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Talkin' 'bout Hot Yoga: Zellers Resto

Posted by Stefan / September 20, 2008

More diner than you could ask for.jpg
Darting out of the house with visions of a two dollar breakfast in my head, I all but skipped to the mall alongside a gaggle of skeptical (though appropriately curious) friends. If my enthusiasm waned when I saw that the breakfast special, at $3.99, didn’t contain any potatoes (and was not served after 10 am), it all but disappeared when I noticed that should I indeed want some potatoes, I’d be staring down the barrel of a $6.49 price tag. There’s something deeply cynical about marketing yourself as the go-to place for a bargain, and then charging faithful patrons more than any of the fancy places down the street for a quick meal and some coffee. If the lowest price is the law, the town sheriff must have screwed the pooch on this one.

Despite the odd location and disheartening cost, breakfast was as breakfast is, with only minor points worth noting. After careful soul-searching, I opted for the primadonna potatoes, which blindsided me with their volume and greasiness. They were marketed as deep-fried discuses, laying in wait for an Olympian’s graceful toss. Instead, they proved worthy of the business end of my graceless jowl, chewed like cud then washed down with (surprisingly good) coffee. Given their price, I expected they’d come seasoned with saffron and well versed in Yeats. As reality set in, however, it built an alter for modesty; the potatoes were but salted, and capable merely of polite reference to Keats. The meal itself was standard diner fare, though I’m not sure that I would intuitively match orange marmalade with peanut butter, and the side of beans was truly daunting. But hey, that coffee really wasn’t bad, and like the sign says – the refills are free.
Heinz is not paying me for this picture.jpgWhen not wrestling with my meal, I was distracted by the checkered floors, neatly arranged stools, turquoise colour-scheme, and (fake) vintage bicycle mounted on the wall. These features come together to craft a semiotician’s Shangri La; it makes for the essential post-modern dinning experience. The effort, however, makes the stage-managed nature of the small town vibe obvious; it seems out of place at the border of St. Henri and Westmount. Case in point: before long, two young women set about rating the relative aesthetic merits of their yoga instructors, and promptly launched into a rather elegant etude on the theme of “boob sweat”. In contrast, a series of barely mobile elderly ladies haunted the nearby tables, possessed of dignity and bien maquillées.
Extra Extra Potatoes.jpg If the oddly glitzy make-believe aspect of the place tells part of the story, it leaves out an important detail: most patrons are in fact the very stuff of which diners are made, enjoying their meals with no time for annoying urban affectations. I sat perplexed for several moments, trying to find words which could effectively transmit the extent to which this place exudes both authenticity and artifice. Luring in Montreal’s silent majority of bargain hunters and traditionalists, it plays a Nixonian game of deceit, manipulating the natural yearning for eggs, coffee, and a good deal. Unlike the diners of Notre Dame, however, it doesn’t have much spirit. And compared to even the most gentrified resto in the area, it can’t claim much in the way of cost effectiveness. Upon reflection, it’s probably best not to over think a decision to eat breakfast in a thrift-store diner. Yet there’s something so unequivocally odd about the place, it’s just hard not to.

Breakfast and NASCAR.jpg

Zellers Resto
Alexis Nihon Plaza, corner of Maisonneuve and Atwater

Photos by Chase Moser.



Mike / September 21, 2008 at 10:04 am
A brief trip to Ghostworld?
Christopher King / September 21, 2008 at 12:32 pm
What is about the fifties that make people want to continuously design restaurants around this theme?
If it didn't work with Nickel's, it's not going to last long here either.
The only place I want to sit down in that comes off as a classic diner, is one that's actually served the time.
Mike / September 21, 2008 at 08:19 pm
Incidentally, plastic-squeeze-bottle Heinz? That's diner sacrilege. Spend the extra 20 cents and go glass.

Though the shopping-cart holder is kinda awesome...
S. / September 21, 2008 at 09:13 pm
the coup de grace? when the server placed the bill in the cart. bravo, Doris, bravo.
Jer / September 23, 2008 at 09:28 am
2 questions:

1. Why isn't the plural of discus disci?

2. What would be the first poem a potato versed in Yeats would orate?
S. / September 23, 2008 at 02:44 pm
a) not every latin pluralization involves "i"...some involve "es"...then again, Latin was one of my lowest grades in undergrad.

b) he was Irish- aren't they all about potatoes?
Joanna / September 28, 2008 at 10:10 pm
aren't Zellers restaurants supposed to be in a Zellers or am i just missing the point?
S. / September 29, 2008 at 04:22 pm
nope, you're right: it is in a Zellers. it's attached to the side.
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