Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Old School Reliable Mayflower Restaurant & Pub

Mayflower Restaurant & Pub on UrbanspoonFriday evening for dinner my wife and I perused Elgin Street for restaurant options to eat at.  We had contemplated the newly opened Slice & Co but had noted in other reviews complaints of overpriced beer and $20-$30 priced gourmet pizzas.  We walked by the restaurant to find it not very busy.  To be fair it was only 4:30 P.M. on a Friday, but with the reviews being somewhat negative price wise and not many people there we decided to go elsewhere.

We looked at the Fox & Feather and the Mayflower for options. Years ago I had been to the Fox & Feather and it was satisfactory.  But the Mayflower has been an Ottawa local institution for years and yet I had never set foot in the place.  So we decided to test this out.

From the outside the Mayflower Restaurant & Pub (247 Elgin Street, Ottawa) looks quite dated.  Located on the corner of Elgin & Cooper Streets, the Mayflower has a dated looking lightbox sign coupled with wood paneling that looked popular in the 1980s. In the summer a yellow awning overhangs the patio on Cooper Street side of the restaurant.  The awing itself looks old school as well.  Not much of a selling feature from the outside.

We entered to find a decent sized restaurant with, of course, wood paneling on the inside.  Not a great first impression so far, but I did note that everything seemed clean and well maintained.  There was an employee on the patio gradually putting out tables and inside a couple of tables were already occupied.  One customer was even enjoying the free WiFi while enjoying a quiet dinner.  

We stood at the front looking for an indication of whether we were to seat ourselves or wait for a host or waiter to come forth with menus and seat us.  After awkwardly looking around for a minute, we mosied up to a window side table and sat down.  Thirty seconds later we were greeted by a friendly waiter who offered us menus and inquired if we would like to order anything to drink.   He left with our drink order only to return two minutes later with drinks and inquire if we were ready to order.  Having settled on our choices we ordered.

The Order: 1 Trendy Sandwhich (grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomato and other toppings) with fries and a glass of Pepsi and a Canadian Burger (Hamburger with two melted cheeses and all the toppings) with fries and a glass of water.

The service was quick and pleasant.  The food came within ten minutes of ordering and the waiter returned twice during our meal to ensure we had everything we needed. Always a smiling and courteous manner.

The Trendy Sandwich was an average grilled chicken sandwich you would find at any pub.  Solid old fashioned cooked food that any pub would bring forth topped with average toppings.  Coupled with regular pub style fries of decent temperature and average taste, you can't go wrong.  The only issue? If you are looking for interesting gourmet cooking, the Mayflower is not your place.  The Mayflower sandwiches are average made sandwiches with no real flare, but that are heartwarming tasting to those looking for average pub fare.

The Canadian burger was different though.  A cheese burger with marble style looking cheese instead of the average mozzarella processed crap found at other places.  The burger itself was average pub paddy.  Sided with the same average fries as the chicken sandwich the burger is, again, an average pub fare.

The Cooper Street patio seemed to be an Elgin Street favourite.  As one of the Mayflower employees started setting out tables and chair sets the tables started to fill.  The poor employee could barely set them up fast enough for the incoming clientele.  The wait staff grew as the customer base grew as well with two others starting.  Obviously service is key at the Mayflower as everything is perfectly timed and gracious smiles plastered on employee faces.

Overall, the Mayflower is steady local reliable pub that provides average food. Great spot for those who don't know how to cook at home and are looking for average down home cooking in sandwiches, fish and chips and the like accompanied perhaps with a beer and excellent service. If you are not looking for gourmet sandwiches and on edge food experimentation, the Mayflower is not for you.  But if you are looking for a decent meal with great service, the Mayflower could almost be your second home.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sparking My Appetite for a Manhattan Burger

Manhattan's Handmade Burgers on Urbanspoon On Friday for lunch I decided to head downtown to check on an address for where I would be on Monday.  Nearby I had noted a Manhattan's Handmade Burgers (330 Sparks Street, Ottawa) was located.

I entered the Government of Canada office building, Place De Ville, and made an attempt to go to the food court.  Unfortunately the escalator was closed for renovation. I could see the food court was open, but I just couldn't get there from here.  Frustrating really no signage was provided for a detour except for a small sign saying to use the elevator or the stairs.  No real indication where either of these were.  I had to inquire with the burly looking security guard how to get from the main floor to the basement food court.  I was given directions to go down the hall and make a right onto the stairs to go to section "C".  I went down the hall and noticed a gentlemen entering the stairwell and followed him down three flights of stairs.  I entered to a large food court buried in a nondescript downtown Ottawa bureaucratic office tower to find a decent selection of options.

I quickly found Manhattan's Handmade Burgers with an already decent line at 11:45 A.M. I waited a reasonable 5 minutes in line to place my order.

The Order: 1 Yankee Burger Combo with fries and a can of Coke.

