LEAVING: LA HACIENDA, RESTAURANT
I spent time at La Hacienda, mostly in the upstairs clubhouse, which you only knew about if you knew Tom, but Tom knew everyone, so everyone was there: Oyster Boy, the entire Upper Canada Brewing Company, and drummer Lonnie James, who sometimes slept there. LaHa was one of the first places in Toronto to serve Mexican food and for Queen Street artists and their friends, it was cheap and delicious in the dirty ’90s. LaHa was also a last stop before Trinity Bellwoods to the west, where, one night, my friends were jumped by five kids waving tree branches. Predating the arrival of designer butcher shops and charcoal ice cream stands, LaHa’s mottled patch of Queen West had a few beacons: Epicure Cafe, Bovine Sex Club, Duke’s Cycle and Sports. But LaHa shone the brightest. Even though it was a restaurant, it had the feel of a neighbourhood tavern because of the cheap food and staff that passed no judgment. It’s no wonder that, after Tom (Paterson) left, he opened the Paddock, and now, Junction Craft Brewing. Tom is my friend and I am writing about him in case anyone wants to call bullshit on this column. But I can write about whoever I want.
LaHa is closing, and so, another set of books is left in a garbage bag at the edge of the curb. These former misfit few blocks of Queen West is now lousy with dog groomers and trendy foodstops filled with bearded guys in expensive shorts and sandals, and people who can afford to pay $2 million to buy into the neighbourhood (good for them). But LaHa was never theirs, anyway. And now it’s gone.