Tag Archives: Canada

Go-Getter Customer Service for Go-Karts

Go-karting track at 'Go-Karts @ Polson Pier.'

For quite some time, I’ve been wanting to take my daughter go-karting. While I realize that there are a number of indoor tracks in Toronto, I’m a bit of a traditionalist and I think it’s more fun outdoors. Although I’ve always been driving past one of the tracks up north, a friend recently told me about an outdoor track, right here, in the city, named ‘Go-Karts @ Polson Pier.’ Indeed, it seemed very promising.

Last Sunday I called the location to gather more information. The phone was answered by an older gentleman by the name of Bob, who also happened to be the owner. Bob was friendly, polite and patient in answering my many questions regarding the hours of operation, pricing, age and height restrictions, and whether it was busy (because I didn’t want to drive down and end up waiting for hours).

When he learned that it was my daughter’s first time he kindly offered us the management special, which brought the price down, considerably.  When we got down there, we met Bob, who came out to shake our hands while the employees set us up with tickets and helmets.  My daughter went with the two-seater car first before feeling comfortable enough to go out on her own. Within a few laps, she was zipping around the track like Emerson Fittipaldi, and having a great time.

The racing equipment and the track were clean and well-maintained, and the staff were pleasant, polite, and friendly.  Furthermore, Bob added to our visit by making it more personal and memorable.

After our fun on the track, we headed back into the downtown area for a bite to eat and some ice cream, which was the perfect end to a great afternoon.

I highly recommend visiting this track for a fun and somewhat different activity.

Go-Karts @ Polson Pier
416-778-5278
www.gokartsatpolsonpier.com

 

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Crazy for Cubana Cuisine!

Signage of La Cubana restaurant.

Over the last few weeks, my friends have expressed a fondness for Cuban food, so I decided to take them to a Toronto, Cuban restaurant that I had recently been introduced to. The restaurant, named La Cubana, currently has two locations – each with slightly different menus. For their first visit, I took them to the one which I had visited, on Ossington Avenue.

The experience I had there was different from anything else! From the minute you walk in and see the decor, you can tell that it is different from normal restaurants. The main dining room is set up with an old-style lunch counter, complete with a bar and high chairs. There is nice Cuban music playing in the background, adding to the relaxed and open atmosphere.

The menu is simple and straightforward, and includes many types of pop, Cuban sandwiches, meal plates, appetizers and desserts. Bread and buns are baked fresh, in-house, and everything is served hot, fresh, and quick. The food is always properly cooked and well prepared, with diverse (and tasty) flavours.

On top of that, the servers are all extremely friendly and knowledgeable, and able to provide detailed descriptions of the various dishes and recommendations.

Near the end of our dining experience, the restaurant ended up having a problem with the internet and consequently, it affected their credit card machine. The bill took 10 minutes to produce, and the servers, empathetic to our situation, took a drink off of our bill.

For a taste of Cuban cuisine without travelling, check out La Cubana!

La Cubana
416-537-0134
www.lacubana.ca

 

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Dyson Leaves the Competition in the Dust

Image of a Dyson vacuum cleaner.

Based on the advice of a few friends, a number of years ago my wife and I bought a Dyson vacuum cleaner for our new house. The purchase ended up being a great decision, and we liked it so much, that we later went and bought another smaller, handheld Dyson, to clean up smaller messes, dust, etc.

Although Dyson is typically more expensive than the average brands of vacuum cleaners, I truly believe it is worth the investment. The vacuums themselves are engineered extremely well, ergonomically designed, easy to maintain, and don’t have a lot of complicated parts. In fact, given all the benefits, and how pleased I was with the home vacuum cleaner, we also decided to buy a Dyson for the SQM office.

Although our office Dyson vacuum has always been very well maintained, a few weeks ago we began to experience some problems with it. In particular, the rotating brush, or “head” of the vacuum stopped rotating. Naturally, we first tried to fix it ourselves because Dyson products are usually very easy to take apart and put together, but no dice. Our next step was to call Dyson and tell them about our problem. The representative answered the phone quite promptly, asked and answered the necessary questions, collected the model number from us, and told us it was still under warranty. Without hesitation, they offered to ship a new head directly to us.

The process of fixing equipment that was still under warranty was painless, and the new piece was shipped to us, just as promised. Unfortunately, our problems didn’t end there. We quickly discovered that we could not remove the old piece from the hose part of the vacuum. After placing another call to Dyson they offered a new hose piece since simply removing the head was no longer an option for us. A few days later, the hose piece arrived, safe and sound, and we were successfully able to switch the parts out and fix our office vacuum.