After ordering I entered another somewhat line to obtain my order.  This was more confusing  as it was more of a "find a spot to stay out of the way while waiting for your order" type area.  Another two minutes went by before I was called to order my burger toppings.  Then things kind of fell apart.  Other customers were having their orders of fries and poutine served up while my Styrofoam container languished on the counter.  Why were my fries not being served up and my order handed to me?  I grew impatient.  I tried to connect the dots of what was going on behind the counter.  Eventually I clicked in, the burger paddies were not finished cooking.  No wonder the simple orders of fries and poutine were flying out, these customers did not order burgers!

The burger paddy was eventually ready for it's new home stuck between two buns, lettuce tomato and other toppings.  Next the burger was joined with as fries moved in next door in the Styrofoam container.   I grabbed a few ketchup packets, a couple of napkins and a plastic fork before attempting to find a table in the food court.

The food court seating is a drearily dimly lit area that is hard to even read a newspaper in.  Sitting down, I unfurled my copy of the Globe & Mail and opened up my yummy looking lunch.

The fries were the first to be tasted.  Sure they were warm enough but the fries still reminded me of the Swiss Chalet fries like I mentioned before at another Manhattan's location. With a little ketchup the heap of fries soon disappeared.

The burger was next.  Compared to the A&W Teen burger the day before, this burger was far superior. The burger was slightly juicy and full of flavour.  Accompanied by carefully placed and properly prepared toppings this burger was superior to the fast food burgers of A&W but not quite there compared to Five Guys Burgers & Fries.  A well made burger for a lunch counter though.

Overall, this Manhattan's did not dissapoint food wise.  Price wise I did have issues with the other two Manhattan's with their cheeseburger combos being over $10.00 in price.  At $9.71 the Yankee Burger (a regular burger with regular toppings) does seem steep.  Compared to McDonald's and Harvey's this is true.  But alongside A&W at $9.50, Manhattan's presents a better burgers with a larger quantity of tastier fries.  So price wise I'm torn, A&W is indeed to expensive but Manhattan's I would argue should be lower at $9.00.  Ambiance wise this location needs to have the food court better lit. Sure this is not the fault of this Manhattan's as they are merely a tenant only and thus have no control over the seating and ambiance presented. If I was in the area looking for a solid burger I may return to this Manhattan's.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

A&W Improved Yet Not Improved

A&W on UrbanspoonNeeding to kill some time in Orleans, I decided to stop off at Place D'Orleans Mall to grab lunch and investigate what stores are on hand.  I visited the 2nd floor food court to find a wide array of the usual mall food court suspects.   With a burger in mind, I headed over to the A&W (110 Place D'Orleans Drive, Ottawa)

I was welcomed immediately by one of the two front counter people and immediately ordered.

The Order: 1 Teen Burger Combo (1 Teen Burger, 1 Medium Fries and 1 A&W Root Beer)

The order took an understandable 2 minutes to be prepared and come from the kitchen to the tray on the counter.  I picked up the tray and started to walk away.  I clicked in that on the tray a lack of ketchup.   Apparently, like I noted at my visite to the A&W location at St. Laurent Mall, A&W has undertaken a plan to reduce costs and increase revenue whenever possible. Things seem to have gone further than rationing napkins, straws and ketchup packets.  At this location (Place D'Orleans), I was not offered ketchup packets like at St. Laurent Mall and the Rideau Centre location.  In fact the previous customer had to request ketchup even after ordering fries with her order.  Seems A&W has figured out a way to be even stingier on the condiments by having customers request them in order to receive them.

I sat down and reviewed my tray again.  The packaging had changed claiming the new paper style packaging on both the fries and now burger is now compostable. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside at the new "greenish" feeling.  That "greenish" feeling soon disappeared as I looked around to see no compost or paper recycling options only glass and aluminum.  So where would the compostable packaging and left over material from the supposed compost material go? Right into the landfill.  No option of returning to the A&W compostable packaging to the counter or providing an appropriate receptacle was available.  Thus, I found the "compostable" label on the packaging is no more than a simple "green wash" to make corporate A&W look like they are doing something when when in actuality, A&W was doing nothing about the issue.

The fries also appeared to had changed.  The fries had more of a positive taste to the older A&W fries which tasted dryer. The new fries had a little moisture to them but were still crispy when being split in half.  The fries were a significant improvement over the old style A&W fries.

The Teen Burger seemed lacklustre. The burger toppings  seem to be just stuck in there just because they had to. One lettuce leaf clearly stuck out from both sides of the burger.  Obviously the lettuce pieces were not properly cut up for adding to the burger.  The toppings issue left the burger tasting uneven in terms of ketchup and other sauces.  Overall the burger looked like it was just thrown together by someone who could care less what the put out as food.  I was quite disappointed  especially considering the prices A&W charges for a Teen Burger combo, $9.50.

