Tuesday, July 01, 2014

D'Arcy McGee's Still an Ottawa Institution

D'Arcy McGee's on UrbanspoonI recently returned with my wife and a friend to D'Arcy McGees (44 Sparks Street, Ottawa) for some beer and a meal.  I used to love coming on Thursday nights to this particular Irish themed pub in the early 2000s for the popular kitchen parties.

We arrived at an early 4:30 P.M. to take advantage of the pre-dinner Friday evening no wait.  Due to this restaurant's prime location just steps from Parliament Hill and other nearby tourist destinations as well as it's popularity amongst tourists, this restaurant fills up pretty quickly.

The inside of the restaurant is like an old bar with tile intricate tile floors and wood bar.  There are alcoves off the upstairs area where many tables are located. We were lead there by the appropriately Irish kilted hostess.

We perused our menus before awaiting our also Irish kilted waitress to return.  When she did we were ready!

The Order: 1 The Club (Shave Turkey, crisp bacon, white Cheddar Cheese, shredded lettuce, sliced hothouse tomato, cranberry mayonnaise, and toasted multi-grain bread) with fries and a Keiths draft beer.  1 Ma's Crispy Chicken (Crisp water-cracker coating, buttermilk, mashed potatoes, rainbow slaw tossed in honey mustard, and creamed corn).

The food came within a reasonable 20 minutes.  But the ambiance had changed with a group of about 10 office coworkers who were seated in the back corner in our alcove.  This raised the noise level a lot so it became difficult to hold a conversation.   Perhaps they could have sat them downstairs in the larger area where they have seating or out in the bar area.  It was noticeably a little disturbing for others in our area as well. This was really our only complaint during our meal.

The Club sandwich was delicious with fresh turkey and decent white bread.  Lettuce and tomatoes were also fresh on this quad cut bread held together with skewer sticks.

The fries were typical pub fries with skins slightly still left on.  They appear to be similar to the fries that New York Fries made popular. but in the new hipster designer french fry bowl that seems to be catching on.  The same bowl and plate combination was found at the Clocktower Brew Pub. Optically it separates the club sandwich, or whatever main dish, from the french fries.  Quantity wise I still have doubts as it looks like restaurant is trying hide the  reduction in the amount of fries served.  In the end the fries were served hot with requisite grease drying.

The Ma's Crispy Chicken came with three pieces of what appeared to be long breaded chicken sticks. Crispy on the outside but somewhat still moist on the inside.   Served along with the same fries as mentioned above and add a little ketchup at a times and it makes an pretty good meal.

Overall, D'Arcy McGees remains a reliable downtown pub.  Loud at times with federal government workers after work for happy hour, but pretty decent at service and food.  Service was quick and friendly with perfect timing on when to check in.  A slight Irish feel to the bar also occurs.  Still the touristy yet local welcoming spot I remember from yesteryear.  Definitely an Ottawa Institution that continues.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Suddcorp Solutions is Now Open!


Last fall, a dream was ignited when I was asked a couple of questions:

1. "Do you know anything about social media?"

and

2. "Do you know how I get my Facebook and Twitter started?"
The answer to that was "yes and here is how you to do it..."

This past year I had spoken to an inspirational friend who relayed she was tired of picking up the phone only to be asked by some big budget marketing agency looking to do her company's social media marketing. No real details were ever given by the marketing genius on the other end of the line. Just the annoying car salesmanship of the guy on the other end saying they will market their business for some obscene amount on a monthly basis thank you very much. As a small business owner and working with many small business neighbours on a daily basis, there was a lack of trust of these marketing agencies in: a) affordability and b) trusting their brand in someone else's hands.

