A Night out in Courtenay or, Always Listen to the Bartender
We capped off Sunday night by first tearing ourselves away from the Home Shopping Network (as in, watching people shop for homes; I think it was actually the HGTV), then traipsing down to the lobby to quiz the young lady there about dining options in the area. “Casual,” we said, “someplace you’d go, not someplace you’d send tourists.” She understood what we were after and pulled out a book of menus and steered us toward the pubs. We ended up in a pub in the tiny village of Comox about 20 minutes away where the bartender greeted us with a smile and asked us what we were drinking. We said we were eating, and he looked genuinely sorry to have to tell us that the kitchen had just closed, this being 9pm on a Sunday in the tiny village of Comox. We asked him to recommend another place and he rattled off three, the first of which was The Flying Canoe in the Best Western Hotel back in Courtenay, adding “that’s where I’d go.” We got back into the car, both torn by the exact same conflicting thoughts: always take a recommendation on where to eat from a local bartender/why the hell would we go to the restaurant in a Best Western? We decided to just be our practical selves – the Best Western was closest and on the way to the other options so we would check out the vibe and menu then decide whether to move along or stay. We got to the Flying Canoe just as the karaoke was starting. Ten seconds later, Dan, who belted out several “young country” songs that night, was kicking things off with impeccable tone and inflection, hitting every note with confidence, his paunch straining his golf shirt. There was no way we were leaving. We found a booth in the back from which we could hear each other and still have a good view of people who were clearly regulars, singing everything from Kenny Rogers to the Killers, Linda Ronstadt to the Kings of Leon. And with rare exception, these people could sing. Some were just good but a handful, all of whom sang several times, were fantastic. Dan hit every note of songs we didn’t know and didn’t particularly like (new country radio hits) in his golf shirt; Kevin who had a very pronounced limp and nursed a single beer the entire time we were there, knocked his numbers out of the park then slunk back to his table where he sat alone; and Kristie rocked the Linda Ronstadt number, her voice so full of natural projection that she seemed to be holding back a little in the small restaurant lest she blow us all backward. Of course, none were as awesome as Jenine who rocked the room with “Dancing in the Dark” to everyone’s delight, especially mine. After a long afternoon of lazing around our room recuperating from our downhill adventures, it was just the right thing to end the day. Additionally, it reinforced our belief that when you need a recommendation for food or drink, always trust the bartender.