In the dining room, the rhythmic pounding of a bodhrán hand drum mingles with the joyful melodies of a tin flute, flooding every inch of the space with an ebullience punctuated by onlookers’ clapping hands and tapping feet. The diners have left the feasts spread across their tables mostly untouched, their attention glued to the band in the midst of their lively song. Such moments aren't a rarity at Donegal's Irish House, but are an almost nightly occurrence at the jovial eatery that brings locals together to make new friends and share in internationally inspired meals.
Champions of fostering an atmosphere of community and friendship, the affable staff goes out of its way to make guests feel welcome, thanks to attentive service and an ever-changing calendar of events that keep inviting guests back. On select evenings, patrons can convene at Donegal's to watch a Canucks game or to see local bands. As guests chat and mingle in the dining room, the kitchen buzzes with chefs concocting Irish standards such as shepherd's pie and international cuisine that includes perogies and sausage, jambalaya, and butter chicken. Donegal's signature dish remains the whopping blarney stone burger, a 7.5-pound charbroiled Canadian beef patty that gets its eater a commemorative T-shirt and a place on the wall of fame if it's eaten within two hours with no help. Unsuccessful competitors, meanwhile, find their snapshot displayed on the wall of shame, under the most personal entry from their dream journals.
Just past Fleetwood Arms Pub's classic red awning, leather armchairs, wood panelling, and a crackling brick fireplace await loyal regulars, who frequent the eatery as much for its warm, inviting atmosphere as its menu of traditional pub cuisine. As flat-screen televisions broadcast sporting events, servers shuttle fish and chips, burgers, shepherd's pies, and imported draft beers to lacquered wood tables. Throughout the week, the strains of live music and karaoke cut through the pub's standard soundscape of jovial chit-chat and mournful whale song.
The Derby Bar and Grill dishes up fruits from land and sea in the turf-club ambience of an elegant dining house and off-track wagering centre. Whether seated under chandeliers and rows of flat-screen TVs or in cream-coloured chairs in front of the Winners' Circle’s fireplace, patrons browse a menu of gourmet fare to complement their surroundings. Diners trawl for drunken garlic prawns flambéed in Sambuca ($12.75) or nestle into a bed of rice noodles under pad thai’s chicken or shrimp, accented with tamarind and fish sauce ($19.95). Flame-grilled 8-ounce New York peppercorn steak in cognac sauce struts from the kitchen trailing Derby’s garlic-and-cheese bread, seasonal vegetables, and O’Brien or mashed potatoes ($22.95). The Bourbon Blackjack burger blends hearty harmonies of pepper, cheese, and whiskey-mustard sauce ($13.95), and butternut-squash ravioli basks in white-wine-cream sauce ($12.95). All pastas bring along piquant garlic-bread sides, and sandwiches invite fries or house salad to join them with a singing picklegram.
Some things about the Clova Cinema have changed over the years; as it passed from owner to owner, it has been a video-rental shop, a youth centre, and a stage for live performances. But despite its numerous incarnations, the rich red facades, the art-deco decorations, and the bright marquee have remained proudly in place. These features hearken all the way back to the theatre's 1947 opening, when Humphrey Bogart dominated the screen and popcorn was popped in gleaming machines instead of Buick-sized microwaves. Now, the cinema's single screen flickers to life with weekly evening and weekend matinee showings of current releases. The theatre is rife with family touches, from the real butter on the popcorn to Cupcake the dog, who is on hand at matinees to entertain guests before the show and sniff out unsilenced cell phones.