Monday, May 2, 2011

dangerous liasons: lunch at Ellam's



At risk of life and limb I have indeed ventured to Ellam's to seek out the gastronomic 'delights' that are experienced by few!

These are the perils of an individual on the quest for truth about the Stratford food scene but let me tell you, don't follow in my footsteps.  I will refrain from describing the aftermath and stick to the experience itself.

At the prompting of the rather pleasant, but english-challenged wife of 'Ellam' (let's call him this for fun, I believe his name is actually Peter), I seat myself.  A menu is placed in front of me - THE ORIGINAL - from a time period straight out of Leave It To Beaver.  The vintage pricing has been whited-out and/or pasted over with ever increasing amounts, decades of inflation pass before my eyes like a series of long-forgotten faded love-letters.  Perhaps I'll have the Salmon $1.85 or start with a glass of orange juice $0.30 maybe I'll splurge and get a milk-shake $0.75 - if only I had an extra straw and someone to share it with!

I order coffee; that's safe right?  But deny the cream which is pungent.  The dark haired old woman approaches to take my order, she props herself against the table - seemingly to keep her standing upright.

I order the 'Ellam's special'

"NO, no, no," she replies.
Perhaps the 'Jelly Omelette'
"NO, no, no," she replies.
The salmon?
"NO, no, no, you have, um," scanning the menu for something she feels is safe/available she finally points at the: "chicken club with fries" she says, "you'll have that."
How can I argue?

Ellam shuffles around behind the open kitchen, wanders to the chest freezer, props it open with his head and begins to rummage.

Bacteria is killed through freezing right?  I wont die!?!

Time passes, though not quite enough for the fryer to reach an appropriate temperature so the fries come out golden-soggy-brown, completely saturated with oil that I know is not trans-fat free.  The club is somewhat edible (thankfully there is no mayo), until I crunch down on a rather large chicken bone and get to the fatty parts.  I try the ketchup, surprisingly not fermented at all, and choke down a few oil-laden fries.

A trip to the bathroom reveals a health-code nightmare, I can't bear to walk beyond the threshold.  The incandescent lights illuminate a golden-yellow hue covering the floor, I assure myself, "it's just fryer oil".  Glancing at the sink I see I'm not alone, though my friends have more legs than I do.

I head to the register, tip generously and glance at Ellam again with the freezer door propped on his head.  Perhaps he is remembering his mobster days, heck, maybe that freezer has seen more corpses than tater tots, and maybe that's the way it should be!

22 comments:

  1. You were warned.

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  2. I remember popping into Ellam's many years back for a quick bevvie to go and finding a can of Coke in their front cooler with the 1998 Winter Olympics insignia on it. Which was fine, except it was 1992.

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  3. WHY hasn't this place been shut down by the health board and HOW does it stay in business when it is always empty?

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  4. I had an omellette that you could see through...love the ambiance : )

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  5. This post is offensive and extremely unprofessional of you chew. The business is obviously legit and has passed the health inspection if it stays in business. You on the other hand could have made this a humerous post, and although you may have tried- I and several others fail to find the humour in this. Give the place some dignity in its old age....after all, im sure you arent so low you would make fun of someone in a nursing home who just had a fall.

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    1. Except it is actually legitimately as bad as this blog makes it out to be. There is a reason locals DO NOT EAT THERE EVER.

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  6. Dear Sir/Madame (Anonymous #4),
    This is a blog, perhaps you are not familiar with the concept, I am not a professional columnist. What I'm going for is integrity and an expression of my opinion. Though you may not like what I have said, none of it is falsified, I even encourage you to check Ellam's out for yourself. Just because a place is old, does not mean it deserves dignity: I'm not poking fun at anyone because of age, it's more regarding the state of cleanliness/public health - and bear in mind this is not about a person, it's about a restaurant experience.
    I doubt this place has passed a legitimate health inspection in quite some time.
    Thanks for reading :)

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  7. Hi Chew,
    I think this post is in poor taste. Ellam's is actually kind of a sad story, and doesn't need anyone trying to do a pendantic review of it. It's really not a culinary adventure and doesn't pretend to be one. Since you and your readers would never actually choose to dine there, I wish you had just left Peter and his wife alone. Have a little compassion.

