Giving Ottawa Tavern a second chance
A few years back, I had what was quite possibly the worst dining experience of my life. Drinks took a half hour, entrees were brought out at different times and before appetizers, servers were rude and nothing seemed to be cooked well.
It all happened at Ottawa Tavern, and I swore I would never eat there again (especially because it happened on my birthday). If GR Grub were around back then, I would’ve easily given this one star at the most.
But late last week, I reluctantly obliged to a request to dine there after work, with a co-worker and my girlfriend. We started off with a drink and some salt and pepper chips. Both were brought out immediately to us.
The chips were great — perfectly spiced, not too salty or spicy. And they definitely weren’t just taken out of a bag and slopped on a plate. The drinks were equally surprising – my rum and Coke was heavily liquored up, making me wait for it to water down a little before I could even finish drinking it. Buyer beware — I could only order one of these before I switched to another drink, a seemingly obvious easy-to-serve Guinness.
But easy-to-serve it was not. The Guinness was brought out to me and nearly all of it was foam. I immediately brought this to my server’s attention, who made deliberate note to tell me that “she thought so too.” I appreciated the gesture, and it took about three tries for the bartender to get it right. That begs the question though — how can a bartender not know how to pour a beer, in a popular downtown pub?
The food was a delightful surprise though. I decided to make my own burger, and started with the $4.50 Angus beef patty, with a brioche bun. The list of toppings was overwhelming to me, and it was difficult to make a decision on what I exactly wanted to give life to my burger. I went with a garlic aioli, herb roasted tomatoes and smoked gouda cheese. Needless to say, I think I came up with a great combination. There was just a perfect amount of aioli, and the cheese worked perfectly with it. I could’ve used a few more tomatoes, but they were enjoyable and a great addition.
We ordered two baskets to share — one of fries and the other onion rings. The fries were just as tasty as the chips, and didn’t need any ketchup or dipping sauce. The onion rings, though, were a miss. They were a little too greasy, and too soft. Onion rings should be large (which these were), but also crunchy and full of flavor. The rings were somewhat bland, and definitely needed a dipping sauce along with them.
All in all though, I was much more impressed with my second time at Ottawa Tavern than the first. The service was much improved, and Gilmore Collection seemed to have worked out the major kinks since my last visit. Though I still think there are some adjustments to be made, I no longer will turn my face up at the thought of eating at Ottawa Tavern. Instead, I’ll embrace it.Ottawa Tavern ( Rating: out of 5 )
Where: 151 Ottawa Ave NW (view map)
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m. to close; Saturday 5 p.m. to close; closed Sunday
Ambiance: Family-friendly downtown bar
How much will it cost you: “Make your own burgers” average around $6 after toppings.
Credit cards: All major
Contact: (616) 451-8000