This year, I arranged vacation days around the Mother’s Day weekend to ensure that there was ample time to celebrate the mothers in my life: mine, my better half’s, and her godmother. Best of all, I would have a day to recover afterward. Having a four day weekend and a long list of tasks to accomplish, we rented a car, picking it up Friday morning. Between chasing from one end of the city to the other, foodies both, we indulged in visiting several eateries, normally difficult to get to without a car.
Whalesbone Sustainable Fish and Oyster Supply
For lunch on the Friday, we went to The Whalesbone Sustainable Oyster and Fish Supply, located 504-A Kent Street.
There, we encountered Chef/Manager Kate Klenavic in her characteristic toque, which she seems to be always wearing in her pictures.
What makes the Whalesbone Supply sustainable? According to its handouts, it is committed to sourcing shell-fish and fin-fish from suppliers who practice sustainable farming and fishing. While their product list is small, their targeted species reflect, among other factors, the following:
- populations abundant enough to sustain fisheries
- preference to hook & line caught fish over trawling
- preference to on-shore farmed fish over open water
- preference to string and rack farmed shellfish over ground culture
- minimized catch of non-targeted species
- protection of spawning grounds, sea beds, and kelp beds
- sustainable management initiatives
Together, purchasing sustainable fish from Whalebone Supply ensures that fisheries remain healthy, less species go extinct, the food chain is preserved, “by catch” is reduced, and damage to the natural habitat of fish and other marine life is preserved. They are also honest about their fish being shipped to Ottawa frozen when not in season.
Between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, Fridays and Saturdays, Whalesbone Supply sells their “Famous Brown Bag Lunches”, made from available stock. Because of unfortunate weather patterns in Western Canada, leading up to the day of our visit, the bag lunches were restricted to yellow perch and mackerel from Lake Erie and sockeye salmon from Alaska.
Jenn had the Perch Dog Sandwich (cost: $5.50)
Think incredibly fresh tasting, lightly floured, and pan fried fillet of perch in a soft kaiser (with toasted sesame seeds). It was accompanied by lightly pickled onions, shredded lettuce, and homemade mayonnaise. The bite I took was amazing, balancing crispy freshly cooked fish with crunchy lettuce, fatty mayonnaise, and bright pickled onions. The onions reminded us of sauerkraut.
I had the hot smoked salmon sandwich (cost: $6.50)
When the Whalesbone Supply opened, the father of one of the co-founders found that he had a hot smoker that he wasn’t using and offered it to the establishment. It is now located at the rear of the building. The result: Whalesbone Supply produces some really nice hot smoked sustainable fish, which they sell to a steady stream of customers. Hot smoking fish means that it is lightly cured and cooked in smoke that has not been cooled. As such, the fish is not preserved and will need to be refrigerated to prevent spoilage. Textures different to cold smoked fish are produced, but hot smoking adds a wonderful smoky flavour.
Case in point, the hot smoked salmon. Think gently flaked fish that came from smoker to plate, in a soft kaiser. It was accompanied with a sour cream sauce, lightly caramelized onions, and capers. This take on the classic cold smoked salmon with cream cheese and capers was great. The same balance is achieved between savory, smoky, and bright flavours, all carried by the fat in the sour cream. But, there is added sweetness and texture from the onions. Yum!
Total: $20.00 including 2 drinks, taxes, and tip. This is quite the bargain, considering that the fish came straight from the supplier.
Speaking of drinks, Jenn and I purchased two types of ginger ale, a more traditional canned Schweppes and a much more full flavoured Stewart’s Ginger Beer.
Stewart’s didn’t carry the strong and searing punch of ginger like the Jamaican ginger beer I tried at the Ottawa Bagel Shop. It was also less sweet than the Schweppes.
Please do not confuse the Whalesbone Sustainable Fish and Oyster Supply with the Whalesbone Restaurant on Bank Street.
Both are affiliated, but one is a supplier. The other is reputedly the go to place for fish and seafood in Ottawa. Further, the Whalesbone Supply has no seating area. Bag lunches are strictly takeout, made to order, and, if 10 or more will be purchased at any one time, they require prior warning by phone.
After having accomplished Friday’s errands, Jenn and I took her sister Jazzie for dinner at, what I feel is the flagship location of locally owned “The Works” burger chain. Its Glebe location on 580 Bank Street is the oldest of the 5 establishments. The others are located in Kanata, Orleans, Manor Park, and Westboro. I believe the Glebe location is where the “legend” was born and it serves as the example for the others. As such, while Jenn and I have had Westfest burgers from the Westboro location, we decided to have our first authentic “The Works” experience in the Glebe.
The interior of the Works in the Glebe is meant to resemble that of a factory with gages and other industrial equipment affixed to walls, broken masonry, tools embedded in the exposed brick, and dozens of superfluous bolts.
Copper pipe was even used to construct the restaurants railings.
Its dim interior is strategically lit by brushed steel overhead single bulb light fixtures. Tables display the Works’ logo, seemingly burned into the wood surface.
