Showing posts sorted by relevance for query swiss chalet. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query swiss chalet. Sort by date Show all posts

Sunday, March 22, 2009

How Warm Chicken = Two Hours of Horror

Swiss Chalet Rotisserie & Grill on UrbanspoonOn Friday at 11:40 A.M. at work I online ordered a Quarter Chicken Dinner Dark meet with a white roll and 7 Up from Swiss Chalet. Now one would think that after over thirty years of perfecting the art of Swiss Chalet rotisserie chicken served with fries that adding delivery wouldn't be rocket science.

But apparently I'm wrong. I will score them a downfall though, the local Swiss Chalet to office was closed so the chicken dinner did have to travel a little farther from the next closest location at Rutherford Road & Weston Road, but why is that my fault?

So, I waited for my chicken to arrive. At 12:40 P.M. I called their order line to inquire as to the status of my order. The agent put me on hold for two minutes and came back to say the order has been dispatched from the restaurant.

What I couldn't figure out was why it took over an hour for a Quarter Chicken Dinner with a can of Seven up could take so long. If Pizza Pizza can deliver a pizza in thirty minutes or less, why couldn't Swiss Chalet do the same thing in, at most, forty-five minutes? That I can't figure it out.

The chicken arrived at two O'clock. I handed the driver twenty dollars. Of course the driver didn't have the correct change to remotely get it lower than a three dollar tip. The whole issue of delivery probably wasn't his fault (i.e. Swiss Chalet hired too few drivers for the lunch rush) but my chicken was one hour and twenty minutes late.

Next, I headed to the Kitchen with my newspaper tucked underneath my arm for a latish lunch. Of course the chicken fries and sauce were all cold. In hindsight I guess I could of warmed my lunch with the steam coming out of my ears.

I returned to my desk and picked up the phone for a second call to Swiss Chalet customer service. I complained about the heat of the food and the fact that perhaps the lateness of the food had something to do with why it was so cold. I also noted that the Swiss Chalet delivery driver failed to leave a receipt with the order. (In hindsight perhaps that was so I wouldn't fill out their little online customer satisfaction report...I fixed him and still entered the code from the e-mailed confirmation receipt from my online order). The Swiss Chalet Customer Service agent said that another dinner would be en route and that the driver would swap out the old one for the new one. I agreed to this and hung up the phone.

1:30 P.M. quickly rolled around and I was still stairing at chicken getting even colder. I picked up the phone a third time. When the Swiss Chalet Customer Service agent picked up I requested to speak to Customer Service Manager. The agent responded, in usual "Customer Disservice nature," that perhaps he could assist me. I then ran down the complete excellent adventure in Swiss Chalet I had and again asked to speak to a Customer Service Manager. I was put on hold for two minutes and then the same Customer Service Agent came back on and said the managers were busy and that he was told to offer a fifteen dollar credit to the account. I responded that I asked to speak to a manager and expected to talk to one. I was put on hold for less than a minute and then, horrors of horrors, a Swiss Chalet Manager actually picked up the phone!

I went through what I had gone through and pointed out the whole problem revolved around the fact that someone in their infinate wisdom chose to close down the local Swiss Chalet. I pointed out that if that location was still open, less than kilometre from the office, I would be chowing down on warm chicken. Instead, I had to wait for the chicken to travel five kilometres and arguing with him about what I've been put through. The Manager was quite understanding to what I had gone through. He noted he lived in the area and that the closure of the Swiss Chalet location was starting to cause issues. He put me on hold and contacted the restaurant to ensure a fresh meal was coming. He then said that a fifteen dollar credit would be applied to my account. He also said that he would speak to the customer service agent I had just dealt with that when a customer asks for a manager that one is available whether they pull them out of a meeting or disrupt management at time. I hung up quite satisfied that Swiss Chalet was at least trying to rectify the situation.

At 1:45 P.M. I had a warm Quarter Chicken dinner delivered. The driver tried to have me hold onto the original cold one he dropped off on his first attempt. I replied that No, he had to take it with him as per the instructions of the Swiss Chalet Customer Service Manager. The driver then tried offering me the can of 7 Up from the original cold dinner. I replied that he had to take the whole original dinner with him as I was afraid that after all I had been through Swiss Chalet would attempt at shystering me out more money for the cost of the pop if he didn't take it back. I also pointed out that it was his and Swiss Chalet's issue of what to do with the original meal and not mine.

