Recently published murder mystery contains an amusing story of dining at Toronto’s Savarin Tavern in the 1950s

DSCN5698 The Savarin Tavern on the west side of Bay Street, a short distance south of Queen Street, was one of the favourite places to dine in Toronto during the 1950s. The murder mystery “The Reluctant Virgin” provides many details about living in the city during that decade, including restaurants, theatres, and sports’ venues. The locations of the murder scenes are also graphically described, allowing readers who are familiar with Toronto to visualize the places where the killer murdered the victim’s.

The passage from the book that appears below occurs when Detective Jim Peersen takes his girlfriend, Samantha, a woman who works in the sex trade, for dinner at the Savarin.  

From “The Reluctant Virgin”

On the evening of Wednesday, 23 December, at the Savarin Tavern, Jim and Samantha stood in the line-up on the stairs leading to the second-floor restaurant. It was crowded, and hungry customers were squeezing to the right to allow those departing the restaurant to descend the stairs to the street below. Everyone in the line, including Peersen, had dinner reservations, but the wait was lengthy as it was two days before Christmas and the town was hopping. Group parties were occupying many tables.

At the top of the stairs, the maitre d’ checked the names on the restaurant’s reservation list and then escorted the customers to their tables as they became available. An impatient elderly woman, wearing a full-length mink coat, stormed up the stairs, her embarrassed husband in tow. She informed the maitre d’ that she had a reservation, and haughtily pounded her fist on the lectern holding the reservation book.

The maitre d’ smiled patiently and replied, “Madam, everyone in line has a reservation. Please wait your turn. I will call your name when your table is ready. Kindly return to the bottom of the stairs.”

“But I have a ‘special’ reservation.”

“Everyone in line has a ‘special’ reservation. Please return to the bottom of the stairs.”

“My good man, I have a gold-plated blue-ribbon invitation from the mayor, who is my personal friend.”

Exasperated, the maitre d’ replied firmly, “Lady, I don’t care if you have a gold-plated arse and blue-ribbon tits, and the reservation was made by God almighty, go to the bottom of the stairs.”

The hoots from those who were patiently waiting in line drowned out the woman’s indignant reply. The woman and her poodle-like husband retreated down the stairs. She was defeated, but unbowed. She felt as if she were upholding the dignity of the woman of status throughout the city. The heights of the Rosedale had been assaulted.

“The mayor will hear about this,” she threatened aloud, as she stormed out of the restaurant.

Samantha smiled at Jim, who was unaware of the reason for her amusement. In Paris, she thought, mention a title or an important connection, and you gained immediate access to any restaurant. God, I love this city.

After they were inside and seated, they went to the buffet table, helped themselves to a generous portion of lobster, and settled down to enjoy the meal and each other’s company. As a treat, Peersen had pre-ordered a bottle of 1952 Dom Perignon. The tiny bubbles rose effervescently in their chilled glasses. When Jim had had phoned for the reservation, he had requested that their glasses be placed in the freezer. It was a romantic touch, and Samantha noticed it.

For Jim, the conversation rolled more easily than with any woman he had ever met. They had arrived at a truce during the previous weeks. She did not mention her work, and he tried not discuss police business. There was one thing that he wanted to ask her—why she still worked at her chosen profession, when she clearly did not need the money. Respecting her privacy, he had refrained from inquiring.

As the champagne relaxed him, without realizing it, he broke his own rule and inadvertently began talking about the Stritch case. Unfortunately, this was not the first time, and she already knew many of the details concerning the investigation. He told her that they had spent the previous few weeks talking with the teacher’s ex-students. She listened attentively and smiled as Peersen apologized for discussing his job.

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