The Unicorn is more pub than restaurant, but has recently harnessed its magical horn to a whole new type of economic wonder: the recession lunch special. Now, I know a lot of people are upset about the R-word - recession being a monster as ugly and real as unicorns are beautiful and mythical. But for a cheap eats reviewer like me, life really doesn't get much better. When else could I enjoy a satisfying lunch on a sunny pub for $8 (including tax and a decent tip)?
The Unicorn has responded to plummeting stocks, unprecedented job loss and shrinking mutual funds in two ways. One: they still serve booze. Two: from Monday to Friday they offer $5 lunches. Why? Says the signboard outside, because "we care".
Now, I'm all for warm fuzzies as much as the next person (maybe more than the next person, if the number of times I've watched The Notebook is any indication), but I'm pretty persnickety when it comes to food. It is, after all, my job to get judgy, and I eat enough to know that a lot of magic can happen on a low budget, and that cheap simple treats are often the tastiest. But, let's face it - $5 for a full meal in a nice location is really, really cheap, and I'd been pretty skeptical about whether The Unicorn would live up to my high low-brow standards.
Then I had lunch here. I arrived with a friend on a Friday, which is $5 Fish and Chips Day. Happily, I can report that we both thought the meal was pretty good. The fish, although small, was crispy enough to withstand multiple dousings of vinegar and retain its crunch. The coleslaw was bland and lightly mayonnaised, but super crispy and very fresh. The fries were classic grocery store fare, cooked from frozen, bland and boring, but generously portioned. It's not the kind of lunch I'd write home about, unless by writing home I meant writing about it on blogTO and hoping my mum would read it. (Happy Mother's Day, Mum! I love you!) Basically it was good, not great. Oh, and it was $5.
Although not the best fish and chips I've ever had, it wasn't the worst either. I might not go back for the fish and chips, per se , but I will likely return to try another of the recession lunch specials: Mushroom Omelet (Mondays), Chili (Tuesdays), Pizza (Wednesdays), or Hamburger (Fridays). According to my waiter, they're all tasty and served with generous sides.
Although I, ever the frugalista, ordered water with my meal, my fancy celebrity writer friend got a Corona with his. We both laughed when we realized the beer cost more than the meal ($5.20)!
A frugal foodie, I'm happiest when I can get really amazing food for really cheap, but as a general bargain lover and gal about town, an afternoon on a sunny patio with a great friend, decent food and a bill of less than $10 also makes me happy. After all this, I can honestly say I believe in The Unicorn.