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.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

A Red Velvet Cookie at Tim Hortons?

Tim Hortons on UrbanspoonLast Thursday I stopped off for coffee at a relatively new Tim Hortons (90 Elgin Street, Ottawa) located within the new federal James Michael Flaherty Building at the corner of Elgin & Albert Streets.   Facing Albert Street, this modern looking Tim Hortons location takes advantage of the significant number of federal civil servants who occupy the building, tourists enjoying the sites of downtown Ottawa and those using the nearby OC Transpo eastbound Metcalfe Street Transitway Station.

I visited last Thursday mid afternoon to a semi bustling Tim Hortons store.  The federal civil servants were busily enjoying their coffees as they chatted.  I patiently waited in line to order an mid afternoon snack.

As I waited in line, I noticed something kind of amusing...


Yes, the muffin I was about to order was trying it's darndest to masquerade as a cookie!

I eventually got to the front and made my order.

The Order: 1 Medium Black Original Blend and 1 Red Velvet Muffin masquerading as a cookie.

The cashier looked at me quizically about the muffin.  I told her I wanted a muffin but the tag said "cookie".  As she was going to fill my order I took the above picture and showed it to her.

She laughed, apparently there used to be a Red Velvet Cookie a while back.   After handing me coffee and muffin she then changed the sign.

Later on I was puzzled, how could there have been a Red Velvet Cookie tag in the store if a while back they had the cookie itself?  The store was less than three months and I don't remember seeing a Red Velvet Cookie.  Perhaps each store is issued the same set of display tags across Canada and updated as new products come out.

I scanned the store for a scarce seat to rest.  That is the major issue with this restaurant, few tables are available as it is not as wide or as deep as a regular Tim Hortons.  So the only thing they skimp on is the table space.  This results in running out of space for customers like me who wish to stay for a bite before continuing on with their downtown adventures.  The only thing I can think of is that someone at Tim Hortons miscalculated and figured more office workers would take their items to go than actually happened. Either that or the Tim Hortons franchisee just shoehorned the store in as best as possible to meet the space constraints.

The Red Velvet muffin tasted delicious!  Moist smooth semi chocolatey taste with a little white sugar filling to add additional taste.  

The coffee was the usual Tim Hortons corporate made to spec they have been doing for 50+ years now.  Great to wash down the Red Velvet Muffin.

Overall, this Tim Hortons location is a decent addition to Ottawa's downtown.  Yes this is now the 3rd Tim Hortons location south of Albert, West of Elgin, North of Laurier and Metcalfe.  But with the location on Metcalfe street being busy during rush hours and the Laurier location doing steady, this 3rd location provides some needed relief.  I find it less busy and the staff more excited yet exuding the same friendliness as the employees at the other two locations.  Orders are usually filled quickly and I'm on my way.  Now only if they could figure out the difference between a Red Velvet Muffin and a Red Velvet Cookie...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Holy Smoke's Poutinerie

Smoke's Poutinerie on UrbanspoonSaturday for lunch I found myself downtown running a few errands here and there.  Shortly after 11 I was heading towards Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaws on Rideau Street. Before shopping, I thought I would stop off at a place that had intrigued me for some time but never got around to visiting, Smoke's Poutinerie (407 Dalhousie Street, Ottawa).

Tucked away on the southern leg of Dalhousie Street (that ends 1 block south of Rideau Street near Besserer Street) off main Rideau Street, this restaurant is almost hidden.  Add in being located where OC Transpo has a lay up area for their buses that begin and end at the nearby Rideau Centre stop and this storefront can be a little difficult to find for the average passing person.  Luckily, the nearby University of Ottawa campus and two major downtown hotels (Les Suites and Novotel) provide a decent sized clientele that both are geographically close (university and hotels) and in the right target market (university students).

I entered shortly after 11 a.m. to be met by one customer who had just finished ordering and the employee who immediately asked what I wished to order.  I politely, with a smile on my face, said "order?  I just got here and need to see the menu"  He smiled and said he would start preparing the other order and to let him know when I was ready.

I perused the overhead menu going over the extensive options of poutine.  Everything from just fries, to regular poutine, to beef, steak, chicken and pork variations are available.

After making my choice I waited for the employee to make eye contact and signal I was ready.

The Order:  1 Nacho Grande with a Coke.

Next came the interesting wait of anticipation.  One employee and, after three minutes, another three customers came in.  Great! Things seemed to be picking up for Saturday lunch, yet the single employee had to take orders, scurry around to the kitchen, make orders and bring them back up.  It really did seem this location was understaffed.

After a ten minute wait, things started moving.  First up the first customer received her order.  With a line up of receipts on the counter put there in order of arrival, the employee scurried through each one with the only question being "for here or to go?"  With each reply the orders were either bagged up to fly out the door or handed over to salivating customers like me.  

My order came up with a "Nacho Grande with Coke" and I was handed the nachos.  I stopped and waited, next order was called.  Um... where's the Coke? After the next order was dispatched the employee looked sheepishly at me and then went and grabbed it out of the fridge.

I'll chalk today's Coke forgetting episode up to him being overwhelmed by working alone.  The failsafe was there with each receipt in order and calling out the order to double check to make sure everything was there.  Just lack of an extra pair of hands seemed to be the issue

The wait was decent for what should be considered "fast food".  But was it worth it?

Nachos Grande with a Can of Coke
Presentation wise it was one of the better looking fast food style plates I'd seen in a long time.  But taste wise would it hold up?

I dug into the Nachos Grande with the required and duly issued fork.  The fries were thin supposedly handcut fries mixed in with all the usual toppings nachos would have including ground beef, jalapeno peppers, salsa and artfully drizzled sour cream.  With a touch of a spicy kick, you'd think you were enjoying a favourite plate of the mexican version sans le nachos chips.   The only other thing I thought was missing, besides the nacho chips, was a little cheese.  Perhaps that could be an add on option in the future.  Other than that, the nachos plus fries were delish!  Yes the fries stood up as, even fifteen minutes later, didn't suffer of over sogginess caused by all the other moist offerings coagulating together.

Overall, Smoke's Poutinerie is an interesting addition to the Ottawa restaurant scene imported from Toronto.   With several well thought out variations of the mainly Canadian dish of Poutine, this restaurant is decent see.  With the price bordering around $10.00 but decent portions provided there is some value here as well.  Tucked in on a somewhat side street, the location is a little hidden from the usual passing tourists and whoever walks by on Rideau Street.  But this place seems to have a following as even on Saturday lunch a steady stream of hungry customers arrived.  Smoke's may be the new favourite place on our list of downtown locales when in search of a bite to eat.

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