Dyson seems to have the perfect recipe for success: great quality products, amazing customer service, and a commitment to stand behind what they sell.

Whether you’re looking for a vacuum, their bladeless fans, or a hairdryer, consider Dyson as a long-term, worthwhile investment.

Dyson
1-877-397-6622
www.dysoncanada.ca

 

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Es Delicioso, El Catrin!

Tacos on the patio at El Catrin.

A few weeks ago, I was told of what was promised to be one of the best Mexican restaurants in Toronto. I was a little hesitant to go, because it happened to be located in the Distillery District, where I haven’t had the best experience with restaurants. During past visits to other restaurants in the area, I have found that the food wasn’t that great, the service was slow and unattentive, and prices were through the roof! With that being said, I was told this place was great and after my arm was twisted, we ended up going.

As we approached the location, the first thing I noticed was the patio. It was big, it was beautiful, and it set the perfect atmosphere for a nice dinner. The patio was decorated with all sorts of lights, making it seem almost festive. Once we entered the restaurant, we were immediately greeted by a wonderful hostess, and taken to our reserved table inside the dining room, which was already set up and waiting for us. Within minutes, our server came over and introduced herself. She was extremely enthusiastic, cheery about having us, and constantly making suggestions and recommendations based on her personal favourite items and restaurant best sellers.

With regards to the food, we ordered a variety of items to share – and everything was delicious! The tacos were delectable, and the guacamole was absolutely heavenly…my mouth still waters just thinking about it!

When the bill came, I was delightfully surprised to note that it wasn’t outrageously expensive (like I was expecting). In fact, I was so impressed with the overall service and food that I personally spoke to the manager to tell him how enjoyable the evening was. It turns out it was only our server’s first week and the fact that she provided such amazing and attentive service spoke volumes about El Catrin’s ability to scope out good, hardworking people and train them well.

Without a doubt, I would return for the amazing food and extremely hospitable service. Whether after a walk in the Distillery District, on a warm summer night, or in the middle of the winter, El Catrin makes for a great dining experience!

El Catrin
416-203-2121
www.elcatrin.ca

 

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Dickson Home Hardware Knows the Key to Success!

Storefront of Dixon Home Hardware

A few weeks ago I headed out to one of the big box stores in my area as I needed to cut about a dozen keys.

As one does in many large stores, I found myself wandering up and down the aisles in search of the key section. Once I found the area, I waited for a good five minutes, for an employee to come to help me. Since nobody came over, I continued my search up and down the aisles, looking for someone who worked there, who could cut the keys for me. Once I finally found an employee and returned to the key section, they told me they didn’t have the specific key I needed in stock but offered me a more expensive, fancier key with a logo on it. I’d hoped that, to earn my business, the employee would have offered to give me the more expensive key at the cheaper one’s cost, but they didn’t.

Since I wanted to keep the cost of the keys as low as possible, I left the store, but experienced similar challenges at another store in the same area. Suddenly it occurred to me that I should head to a small hardware store that had never disappointed me in the past, so without hesitation, I made my way to Dickson Home Hardware on Avenue Road. I had been to the store many times before and it amazed me as they always seemed to have what I needed even though the shop is a fraction of the size of a big box store. I really don’t know how they do it!

As soon as I walked through the doors a friendly employee was there to help me and, lo and behold, the keys I needed were in stock and less expensive than what I was planning on paying at the other larger stores!

The employees were polite, knowledgeable and friendly, and they quickly cut my keys and sent me on my way. As I was leaving I remembered I needed some topsoil and, to no surprise, Dickson’s had lots in stock at the same price as most other places I would have purchased it from. I bought the topsoil and without me even having to ask they offered to put it in the trunk of my car. In fact, one of the other great things about this small store is that they work on an honour system. They trusted that when I said I’d purchased five bags of soil that I was telling the truth and simply loaded them into my car, without checking inside or asking for a receipt.

Dickson Home Hardware is a great store that stocks everything the big guys have at the same, or sometimes cheaper prices. In addition to the fabulous staff, the store’s owner, Tony Dickson, is often there to chat with the customers and help out whenever needed. My takeaway from my experiences at Dickson’s is that sometimes you should consider supporting your local retailer. Even though they’re small, they’re just as good as the big guys. Dickson Home Hardware has never let me down. They have taken good care of me over the years and whether you’re looking for BBQ’s (they have a separate store that specializes in this area) or for something from the hardware store, I highly recommend them.

