Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It's Tea Time at the Rideau Centre!

DavidsTea on UrbanspoonA couple of weeks ago I found myself walking through the Rideau Centre on my way to a client's office downtown.

I stopped in for a cup of tea and check out one DavidsTea's (50 Rideau Street, Ottawa) newest stores.

I walked into the store, near the Rideau Centre's Food Court entrance to find three DavidsTea employees behind the counter working on different customer tea concoctions and one employee working on the shelves.  The shelver greeted me with a smile while welcoming me to the store and said if I had any questions feel free to ask! I politely said I was here for a cup of tea and she guided me to the counter where one of her accomplices would serve me.

I waited at the counter for a minute and was greeted by yet another overexcited "I need to restrict my caffeine intake" DavidsTea employee. I placed my order with her for the "Tea of the Day".

The Order: 1 Medium Size "Secret Weapon"

With so much pep, the employee whizzed around behind the counter grabbing a cup, filling it full of hot water and tea, taking cash and my "Frequent Steeper" card.

When visiting DavidsTea I normally go for the "Tea of the Day" special promotion for a couple of reasons. The first is the ability to try different teas and to keep things interesting.  I really don't have a particular preference for teas so each cup is a flavorful surprise and I get to learn which blends I prefer vs those that I do not.    The second is pricing, at $3.00 per cup as opposed to $3.25 I save $0.25 plus applicable taxes.

The tea was a normal regular taste.  Nothing secret really about it, it was plain boring tea with no special flavoring. This was not my favorite.

Overall, DavidsTea continues to be a favourite destination of mine when I look for tea.  With warm and friendly staff at the Rideau Centre location, I'm sure to return in the future when needing,l as the British call it "a hot cuppa".

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Whoooooose There at Morning Owl?

Morning Owl on UrbanspoonA couple of weeks back, I had the pleasure of being downtown to visit a client to go over recent work my company had completed.

I had saw that the old Quiznos store at 139 Bank Street had closed and was undergoing renovation to a Morning Owl Coffeehouse. I had heard rave reviews about their other location on Rochester Street but, for whatever reason, never went there.

I ventured in a lunch time on a Friday after hearing about their specials on Twitter and was interested in their Turkey Club Sandwich with perhaps, them being a coffee house, a cup of coffee.

The new location at 139 Bank Street has a modern looking coffee shop interior with a counter overlooking the sidewalk at the front and a few small tables inside.   Along the right hand side of the narrow store is the main counter where the food is ordered, prepared and paid for along with the coffee products.

I waited in line that moved fairly quickly to order with one of the two employees behind the counter who were preparing the food.  From there I gradually moved forward to the cash to order the sandwich (again!) and coffee.  Everything, except for the sandwich ordering, seemed somewhat smooth as the coffee came quick and, after a return back to the two friendly ladies prepping food, I got my sandwich.

For $10.06 including tax (or thereabouts) I had a turkey club sandwich, which seemed to be regular bread sized, and a cup of coffee.  Not great value wise but what about quality wise?  Only one way to find out...

I sat down at the front counter overlooking the sidewalk.  All the other tables were full of downtown office workers enjoying their lunch time.  The sandwich was the first victim.   The bread, if you call it that, was a tasty artisan crunchy layer that was like a bready pie crust.  Not bad, but I wasn't sold on it totally.  The rest of the sandwich tasted like it was "cared for".  The lettuce and tomatoes were noticeably as fresh as could sourced for February in Ottawa.  The mayonaise was noticeable but not overbearing.  The turkey was excellent.  A pretty good sandwich with only one change I would make, perhaps some locally sourced old school baked bread that is more bread like and less artistically inclined?  Is that so wrong?  It probably would sell well considering the pubs around this place only really don't concentrate on the freshness aspect as well as Morning Owl seems to.

The coffee was exquisite.  Fresh tasting with a decent decadent taste to it. I'd probably return to Morning Owl Coffeehouse if I was in the area again.