So that, my friends, is how it takes over two hours to get a warm Quarter Chicken Dinner meal out of a restaurant chain who has perfected rotisserie chicken over thirty plus years and yet failed to be able to slap it in a car and deliver it!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fooled at Harvey's / Swiss Chalet

Swiss Chalet Rotisserie & Grill on UrbanspoonWe received coupons in the mail recently and decided to head over to our local Swiss Chalet (1 Henderson Drive, Aurora, Ontario)

The coupons included:

1. Two can dine for $13.99 (Basically 2 quarter chicken dinners) but was only valid for Monday to Thursday.

2. 20% off 2 piece Fish & Chips valid only Monday to Friday...Never had Fish & Chips with Swiss Chalet. They are not known for Fish & Chips.

3. $2.00 off the purchase of a Family Pack (we went for this).

4. $3.00 off a Quarter Chicken and Half Rack of Ribs Combo. We thought about using this but a 20 minute wait in the dining room for a seat when there was already a table for two open and not used seemed ridiculous.

So we went for #3 above on the Harvey's side. The Harveys side serves Swiss Chalet take out but has the regular fast food seating of a traditional Harveys.

The Order: Swiss chalet Family Pack (2 fries, 1 coleslaw, 1 corn) and two cokes

We ordered the Family Pack at 5:50 P.M., but did not have the food in hand until 6:00 P.M. Swiss Chalet has a way of providing poor service times. Apparently I'm a fool. Harvey's and Swiss Chalet promise fast efficient take out service with the pimply faced teenaged staff running around wearing hair nets. But when it comes time to deliver chicken and sides that they have based their business on for an eternity, they fail. I was fooled into believing I could get my simple food order in five minutes or less.

Nonetheless, the food was of usual Swiss Chalet quality (perfect temperature and preparation). Really nothing to complain about there.

Later I filled out the Customer Satisfaction survey. My receipt said "Tell Us How We Did Today for a chance to win a * $500 HARVEY'S CARD *" So I went to the Harvey's feedback website indicated on the receipt. Within about two steps completed on the survey I was switched from Harvey's to the Swiss Chalet feedback. I soldiered on to completion where out of the blue I was given a survey code for "a free soup, salad or perogies with the purchase of an entree during your next visit to Swiss Chalet." Um....what happenned to my chance of winning a "* $500 HARVEY'S CARD *"

Oh but wait, there is a chance for a "$500 Swiss Chalet Gift Card" if I spend another 2 minutes filling out yet another online survey. I've been through this before already with believing I could get my food quickly and efficently and then fooled again into believing I had a chance at a "* $500 HARVEY'S CARD *". So I refused to go along as I'd been burnt at least once by Harvey's / Swiss Chalet.

Apparently this is false advertising, I never stood a chance at winning a Harvey's gift card as no where did it say I had one or not. Does this mean I could still win a Harvey's gift card? I won't keep my hopes up as I've been fooled too many times on this visit.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Scoring at Scores

Scores Rotisserie & Ribs on UrbanspoonFor a Sunday evening dinner, we tried revisiting Scores Rotisserie & Ribs (150 Trainyards Drive, Ottawa) for dinner.  Revisiting? We attempted to have dinner on Saturday night but there was a 30 minute plus wait to even get a seat let alone the food.

This evening we were seated right away even though the restaurant looked well attended.  We were greated shortly after by our server who inquired what we would like to drink.  Our waitress dissappeared and returned with our drinks and took our order.

The Order: 1 Quarter Chicken Breast Dinner with fries and salad bar with a Pepsi and 1 Quarter Chicken Dinner Leg with rice and salad bar with a glass of water.

The waitress inquired if we were going to have the salad bar first or would like our dinner first with the salad bar.  We asked to have the salad bar first and the waitress said should would bring our main dinner. 

We ventured over to the salad bar to peruse our options before filling our plates with vegetable goodness.  The salad bar is great place to start with bowls full of lettuce to start with followed by the usual vegetables choices (e.g. tomato slices, cucumber, pickles, etc.) and a plethora of salad dressing to choose from.  As well, pasta and potato salads are also available. Add to this melons, grapes and other fruit you have a spot for a nutritious dessert as well.   My wife even found some chicken noodle soup (with real chicken chunks!) at the salad bar.

After gorging ourselves at the salad bar, our food arrived.  This is where comparisons come along with Swiss Chalet as Scores serves similar plates to Swiss Chalet. The rotisserie chicken breast was meaty and juicy.  The chicken serving was better than what Swiss Chalet has lately been serving as I've noticed Swiss Chalet's quarter chickens tend to be drier, thinner and less meaty in nature. 

The chicken plate also came with sauce.  The last time I visited this particular Scores, the sauce was watery and I thought it was a cheap attempt at gravy.  But this visit, the sauce was thicker and better prepared. However, it is hard to tell if it rivals Swiss Chalet sauce as my taste buds have grown to crave the Swiss Chalet sauce in both taste and smell.  

