When you talk to a local about brunch in Ottawa, there are several restaurants you will more than likely be recommended: Benny’s Bistro in the ByWard Market, Jak’s Kitchen in Centertown, Fraser Cafe in New Edinburgh, and StoneFace Dolly’s in Little Italy (Preston Street). While Benny’s Bistro is legendary for its high-end brunch fare and butter rich bakery from the adjoining French Baker, Fraser Cafe is quickly gaining ground in the same arena. Fraser’s single page brunch menu features dishes of comparable quality, but at lower prices. There are seasoned cooks in both kitchens, overseen by chefs. Both Benny’s and Fraser’s cooks are adept in classical French cooking techniques, especially when it comes to handling eggs. However, Fraser’s are more chef’s interpretations of usual brunch suspects: eggs Benedict, the “breakfast sandwich”, or scrambled eggs with sausage. At Benny’s bistro, you can expect less traditional breakfast dishes. But, for straight brunch “usuals”, our recommends are Jak’s or StoneFace Dolly’s. Neither takes reservations. Both have lines going out the door shortly after they open.
StoneFace Dolly’s is where Jenn and I took friends Vicky (@momwhoruns) and Paola (@cestboncooking) for brunch several weeks ago. Vicky is a fellow food blogger from Toronto and former Ottawa native. We discovered Jak’s together several months ago. Paola is one of Ottawa’s most passionate food enthusiasts. Through C’est Bon Cooking, she and her chef offer cooking classes and culinary tours of Ottawa. I hear Paola’s tours of the ByWard market are a lot of fun.
StoneFace Dolly’s resembles a modern bistro. High ceilings, neutral colours, and lots of exposed wood, glass, and ceramics, everything meant to make the dining room look open and airy. Its decor works with the large windows at the front of the restaurant, letting light spill deeply into the restaurant.
The restaurant also features an exposed kitchen.
It extends to the bar and ends with the cash and till.
I can only imagine how StoneFace Dolly’s looks in the evenings. It is a great place to start a weekend day with brunch.
Its brunch menu is multi-paged and each is covered in well worn plastic.
Inside, we discovered StoneFace Dolly’s serves Bridgehead coffee ($2.75), a local purveyor of fair trade coffee beans and some great local desserts.
Besides coffee, it serves freshly made fruit juices and juice blends. Jenn ordered an apple juice, which was eventually marked on our bill as “pop” ($2.50)
She found the apple juice refreshingly sweet. Accordingly, it tasted better than the “from concentrate” varieties, but not as good as the Black River brand Organic Apple Juice Jenn invariably buys when we frequent coffee shops.
For brunch, Jenn and Vicky ordered pancakes. Jenn, blueberry pancakes with fruit ($9.99). Vicky, ricotta blueberry pancakes with lemon curd and whipped cream ($10.99).
Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes
Here are the pancakes Vicky was served.
Jenn’s pancakes were thicker and somewhat larger.
Jenn found her pancakes extremely filling, light and fluffy yet substantial. Each pancake sported a handful of blueberries. They were however unevenly spread out, so not every bite tasted of blueberry.
Paola and I ordered omelets ($10.99). Mine, Omelet No. 5 (capicolla ham, cheddar, and mushrooms), with a side of breakfast poutine (house-made potato home fries, cheese, and milk gravy somewhat akin to sawmill gravy). Breakfast poutine is an optional add-on for any breakfast plate ($2.00).
The poutine was a little much, even for a foodie who would attack a good charcuterie plate for brunch. Though, the sawmill gravy on home fries take is rather innovative. As a poutine purist, I think cheddar cheese curds would have worked better.
The omelet was pretty much cooked through, but neither its top nor bottom was overdone.
I prefer my omelets slightly more runny in the middle. Still, it was a great 3 egg omelet. The accompanying salad was fresh and its oddly thick looking balsamic dressing not overly acidic.
We completely overlooked StoneFace Dolly’s specials.
I would later discover StoneFace Dolly’s twitter account (@stonefacedollys) tweets each weekend’s brunch special the Friday before.
The most interesting thing we saw on the menu: Breakfast ribs ($13.00). It consists of 2 eggs (any style), home fries, a half rack of barbecue ribs, and a slice of “molasses toast.”
Service-wise, we were given a slight runaround by someone who looked like the owner. He seemed dubious about giving us a four person table when Jenn and I arrived. Luckily, Vicky walked through the door as he looked behind us at another group whose members had already assembled. Paola arrived shortly thereafter. Our waiter was polite. With the entire restaurant turning over quickly, she checked back on us somewhat seldomly. She also did not point out any of the specials. We found them afterward, Paola lamenting she would have chosen the quiche had she known. Still, we did not wait long for drinks or food. Every dish was freshly made and served hot, not one spending very long under a heat lamp.
Total: $59.85 (after taxes, including 2 omelets, 2 pancake plates, 2 coffees, one juice, and a poutine add-on)
Brunch at StoneFace Dolly’s has strong fundamentals. Are the dishes culinary masterpieces, no. Are they value-conscious and filling, yes. They rival Jak’s in centertown.
Apparently, StoneFace Dolly’s ricotta blueberry pancakes are number 84 in the Ottawa Magazine’s list of 101 Tastes to Try Before You Die (September 2009, edition).
416 Preston Street
Tags: 101 Tastes to Try Before You Die, breakfast, Little Italy, Mother's Day, poutine, Stoneface Dolly's