Overall, A&W as a chain needs to figure what exactly they as a burger serving establishment wish to provide. Does A&W want to be the old school Teen, Mama and Papa burger establishment catering to families?  Does A&W want to be a premium burger place like Hero Certified Burgers and Five Guys Burgers & Fries? If it is more like a family establishment, having a $9.50 Teen Burger Combo with the size of fries and drink is not very competitive compared to the McDonald's and Harvey's.  If they wish to move toward a more premium burger place then the quality of preparation I witnessed at the three A&W's in Ottawa I have visited.  Sure the fries were an improvement but the greenwashed food packaging, prison like rationing of condiments and the overall price seem to be lacking.

Monday, April 22, 2013

How the City of Ottawa's Free Water Efficiency Kit Cost $85

A month ago my wife found on the City of Ottawa's website a free residential water saving kit to any resident in the City of Ottawa. She also attended the City Hall service's centre to pick up the kit and was given a second kit for free as well.

City of Ottawa's Residential Indoor Water Efficiency Kit
I opened the twist tied clear bag to find four pieces.  1. A Low flow showerhead, 2. An aerator for a tap, 3. a blue bag like thing that clips to the inside of your toilet and 4. Instructions with the City of Ottawa's logo on them.  The bag itself had the "Conservation Warehouse International" logo and contact information it along with instructions on how to use the bag to determine if the existing fixtures in your house are water efficient or not.  The whole thing seemed simple enough.

A couple of weeks later I started the project.  I had just finished recaulking a bathroom tub.  I lucked out that the existing shower head had the gallons per minute etched right on it.  I compared it to the one supplied by the city and set to work. The only thing missing from the list of "Materials required" was Teflon tape.  A short trip to Canadian Tire rectified that problem.

Low Flow Showerhead
A quick watch of a two YouTube videos and reading the City of Ottawa supplied instructions, I was ready to start the project.  I slowly removed the old showerhead, cleaned off the old Teflon tape using a toothbrush, put new Teflon Tape on and installed the showerhead.  With fingers crossed I tested for leaks, SUCCESS!  No leaks! I'm awesome! Of course I had my wife test it for satisfaction.  1 job done, onto the next one.

I reviewed the aerators (the place where the water comes out of your taps) on all the existing taps.  The flow rate was also etched on the existing aerators at gallons per minute and noticed they were higher than those supplied by the city.

City of Ottawa supplied Aerator

I reviewed the city supplied instructions and started the project.  The old one needed a little bit of a wrench to get it unstuck.  No problem though getting it out.

The new aerator from the kit turned into a bit of an issue.  First the teflon tape was twice as wide as the threads of the aerator.  I tried cutting the tape in half, no luck. I tried leaving the Teflon overlapped on the top or doubling it up, no luck either.  Each  I would hand tighten the aerator into place, give a little wrench to ensure tightness and turn on the tap.  The aerator would inevitably leak.  After three tries, I gave up and explained it to my wife.

My wife removed the old tape and rewound new tape like perfectly like a perfectly ribbonned Christmas present.  I tried hand tightening the aerator into place and then turned on the water, leaks. I tightened it a little bit with the wrench, still leaks.  I gave up on it and only wanted to remove it.  The aerator would not come out.  It was stuck in there.  I tried with the wrench behind a cloth to protect from scratching, no luck.  I tried the wrench without the cloth and not only did the aerator come out but so did the thing it was attached too in the tap.

City supplied aerator (silver) and tap piece (brass)
Great, now I have a broken tap as well as a free useless aerator.  At least the tap itself worked as no water was leaking. The homebuilder who built my home also thought it would be awesome not to put secondary taps underneath the sink as well. Feeling angry, I left if for the evening to stew about what to do next and how much this seemingly simple do it yourself project might end up costing me.  I knew the water savings from the showerhead were just as well flushed down the nearby toilet due the aerator.  I felt sunk.  

A couple of days later, I took a couple of pictures with my phone and visited the Rona store.  The kind gentlemen in plumbing and I pieced what I had to do in pictures.  The project would be about $85.00 and include a new tap and under the sink turn offs.  Not a lick of plumbers putty or Teflon tape was required.  The only issue now was what does the wife want the tap to look like?  I left Rona with the two under the sink turn offs and instructions on how to measure from those new turn offs up to the sink to ensure I did the job right.

The wife and I visited Wal-Mart that weekend to find the taps and hoses to finish the project.  She loved a Waterpick tap that was decently priced. I reviewed the basement water plumbing system from start to finish.  Not only did the builder of my house not put under the counter turn offs, but did not put in additional turn offs in the basement to section off the plumbing system to different parts of the house.  ARGH!  

I filled a pail of water in case there were any emergency nature's calls to the bathroom. I then turned off the main water valve and turned on the taps in the basement to drain the water from the pipes.  We were good to go.

