Monday August 27th, 2007
Hot today: summer returns. The see-saw weather of late August. I’m questing once again with Saira (who you might remember from The Yellow Griffin) and we are on the College streetcar heading towards the Yonge subway line (so much better than the OLD subway line, hyuck hyuck) where we then head North. Go North, young man! The subway rattles along the tracks, taking us as far North as the subway can, dropping us off at Finch station. Oh, but this planes, trains, and automobiles style journey isn’t over yet. Our friend Sudenshna is waiting for us with her car. We pile in and continue North. What’s next? Biplane? Hot Air Balloon?
No, next is driving through a neighborhood of strip malls and billboards, very Dallas-like only these store signs and billboards are in Korean or Arabic. Ah, the multicultural flavor of Toronto! And then... there it is. The old school 50s-style Golden Star sign rising from Yonge Street, conjuring Neon images of Vegas and Frank Sinatra. “Golden Star: Since 1964.” Also on the sign, in small black letters: Charcoal Broiled. Beneath that, in huge red letters: HAMBURGERS.
Inside we walk up to the lunch counter, past the orange booths with pale wood tables, and place our orders. I opt for the homemade All-Star burger, onion rings and a lemonade. The burger and rings are served in a red plastic basket lined with brown butcher paper: classic. The lemonade tastes exactly like the lemonade at the S.M.U. pool (Southern Methodist University) where Mom would take me swimming as a child. My Dad (“Pop”) was a Professor there so we had family passes and could use the pool whenever we wanted, jumping in with the intense athletes churning back and forth, surrounded by sorority sisters tanning with their sunglasses and bikinis, fire ants streaming from a crack in the red brick wall enclosing the pool and floating above it all, the smell of coconut sun tan lotion and the delicious smell of fresh bread baking in the Mrs. Baird’s bread factory a few blocks away. Fire ants, man-- there are no fire ants in Ontario and I don’t miss the little buggers one bit.
Saira and Sudenshna kick back and talk about school and shopping. I stare over at a portrait on the wall of a balding businessman and then glance over at the man sorting trays over by the trash cans and I do a double-take. That’s the guy! Much older now, eyes not as clear or sharp as the man in the portrait, but that’s him. “Yep,” Sudenshna tells me. “Three generations of the same family run this place.”
The ambiance is caught in a time lag and I couldn’t be happier. The orange booths, the fake plants hanging by the windows... it all definitely reminds of me of Dallas burger joints from my 1970s youth. Outside Golden Star is surrounded by car dealerships, another thing that reminds me of Dallas. Will the burger measure up?
I unwrap the burger. Looks good, looks good-- and it smells fantastic. I dig in, taking that all-important First Bite. Meat! Yes indeed, that rich Charcoal-broiled taste of straight-up flame-cooked meat. This burger is freakin’ good. There’s a reason Golden Star has been around since 1964, and I think I just figured out what that reason is. I take another big burgery bite, and then another and another. Switching over to the onion rings... they are perfect. Crispy and golden brown.
Saira and Sudenshna and I eat and laugh and eat some more and then it’s time to go. I take one last glance around, soaking in as much of The Ambiance That Time Forgot as I can and then we head back into the here and now.