Motor City Madness on the Danforth

 

Chris Antaras runs the Detroit Eatery on Danforth Ave., a niche diner where Detroit sports fans can watch their favorite teams.  (Detroit)

Lions, and Tigers, and … Wings. Oh, my.

With Toronto sports  mainly focused on the Maple Leafs, Argonauts, and Blue Jays (sorry Raptors, the lockout has ruled you out right now) there is a small group of local admirers with their attention pointed elsewhere.

Folks at the Detroit Eatery, a family-owned diner and bar found at 389 Danforth Ave., are excited about teams in the city that their local hangout is named after.

“It’s a good time to be a Detroit fan,” said Chris Antaras, an employee of the diner. “We’ve got the Tigers in the playoffs, the Lions are 5-0 and the Red Wings are at it again.”

Antaras runs the show at the 65-plus-year-old Detroit Eatery, covering all duties including server, bartender, cashier and manager while his restaurant’s appearance lives up to its name.

The red and white walls are fully clad with photos, jerseys and bobble-heads of Red Wings heroes such as Steve Yzerman, Bob Probert and Kris Draper, the latter of whom has brought the Stanley Cup to the diner on two occasions, 1997 and 2008. There are a few Leafs portraits in the decor as well, for those passionate for the blue and white.

Right now the focus is on baseball, and despite enjoying Detroit’s current playoff run, Antaras wasn’t exactly singing the Tigers praises as they faced elimination in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Texas Rangers.

“I think we’re screwed,” said the diner’s jack-of-all-trades on the afternoon of the game. “You can’t get in this kind of hole against a team like Texas.”

Business at the Detroit Eatery relies mostly on regular customers, most if whom either grew up the neighbourhood or are originally from the Windsor or Detroit areas who find camaraderie at “the Detroit”.

“I grew up around the corner and this place is just legendary,” said Jerry Gain, an East York native enjoying the Tigers playoff bout at the diner. “And now, my son comes here more than I ever have.”

While the Blue Jays, and their fans, are looking forward to next season, there is no better place for Toronto’s Tiger-faithful to watch their team in the MLB postseason than at the Detroit Eatery.

“It’s great to see our guys really crank it up in the playoffs,” said Gain after Miguel Cabrera’s sixth inning RBI double put Detroit in front 3-2. “[The Tigers] might have lost their last two games, but you wouldn’t know it tonight.”

The entire diner seemed to share Gain’s sentiment as high-fives and shouts of delight filled the bar when Detroit took the lead in Game 5.

Even with the current focus on the Tigers playoff run, Antaras says there is always plenty of room for home-grown Toronto sports fans at his diner.

“We watch every single Leafs game in here. Toronto guys like to bug us about being Detroit fans, but in the end we get the last laugh,” Antaras said alluding to the four Stanley Cups the Red Wings have won in the past 14 NHL seasons.

The crowd at the Detroit Eatery came out on top once again on the night of Game 5 of baseball’s ALCS, as the Tigers held on at home to win 7-5 and force a Game 6 in their series with Texas.

At the very least Antaras and company will get one more playoff game out of the Tigers before their sports fix relies primarily on the NHL season, with the NFL’s upstart Lions taking precedent on Sundays.

As for Antaras and his earlier prediction that Detroit’s MLB squad was due for elimination, it was all part of his game plan.

“It was reverse psychology,” said Antaras with a laugh after the game. “I tricked them into winning to prove me wrong.”