The awesome part of having PEX Plastic piping in your house is it is easier than copper to make changes.  I took a black magic marker and put a "H" and "C" on the hot and cold lines.  Again the builder had made life interesting by having these plastic pipes come up on the wrong side at the base of the cabinet to where they would connect above on the tap.  Thus, the connection between the PEX and the tap would would have to cross eventually to ensure everything works correctly in terms of hot and cold.

I was lucky the builder had left me with about a foot of slack at each tap location.  I took my hacksaw and made a straight cut across just below the crimped connection under the sink.  Perfect.  I then took an exacto knife and cut away any small bits of plastic to make a smooth edge.  So far so good, then I put the under the counter turn offs one by one. I had my wife turn on the main water to see if the taps were open or closed, unfortunately, they were open and we had a small flood underneath the counter.  Awesome!

I closed the taps, mopped out the bottom of the counter and we reattempted turning on the water again.  Success no leaks!  Only 30 minutes without water to the entire house.  

I read the instructions that came with the tap and watched a Home Depot video as well.  Seemed simple enough.  I installed the caulking and the tap in short order.  I did notice that the aerator supplied with the tap came preinstalled.  Perhaps that is why the old tap's aerator was a little hard to come off as it was also probably factory installed as well.

I finish up connecting the hoses from the newly installed under the counter water turn offs to the tap.  I double check, using my previously marked "H" & "C" to ensure the lines were attached correctly to the tap.  I turned the under the counter water on.  A slight tightening of the cold with the wrench and we were good at the connection point.  But why was the water dripping from inside the tap?  I peered in with my flashlight and could not see anything.  Was there a manufacturing defect on the tap? Just my luck I thought.  Hmmm...what to do.

I decided to leave the tap for the evening to dry out.  Perhaps there was water on top of the sink that was dropping down somehow via the tap holes or perhaps water sprayed up there from when the under the counter taps were installed.  Nervously, I went to bed to let nature's skills in evaporation run the course.

The next day, success! No  leaks as I played with the tap at a full blast.  I'm a handy man after all.  Of course in order to be a true handyman there has to be wife approval, which I had in spades!

Out of the kit, I still have a second aerator, two bags for the toilets and 1 showerhead.  I have yet to install these in fear of these kits costing me anymore handyman money.  In the end I learned a couple of things: 1. My house's plumbing is easy to fix if there any issues. 2. Never touch an aerator on a tap by yourself as it may end up costing $85.00!

Thanks goes to the City of Ottawa's water conservation programme for providing a free kit that in the end cost me $85.00!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Nate's Deli: An Ottawa Institution Returns

Nate's Deli on Urbanspoon An old Ottawa institution that was located on Rideau Street for decades.  The front looked like a regular delicatessen with meats and other tempting items.  But the back of the place was hidden a restaurant where delicious smoked meat sandwiches are served.  Owned by Dave Smith, Nate's was a 50 year old local dining institution with the best smoked meat in town.  He sold the restaurant to condos and supposedly retired.

Fast forward to earlier this year and Nate's Deli (340 Queen Street, Ottawa), completely reopened at the corner of Queen & Lyon Streets with the city awarded "Dave Smith Crescent" road sign proudly displayed. The institution had supposedly returned, but would the food live up to it?

I arrived at 11:30 P.M. and walked in the front door and waited.  I was met my "Bernie" who bubbly inquired if I wished to stay or go with my order. The whole place seemed to it's customers by giving them time to decide whether to eat in or take out as well as peruse the menu at your leisure. I said I would be more than happy to sit in the front window overlooking the Queen Street sidewalk.

I inquired with Bernie about the smoked meat sandwich platter selections and she opened the menu and showed me the options.  She offered to get me a drink and went to fetch it while I looked at extensive menu that included burgers and other diner food as well as the famous smoked meat sandwiches.   She returned and I was ready.

The Order: 1 Jumbo Smoked Meat Sandwich Platter (1 Smoked Meat Sandwich on White, Fries and Cole Slaw and a can of Pepsi).

I sat down at the front counter with place settings with silverware on paper placemats overlooking the Queen Street sidewalk.  Free copies of the local Metro newspaper were also available at each spot.  Nice thoughtful touch.  I did a quick look around noticing the main restaurant area is located along the Lyon Street side and the counter behind me on the Queen Street side.  Tiled floors throughout and old Nate's memorabilia on the walls seemed to be the order of the day.  People from nearby offices streamed in as the clock got closer to noon.

In five short minutes my order was prepared and in front of me.  I commented to Bernie that this was fast indeed.  She ensured I had the ketchup and mustard close enough and was ready to eat.

The first target on the plate was of course the smoked meat sandwich (watch the toothpick holding it together!).  The meat was fabulously fantastic. Slightly moist but not overcooked and dry that some pretenders have done before.  The juices were definitely there to make themselves known as well as the slight taste of mustard.

The fries, Bernie had promised me before ordering, were just like traditional chip truck fries.  Was Bernie right?  A squirt of a little ketchup and some dipping.... sure was. Perfectly slightly salted these were some of the best fries I have had since moving to Ottawa.  Potato slices by nature with a crispy outerside they complimented the sandwich beautifully like old school Jewish deli's.  