The bun seemed to be an afterthought.  The bun is half a hamburger bun thrown onto the plate underneath the chicken.  To be fair, the last time I was at this location, the bun was buried underneath the fries. Swiss Chalet on the other hand, provides what is passable for a freshly baked (even though it is frozen then reheated) roll.  The Scores bun, in comparison, seemed to be an afterthought of the kitchen when someone mistakenly ordered 20,000 hamburger buns only to realize that they don't serve hamburgers and suddenly need to get rid of them all.

The fries were average at best but not terrible.  They were warm and great with a little ketchup or Scores' sauce, but also decent plain.

The waitress provided excellent service.  She was timely with the food and suggesting she not place the main chicken dish orders for ten minutes so we could have time to visit the salad bar before having our meals.  She passed by a couple of times removing dirty dishes from the salad bar and refilling the Pepsi and water glasses. 

Overall, Scores provides better value than Swiss Chalet by providing free access to the salad bar with the purchase of a chicken plate meal.  The bun and sauce issues need to be remedied in comparison to Swiss Chalet but are not major issues.  Scores' provides a good value for a filling meal.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

St. Hubert: Nothing to Cluck About

St Hubert on UrbanspoonTonight for dinner we thought we would try an old Quebec favourite dining establishment, St. Hubert (1754 St. Laurent Boulevard, Ottawa).  

We arrived at 4:00 P.M. to a building exterior that looked like it had seen better days.  There was a billboard out front on the traffic island advertising new condominiums.  Thus we originally thought the St. Hubert had closed up and was now being converted to a condominium sales centre. The paint was peeling from the roof wooden roof shingles and the exterior looking and it looked like an old fast food burger joint with a mexican hat added.  

We got closer to find people inside eating, so we attempted the first door we found, facing St. Laurent Blvd, wrong it was the takeout.  We wandered around to the back and went inside to find a confortable tastfully decorated dining room similar to a newly updated Swiss Chalet restaurant. Talk about a mismatched exterior and interior! 

We were warmly welcomed by a hostess who quickly seated  the us a nearby "U" shaped table that could easily have seated eight people.  We perused the menues to see what St. Hubert had to offer but wanted to check out their chicken dishes that St. Hubert is renowned for.

Our waitress came over and greated us in English and French.  We ordered our drinks and she dissappeared and came back quickly.  She dropped off our drinks and inquired if we were ready to order. 

The Order:  1 Quarter Chicken Leg Dinner with Rice Pilaf and Water. 1 Quarter Chicken Breast Dinner with Fries and a Coke.  Both dinners accompanied by Creamy Coleslaw.

Our waitress dissappeared and returned again with two bowles of creamy Coleslaw.  The Coleslaw itself was pretty average at best with nothing special.  The menu though promised something special with the Coleslaw, unlimited Coleslaw with almost every entree serving.   Never was offered more Coleslaw the entire meal even though the empty bowl sat there. The Coke and water though were refilled numerous times by our attentive waitress. 

The Quarter Chicken Breast was decently cooked but nothing special. It was mediocre at best and tasted similar to what you would find at Swiss Chalet or Scores. Juicy chicken rotisseried and placed on a plate to arrive at the table in medium temperature.  This may now be mediocre considering there seems to be a lot of competition in the chicken restaurant industry in the Ottawa area with Swiss Chalet, Scores, KFC, St. Hubert and possibly others clucking for your restuarant dining money. 

The Quarter Chicken Leg however was dissapointing.  It was dry and getting to the point of crispyness.  Not sure how this happened or who let it out of the kitchen.  Heck, the chicken may have been dehydrated before it even arrived from the farm. 

The fries were mediocre at best and could easily have been found at a high school cafeteria or worse, from the frozen food section at a supermarket deep fried.  No effort  was made to try to set the fries apart from the competition at all. 

The bun was also dissapointing, a bottom half of a hamburger bun tossed on the plate because the competition was providing a breaded product to go with the sauce. 

The dipping sauce proved interesting though.  My wife and I debated for a while who had the better sauce, St. Hubert or Swiss Chalet.  We both agreed Scores' sauce was no competition as it was watery at times and lacked taste.  St. Hubert though had a decent tasting sauce that my wife preferred while I preferred the tangier Swiss Chalet sauce.  Although, I did enjoy the St. Hubert Sauce. 

