After all the drool-worthy pictures on Instagram and the raving reviews my friends had about this place and its authenticity, I was convinced I had to give East Tea Can a shot. It’s located around the Winston Churchill and Dundas area in Mississauga, which is a fairly convenient drive from where I live, and given that I grew up in the Middle East, I was really looking forward to the throwback.
It was around 7:30pm on a Friday night, and I had wanted to make a reservation before dropping by, but apparently you have to have a minimum guest count of 6 people in order to do that, so we had to walk in – and oye vey! It was jam packed. They said they had a wait list of 45 mins for 2 people. I figured we could just order while we waited, and be served when we got our seats but that idea was quickly shot down by the server who greeted us. Thankfully they had a designated waiting area at the front, so at least I didn’t have to be standing in heels while I twiddled my thumbs. I sat and observed.
It was busy and bustling, with servers dashing about and food flying out of the kitchen as the patrons ate and laughed amongst themselves. I have to hand it to them, the decor is spot on, adorable and authentic as expected.
You can see the bread being made fresh, and there is even a live singer to make your evening more musical. I don’t understand Arabic well enough to say I recognized the songlist, but the crowd seemed to be in love.
I wish I had more positive things to say, but unfortunately it all ended there. We got seated close to 8:30 but no one even took our order until 9. I get that it was busy, but given how long we had been waiting, we were getting impatient.
When we placed our respective orders, we were told that it would be an additional 20 minutes to have it served. Okay, that’s pretty standard.
Except, only I got my manakeesh 20 minutes in. Hubz was still waiting for his meal, and I didn’t want to start without him, so I waited too.
And then the table next to us, which had about a dozen or so guests, started getting their food. They had arrived after us! We reminded the servers that we were waiting on hubby’s meal, and he kind of shrugged it off and told us they’re busy in the kitchen. I mean, I can see that, but at this point, my food is cooling down and hubz is getting hangry.
Eventually, they brought his meal out too. But guess what – they skipped his fries. And his pop. We were told that it would be a longer wait for the fries because they just ran out of the previous batch and the new batch will be out in a few minutes. Okay, no worries. Can we have some ketchup when the fries arrive too? Sure, said the server. He quickly dropped off hubby’s pop and then he took off.
Cue crickets chirping.
By the time he returned with the fries, I was almost done with my stone cold manakeesh. The ketchup never came.
We asked for the bill, which I’m going to say took another half hour to arrive. The table with the dozen guests got it before us, and then another table with a similar guest count got it next. At this point we were just annoyed. We paid, way more than we thought the food was worth, and left.
That’s right, I said it. The food was mediocre at best. The appeal comes from the atmosphere, and for me that’s where it ends. If it was a brand new restaurant, I would’ve pinned the pace and quality of service as a part of their learning curve and tried again later to see if there was any improvement. But at this point they had been open for a few months already. For a place that seemed to be a thriving success, we were very, very disappointed. Yelp reviews showed there was a pretty big mix in customer satisfaction – there were people like me who were irritated and hangry after their experience there, along with a portion of people who walked out thinking it was the best restaurant experience they’ve had in a while. I just wish we were the latter half.
We were wholly impressed with the decor and the jovial music when we walked in, and given that first impression, I really, really wanted to love this place. Alas, my experience failed to live up to the hype. It disheartens me to say this, but I probably won’t be going back.