And then it got its act together and expanded its menu and became quite the place to hang out: reasonable and good (except for the wine list, which was unreasonable and bad.) The site is small and crowded; much shuffling is needed to accommodate parties of more than four and the servers must edge around the tables. At least in the summer there's a patio to take some of the excess. I had a favourite table just back of the patio doors, near the bar (where there were no seats.) I see now that the layout was highly inefficient but it stayed the same for the better part of forty years; and probably the furniture did too- the brown varnished wooden tables, the undistinguished but comfortable chairs. By The Way was where I ate the evening of Sept 11, having a Juicy Burger just to prove that some things still were the same; it was where I regularly composed letters in Japanese to various circles, ordering YuYu Hakusho djs for the person who was into that. It was where I had Eggs Dilemma for brunch, and Monte Cristo sandwiches, and ran into daycare families passing by on Bloor and Brunswick.
Hadn't been there more than once or twice in several years: money, calories, the affordable food always the same and the specialty menues more than I cared to pay. But today I went in for old times' sake-- and. Well, and it looks like this and not like this.
The mural is the one thing unchanged, but where the old brown dim restaurant made it rather charming, the new bright lights make it look- well, as bizarre as it always was, I suppose.
(For further nostalgia, Ten Signs You Grew Up in the Annex. He doesn't mention the meat market just along from By The Way, whose name I've forgotten myself.) (ETA: read comments. Elizabeth Meat Market. Though the druggists were still there mid-90s when I came back from Japan.)