Pricing of the meal was also an issue.  The Quarter Chicken Leg  Dinner was $11.35 and the Quarter Chicken Breast Dinner was $13.35.  A similar Quarter Chicken Dinner Meal would have been around $10.00.  Add to this Swiss Chalet offers an option of a white or multigrain roll that also is of better quality.  Scores has similar pricing to St. Hubert, but comes with a full salad bar to choose from.  St. Hubert though only offers Coleslaw and any additional salad is extra.   Not sure why St. Hubert's pricing is significantly higher than their local competitors though, the value just isn't there. 

Overall, St Hubert needs to work on the value of it's meal.  The restaurant is in a tough location with both Scores and Swiss Chalet locations being within 2 kilometres and offering better value for money.  This St. Hubert's exterior is  a lot to be desired for as well with a condo sales centre in back and construction imminently threatening to ruin the ambiance of whatever outdoor dining this location has advertised on it's website.  We probably will not be returning or clucking about this location for quite sometime, not with a decent Scores, Swiss Chalet and other dining options nearby.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Swiss Chalet Not on the Scene Points

Swiss Chalet Rotisserie & Grill on UrbanspoonThis past Thursday I received an e-mail from Swiss Chalet promoting their line of gift cards for the holiday season.  Near the bottom of the e-mail was a promotion for Scene Card holders could obtain 6 points for every dollar spent on gift cards to Swiss Chalet, Harvey's, Milestones, Kelsey's and Montana's.

So looking for a gift for one my friends I thought this would be a great idea.  After hitting our local Zellers on Friday night we cruised over to Swiss Chalet (9350 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill) for some chicken and a gift card.  The wait for dine in was 30 minutes to be seated.  We inquired about the gift card and was told it was at the take out only.  So about face and headed towards the door where the take out was.  We stood in line for about ten minutes to order the chicken. 

A server took our order, copying it down on the back of receipt in crayon and dissappeared into the kitchen.  Next we arrived at the cash where I ordered the gift card.  The cashier rang up the gift card and nothing else.  My food order did not even get entered and I was forced to reorder.  Not only that this location was out of the special Scene point marked gift cards and I had to settle for a regular one. 

I'm not really sure of two things from this Swiss Chalet experience:

1. Why promote the Bon Apetit gift card with Scene Points benefits when there are not enough cards in stock?

2. What was the purpose in having a server take my order and dissapear into the kitchen with it only for me to have to reorder at the cashier and have the cashier's order take presidence?  After all I did order two quarter chicken dinners one with a multigrain role and one with a white role to our crayoning expert server and received two quarter chicken dinners with white roles when I unpackaged our dinner at home. 

Other than that, the food was the usual Swiss Chalet quality. I just wonder sometimes how chains can promote something when there isn't enough stock and their attention to detail is somewhat lacking.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Good Service Needs to Be Rewarded

Swiss Chalet Rotisserie & Grill on UrbanspoonSometimes great Customer Service goes unnoticed, especially at restaurants. Sometimes the kudos go unnoticed. 

Is this because the bad experiences scream louder?  Most people rant and rave about bad customer service or experiences.  I'm guilty of that.  But usually bad customer experiences can be amusing and leave a smile on the face of the reader as to how something so simple ended so badly.  This is not one of those stories.

My Wife and I wondered where to go on Friday night. We hummed and hawed over where to go.  We searched for coupons for inspiration and savings.  We came up empty.  We settled on Swiss Chalet (9350 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill)

Now the local Swiss Chalet, as I have said before, is a hit and miss location.  Sometimes it is a long wait to even get a seat or you walk in and sit down immediately.  Sometimes the service can be sluggish and other times outstanding.  Really it is like going to Vegas and spinning the wheel. 

This past visit though was simply outstanding.  My wife and I were immediately sat at our table.  It took a little while for the waiter to come over, but I don't really blame him.  I first disappeared to the washroom to wash my hands and when I returned my wife did the same.   

As good Swiss Chalet Customers, my wife and I took a quick look at the menu and when our waiter, Ahmad, finally came by, we ordered our drinks and our food order.

The Order: Half Chicken dinner with fries and white roll with a Pepsi and a Quarter Chicken Dinner with a multigrain roll and a refreshing glass of water.

In less than five minutes our food was being brought out from the kitchen!  There were copious amount of fries, the sauce was hot and not watery and the chicken was excellent!   This was truly Swiss Chalet goodness at it's finest. 

Ahmad came by a couple of times and refilled my Pepsi glass in minutes.  He also inquired, while offering to refill my glass if everything was fine and if there was anything he could do.