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  8. oops...pedantic.

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  9. Hello Anonymous #5,
    My intent with this post was certainly not to be cruel, merely tongue-in-cheek. Ellam's is a place of interest for many in the community of Stratford - particularly the culinary world. It is a mystery, an anomaly. Peter is a fascinating man who has maintained his restaurant amidst the other culinary destinations of this town with nary a soul dining there - this intrigues me and hence I went to dine and have recorded my experience here.
    I do apologize for the offence.

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  10. I'm very interested to hear why Ellam's is "actually kind of a sad story." This is very intriguing... if anyone can inform us, please do!

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  11. They should do an episode of Restaurant Makeover there.

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  12. I agree. what is the "story"? how is it possible that they continue to stay open?

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  13. I thought this was an appropriate blog. I have read rather scathing reviews in restaurantica that made this look tame. I would however like to know what the "sad story" is behind Ellam's. HOw does he stay in business?? Clearly there is not enough diners to pay for maintenance (even with no staff)of a reataurant and taxes??? Anyone?

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  14. Paul H., Columbus, OhioOctober 20, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    My wife and I ate there in September, 2011. Having arrived in Stratford in early evening after a drive from Niagara-On-The-Lake, there were not many people about as the plays had already started. We wandered down the main street seeking a place to dine. We walked past Ellam's three times before entering. We felt kind of sorry for the old couple and thought, "It's been here so long and, although it has never had a makeover, the food MUST be good if they are still in business." As it turns out, there was no logic in that thought at all! We ordered the "Steak Special", mostly because nothing else on the menu can actually be ordered. I asked for ice for my drink and received a small glass with hoarfrost carved out of the freezer, complete with a dead fly - I am not lying! Our steak arrived with a side of fried potatoes. We had asked the steaks cooked medium, but they were fried on the grill until there was no flavor left in them. The had absolutely no seasoning, were tough and full of gristle. For the first time in my life I put ketchup on a steak. My wife and I assume the only way they stay in business is the constant stream of first-timers who come for the theatre. Surely there is not one person in Stratfor who would consider themselves a "regular" at this place. This couple, God bless them, should have retired and closed shop years ago!!
    Paul H., Columbus, Ohio

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  15. Recently, a hand painted sign has been put up in the window that reads "For Sale or Rent". Several interested renters/buyers have approached and greeted poorly. Clearly, the diner is of interest to many of us in Stratford, it could be a wonderful place with a simple diner recipe and caseloads of bleach and an army's worth of elbow grease. I wonder who will finally take it on. I hope that they keep the potential alive.

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  16. I have attended shows each summer at Stratford since 1988 and noticed Ellam's the first year. It never changed and I never had the courage to enter through the door. It didn't look appetizing. I, too, have always wondered what the back story was....

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  17. I really think this blog is quite generous. It has been opened for years and has never had a good reputation for fine diner food in Stratford. For years that couple have sat at a table watching people go by, hardly anyone ever stopping in. People from Stratford, know to stay away from there unless you need cigarettes. They must pay public health in order to stay open because I have never heard of anyone being satisfied of eating a meal there, ever!

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  18. Ellams is the name of the original owner. Peter and Sophie are the third owners. It was a great place at one time. Open 24 hours, catering to after theatre crowd. There were theatre regulars as well, including Christopher Plummer, in the early days of both the restaurant and theatre. It has stayed frozen in time, the world evolving around it.

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  19. I also feel that you were more than generous with your review. I always thought it looked like a cute little place too and went in there last March. We ordered our food and then went to the bathroom. After "conducting our business", we went to turn on the taps and the water was shut off. Needless to say, we were out of there. The lady told us they would turn it on and it would be just a minute and couldn't understand why this wasn't acceptable!

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  20. Don't feel bad for the old couple that runs this place. They are shitty and their shitty restaurant is shitty. Fuck Ellam's Open Kitchen. The worst restaurant I have ever been to.

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  21. this must be the whole Anonymous family nice to see you all in the same blog??? and of course the last one certainly has a way with words seems that most have enough sense not to try it but then there are always a few!!! darling what were you thinking??

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