To finish up the delicous platter, the coleslaw.  A healthy portion was provided in glass container.  Unlike other restaurants, the coleslaw helping was generous. Tasty vinegar based professionally made salad with fresh tasting cabbage included.

Bernie returned after my meal to remark that I finished the sandwich quickly and offered desert.  I declined the desert feeling a little full. I asked for the bill and of course it came within 2 minutes.  Great service by Bernie.

Overall, Nate's has resurrected itself back to where it left Rideau Street. Delicious carefully made food with excellent service.  The only complaint? $17.50 for the platter seemed a little high.  Hopefully this price can be bumped down below $15.00. Service and food wise though Nate's Deli has returned with a vengence.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Over Caffeinated Planet Coffee

Planet Coffee on UrbanspoonToday I found myself in the Byward Market area and decided to stop off to a new coffee place, Planet Coffee (24 York Street, Ottawa).  Planet Coffee is a little hard to find and not visible from York Street but buried in Clarendon Lanes Court.  The best way to find the coffee shop is to enter off of York Street down the lane way into the court where there is an easily findable orange sign.

I visited at 11:45 A.M. to be second in line behind a customer who had just finished ordering and was in the process of fishing out a few quarters to pay for her purchase and then I was up.

The Order: 1 Medium Black Coffee.

The coffee was quickly poured by the lady behind the counter who took my order.  There are other servers on hand if ordering a cappacino etc. and need more time.

I purposely skipped the delicious looking deserts but do agree it may be in interesting spot, especially during the summer, to have a romantic Saturday or Sunday afternoon romantic date.  Summers, I could see the use of the nearby European style courtyard with intricatly done cobblestone style grounds to enjoy a slice of cake and a warm beverage.  But on this rainy April day, I decided do skip this and opted for a mini tour of the Byward Market area to see what there was going on.

The coffee was far from the best.  Sure it was a rich tasting coffee, but it was way too rich bordering on way to strong. For $1.94 per cup (including taxes) it is right up there with Bridghead coffee from nearby Dalhousie Street in price. Planet Coffee's beverage felt to so thick I kept looking for coffee grounds floating but found none.  Interesting that the signature item on their menu, i.e. coffee, didn't grab me and in fact was not even remotely close to being close to even Tim Hortons or Starbucks which are superior.

Overall, the coffee, and thus the signature drink in Planet Coffee's arsenel, is a big let down.  Sure the you can be wowed by the intricately constructed courtyard outside, but the coffee is way too strong and thick.   The surroundings outside are an interesting tourist attraction, but those are free to look at and do not come at the price of a cup of coffee.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Return to Father & Sons

Father and Sons on UrbanspoonBack in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I used to frequent Father & Sons (112 Osgoode Street, Ottawa) periodically for beer and a good filling home cooked style meal while attending the University of Ottawa across the street.  I remember the delicious lunches and dinners there always with a cold glass of beer with friends.  Good spot for university students to go at night with friends, grab a pitcher of beer, wings and share a few laughs. I have fond memories of this restaurant.

Today for lunch I decided to bring my wife along to see if Father and could match it's former glory.  We arrived at 11:45 after a short walk from OC Transpo's Campus Transitway Station, to a bustling restaurant that had been redecorated since I had last been there.  We were told to sit anywhere we pleased by a waitress.

We made short work of the the two step raised section of the restaurant to sit in a window facing King Edward Avenue. The chairs still seemed to be the same wood ones from yesteryear, but the tables looked newer and the walls had been artfully painted with murals here and there coupled with photos of University of Ottawa sports teams from yesteryear.

A minute after we sat a waiter stopped by, dropped off menus, and then inquired if we would like coffee. We declined the coffee and reviewed the menus. Strange, being 11:45ish one would figure the lunch menu complete with burgers, sandwiches and whatnot would be offered. But only the breakfast menu was dropped off.  Well, perhaps the waiter doesn't know what time it is and only dropped off the breakfast menu by mistake.  No worries.

The waiter came back with two glasses of water and asked if we were ready to order.  We inquired if lunch menus were available.  He said no lunch menus were not offered until 2 P.M. on the weekends and breakfast is served until then.  We asked for a few more minutes to decide on what to order and the waiter left.

I started thinking about it, this restaurant's main clientele is university students.  University students are not known for getting up early especially on weekends. Perhaps that is why breakfast is served to so late.  Then I continued to think about it, what about the athletes and others who get up early on weekends to practice? What about the mourning dove like students who enjoy mornings? They might like lunch at high noon on a weekend and would be totally finished with breakfast foods.  I could understand a weekend "all day breakfast" menu being offered alongside the lunch menu.  But I guess that would make too much sense.

