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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Rev That Engine

Noelle Chorney
Published Thursday February 5, 04:10 pm
With a few tweaks, Pink Cadillacs could be a sweet ride

#113 412 Willowgrove Square

Hey: did you know that there are businesses east of McOrmond Drive? Yeah, me neither — I had no idea that beyond that magic line there was anything other than more miles of suburbs. So I was amazed to discover an old-school diner, which I had been hearing great things about, tucked deep in the ‘burbs.

You get onto Willowgrove Boulevard, and just keep driving (for what seems like an unnervingly long time) ‘til you get to a cute little town square. On the right is Pink Cadillacs.

Coming in here, you feel like you’ve stepped about 65 years back in time: black and white tile, red vinyl chairs, stools and booths and perky girls in poodle skirts taking your order. The TV is also worth watching, cycling through old movies, nostalgic TV shows and old Disney features. It wasn’t quite “of the time” when we were there, but I was delighted to see an old rerun of Taxi on the screen.

The menu is done up in classic diner style, offering burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and some other classic features like mac and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs and fish and chips. The Caddy burger is a favourite — stuffed with cheese, topped with cheese, and piled high with two gigantic onion rings, bacon and “special sauce.” I predict that if you’re sitting in Pink Cadillacs for 10 minutes, you’ll see the mile-high Caddy burger get delivered to a table near you.

Some of the items are definitely 21st century-inspired, like chili made with mole sauce, and used in the “Sloppy Joe Dimaggio,” or lamb, turkey and portabello mushroom burger options. And as you may have guessed, the menu titles are fun in themselves: Great Balls of Fire for the spaghetti and meatballs, Mac the Cheese, a steak dish called Rawhide, The Doo Wop (pork burger with bacon, caramelized bananas and peanut butter) and more.

Drinks are equally fun, with malts, shakes and floats like you’d expect, except that you can also spike them with liquor. Imagine adding bourbon to your vanilla shake, or Kahlua to your chocolate shake, or a pumpkin spiced rum shake. Seriously awesome.

I’ve had lunch and dinner here a few times. I’ve sampled their burger (the Ring of Fire, with hot peppers and jalapeno bacon — not as spicy as it sounds, and the homemade burger is very nicely made) and onion rings, as well as their macaroni and cheese. I’ve stolen a taste of the Sloppy Joe Dimaggio and the “Righteous” Meatloaf. My kids have inhaled their burgers and fries and shakes and declared themselves in heaven.

(I’m pretty fussy about my mac and cheese, and I make a ridiculous recipe at home that uses an egg custard base, not to mention a pound of cheddar, 4 oz. of butter and 8 oz. of cream cheese. So Pink Cadillacs’ version of a classic cheesy béchamel over macaroni with toasted breadcrumbs on top was absolutely fine, but didn’t top the list of best mac and cheese ever.)

I can also say from experience that this is NOT the place to come if you’re trying to ease up on the excess after overdoing it during the holidays, because everything is too tempting — although there are things to order if that’s the case; I had a salad and soup of the day, which was almost within my diet, except for the cream in the soup and the too-sweet dressing on the salad. But salad is obviously not why you come to Pink Cadillacs, and it was pretty painful watching my friend tuck into her two-storey meatloaf sandwich, coated in cheese and horseradish cream sauce, and onion rings. (I eventually snapped and reached for an onion ring.)

I want to like this place more, because it has all the makings of an awesome hangout, and they certainly have the service and the ambience going for them. We found a few glitches, though, like reheated fries, and food that just isn’t quite warm enough, buns not quite fresh, the salad greens a bit tired. (I like that they’re trying to use mesclun greens instead of iceberg or Romaine, but slimy lettuce leaves are never preferred.)

We were also a bit disappointed in the milkshakes. How can anyone be disappointed in a milkshake, you ask? Good question. It has to do with the whipped topping made from edible oil product. I hate that stuff, and it affected the flavour and texture of the whole milkshake. I’ll probably have to go back again and see if that was just a one-off, but I’d like to encourage them to splurge and go for the real whipping cream.

It’s very possible that our experience had to do with the time of year we went to Pink Cadillacs: right before Christmas and right after. That isn’t the best time for them to know what to expect for numbers at their establishment, so they may not have been stocked with the usual stuff. Considering the awesome look of the place and the excellent quality of some of the food we had, I’ll give them another chance, to be sure.

But regardless of my occasional “lukewarm” experience, come here for the ambience and the nostalgic fun. Throw your calorie counter out the door, and go for whatever tickles your fancy. If North American comfort food is our thing, you’ll find something you’ll like. And once they get their timing in the kitchen aligned with their service and bang-on concept, this place will be hard to beat.

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