These two issues got me thinking, business owners know they want to be on social media somehow but don't know where to start and the marketing agencies calling slimy telemarketer style out of the blue. This led me to a Kevin O'Leary moment:

"There has to be a better way" - Kevin O'Leary, CBC's Dragon's Den

Friday, May 23, 2014

Roger Dodger at Roger's Italian Bistro

Roger's Italian Bistro on UrbanspoonTuesday my wife and I headed to Rogers Italian Bistro (500 Terminal Avenue, Ottawa) for dinner out.  We had been eyeing this Italian restaurant since it opened in May 2013, but was unsure if was any good as we had walked by previously to find not many people either inside the restaurant. As well the restaurant's patio was also void of customers. But the patio problems are probably a result of the patio overlooking exhaust spewing Terminal Avenue on one side and the back strip mall dumpster area of Ottawa Train Yards.

Inside the restaurant looked a lot more promising with a modern tiled interior and brown leather booth style seating. Accompanied by a prompt hostess attention and seating, things were looking good.   On their old website they claimed to have 25 years of experience while being the second generation of Italian restaurateurs following in the footsteps of parents with 40 years of experience. So at least the experience and service was there.  What could go wrong?

We perused the standard priced menus before ordering.

The Order: 1 Italian Sausage Penne & 1 Lasagna with a glass of water and Keiths on draft.

The order was taken and arrived within 15 minutes wait.  Not bad service wise.

Food wise this is where a spectacular yet reasonably priced meal went downhill to mediocrity.

The Penne Pasta with Italian Sausage was mediocre.  The sauce tasted a hint better than Chef Boyardee.  The Italian Sausage was passable but no seasoning noticed.  It was like the chef just through everything together without any spices or garnishes.  Just plain Italian food with less thought put into it than East Side Marios. Sure the plate was full and perhaps a larger helping, but nothing special that I couldn't make at home.  For an average family restaurant this pasta dish would have sufficed, but for an "Italian Bistro" which Roger's was purporting to be, lackluster.

The lasagna ran into the same problem.  Same boring uninspired tomato sauce which Roger's Italian Bistro may have ordered in large quantities.  The noodles were also standard nothing special that perhaps could have been found on a lucky day at Wal-Mart across the parking lot.

Overall, Rogers Italian Bistro needs a little help.  If you are a former Spaghetti house claiming to be trained by Italian parents then at least prove this claim by providing inspiring food.  Mediocre Italian food will just not cut it.  Sure the pricing was reasonable at $15.00 for the Italian Sausage Penne portion received.  But to have it taste like a customer could visit the local Wal-Mart and gone home to make it just doesn't cut it.  Sure the service, ambience and cleanliness were excellent, but the food needs help.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Feeling Good but Not Quite Royal at Phuket Royal

Phuket Royal Restaurant on UrbanspoonFriday my wife and I decided to try a new Thai place we had seen on a previous visit to Ottawa's Chinatown.  Newly opened Phuket Royal (713 Somerset Street West, Ottawa) offers not only Thai food but ads to the already overcrowded Vietnamese selection on Somerset Street West.  But we were more interested in the Thai food after our previous Thai adventure not going so well.

We arrived at 4:30 P.M. to find the modernly styled and renovated restaurant with only one other table occupied.  Fresh paint, flooring and tables were evident in this large spacious restaurant.  The interior seemed like an anomaly compared to the rest of the Asian restaurants on the block that just try and provide a nicely painted interior with whatever flooring their happens to be.

The only gripe, the floors were a little dusty with the addition of odd pieces of paper.  Perhaps this grime was more noticeable due to the shiny sheen flooring they have present.  My wife also thought she smelled a stale odour to the place like a wash cloth that had cleaned two more tables than it should have.  I chalked up the odour to restaurant not being properly ventilated on a warm day.  Hopefully these optically minor cleanliness issues can be remedied.

We reviewed the menus and made our selections.  The gentleman who showed us to our table by the window overlooking Somerset Street West brought us a complimentary tea, took our order and left.

The Order: 1 Chicken Pad Thai

The complimentary tea was a little weak.  It was a Jasmin tea bag added to boiled water inside a tea pot and not let to steep long enough.  This tea offering was different from other nearby Asian restaurants that tend to have a stronger Jasmin tea already ready and quite consistent in temperature and strength.  After steeping for a while, the Jasmin tea was satisfactory but nothing special.

