Saturday, September 19, 2009

Taste of Tibet, Queen West Art Crawl, and Parkdale Gentrification

One of the many Tibetan restaurants in my Parkdale neighbourhood has closed. Taste of Tibet, located between Jameson Street and the mini strip mall that houses a sweet computer repair shop, a laundromat, the Sally Ann thrift store, and the awesomely seedy Parkdale Breakfast on Queen Street West, has brown paper covering the inside of its front windows. No, it's not an installation exhibit on the Queen West Art Crawl. The restaurant is officially closed.

That Taste of Tibet never made it in the Queen West Art Crawl, I believe, raises an important point, and says more about Parkdale gentrification than encroaching condo-developers from Liberty Village would wish to hear. Who selects which businesses are featured in these neighbourhood festivals (not limited to the Art Crawl) and walking tour maps and guides? How are selections made? How are certain co-promotional partnerships pursued with some businesses and why not others? Whose Parkdale is it?

Parkdale, without any doubt in my mind, is undergoing a major re-branding. And yes, I am a part of this process of gentrification, making it a safer neighbourhood for young, up-and-coming twenty-somethings to move in, take up space, spend my money on expensive brunch, and take advantage of the cheap rent and proximity to downtown. But there are certainly other power-holders at play.

Opening up the guide that I picked up at a vintage clothing store on Queen Street West in Parkdale, I discover that none of my favourite eating establishments are promoted. Roti Lady? Not there. Taste of Tibet? Non-existent. What about the Vietnamese pho place Tasty Tastebuds and I love so much? Not there either. Many of these eateries have been in the neighbourhood far longer than Poor John's Cafe (not actually for poor people) or Mitzi's Sister (formerly the Tennyson Pub) which are both listed. Where's Happy Time, whose special is always -- gotta love 'em -- fish and chips? Where's Bukuchoy, the Filipino take-out joint on King Street with the best frickin' Saturday special on peanut butter stir fry ever? Whose Parkdale is it? Why are these restaurants excluded from Parkdale's brand image?

Maybe I should make an alternative map to the BlogTO version. In part, this is what this blog should be about: restaurants "undiscovered" (or simply not promoted) by the Parkdale Liberty Economic Development Corporation. Apparently, I have serious work to do. Suddenly, I am realizing that reviewing restaurants is becoming increasingly political.