I looked at my wife and indicated it was up to her what she wanted to do in terms of ordering or leaving for another restaurant that was more interested in serving lunch or at least breakfast and lunch together.  She replied we are here anyways and looked through the menu.  We settled on our order and waited for the waiter to return.

Soon enough the waiter returned with a couple of other breakfast menues for other tables and stopped by to take our order.

The Order: 1 Mikey's Big Breakfast (3 eggs any style, 3 slices of country style toast, 2 sausages, 2 bacon, 1 ham served with home fries and a cup of coffee (substituted tea). And 3 Large Chocolate Chip pancakes and a cup of coffee.

The order was not without issue, we tried to substitute a coffee for a green tea. But sadly, the waiter said they were out of green tea and only had Orange Pekoe. We went with Orange Pekoe and the waiter left. Upon further reflection, did Father & Sons not have the ever popular Earl Grey as well?  Never did ask.  But at least the soon after the waiter returned the tea and coffee. 
I visited the washroom to wash my hands before my breakfast lunch. Apparently the washrooms have not been touched in ten years. Sure they had been mopped and cleaned, but renovations were noticeably absent.
Had things fallen apart at the beloved F&S?  Other restaurants with a bit of history behind them had slid down the hill to mediocrity and to even worse in both ambiance and service but had F&S?  
The food came well within an impressive ten minutes from ordering. The waiter ensured we had everything we required and left. Hmmm, could the quickness of the arrival of food suggest it was not made to order and this was food that had been sitting in the kitchen?  Only one way to find out, taste the home fries for freshness and warmth. 
The Mikey's big breakfast was well done. All neatly arranged on a single plate brimming with food.  The home fries were hot and definitely ready for a little ketchup. Sure they would have stood by themselves taste wise but of course ketchup is a great accompanier to any traditional home fry. The two average sized sausages were next, average tasting but not lacking in the warmth department.  The ham looked like a slice of baloney, but definitely was not as it was warmed and tasted exactly like ham should. My wife enjoyed the scrambled eggs from this plate.  The toast was excellent, not burnt, but also not soggy from too much butter. Bottom line on this plate, it would be something similar I would find at a home if my Dad was cooking a big greasy spoon style breakfast.  
My wife and I split the chocolate chip pancake plate.  The plate comes with three huge pancakes that take up almost the entire plate itself. Nice! The only space left is for the syrup and butter packets.  Packets? Yes, F&S uses individual prepacked syrup instead of letting you pour it for yourself.  I guess this is to limit quantities from overzealous students wanting to open a maple syrup factory instead of just enjoying a few pancakes with a few buddies.  The pancakes to me were top notch. The chocolate chips were still a excellently melt in your mouth gooey and mixed well with the maple syrup.  My wife thought the pancakes were a little sweet but understood it was due to the chocolate chips.  
Drink wise each meal comes with coffee or, if requested, an understandable substitution to tea. The coffee and tea cups though appear small.  Added insult is the $1.00 charge for refills listed on the menu.  After receiving the bill though, I noticed the $1.00 charge was waived even though our waiter had refilled my coffee cup once. Not sure if this was mistake or on purpose, but was a nice gesture nonetheless. 
After finishing our meals, we requested the bills and the waiter dropped off two bills to our table.  Yes, the waiter had split the bills which is understandable considering that normally the restaurant serves students who pay individually. We just merely added them together, got our stuff and found our waiter processing another payment at the cash register at the bar.  We stopped off, handed both receipts to him with payment and left.  
Overall, Father and Sons needs a little help here and there.  The lunch menus need to be introduced for on weekends starting around noon. If kitchen space is an issue, perhaps a hybrid weekend brunch menu could be developed with a mixture both breakfast and lunch items offered.  The washrooms are in dire need of upgrades as well. But the food and service continue to be excellent.  Delicious hearty meals that taste like they were made at home accompanied with good service is exactly what a student needs during long weeks at school hitting the books.  In that regard, Father & Sons continues to satisfy. 

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Rimbombante at T.A.N. Coffee

T.A.N. Coffee on Urbanspoon
Friday evening, after dinner with friends, we were treated to a CD release party put on by Ottawa local jazz group Rimbombante for the release of "Maria Has Lost Her Soul" at the T.A.N. Coffee Café (317 Wilbrod, Ottawa) in the historic Sandy Hill neighbourhood of Ottawa.
Turned out that most of Sandy Hill showed up for this CD release party as  the T.A.N. was packed with locals. Good thing we got there early, otherwise we would have been relegated to the back of the place standing and squinting to see the musicians perform.   

After a great dinner and conversation, it was nice to walk over to the café for coffee, a little conversation and some local music.  