The food arrived short of 15 minutes after ordering.

The Chicken Pad Thai was nicely displayed with some vegetables on the side.  Portion wise it was about the same amount of food as served at our current favourite Thai locale, Thai Garden. Vegetable wise there were less than Thai Garden includes with their version of Pad Thai.  But then again, the Pad Thai itself is the center attraction of this dish and not the vegetables. Tastewise the Chicken Pad Thai was superb with moist chicken and delicious noodles.

Overall, Phuket Royal is a welcome addition to the food offerings of Ottawa's Chinatown located on Somerset Street West.  Like any new restaurant it does have a few wrinkles to iron out.  Hopefully over the coming weeks these can be taken care of.  My wife and I will return in the future to try this restaurant again.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bill Cosby Wouldn't Be Amused by this Fat Albert's

Fat Albert's / Ralph's Neighbourhood Sports Bar on UrbanspoonFor a while I had been intrigued by an Ottawa sandwich chain but never made it.  So Friday, I ventured over to Fat Albert's downtown location (245 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa) which is accompanied by a Ralph's Neighbourhood Sports Bar.

Upon entering I stood stunned.  How in the heck do I get a sub sandwich and find a table like I would at Mr. Sub. or Subway?   After standing there dumbfounded and attempting to work my way to the counter that turned out to be the kitchen I was met by a waitress.  The waitress inquired if I would like to have something for there or to go.    She showed me to a table and handed me a menu.  Interesting a sub shop that is more of a restaurant.

The restaurant overlooks Laurier Avenue West near O'Connor Street with a small local bar setting.  There were three waitresses working with one of the three learning.  There were two customers at 11:30 A.M. including myself. So service started well and I selected a sandwich and ordered.

The Order: 1 12" Club Sub with a bottle of Pepsi.

The sandwich came before 10 minutes in a Quiznos style plastic basket.  One of the interesting things, and it may only be my experience, is my waitress never asked if I want to add any toppings like Subway or other sandwich shop.  I was forced to get the only option from the menu, no options no nothing.

The sandwich itself was pretty good oven roasted. Cheese, lettuce, tomato and bacon were average for a sandwich place.  Nothing great, just a neighbourhood sports bar feeling sandwich which I guess is great for a "Ralph's Neighbourhood Sports Bar" feel.

Price wise Fat Albert's is a little off.  The $8.49 for the sandwich could be a little more economical, but perhaps the worst is the 591 ml bottle of Pepsi at $2.49.  A sandwich lunch after tax is $12.49 which also doesn't include a tip for the waitress service.

Add to this, a large group came in of 8 people, plus 2 guys who somehow have Friday lunch reservation spots at the bar and 2 other businessmen also arriving.  The waitress I had was a little overwhelmed and took a little while to return with my change.  Really, after receiving the expensive bill for a sub sandwich, all I wanted to do was leave and get back to work.

Overall, Fat Albert's somehow has a loyal following.  Overpriced sandwiches coupled with a bar atmosphere may needs some tweaking.  Why isn't there an option just order a sandwich, grab a pop out of the fridge fast food style?  I guess then, they wouldn't call it Fat Albert's but would be labelled "Subway". I left feeling if Bill Cosby's character Fat Albert had of arrived to eat, he would leave full and broke.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Wild Area for a Wild Wing

Wild Wing on UrbanspoonLast Friday for dinner my wife and I planned to head out to Vanier in search of chicken wings.  We could not remember the last time we had gone for chicken wings and fries since moving to Ottawa.

We chose Wild Wing (1263 Donald Street, Ottawa) as it was a familiar restaurant to us after living in the Toronto area.  

We were warmly greeted around 5 P.M. to somewhat full restaurant that had been previously featured in Undercover Boss Canada television series.

After sitting down in the front and reviewing the menus we started to wonder what kind of area we were in.  Interesting vehicles were parked in the lot accompanied with a few unsavoury characters getting out of cars and heading next door to the restaurant.  Later on, after leaving the restaurant, we noticed the next store over from the Wild Wing restaurant was a pawn shop.  Who knows what was being pawned and what the ensuing cashout money was being used for.