Larger tables are encompassed with chain-link fence.
Going with the industrial feel, drinks are served in 500 mL Pyrex measuring cups
Jazzie stuck with water while Jenn and I each ordered coke ($2.59/each). If you want the pop “floated”, an added scoop of ice cream is $1.33 ($3.92/each).
Food is served in paper lined, high walled, metal trays
According to its menu the Works serves 5 gourmet burger patties: pure ground beef, whole chicken breast, ground turkey, veggie burger, or portabello mushroom cap. Upgrades to organic beef, domestic elk (supplied from Ottawa’s own Elk Ranch in Kanata), or Pacific Tuna cost $3.92/each.
Regarding the burgers, they are made to order, requiring an average of 20 minutes cooking time to make. Why? The Works promises that its burger patties are not pressed on the grill during “live fire” cooking to an internal temperature of 165F. They are also spiced and contain no filler. The raw patties are rested after they are formed. And, the cooked patties are served in lightly toasted whole wheat or cornmeal white buns. To pass time, the restaurant encourages patrons to kick back with a tower of onion rings or another appetizer and a pint of beer.
Jazzie ordered the “Smokey Mountain Burger”, choosing a ground beef patty, without cheese. It came dressed in barbecue sauce and with two strips of crisped bacon. Jenn and I ordered the “Hamburger Mary.” Hers, with a ground beef patty, but without cheese. Mine, with an organic beef patty, with cheddar cheese. Both came dressed with mayonnaise and layered with a fried egg, a slice of tomato, and a leaf of lettuce. Incidentally, because the burgers were cooked to order, the residual heat from the patties cooked the lettuce as we ate them.
This is what I was served:
Instead of sweet potato shoe string fries, which were freshly fried from frozen, crisp on the outside and tender in the center, I substituted spicy “die-cut” chips.
Initially, I thought I had ordered house made potato chips. Instead, I was served something reminiscent of “pommes soufflÃƒÂ©e.” Pommes soufflÃƒÂ©e are very sophisticated French fried potatoes that are thinly sliced and fried twice, once at 300F and again at 375F. During the second fry, the slices puff open, forming crisp pillows. Mine were freshly fried, but only once. Some actually “pillowed.” All carried carried a surreptitious spicy payload that was not apparent from their uniform pale colour. When we asked how they were spiced, our trainee waiter came back telling us that the cooks had no idea. The frozen “package” was non-descriptive.
I enjoyed my chips with malt vinegar, a bottle of which graced every table.
That said, I had perhaps the best burger experience ever at the Glebe Works. My burger was well crusted, flavourful, juicy, and satisfying. The cheddar cheese had melted and partially bubbled over the edge of the egg onto the patty. The egg added body (something more to chew on), its yolk helping to carry savory flavours. The bun was toasted and warm, an added touch that many restaurants forget. Since tomatoes were not in season, I didn’t expect the slice to be sweet. It wasn’t, but it added fresh flavours along with the lettuce.
The burger was in fact so juicy that juice ran down my hands towards my forearm as I ate my burger. Contrary to what the menu says, a burger from The Works is NOT date food.
Since we both had the same burger, what difference is there between the two patties? My burger with its organic beef patty cooked up juicier than Jenn’s regular ground beef patty.
If you compare the cross sections, the regular ground beef patty is slightly denser. Though, Jenn did not complain about it being dry.
The service at the restaurant was impeccable. The trainee waiter was accompanied by a regular one, whom he was shadowing. Both happily explained the menu, answered questions, and checked back on us often. Our drink orders were served quickly and our dishes arrived exactly 20 minutes after we ordered. This is quite the feat as the restaurant was packed with a line of prospective patrons leading out the door and down the street.
Faithful patrons waited upwards of 30 minutes to get into the Works. Between the excellent burgers and great service at this location of The Works it is no wonder.
With tip and taxes, 3 burgers with fixings, cost us $61.00.
For lunch the next day, Jenn, Jazzie, and I stopped by our neighbourhood Istanbouli restaurant before dropping off the car rental.
While they ordered their regular trios: chicken shawarma sandwiches with potatoes and garlic sauce, I asked to replace my potatoes with falafel.
The chicken shawarma was impeccable as usual. The falafel was loosely packed, fried crisp on the outside, warm and soft in the middle. It tasted of ground chickpeas and herbs. The sesame sauce added a nutty flavour. Some shawarma locations in Ottawa over fry falafel, crusting it substantially and making it taste almost burned. This is not the case at Istanbouli’s.
Determination: Ethnic Middle Eastern – Istanbouli: —$, –***
The Whalesbone Sustainable Oyster and Fish Supply
504-A Kent Street
580 Bank Street (in the Glebe)
Istanbouli Shawarma House
81 Holland Avenue
Tags: back posted, burger, Centretown, cheap eats, Glebe, Hintonburg, Istanbouli, shawarma, The Works, Whalesbone Supply