Overall, Morning Owl Coffeehouse is not your local Tim Hortons.  Freshness and quality is top of mind instead of volume and cost effectiveness.  Don't bother entering the door looking for cheap items as you will leave empty handed.  But customers can expect quality prepared food that seems to have that old school local business touch along with decent service.   That's really "whoooooooose at Morning Owl!  People who care!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bank on Wild Oat Bakery Cafe & Restaurant for Good Hearty Food!

Wild Oat Bakery Cafe and Restaurant on UrbanspoonOn a previous Friday for lunch I decided to spin my luck on the old the Urbanspoon wheel of fortune to see where I would end up.

First, a Sushi place.  Nope, don't like Sushi (please leave all hate mail down below...tried it a couple of times from real Japanese places, just never acquired the taste for it).

Second, a nice interesting spot, Wild Oat Bakery, Cafe & Restaurant (817 Bank Street, Ottawa).  In past visits to the Glebe I had never set foot in this store figuring it would be some hipster coffee hangout.  I decided to go and visit to check it out.  If it didn't work out, shrug, no loss as there are a couple of other places I could investigate or just go and have pancakes.

I entered the store around noon and strolled past the bakery and through a doorway.  There was another counter where they served coffee.  My glasses had to defrost due to the change in temperature from the cold minus twenty Celsius outside to whatever warmth they had inside.   After defrosting things got more interesting.  In the coffee shop side (i.e. "The Cafe") there were tables to sit down at plus a long counter for singles to sit at to people watch the traffic going by on the sidewalk.

I perused the menu at the coffee shop which had some specials and then ventured over to the bakery side.  With a refreshed view from my now defrosted glasses things were a little more appetizing.   I even noticed the soup and chili counter near the front door I came in which had almost a dozen options to choose from along with what appeared to be a freshly made roll to accompany your selection!  I scooped up some chili and headed to the cash with roll in hand and headed for the cash at the bakery.

The Order: 1 Vegetarian Chocolate Chili, Roll and a coffee.

After picking up the chili, I headed over to the coffee bar to grab a cup of their regular black coffee before finding a seat.

I found a seat near the window and dug into the chili.

The Vegetarian Chocolate Chili I chose because it sounded interesting.  Why would you add Chocolate to Chili?  It never crossed my mind to do so but I thought it was worth a try.  The Vegetarian part?  Didn't bother me as I had tried non meat chilies and other vegetarian concoctions that have been a culinary delight.

The Chocolate part was lacking.  I couldn't even taste it and my tongue was looking for either a milk or dark chocolate flavour but came up empty.  But besides that the chili was excellent with just the right amount of spice to provide the odd kick but nothing over the top "quick turn on the tap my mouth is on fire" spiciness.  It would be a solid contestant in any neighbourhood chili contest.

The coffee was a decent tasting coffee.  A real effort, like the chili, was made to ensure the coffee was of the right quality.  After all, one of the key ingredients of a good "cafe" is a solid cup of coffee, and the Cafe at Wild Oat has it.

Overall, Wild Oat Bakery Cafe & Restaurant specializes in old style home cooked meals that would make your grandparents proud.  With special attention to ingredients for vegetarians as well as taste, the bakery, cafe and restaurant produces quality food.  At less than $10 for a solid portion of Chili and a cup of coffee it's a great lunch spot.  Add in a vast selection of breads, soups, chilies and other items it is a great spot to explore with your taste buds.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Skimping on the Souvlaki at Jimmy the Greek

Jimmy the Greek on UrbanspoonLast Saturday after doing some shopping downtown and returning back to OC Transpo's Transitway I decided to stop off at the Rideau Centre's Food Court for a bite to eat.

I settled on Jimmy the Greek (50 Rideau Street, Ottawa ) as Big Smoke Burger had both cash registers tied up trying to figure out a customer's debit card transaction.

After waiting behind one customer, I was ready to order at Jimmy the Greek with a friendly smiling young lady brimming with exuberance.