Dickson Home Hardware
416-487-4029
www.dicksonhh.com

 

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Cool cocktails and Awesome Americanos

Voodoo Child a coffee and cocktail bar

Hello again! It’s Clare here and I’m taking over David Lipton’s blog to tell you about a restaurant worthy of a spot on SQM Picks. Last month, I had some work to do and in my classic disorganized style, I left it to the last minute. It was later in the evening than I had planned to get to work, so I had to find a place where I could type into the night.

I stumbled upon Voodoo Child, which is just as cool as it’s Hendrix-inspired name suggests. It is open late and has a very cool atmosphere. The café features dim lighting and low hanging lights, creating a unique feel. Instead of my usual coffee house cohorts, I was surrounded by young people with many different agendas. Nearby, there was a couple that appeared to be on their first date, some young professionals sipping Wu Tangs while typing away and a few folks hanging out and enjoying the live music, which happens every Tuesday night.

During the day, Voodoo Child utilizes a communal table that has a great view of the ever busy and trendy College Street West. On Tuesday evenings, the café moves the table aside, so live performers have a place to play their tunes. On this particular night, there was a trio playing folk tunes that made everyone including the friendly bartender/barista tap their feet.

I knew I’d be in for a long night so the first beverage I ordered was a black americano. The bartender-barista explained I had the choice between two different blends of espresso – this evening, the choice was between a juicy one, with tasting notes of cranberry and stone fruits, and one that was described as syrupy, nutty and chocolatey. I opted for the chocolatey one and was very pleased with my choice.

When it was time for my second drink, I ordered the Wu Tang bourbon cocktail, which is a bit stronger than my chocolate flavoured americano and it tasted delicious. The bartender described it as “not too sweet and pretty strong”. The menu includes everything from a classic Old Fashioned, to the Wu Tang and a drink called the Suffering Bastard.

This isn’t necessarily a place to take the kids, but if it’s early and you’re looking for a great latte (served in a skull glass), an americano, or even a drip coffee, Voodoo Child is the place for you. If you get there before noon, you can purchase an americano and a locally baked muffin for only $5.25. If you’re looking for something a little more substantial, the shop offers wood fired bagels with a variety of toppings.

This is definitely a place where you can start your day with a yummy coffee and end it with a strong cocktail. You might even find yourself back there the next morning if you enjoyed one too many Suffering Bastards.

Voodoo Child Espresso and Cocktail Bar
647-748-1011
www.voodoochild.ca

 

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Up, Up, and Away – Beyond Great Service at Buffalo Airport!

Buffalo Niagara International Airport

Flashback to ten or twenty years ago, and there was a long period of time where it was significantly cheaper to fly out of the US, instead of Canada, due to the difference in taxes and fees.

In fact, the cost savings were so significant, that many people found it more economically efficient to fly out of the US (driving down to the states, go about their travels, and drive back to Canada upon their return). In addition, it really wasn’t difficult to make the arrangements, so for the extra driving time, and slight inconvenience, it was well worth it.

Fast forward to present day, and although the difference in pricing isn’t as significant, I still think it’s worth it for Canadians to consider flying out of the United States.

In my case, Buffalo is an easily accessible city if traveling by car, and is one of the reasons why the Buffalo Niagara International Airport is a hotspot for traveling Canadians. My family and I passed through the airport during a recent trip, and I couldn’t help but think of several benefits for using the airport:

  1. When arriving at the airport you would have already cleared customs, as a result of driving down from the Toronto area.
  2. The airport itself has a modern, clean look to it, and while it is a large airport, it is nowhere near as busy as Pearson, meaning shorter (or no) lineups, resulting in far less stress and pressure.
  3. Getting through security seems to be far less of a hassle than in other airports.
  4. The airport has many plugs and open electronic ports to charge laptops, phones, and other devices.

In a nutshell, the airport is a modern facility that supports easy travelling, while providing a variety of features to suit the needs of every traveler.

Aside from the airport, there are an abundance of hotels nearby, with great room rates, and shuttles that take you straight to the airport…perfect for those with an early morning flight. In fact, some of the hotels are so close that you could literally walk across the street in less time then it would take to grab a shuttle. Many hotels also accept Canadian currency at par, and allow you to park your vehicle for up to 14 days.

The only potential drawback to flying out of Buffalo, would be the risk of bad weather in the winter, as there is a higher risk of flights being delayed or cancelled, compared to Toronto.

In more recent times, the airport opened a Tim Horton’s inside the terminal, which tells me they know their consumer base well!

Buffalo Niagara International Airport
www.buffaloairport.com
1-877-359-2642

 

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