Eventually, somehow, the waitress found us and took our order after an awkward 10 minute wait.

The Order: 2 pounds of wings with Honey Garlic and Blue Cheese, 1 onion rings with 1 Coke and glass of water.

5 minutes later our drinks arrived and 20 minutes our food arrived.

The chicken wings, no matter what the flavour, were average size and length.  Not as meaty as what they could be, but not overly bony.  They were though generously over doused in sauce with little thought evident to perfecting the right chicken to tasty sauce ratio.  Quite frankly, it looked like the kitchen crew had gone to the McDonald's college of kitchen prep and passed with flying colours the slap it on and move it out attitude testing.

The onion rings were at least properly cooked but unremarkable. Just boring through it on the table breaded onion rings.  Nothing to write about, thus, I won't mention any more.

Our bill also took a while to arrive, payment picked up and change returned.  This occurred after a table of about 10 people arrived and needed their order taken.  All of this occurred while three hostesses at the front decided to stand around and chat instead of at least one lending a hand to the semi busy wait staff.

Overall, this Wild Wing may have been on Undercover Boss and improved shortly after the show.  But it has returned to needing some fine tuning in terms of timely service and fine tune staff training.  Sure it can't help that it is located next to a pawn shop.  But security of customers will need to be investigated and solutions provided. Until the wildly overdosed chicken and area has been resolved, we will not be returning.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Flippin' Pancakes & Crokinole at Flapjack's Pancake Shack

Flapjack's Pancake Shack on UrbanspoonFriday afternoon for lunch I decided to check out this interesting new food truck in the Glebe area of Ottawa.  I ventured down for an early 11:30 A.M. lunch of pancakes at Flapjack's Pancake Shack (809 Bank Street, Ottawa) which is located in a courtyard behind Mrs. Tiggy Winkles on Bank Street.

The most interesting part is the location.  Located in a scenic courtyard off the main street, this food truck is a hidden treasure which most people walking by would be sure to miss.

But a presence on Urbanspoon.com, YelpTwitter, Facebook plus a word of mouth recommendations by loyal local customers has helped put this food truck on Ottawa's food map.

I arrived shortly after the 11:30 a.m. to the easy to find directions of the address and "behind Mrs. Tiggy Winkles" found on Urbanspoon and Flapjack's website to find a maple syrup bush meet city looking setting in the courtyard.

Flapjack's Pancake Food Truck

Only two other ladies were sitting at the picnic table waiting for their pancakes to be made.  I walked up, perused the menu located on the right hand side of the window and ordered.

The Order: 1 order of Blueberry pancakes.

I sat down at the picnic table next to the two ladies who were enjoying a game of Crokinole.  Not a bad way to pass the time while your pancakes are being made.  Another gentlemen joined us after ordering his pancakes and we shared giggles as the two ladies played.  They were totaling up their points as the stacks of pancakes began to emanate from the truck window.

I received my pancakes in a Styrofoam container and rejoined my new found pancake companions at the lone picnic table.   I opened up my container to find a small condiment sized plastic container with maple syrup.  Looked an attempt to skimp on the maple syrup by not allowing customers to pour it themselves.

The regular size of pancakes comes in a quantity of four all stacked one on top of each other. The blueberries were quite noticeable.  Instead of a blueberry juice purple colour stained pancake I had at Bramasole diner, there were actually blueberries embedded inside the pancake.  The pancakes themselves were perfectly made.  The syrup was just the right amount to satisfy my needs for pancake to syrup quotient.  But others may have to beg at the counter for more.

Overall, Flapjack's Pancake Shack is quickly becoming one of the things Ottawa's Foodie Scene is becoming known for.  Like nearby Kettleman's bagels, Flapjacks has perfected a product, invested in ambiance and provide a quality product.  Flapjack's is becoming a can't be missed spot for locals, friends and family visiting.

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