The Order: 1 Chicken Souvlaki Dinner with 1 Can of Coke.

Jimmy The Greek Rideau Centre Dining Hall Storefront

After finding a table to sit down within the busy Saturday lunch time mall food court scene, I took a look at my meal to be disappointed.  Sure there was plenty on the plate in terms of rice, Greek Salad and potatoes, but there was just one measly skewer of chicken. You would figure with the dish being called "Chicken Souvlaki Dinner" that the "Chicken Souvlaki" would be both plentiful as it is the centre of attention. Sadly, no, just one skewer was available.  

Chicken Souvlaki Dinner
The dish was satisfactory with the chicken being grilled but slightly on the dry side.  The salad was an average in freshness but saved by the Greek Salad Dressing.  The rice was just about right but nothing my wife and I couldn't master at home.  The potatoes were an interesting take on Greek style potatoes with an interesting taste to them which went well coupled with the leftover tzatziki sauce from my consumption of the chicken skewer.  

Overall, Jimmy the Greek isn't that special.  At $11.69 for a food court meal including canned soft drink and taxes, it's over priced.  If there had of been just one extra chicken skewer the price may have been reasonable.  Hopefully Jimmy will pull his socks up and listen to his mother about proper Greek hospitality and not skimping on the main part of a dish. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Nestle Chocolate Cookie Accompanied by M&Ms on a Saturday

Nestle Toll House Cafe on UrbanspoonLast Saturday I found myself downtown to do some shopping along Ottawa's Rideau Street.  Knowing I would be down there I grabbed a coupon with the idea of stopping off for a warm drink and a cookie at the Nestle Toll House Cafe (140 Rideau Street, Ottawa).

Nestle, the kid famous chocolate maker, looks to have started their own chain of chocolate based cafes featuring chocolate inspired baked goods coupled with specialty coffees and teas.

I arrived shortly after 10 am to find the location at Rideau & Nicholas empty except for one employee behind the counter.  This employee kindly continued about her business after looking up and noticing I was perusing the menu and the large display cases at the front of the store.

Once I figured out what cookie I wanted and what was my best hot drink of choice, I merely let the employee know and I ordered.

The Order:  1 16 Oz Regular Hot Chocolate and 1 M&M Rainbow Chocolate Chip cookies.

Nestle Toll House Cafe's 16 Oz Regular Hot Chocolate & Rainbow M&M Chocolate Chip Cookie
The odd part came after ordering.  I had handed over the coupon before and the employee looked at it, read it, and read it again.  She tried at least three times the order with the coupon discount.  Each time she failed and ultimately worked out just charging me on a calculator for the hot chocolate and gave me the total.  From there I handed over payment and received my change.  Still can't figure out how the coupon process had not been implemented considering the coupon I was using I had held onto for more than three weeks before using.

The Hot Chocolate was average store hot chocolate with nothing overly chocolaty or special about it. At $3.95 it was a o.k. but nothing to drive out of the way for.

Rainbow M&M Chocolate Chip Cookie
The Rainbow M&M Chocolate Chip Cookie was pretty good. The mixture of the traditional gooey chocolate chip cookie that Cookie Monster would give a fury thumbs up too, coupled with the addition of the crunch of M&Ms makes it an interesting snack.  ]

Oddly though Nestle decided to concoct the delectable cookies creation using Mars' M&Ms instead of Nestle's very own Smarties.    Perhaps this is done to ensure conformity in the manufacturing process of the cookie as Smarties in the chocolate version are not widely found in the United States.

Overall, Nestle Toll House Cafe is an interesting addition to the coffee / cafe scene in Ottawa and beyond. With a bright modern interior and friendly service this cafe is a great addition to Rideau Street.  However, most concerning was the emptiness of the cafe on a Saturday morning.  But perhaps it fills up later in the afternoon as more shops and services open for a busy afternoon. One can only hope as without customers this beacon hope on an otherwise sketchy Rideau Street may be snuffed out.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Busy Bookish Starbucks on Saturdays

Starbucks on UrbanspoonRecently I found myself down in the South Keys Shopping Centre's Loblaws for a few items and then over to the Wal-mart.

