Steak Queen on Rexdale Blvd. has a number of merits (24-hour service, affordable prices, authentic vintage style) but the food is not among them.
Locals were quick to praise the joint after the recent Rob Ford video surfaced and had me expecting a diner akin to charbroiled goodness that is Golden Star , where cooking over an open flame guarantees delicious grilled flavour. I should have read Amy Pataki's scathing review before venturing out but I was convinced I could find a silver lining. Spoiler: I didn't.
Open since 1979, the diner has been under new management in recent years but remains clean and well preserved. The backlit menu board heralds burgers and blue plate specials, plush vinyl booths are comfy and the counter staff are gruff but friendly. On a Friday night there are only a few tables full, mostly customers taking advantage of $3.25 beers.
The Banquet Burger ($4.95) with bacon and a square of American cheese is generally unremarkable, the patty almost definitely comes from a box and it's topped with pale lettuce, tomatoes and pickle slices that are an unnatural neon green and taste like pure white vinegar. The side of fries ($2.85) are super starchy and the gravy ($.50) is thick like the KFC variety - only here it tastes like someone threw in a salty beef bouillon cube.
The Chicken Souvlaki Dinner ($9.50) is 80% inedible. I ate the plump and juicy grilled chicken skewer but couldn't manage the runny tzatziki (which I suspect doubled as salad dressing) or the mushy rice studded with frozen vegetables and topped with a dollop of unidentifiable thick brown sauce.
A safer bet is the Chicken On a Kaiser ($6.95). Dressed to specification at the counter, it delivers at least some semblance of the char-grilled flavour I was hoping for.
The 8oz New York Steak Dinner ($11.25) is unfortunately served with the same rice and fries as the Greek dinner. The steak is really too thin to expect anything but a medium-well doneness and it's only a seared ribbon of fat that saves each bite from dryness.
As mentioned the Steak Queen is open 24/7 for all your poor late night decisions. Breakfast is served all-day, and there's even a morning $2.99 special.
Photos by Jesse Milns