Here is a short poem about John's Grill - A seedy little greasy spoon that once stood in Cabbagetown. It was written by the late Ted Plantos, a Toronto poet and editor and former Cabbagetowner
Johns Grill Boogie - A poem by Ted Plantos
John's Grill Boogie - Cabbagetown: Sometime in 1955 or '56
How can I eat with Elvis in my soup? dining on the John's Grill spec-i-al
When the greased pompadour jives through the door, you know it's Johnny & he's out to black some eyes or do a little cutting
I'm in mid-nibble on a soda cracker when Leggy Mona bluejean's by my booth & smiles her teeth in at me
You get 5 for a quarter on the jukebox, & each of them is Elvis if you're Mona -- & if you're not, maybe Frank Sinatra, but never Perry Como when you're combed to rock & your socks is itching
Johnny itches to bite & kick with a razor blade in his shoe & attitude that needs a haircut
Mona slips under Johnny's arm, blows a bubble like none's been blown before, & says Johnny, will you boogie with me?
I'm into my third spoon of soup when the guests from Heartbreak Hotel mob through the door demanding banquetburgers, chips&gravy, hotbeef & col-l-l-l-l-l-ld peas, COCOnutcreampie & limejello-o-o-o-o-o-o
Johnny finds a face he don't know in the crowd & shouts I wanna cut you
I break another soda cracker & do some salt in my soup while the blood squirts all around me
Mona spins on a stool, says she wishes it was a horse or something
The ambulance arrives with a stretcher & a siren Johnny's eating raisin pie at the counter with a kid whose stolen coat someone stole while he was performing tricks in the cold storage washroom downstairs
A policeman with a jaw that has a law of its own stops & speaks with Johnny, asks him if he cut the victim Johnny says No, I don't even know the dude
Nobody witnessed nothing, & my face is in soup, blowing green pea bubbles
Meg, the sequin-haired waitress, mops the blood from the floor & asks me how the soup was, says John always uses salt pork & a ham bone SALT PORK & A HAM BONE? Sounds like you said SALT PORK & A HAM BONE, Meg, I say That's what I said, Meg says I said SALT PORK & A HAM BONE John always uses SALT PORK & A HAM BONE in his pea soup spec-i-al That's what I thought you said in the first place, Meg, I say
What'd you say? Mona asks Meg when she stops to lipstick her breath I said SALT PORK & A HAM BONE, Mona Meg, did you say SALT PORK & A HAM BONE? That's right, Mona, SALT PORK & A HAM BONE
Even Johnny laughs, saying SALT PORK & A HAM BONE
The cast from Heartbreak Hotel gets in the laugh as well, & we all shout SALT PORK & A HAM BONE
Johnny & Mona jive to SALT PORK & A HAM BONE until the bones are done on their feet, & Mona proposes to Johnny Johnny, will you marry me?
Lifting his collar, he pushes open the door & slinks out onto the sidewalk, saying Yeah, Mona, when the welfare office freezes over
John's Grill was located on the east side of Parliament Street between Gerrard and Spruce Streets. Not known for its cuisine or decor, John's Grill was nonetheless part of the colour and character of Cabbagetown until it was recently replaced. I am not sure when it opened, but I do recall as a child that it was a clean family restaurant. My guess is that it opened sometime in the 40s. But at least by the mid-fifties it began to deteriorate and become a hang-out for local gangs and small-time hoodlums.
Ted Plantos - Copyright By T. Plantos
Ted Plantos' was a Canadian poet, writer, editor and promoter of Canadian literature. He was lovingly known as "The Poet Of Parliament Street" We had many dissussions about OUR Old Cabbagetown. Ted passed away in Febuary of 2001. A deep void has is felt by those that knew him.