In all honestly, I try my darnest to avoid outings to “big box” strip malls in Ottawa until it becomes absolutely necessary and I can “cluster-shop.” That is, I tend to put off trips to Walmart until I find myself needing to visit stores around it as well. Why? I find the Walmart shopping experience infuriating. An impossibly large number of shoppers is always rushing about at high speeds pushing carriages overflowing with everything from traditional groceries to electronics, clothes, shoes, and the odd rug. Then, there are those purchasing furniture who decide to pickup their big box item first and wander the aisles aimlessly, forcing innocent bystanders to leap heroically aside for safety. Then, there are the teenage Walmart employees who are more interested in flirting with each other or texting their friends who are themselves working part time than help you find your next purchase. You know, when you reluctantly go to a Walmart to purchase that one item; when you are trying to navigate the maze of nonsensically placed merchandise in aisles that are marked by lying signage; when you are valiantly trying to avoid colliding with other shoppers and their purchases.
There are times I think the big box store shopping experience is purposely engineered to cause anxiety because Walmart and their ilk are in league with surrounding big box restaurants. Anxiety tends to make shoppers hungry. Hungry shoppers are so frustrated when they leave the stores they fall prey to the lunch or dinner specials at the nearby McDonald’s, Harvey’s, Montanna’s, Moxie’s, Denny’s, or Kelsey’s.
Such was the case this past Saturday when I found myself having put off certain chores and purchases to the point that I was forced to visit Kanata’s Centrum. There, after my better half and I did some banking, we visited Walmart to find me a low cost pair of running shoes for the office. And, we went to Loblaws and Chapters’, searching for the latest issue of the Ottawa Magazine. Speaking of which, can someone tell me why magazine purveyors in Ottawa are selling three issues of the Ottawa magazine? In the past two days, I have found the September and October issues on news stands, the former with its 101 Tastes piece and the latter with a profile of Chef Josh Brokington and his Rockland Gastro. The November issue was released Friday, containing Chris Knight’s Top 10 list of fine dining restaurants in Ottawa. But, I digress…
After developing an anxiety-induced appetite, Jenn and I wandered into Kelsey’s, she hearing there is a new lunch menu and me oddly craving a burger. Indeed, the restaurant that bills itself as somewhere that “knows your name”, adopting the famous Gary Portnoy-sung theme song from the former sit-com Cheers, changed up their lunch menu for the fall. Served by a very friendly, personable, and helpful waiter, who just graduated from Algonquin college’s advertising program, we ordered a peppercorn burger with a house salad and a new fall lunch entree, the Sheppard’s pie. What we were served reinforced my misgivings about big box restaurants. I neglected to bring my camera.
Here is what the sheppard’s pie is supposed to look like according to the Kelsey’s website:
Strictly, when “sheppard’s pie” is made with beef, it is “cottage pie.” Sheppard’s pie is made with lamb. What Jenn was served was later confirmed to be made made from beef. It looked like three disher-portioned mounds of mince were put in a gratin dish, topped with mashed potatoes, baked, and more than likely finished under a salamander to colour the potatoes. After taking a bite, Jenn exclaimed, “This tastes like cheese!”
Indeed, grated processed mozzarella cheese seemed sprinkled over and crusted along with the mashed potatoes. We called over our waiter and consulted the menu again. There was no cheese in the menu description. Our waiter even exclaimed in surprise, “Cheese? Are you sure?” I scraped off a grating of cheese that had been baked onto the gratin dish’s wall to show him. He then graciously offered to replace the dish, sans cheese topping, leaving Jenn with a plate of overcooked “buttered” peas. What surprised us about the peas, were the pearl onions. They tasted pickled. I always thought pickled onions only accompanied mushy peas and the dish had fallen out of fashion. What was served were sauteed from-frozen garden “sweet” peas.
My peppercorn burger ($11.49) came from the regular dinner menu. I asked it be accompanied with a house salad, instead of fries. The burger itself was likely made from frozen, its bun slightly over toasted and its topping of breaded onion rings, soggy and greasy. In my limited experience, big box restaurants often neglect to drain their deep fried offerings after frying. However, the burger met my expectations for a big box restaurant burger. The house salad was another matter. It too was topped with a prodigious amount of shredded mozzarella.
Our waiter returned, sheepishly telling us the cooks “make up the batch of beef in the morning and add cheese to the mix.” He then asked us to order something else. Jenn chose the fish and chips, again from the new fall lunch menu.
In making her choice, Jenn scanned the dinner menu as well. The lunch version of the sheppard’s pie, which is guaranteed served in 15 minutes after ordering or free, is the same price as the dinner version, $11.99.
The fish and chips were marginally better than the cottage pie. The peas were somewhat better cooked, this time with no pickled onions. The haddock portion was small, only 4″ long, but fried crisp and not grease soggen. Contrary to the image on the Kelsey’s website above, the entree included one piece of fish, not two. Her fries were also unevenly seasoned with a barbecue chip-tasting seasoning. Jenn actually had to scrape off the excess to eat them.
In total, with an ice tea, taxes, and refunding the value of the disastrous cottage pie, the meal ran us $26.29
According to our bill, we can enter to win a chance at a $500 gift card if we complete a guest survey at kelseysfeedback.com with an access code. We opted not to.