The Sunset Grill (at least the one I frequent) is located in Ajax, Ontario - a suburb, east of Toronto. It’s located at 235 Bayly Street West. It’s been around as long as I can remember and judging by its popularity, it’ll be around after I’m gone. It seats about 85 people, with about a third in booths, the rest at tables.

The Grill is a classic “greasy spoondiner, although it lacks the usual counter and bar stools.

One thing I like about this place is the service. It’s exactly what I want when I come in on a Sunday morning, hung over and not wanting a “server” who’s a fucking bubble machine wacked out on uppers. They take your order, bring it to the table, and show up with the cheque when your plate is empty. None of that “How is everything?” drive-by lip service, just when your mouth is full, that you get at most restaurants.

The staff fits my exact vision of how diner staff should be:

There’s the 50ish woman who serves a few tables but mostly runs the cash register. She doesn’t wear make-up, has a mole on her chin, uses too much hairspray, is a chain-smoker and calls everyone “hon” and “sweetie”. Conversation is limited to: “How ya doin’?”, “Thanks Sweetie”, “Tabasco? No problem.”, and “Ya, it’s nice/lousy out today, isn’t it?”.

Next is the standard blonde high school drop out. She looks like she might have had a kid around 17 or so. Her ass is getting out of control, but she keeps her hair nice and seems like she’s waiting for a Richard Gere type (see: Pretty Woman, rich sugar daddy sweeping her off her feet, etc.). She’s got a nice table-side-manner, but it might take a while for her to refill your coffee or bring the cheque. Waitressing is harder than skipping math class, but, boy!, wasn’t it worth it!? Mom and Dad are proud, when they’re not in rehab.

Then there’s the really nice woman who weighs about 350 pounds. She’s got a friendly personality and makes you feel like you’re the only patron she can relax with. For example: She comes to the table and says something like “Whew! It’s busy this morning! But what can I get for you, sugar?” You’ll feel like she’s taking a break by serving you and you’re more than happy to oblige. She’s quick and doesn’t bother you when you’re eating, but she’ll be there with the hot coffee pot and the bill in her pocket, waiting to see which one you want.

The busboy is a twenty something hoser who lives in his parent’s basement, reads comics and has (dyed) blonde hair in dreadlocks. He roams around making small talk with the patrons waiting for a seat, clearing tables, and rearranging tables to suit the needs of the next party. He’s one of those guys who’ll jaw with the older folks, let them bug him about his hair or a tattoo, and make them feel at home. You’ll be scared when your daughter brings him home, but then pleased to discover that he’s bussing tables as a sociological experiment while he finishes out his doctorate.

The Sunset Grill is a “seat yourself” place. Come in, spot a suitable table, and park it. One of the most amusing things to do at the Grill is to come in on a weekend and watch the first timers wait at the door to be seated. The waitresses will blissfully ignore the waiting hungry while you watch their frustration mount. It reminds me of e2: “Don't know what this restaurant’s about? Don't understand what's going on? Can't instinctively act on your primitive aggression?” Take a seat! These types are usually saved by the dreadlock’d busboy, who’ll swing by and tell people to take a seat where they can find it.

The food is great too. The Sunset Grill is a breakfast and breakfast/lunch place. Meaning, you can get all the usual breakfast fare, and if you want lunch it’ll be something like an egg sandwich or BLT. They’re open at dawn and closed around 2pm.

The breakfast special (available until 11am, after that add $1) is my usual and will clog an artery faster than a (thing that clogs arteries fast). For $2.95 you get 3 eggs (any style), hash browns and thick toast. Doesn’t sound like much, but that’s about a pound of fried potatoes and the toast is THICK. Add a dollar and you can get a pile of bacon or sausages. That’s another great thing about the Grill: they’re not shy with the bacon. Even though it feels like blasphemy, on occasion I’ve left bacon behind, uneaten. It’s a real shame. Add $2 and get peameal (also known as Canadian) bacon.

The orange juice comes in regular (canned concentrate) or freshly squeezed. The fresh stuff costs a dollar more, but after a night of boozing it’s nectar of the Gods. Spring for the extra buck, it’s worth it.

Aside from the breakfast special, there’s the usual breakfast type foods. The BLT, the “Sunset Sandwich” (basically the Special in a bun), fruit plate, waffles, pancakes, etc.

During the week the place is moderately busy. You can usually walk in and get a nice seat with no waiting. On the weekends, it’s packed. There’s the up-at-six older crowd, the stagger in at 9am hang over people, and the 10-11am after church bunch. The Grill serves all. I’ve sat there in a t-shirt and shorts that have been on me for 48+ hours (and been swimming in a lake) with paint stains and sandels, right next to the suit and tie and Sunday best church family. Everyone is equal in the eyes of the Grill. Bless them.

Once you get the cheque don’t expect anything else from the waitresses. You’re dead to them now. Don’t leave the cash on the table and don’t ask them to make change. Walk over towards the kitchen and see the 50ish lady at the cash register. They take cash – no cheques, no credit cards, no debit cards, no first borns. Take your change back to the table and leave a tip there.

The Sunset Grill is the best breakfast place I’ve found. It’s cheap and the service isn’t annoying. The waitresses are nice, the food is hot and good and the booths are comfortable. Occasionally you might have to ask for a “clean” fork or glass, but mark it down as part of the atmosphere – hell, I bet yuppies looking for their roots would pay extra to get a fork with a bit of left over egg on it!

If you’re in need of breakfast, stop by The Sunset Grill. Tell them Fred sent you – it won’t get you anything but a strange look, but enjoy it nonetheless.


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