When we arrived the musicians were just setting up.  So we found a table, ordered our drinks and sat down. 
The Order: 1 Medium Roast Black Coffee, 1 Hot Chocolate and 1 Medium Roast Coffee with Cream. 
The black coffee was perfect as apparently T.A.N. supposedly roasts their own fair trade coffee on site.  But there has been some speculation that this may not be the case as the coffee roasting machine present doesn't seem to have any evidence of use.  The coffee though is superb tasting and way better than you would find at any national chains.  It is right up there taste wise with Bridgehead, the local Ottawa coffee chain that also roasts it's coffee in the Ottawa area.  
The hot chocolate temperature wise wasn't that warm. Sure it was slightly better than lukewarm, but should have been piping hot when served just like when you were a kid being served by your mother. 
The music started slowly as apparently the drummer had car issues on the way in Highway 417.  So the pianist started on his keyboard allowing the sound person to adjust the sound levels somewhat.  The rest of the band, with the exception of the drummer, soon followed to play a couple of pieces from their albumn.  Of course apologies were issued from the band about the problem of no drummer.  Nobody in the crowd seemed to care of the lack of drums at the beginning as they enjoyed a full coffee shop with camaraderie and good jazz music.   
Eventually, the drummer rolled in that provided an opportunity not only for the drummer to set himself up, but for more drinks to be poured and legs to be stretched.  More music eventually continued.  

Rimbombante playing at T.A.N. Coffee Cafe
The drums only enhanced the already good music along with the stand up base, saxophone, guitar and hand drums.  
Overall, T.A.N. Coffee Cafe was an excellent local spot to enjoy a cup of coffee.  Many University of Ottawa students use the cafe during the day to grab a cup of java and study.  Hidden in the local neighbourhood, off the beaten path, T.A.N. Cafe is like a local coffee spot to meet the locals.  With the hopefully continued support of local artisans and musicians like Rimbombante, this cafe will continue to thrive. 

Pure Gelato Goodness on William

Pure Gelato on UrbanspoonFriday I decided to grab a treat for myself and decided something cool was in order.  I visited Pure Gelato (71 William Street, Ottawa) in the Byward Market in the afternoon.

This Pure Gelato location is paired up with a Sugar Mountain candy.  This means not only can Ottawa tourists obtain their hotel room sugar supply but also indulge in a frozen treat which is especially enjoyed on a warm summer day.

This being a cool April day, I was the only one overlooking the vast glass display cases of flavours of gelato. I perused gradually eliminating flavours while the friendly employee behind the counter smiled and said if I had any questions, wished to taste or order she would be more than happy to help.   I narrowed down my options to one and decided to order.

The Order: 1 scoop of Peanut Butter Skor

The employee scooped up the gelatoey goodness and handed me the cone.  $4.99 later I was on my way out the door.

One of the great things about the Byward Market area is there is so much to look at.  With gelato cone in hand I headed northwards into the market.  In this area of Ottawa, especially during the summer, it is quite active with tourists, buskers, local artisans and farmers sharing their wares.  Thus it is a great spot to browse while enjoying a frozen treat or other nosh from the many nearby sandwich, coffee or gelato shops.

The Peanut Butter Skor Gelato was excellent.  The peanut butter was quite evident with a hint of the chocolate taste from the Skor.  Pretty darn good treat tastewise but at $4.99 including taxes for a single scoop a little on the pricey side.

Overall, Pure Gelato is in a good spot to take advantage of the tourist traffic walking by as well as a special treat.  At $4.99 for a single scoop though it is a little pricey to take the entire family too.  But with at least thirty flavours to choose from coupled with almost a warehouse worth of candies at the partnered candy store, it is pretty hard not to walk in the front door.


Thursday, April 04, 2013

No Coupons at Starbucks

Starbucks on UrbanspoonJust before Easter I sorted through the unaddressed detritus in my mailbox delivered by the awesome posties at Canada Post to find some coupons courtesy of Starbucks.

I thought of using them last week on my trek via the Starbucks at the University of Ottawa but, upon reading the fine print, found they were only valid from April 1st to 15th.  So much for that idea.  Not sure who the dimwit was at Starbucks or Canada Post who thought of delivering the coupons about a week before they are valid instead of closer to the due date. At least this was one occasion where it helped to read the bolder fine print on a coupon and left the coupons in my coat pocket for later use.

Fast forward to today, I found myself wandering through downtown Ottawa doing errands and near a Starbucks (100 Elgin Street, Ottawa) that you would miss unless you fell over it. The address claims this Starbucks is located on "Elgin Street" but actually you enter off of Laurier Avenue.  To make matters worse, it is in the same building by the dominating historic facade of the Lord Elgin Hotel which directs your attention  to their impressively kept facade.   But I digress.

I visited at 11 A.M. and walked up the cash and duly presented my coupon before ordering.  The green aproned Barista took my order and typed it in.

The Order: 1 Mocha.

Next, she handed back my coupon explaining they don't accept them here as they are not a corporate store. I looked at her puzzled.  She explained that this location is not a corporate store and the coupon says "Offer good only at participating Starbucks stores in Canada."   I still looked puzzled and inquired where the closest location was.  She said there is one at Slater & Metcalfe would be more than willing to accept the coupon.