In between I stopped off at the Chapters store to grab a coffee from the Starbucks (2210 Bank Street, Ottawa).  Upon entering, on a Saturday afternoon, I noted the decent line up and had second thoughts about going elsewhere.

But upon waiting in line for two minutes, I noticed it moved on a frequent basis.  Two Baristas were manning the cash with one taking orders and one running.  But if the one on cash was slowed by a customer who couldn't  make up their mind, the second Barista would pitch in on a second cash and run herself until the other was available again.  This team work seemed to be keeping everyone moving at a decent clip with another two Baristas working the specialty coffee machine.

I was, impressively, in and out in five minutes holding my order of 1 Tall Pike Roast (Medium Roast) coffee.  

The coffee itself was pretty standard Starbucks fare without any mistakes either.  The only complaint, there was nowhere to sit as the tables were taken within the Starbucks store proper in the Chapters.  Sure I could of wandered Chapters looking for some reading material, but I had stuff to do!  And left for Wal-mart.

Overall, this Starbucks is pretty busy as it is one of the only coffee shops in this large outdoor Shopping Centre that is the main shopping attraction for the South Keys neighbourhood.  With that in mind this Starbucks see perhaps more than it's fair share of traffic, especially for one located within a Chapters book store.  So don't expect to get a access to a table, especially on a Saturday, as there probably won't be one available.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Bland Downtown 3 Brothers Shawarma & Poutine

3 Brothers Shawarma & Poutine on UrbanspoonLast Friday for lunch I decided to try my luck with another poutine I noticed from my last journey for Poutine a couple of weeks ago.  I wished to see how Smoke's Poutinerie and 3 Brothers Shawarma & Poutine (160 Rideau Street, Ottawa).

The main difference location wise is 3 Brothers Shawarma & Poutine is right on Rideau at the Corner of Dalhousie whereas Smoke's Poutinerie is set back a bit from the main street (Rideau Street) on Dalhousie Street resulting in less foot traffic.

Upon entering at 11:30 am., I noticed only one other customer in the store who happened to be finishing up his meal.  No worries, still early for lunch so the number of customers really didn't worry me.  What did worry me was the menu, with "Poutine" in the restaurant title one would figure there would be more than one simple offering of the Quebec specialty dish.  Sadly there was not, in fact, the menu photo showed a mere fast food style fries doused in gravy.  Not very appetizing for a place supposedly pushing poutine.

With poutine out of the picture, I perused the rest of the Shawarma based menu to settle on what I thought to be a fine choice and ordered...

The Order: The Chef's Special: 1 Chicken Shawarma (all dressed) with potatoes and can of Coke.

Within a about two minutes my order was prepared and served up.

I studied the small take out storefront for the best place to sit.  With not to many options, I chose right at the counter overlooking Rideau Street to watch passing customers.

The Shawarma was nothing special. I had it "all dressed" to see what the chef would put together to make it's best.  Nothing special was the result, just bland everything is there no special seasoning.  It was like the basic boring McDonald's hamburgers of shawarma.  Just there take it or leave it.

The potatoes had promise.  The potatoes were fried and seasoned with some type of seasoning and presented with a white garlic sauce. An interesting culinary take that should compliment Shawarma.  However, these were served stone cold!  There was more interest in the Toronto Maple Leafs would win the Stanley Cup than interest in keeping these potatoes even room temperature.

Overall, 3 Brothers Shawarma needs some help.  Formerly located in the Union Canada Building that is now being converted into a hotel by Claridge, this once thriving Poutine and Shawarma restaurant seems to have lost it's way.  Uninspiring Shawarma coupled with serving up cold dishes that should be served at least warm, seems to point out that this restaurant has lost its way.

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