El Furniture Warehouse
El Furniture Warehouse in the Annex is the tenth outpost of this Canadawide purveyor of cheap eats, where every item on the menu is priced at just $4.95. Originally from Whistler, the expanding chain (each location's a little different, mind you) is backed by a roster of ex-skateboarders, surfers and snowboarders.
It's also the first restaurant I've ever seen with a shoe company sponsorshp - you'll notice the staff all outfitted with Vans. You might also notice Red Bull streaming extreme sports on TV screens throughout.
Taking over the former address of The Pump, the 110-seat room has been given the brand's signature premium-dive bar aesthetic, courtesy of the operating group's own build team. Skateboard decks and neon advertising are hung on exposed brick and wood paneled walls. Utilitarian bar furniture looks ready to endure raucous nights and daily high traffic.
The place doesn't cater to gourmands priding itself on the afformentioned menu where every entry is priced evenly at less than $5. Surprisingly, this doesn't translate to small plates that need to be order in multiples to fill up. The list of starters features pubby standards; potato skins, poutine, wings, perogies, yam fries with dip. We try chori-queso dip, a hot cheese fondue studded with ground sausage, corn and spinach. Tortillas and garlic bread are supplied on the side, extras should you run out, cost $1 more.
Five salads lighten up the menu and can be upgraded to a meal in themselves with the addition of grilled chicken, braised beef or sautĂŠed prawns for $2.25. The quinoa and apple salad is better than expected, made with cucumber, sweet corn, avocado, toasted almonds, and fresh herbs dressed in a soy honey lime sauce.
Heartier appetites will find selections of tacos, wraps, quesadillas and nachos, as well as pasta bowls, sandwiches and burgers that are impressively portioned for the price. The Works Burger with all beef patty doesn't skimp on the maple bacon, cheddar or crispy onions and it's topped with shredded lettuce, tomato and house "macho" sauce between a brioche bun. Best still sides are included; there's the choice of soup, greens or fries.
Like many restaurants these days, the menu offers to buy the kitchen a beer, as well as add an extra $4.95 to the bill and pay forward a free meal that's tallied and delivered to local shelters each Sunday.
While the kitchen might be drinking, the bartenders are not - it's a dry bar, meaning that despite any misadventures in table dancing and ski shots that occur (and is encouraged), service should be unwavering. Shooters are priced in line with the food menu, though you'll find cocktails sold for $6.25 and draught beers (mainly national brands) topping out at $6 per pint. Select craft brews and ciders are available by the bottle ($5.75-$8.25), as well as large format (600mL) bottles of PBR for $9.25.
El Furniture Warehouse is open seven days a week from 11am to 2am and the kitchen goes straight 'til last call.
Photos by Jesse Milns.