Picture me pinching my thumb and index finger nearly together, holding them a centimeter apart. I’ve got an action tremor, so my hand shakes a little when I do that, but I can do it.
That’s how close I came to leaving Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub before my order was ever put in. I had my gloves on, I had my scarf on, and my keester was headed out of the booth when our waitress buzzed over. Thanks to her bullet-catch timing and two friends who wanted to stay, my quaking digits would pick apart a poutine dish hearty enough to plug an exhaust pipe.
I don’t like to dwell on bad service if the food was good, BUT I have never waited so long to submit an order, BUT the poutine filled me with just enough conviction (and food) that St. Paul’s hockey pub is worth returning to.
And I just might.
The Basics: Tom Reid was a hockey player, don’cha know. He spent a few years playing defense for the North Stars, and played for 11 years total. Here is the highlight of his Wikipedia page: “It was the only penalty shot ever scored against [Ken] Dryden and one of only 17 goals that Reid scored in his career. Reid retired in 1978 after contracting an unusual rash caused by his hockey equipment.”
Website’s right here. Pretty good specials. You’re still laughing about the rash, aren’t you?
If Toby Keith’s bar ever gets vandalized by the Hanson twins, the aftermath will look a lot like Tom Reid’s. I weaved around bargoers and slid into my booth, nailed against a section of wall bedecked with a goalie mask poster and a hockey stick signed by the 2010 Panthers. The decor is chaotic yet beautiful; wherever they can hang stuff, they hang stuff. It doesn’t matter if it’s a poster, framed magazine cover, hockey stick, broken-off tooth, whatever. Just fit it in somehow.
Lord Stanley knows I had time to soak it in. I had time to walk up to the bar for a drink, and I had time to examine the glass-encased uniforms hanging from the ceiling. I had time to longingly stare at two different waitresses, puppy-eyed and begging for service, and I had time to feel my ears get hot when they avoided me both ways. I had time to get dressed, and nearly had time to finish bickering with my buddy Ducky about saying “Eff this” and skating over to Burger Moe’s.
After Duck’s friend explained to our waitress how long I had waited and how frustrated I was, she made it a point to mind our table.
It was a Friday night, and it was packed, but of course it was! It’s not like this was some Tuesday lunchtime surprise. If you can’t be ready for a Friday night, what can you be ready for? If someone informs me of last-minute call-ins or something, I can’t take away my experience but I’ll happily insert that here:
Until then, I’m ready to move on and talk about the poutine. I can say this was the meanest plate of poutine I’ve seen lately. It was goon-sized; the gravy was spread graciously, the cheese was on heavy, and the fries were thick and floppy. The plate looked savage, so I dug in savagely.
Picking this apart felt like I was ripping meat off a kill. I ate until my tummy was full and kept going. I left only the crusty nubs of potato, the most stubbornly stuck bits of cheese, and no gravy. I might’ve licked that off, who knows.
“Do you feel better?” Duck’s friend asked. I nodded. I did.
For that, I’m willing to set my never-again hammer back in the box. Every restaurant has its nights, and I’m willing to go back and make sure Friday night was a fluke. I hope it was. Poutine like this doesn’t just come around on 7th St.