For a good time call, Blackie Jackett Jr. Finger Eleven guitarists James Black and Rick Jackett travelled around the continent, but it wasn’t until the duo went home to Toronto that magic began to happen. That’s where they first heard Sandra Dee, who was singing karaoke at a bar one night and just nailed every Dolly Parton song she sang. Since then, this unique country rock band has been bringing back a repertoire of upbeat, drunken train wreck singalongs that everyone in the bar will sing to at the top of their lungs. High energy or sweet and mellow, plugged in or stripped down, day or night, Blackie Jackett Jr. can do it all. So for a band that travels all over, on any day and at any time, where do they eat? We had a chat with them on some of their favourites.
What are some of your local favourite spots to eat before or after a show?
The Dakota Tavern in downtown Toronto is a great spot to hang out any time, day or night. On the weekends, they have these awesome Bluegrass Brunches, where you get a great meal with live bluegrass music; definitely a band favourite to help cure hangovers the day after a big show. The Dakota is a great place to be in the evenings as well. They always have live music playing and this gives it a rowdy, party-style atmosphere a lot of the time. Another band favourite is Latin World, a real authentic, no frills Latin restaurant in Bloordale Village. It's walking distance from a lot of our shows, and so sometimes we'll empty the restaurant of all their delicious tacos if our show was particularly rowdy (they always are).
What's the band's diet like on the road?
If we're going to be honest, not good. Most of the time, we're living out of suitcases, so whatever's best and closest to the gig is where we usually end up. Some of us are better than others when it comes to road fare, especially Sandra. While the rest of the band might stumble out of a nearby gas station with Cheezies and pop some late nights, Sandra usually goes for the trail mix, fruit, or anything that isn't completely unhealthy, which isn't always easy at gas stations. Sandra says you can always find a fruit at most gas stations, but it's betting man's game to know if it's actually edible or not. We approach life on the road kind of like a vacation, so we drink what we want and eat what we want. Since we're on the road for weeks at a time, it doesn't usually end well.
When you're out on the road, are there any particular restaurants where you like to visit in a given place? Are there any hidden gems that you'd recommend?
We always eat well in Thunder Bay. There's a great place called Bight Restaurant in the city there, and we love their beef tenderloin. Thunder Bay has a really impressive culinary scene for a city of its size, and there's lots of great young chefs and new restaurants opening there all the time. The whole community seems to rally around their restaurants, and they're really supportive of the growing culinary scene.
A favourite of ours in Calgary is Thai Tai, a small Vietnamese takeout place on 17th Ave. It's open late, so we often head there after a show and it's close by to a lot of great bars; it's a natural late-night haunt of ours. We had a chicken curry-style sub with Vietnamese toppings like peppers, carrots and cucumbers the last time we were there, and we'll be coming straight back the next time we're in Calgary.
What kind of snacks does the band enjoy when the munchies strike?
For some reason, we always seem to wake up next to an (empty) bag of Combos after a late night. We're not sure why, but clearly, they are the snack of choice for us.
What's one difference you've noticed about iconic Canadian food while on the road in another country?
When we went to the States for the first time as a band, we were in a 7-11 late one night after a show, and saw that the American Smarties were nothing like the Canadian ones. In the States, they're more like the Rockets candies that you can buy here. So be careful, fellow Canadians, when you go to the states. You've been warned.