Monday October 5th 2009
Toby's Bar/Restaurant hosted by Jason Rolland
Upon receiving a Facebook notice from Jason, I thought a place on Monday's would be cool, seeing its not everyday a place is willing to host Karaoke the first working day of the week. Certainly people like me would be interested as would those going to school (in Japan University is a 4 year vacation anyway, according to the natives). Jason of course has the largest selection of any karaoke host I've seen in Toronto and at 35k+ that's hard to beat.
As I mentioned, Jason has the largest selection of any Karaoke DJ out there. Of course I wish the "banned" labels (which count for little indeed) on some of his songs would disappear but its mostly for the college crowd sense of humor. Equipment is top of the line and Jason even has an LCD screen with a custom stand now. A HUGE plus: I wish more people would pay attention to recommendations I've been giving on this subject. LCD Panels are WAY safer and easier to read. Well worth the investment. (They are pretty cheap as well if you know where to look). The location is quite easy to get to on College street. Parking is around if you look to the side streets (free) or College parking meters. Jason maintains his usual good college student tuned humor although I have always felt Jason could have more of it. There are intervals when he does little but announce the next singer. The food prices are quite reasonable. You can dine for between $8-$20 and not go hungry which given the recent rise of restaurant prices this year (15%-20% on average) that is saying something. There is a fair amount of space, I'd esimate 200-250 person capacity. The Mixed:
The food quality was okay but not the best I've had. Food Selection is fair: Indian, Pub food along with steak dinners. Rotation time is around 1 hour but Jason is a fair as anyone can get: following the tried/tested rule of rotating newcomers with repeat people in the rotation.
Service here was for me the low point of Toby's: After sitting at the bar for over 15 minutes just get a menu while the bartender is having a conversation with her friend almost right next to you is a bit of a turnoff. I suggest the manager of this restaurant tell his staff that they are there to look after customers, not have long conversations with friends while a customer sitting at the bar waiting for service. Even after I got the menu (finally), taking my order took some time as well. Had the feeling the staff were university students who don't take service duties seriously. The Stage setup was not good at all but in fairness, I spoke to Jason who indicated that the owner had his hands tied: Didn't want to use the front section (which would have been the ideal location for a stage) and the back section would make the karaoke invisible to people passing by. So he's literally in the middle, in direct line with the path the wait staff have to take to carry food back and forth. Not only is this distracting, but the monitor is on one side of the lane, and you are on the other, so that when staff pass by you need to memorize your lyrics for 2-3 seconds as the wait staff have to walk between you and the monitor. A newcomer to Karaoke would be quickly put off by this.Final Grade: C+
With Jason in the house you won't get a better selection and his equipment actually got better with his LCD panel display at the perfect height. I didn't think he could improve his equipment by much. Unfortunately the venue was not nearly as pleasing: Poor service, a stage right in the middle of wait staff traffic, and the monitor that is blocked as people walk between the front and the kitchen. Restaurant owners: If you want to make a good impression you have to choose your battles. In trying to please people who want to sit near the outside and attract karaoke lovers at the same time, the owners created one of the work karaoke stage setups I've seen yet. I stress this is no fault of Jason Rolland.(without him this place would be a solid "D") Between the staff and the setup Jason is the only good choice the owner has made. If a restaurant owner wants to truly make karaoke a success in their place, the stage setup must be at least usable. I strong recommend the front of the restaurant, or the back being the 2nd choice. The middle pleases no one in the end and only a karaoke die hard would endure the constant distraction of traffic.
Oh, one note: Sometimes Jason takes pictures for his website. If you don't want your picture on the web, tell Jason in advance. Otherwise, you may find yourself on Facebook or Jason Rolland's main website.
Facilities: 5.7 (Horrible stage setup)
Equipment: 9.5 (new high standard..Adjustable LCD Monitor)
Location: 8.0 (Easy to reach by Streetcar, some free/paid parking available)
Song Selection: 9.5 (have to leave room for some to top Jason...someday)
Wait Times: 7.0 (about average)
Host: 8.0 (Good, could use more audience interaction on the stage)
Food Prices: 8.5 (Very good, especially with recent restaurant price hikes)
Food Quality: 7.3 (good, but not great)
Food Selection: 7.0 (on par, but not amazing, good prices have their "price")
Food Service: 5.5 (Social conversation with one customer while the other is waiting for a menu? This is why tips are optional)
Monday's 10 P.M. to 2 A.M.
411 College St.
Note: I was just informed that the bartender who gave the poor service was fired. I'll return later to see if the service has improved.
Labels: karaoke, Karaoke Review, monday, Toby's