I left this location with nothing purchased.  I had gone in looking to try a Mocha drink which I normally do not order as I'm unsure what to put in it.  At $2.00 per Mocha I was willing to give it a try and get a little guidance from a knowledgeable Barista at a quiet store.  Sadly this wasn't so due Starbucks' incompetence.

Starbucks' incompetence? There has got to be a way for Starbucks franchises like this Starbucks to accept the corporate coupons and receive compensation from corporate for them. I believe McDonald's does this as I've used similar McDonald's coupons in the Toronto area, Ottawa and New York City without any refusals.  Not sure why Starbucks' couldn't facilitate this.  Good thing as well I didn't attempt to use these coupons at the University of Ottawa Starbucks either, I would have probably had the servers there flummoxed.

Overall, Starbucks has disappointed me.  I was there to try a beverage Starbucks had paid to promote through the printing and delivery of the coupons.  Starbucks' own corporately branded store refused the coupon upon some lame excuse of not being a "franchise store".  I left the store feeling puzzled and thought about working my way up Metcalfe Street to the corporate store.  But changed my mind, I decided to duck into the nearby Tim Hortons instead where they welcome you with open arms and no lame excuses. The only  dissapointment from Tim Hortons? I didn't win anything in the Roll Up The Rim contest.

From the Mailbag: Dear Virginia....

From the mailbag:

------------------------------------------------

From: Virginia Bahi (virginiabahi@ymail.com)

Sent: April-03-13 9:22:22 PM

To:

Subject: Hope you are doing great.

I believe you will like to make good and nice friends from anywhere in the world. My is Virginia, i am a beautiful and honest girl. I want to be your friend after viewing your contact while searching for a reliable friend to mingle with, share some pictures and more. If you care to know more about me. I will tell you more as soon as i receive your reply. Thanks, i wish you all the best...

-------------------------------------------------------

Hi Virginia,

Thanks for your kind message. I hope you are doing well wherever in the world you happen to be.
I'm not sure how it came about that I'm a reliable person based on my "contact". Did we meet somewhere on the street and I didn't recognize you? Do you say this to every random person you pass by on the street? I would love to know. Perhaps you could send me a YouTube video of your technique. May I suggest you try filming on the downtown 4 train approaching Grand Central in New York City at about 8:30 on a Monday morning? I have good authority many New Yorkers are quite pleased to make the acquaintance of someone at that hour.

Finally, I notice you left the "TO:" function on the e-mail you sent me blank. Is this because you "BCC'd" it to several other people to make them feel special as well? Please excuse the skepticism but I believe "good and nice friends" should write personal notes directed at each other directly without hiding anything or sending it to other people.

I apologize for the skepticism as well because I also nearly missed your message as it ended up in my spam folder. Hopefully, in the future this will not happen but this also could be a sign your e-mail has been blacklisted on the internet. As a handsome and honest boy I thought you should know this and hopefully have the all powerful Google Machine fix that.

Finally, there is no need to reply with pictures. I will save you time and photo upload hell by not requiring these. If you are interested in making contact again, please feel free to comment on this or any other posting on this blog. No need to e-mail me as somehow your e-mail address has ended up on my "Blocked Sender list" along with several other e-mail addresses I have from high up scammer type African officials wanting to send me millions of dollars. No offence really as I don't know how to remove your e-mail address from this list and don't wish or have the time learn how.

Thank you again for contacting me and I hope this message finds you well.

Sincerely,

Michael

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Tim Hortons on Laurier: Service a Prime Minister Would Love

Tim Hortons on UrbanspoonJust grabbed a quick cup of coffee from Tim Hortons (161 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa).  I realized that this place is pretty unappreciated and underated.  A Tim Horton's that has this stature? Could it be?  Sadly, yes this is so, now to explain.

I have been to this location a couple of times after getting annoyed at the stupidity of the customer line ups of the sister store at Metcalfe & Slater. The Laurier Tim Hortons location is like a breath of fresh air.  The employees here love to see an empty line up awaiting service and cheerfully serve their customers like you may be their best customer of all time.  Fast, friendly service is one thing, but how about the food?

The Order: 1 Medium black coffee.

Today I ordered my usual coffee selection, 1 medium black coffee, which is a good way to tell if a Tim Horton's location is on top of their game. I've had everything from weak coffee to a little sugar added to perfection.

The Laurier location had two employees serve me, one took my payment while the other poured the coffee.  The coffee was perfect, not too strong, not to weak and definitely no sugar added as requested.  On previous visits, I have also had fresh coffee each time made almost better than Tim Horton himself would have called for.

Overall, I've found this Tim Hortons to be a quiet spot to grab a coffee read the paper or be on your merry way.  Good corporate chain food and drink coupled with well trained employees and above average cleanliness help to make it.  Hopefully the Tim Hortons at Slater & Metcalfe can learn from this location, Ottawa Timmies addicts would greatly appreciate it.

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