A little over a year ago, the Foolish Chicken opened, adding a chicken and rib eatery to the row of higher-end (Allium and Canvas) and ethnic (Pho Van Van and the Nihao Teahouse) restaurants on Holland Avenue. My better half and I watched in anticipation as what was a failed Indian/Canadian buffet house transformed into a two story family-oriented restaurant. Every now and then, I actually marveled at the sheer convenience of having rotisserie chicken nearby.
Here is what the Foolish Chicken looked like during its opening week, on June 25, 2007.
The artwork on the signage comes from Allison Fowler and the AliCat Art Studio on Wellington Street W (1395B), located above the Sweet Pea Children’s Boutique. This, from server, bartender, and co-owner Natalie Aucoin.
Regarding its menu, at $8.99 or $9.99 for a quarter chicken dinner (leg or breast with wing respectively) with coleslaw and fresh cut fries, Foolish Chicken’s prices are comparable to those from the larger chain Swiss Chalet restaurants. An equivalent dinner at Swiss Chalet, according to its online ordering website, runs you $9.09 and $11.39, respectively. According to Swiss Chalet’s pre-Christmas promotion, 2 quarter chicken (leg portions) dinners with drinks and dessert cost $19.99.
At Foolish chicken, a glass of pop runs you a whopping $2.25 each. Desserts are purportedly homemade and cost anywhere from $4.99 for a scoop of ice cream to $6.99 for phyllo-wrapped banana. Considering that phyllo can be purchased from the frozen case at any mega-mart and working with it is easier than making a peanut butter sandwich, the latter dessert is rather overpriced. BTW, a 355 mL can of Pepsi from the Swiss Chalet online ordering website runs you only $1.59.
Given the price point, my better half, a colleague from the office, and I stopped by for a supper a couple months after the restaurant opened. I had the Foolish Chicken Club. They ordered breast quarter chicken dinners. Mine, was sliced barbecue chicken breast, bacon, and lettuce, served atop a wedge of toasted but bready focaccia. Instead of fresh cut fries, I ordered the house salad. I enjoyed my sandwich. The chicken was moist and well seasoned; the bacon, crisp and crunchy; and the lettuce, fresh. My salad was also decent. The morsel of chicken Jenn gave me to try was succulent and tender. My colleague was likewise impressed. All-in-all, our meals were good.
That said, I am sorry that I didn’t bring my camera to document our first encounter at the Foolish Chicken, because the next time Jenn and I went, we left less than impressed.
Following a glowing review from the Ottawa Citizen’s restaurant critic Anne DesBrisay, Jenn and I returned one Friday evening after we finishing our third furniture rotation to allow our contractors to continue their work on our renovations. Famished, we both ordered wraps for dinner.
In her review, DeBrisay praised the husband and wife team who ran the restaurant and its chef, Mark Blakely. Me, I have nothing but contempt for an establishment that uses words like “barbecue” and “Carolina-style” sauce when it produces a “BBQ Boneless Rib Wrap” that disintegrated into a pool of watery fluid and broken flour tortilla after my first bite.
Just look at the pictures. The bottoms of the wraps were soaked and ready to give when they were served to us.
Before anyone races to the menu, it’s the Foolish Chicken’s website that makes mention of a Carolina-styled barbecue sauce.
I’ve a feeling that the restaurant’s “secret” sauce for its ribs is also Carolina-styled as well. This is because, the wraps were so vinegary that mine had me coughing from the sheer acidity. I had to de-construct the sandwich and drain some of the “sauce” to make it edible. With the tortilla already soaked through, this was a delicate task.
According to about.com and wikipedia.net, North Carolina-style barbecue sauce is vinegar-based but varies by region. Eastern North Carolina barbecue sauce is only vinegar-based. Western North Carolina barbecue sauce is more tomato-based. Centrally, the barbecue sauce uses a mixture tomato and vinegar. Elsewhere, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, the barbecue sauce is less tart, sweet-tasting and tomato-based.
To me, the vinegar-based barbecue sauce tradition comes from vinegar providing brightness or “tang” to contrast the savory flavors of slow smoked pork or grilled chicken. There is no contrast when there is an over abundance of “brightness.” One has to wonder about the logic behind having rib meat that is glazed with a vinegar-based sauce, adding a vinegary salsa, and then saucing the wrap with more vinegar-based sauce.
As per its menu, here is how the wraps were constructed: soft (translated: soaked) flour tortilla, lettuce, peppers, onions, grated cheddar, salsa, boneless rib meat, and “special” TFL sauce
Everything is as the menu described, save for rice that seemed to be added as filler.
Why filler? If you wander over to OttawaFoodies’ accounts of the Foolish Chicken, you will find a number of negative reviews involving the restaurant’s “frugality.” When they ran out of corn bread, the owner refused to substitute the side or add more of an existing one. When they ran out of chicken, the restaurant served a chickenless club sandwich. According to an ex-server, the restaurant also serves day-old coffee. It isn’t too much of a stretch to deem unlisted rice in a wrap filler.
The dinner cost $27.66, excluding tip, including two pops, and taxes.
Apparently, we dined at the restaurant, shortly before the Foolish Chicken’s celebrated its one year anniversary.
I am not ready to celebrate the restaurant…
After reading DesBrisay’s review again, reviewing the accounts from OttawaFoodies, and leveraging my experiences, I believe that the only good dishes served at the Foolish Chicken involve no sauces. This means that an astute patron must order a chicken dinner because the chicken is roasted with a dry rub. And no, this means the chicken is not “Carolina-style.” For drinks, don’t order coffee.
Everyone seems to consistently rave about the Foolish Chicken’s desserts. No disrespect Ms. DesBrisay, but I will have to try them firsthand before I believe it. If they taste vinegary, I won’t be returning.
Here are the business cards for Foolish Chicken and the AliCat Art Studio
79 Holland Avenue
AliCat Art Studio
1395-B Wellington Street West