymore.”
In the same interview, McEwan said that he looks at participating in Winterlicious not as a time to pick up new regulars, but as a civic duty. Maybe he’s cutting to the heart of it, and maybe the -liciouses—winter and summer alike—are about a chef’s obligation to help the plebs nosh well twice a year. Or is it about engendering food culture? Or maybe bolstering Toronto’s wintertime economy?
McEwan hardly needs to worry about new Bymarkian regulars. Many one-time diners will sit on the phone for as long as it takes, hoping to get through for a seat, any seat. Of course, those who miss out may think twice about stopping in at his soon-to-open grocery store. It’s so good to diversify.
8 thoughts on “Participation in vicious Winterlicious part of Mark McEwan’s civic duty”
It’s just bad timing for Winterlicious to jack up their prices when we’re in a so called ‘recession’.
Of course there are restaurants like ByMark and Canoe that will always thrive regardless of the price.
Importantly, there are still many many great $25 dinners waiting to be enjoyed and I think that will be the focus on the blogs this year for winterlicious (if twitter is any indicater). I know I’m strictly aiming for the smaller restaurants that have $25 menus (My list is 6 so far).
went to North 44 on Fri.nite, were upcharged over $10.00/ bottle red wine over quoted winterlicious price, used valet parking and my car was sideswiped and we were told to hurry and finish coffee as we had used up our table time at 7:30 on a 6:00 p.m. reservation. I have a problem with this attitude.
It’s funny that Mr. McEwan’s civic duty does not seem to extend to his newest baby, One. Yet, if done sensibly, one can eat at “one” for less than the 45 dollar a person list price that pains Mr. McEwan so.
A 45 dollar meal is not public service, and to me defeats the whole purpose of winterlicious. Often you can share dishes and maneouver around a menu to eat at even some of Toronto’s swankier joints for less than that per person (not for a 3 course meal mind you, but taht is hardly the point). All I know is that last year I went to 5 winterlicious meals, this year I have not gone to any and I plan to maybe try one.
Perhaps they should think twice next time they raise prices during a recession.
went to Quince last night. Only $25.00. The food was excellent. Our waiter was great. Will definately be back. They picked up 4 new regular customers.
My boyfriend and I went to North 44 during Winterlicious and I have nothing but great things to say about the food and establishment as a whole. The service was amazing, the atmosphere was delightful, and the food was mind blowingly delicious. My experience was incredible and I will undoubtedly be back to experience their regular menu.
Lily, I’d have to disagree with you. I went to North 44 during Winterlicious as well and I thought that the quality was absolutely terrible compared to their usual. Service was excellent, as always – and my partner’s $20 “upgrade” dish was 10x better than my Papardelle with Rabbit that had multiple bones and my Confit Pork Belly that was stringy and dried out or overcooked.
Like you can’t judge a book by its cover, it goes to say that in the past few years, you really can’t judge a restaurant by its Winterlicious menu – which, I think is a really *really* unfortunate thing because the spirit of Winterlicious was always meant to get people “out there” and trying new things – and restaurants offering their best, rather than their minimum par to “get through” the two weeks of “wintervicious.”
Can someone please post a list of restaurants with $10 lunch menues and $20 dinners?
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