Complaints?  The only one we have after this Swiss Chalet visit was why can't all Swiss Chalet Visits be like this one?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

How Warm Chicken = Two Hours of Horror - PART DEUX

Swiss Chalet Rotisserie & Grill on UrbanspoonYet again on Friday I ordered a Quarter Chicken dinner dark meat with a white roll for delivery from Swiss Chalet. Unlike last week, I ordered just after 11 A.M. instead of 11:30 A.M. in the hopes of actually receiving my food in less than hour.

But before I get to that, the fun began when I was ordering the food. From last week's fiasco I was promised by a Swiss Chalet Customer Service Manager that I would have a $15.00 credit on the account going forward.

So this week I thought I would use up that credit for my Friday lunch and continue on with my life. Thus, instead of ordering online, I called into their call centre to speak to someone about my order. I waited about a minute for someone to pick up the phone, which in normal circumstances isn't too bad if your calling into a call centre these days. First I inquired if there was a $15 credit on the order. The response was dumbfounding "No there is not but I can transfer you to Customer Service to look into it." I was then transferred over. Apparently the person who picks up the phone to take your order isn't smart enough to look for a credit pending on an account and thus needs someone else to sleuth this out. But then again, the idea of "Customer Serive" these days does seem novel in some places.

After being transferred to "Customer Service" and waiting another two minutes for someone to pick-up the phone, gentleman answered. I told him what happenned last week and that there should be a $15 credit on the account put there by a Customer Service Manager. The agent did some searching and found that I was supposed to receive $15.00 refund. I replied that this point I still hadn't received the $15 refund so I would be interested if either an lunch be delivered or $15 be delivered, it was Swiss Chalet's choice.

The agent quickly got the $15 credit processed and said he would be more than willing to take my order. Thus, I ordered through him. By the time the order was put through it was 11:08 A.M. I figured if I ordered around 11 A.M. that the food would come faster as most orders would start arriving around 11:30 A.M. as the lunch rush would start.

My goodness was I ever wrong. At 12:08 P.M. I found myself calling back the Swiss Chalet hotline wondering where the food was? I was worried that another fiasco like the previous Friday was erupting. After dialing I found myself waiting for an agent to pick up for about five minutes. Eventually someone picked up and I told them of my problem. They put me on hold for another two minutes. At the end of the two minutes I hung up. Why? Because my lunch was coming through the front door.

Of course I didn't tip the driver anything, after waiting for a total of 3 hours on two seperate occasions in a row, Swiss Chalet can tip their own driver.

As for future delivery orders from Swiss Chalet, FORGET IT!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Swiss Chalet is Sometimes Good

Swiss Chalet Rotisserie & Grill on UrbanspoonAnother night out with my girlfriend for some fine dining. My girlfriend has never been to Swiss Chalet in her life. So I thought I would treat her to a nice classic Swiss Chalet quarter chicken dinner.

Upon entering the Aurora Swiss Chalet Restaurant (1 Henderson Drive, Aurora, Ontario) we were told by the hostess, after waiting at the front for two minutes, that we had to wait to be seated because she had to clean off a table.

We waited another three minutes before she seated us at the freshly cleaned table. This was a little disturbing because I counted roughly five other tables that were already cleaned and ready to go. So why didn't we get seated at one of those?

Anita, our server, easily made up for the lacking service from our hostess. Anita stopped by within five minutes of us being seated to take our drink order. She also took our food order at this time as well as we were ready to order. Throughout the meal she checked in twice, once shortly after we received our meal and near the end of the meal to ensure everything was fine. The food came quickly as well within five minutes of ordering. My girlfriend was a little disappointed in the variety of mixed vegetables though. Other than that food was good.

We had "dark meat" for chicken instead of white. This is because all Swiss Chalet's now charge about a dollar for the white meat.

The bill came quickly after being requested at the end of our meal. Our meal was pretty good with the exception of the beginning with the hostess not recognizing what a "clean table" was looking like.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No Promenading at Swiss Chalet

Swiss Chalet Rotisserie & Grill on UrbanspoonToday for lunch I headed over to Swiss Chalet (7700 Bathurst Street, Vaughan) to have lunch with coworkers, a table of 20.

When we arrived the place was empty except for a lone elderly lady having a nice quiet lunch by herself. 

We were seated almost immediately after some table shuffling and assigned us two waitresses to our group who took our drink orders pretty quickly.  Once the drinks were delivered to our table, the food order was taken.

My Order: Quarter Chicken Dark Meat with Steamed Vegetables with a multigrain roll.

The food showed up fifteen minutes later which with this large number of orders was impressive.  But things started to slide from there. 

My order showed up with scant amount of vegetables and a white roll instead of the aformentioned multigrain role.  The vegetables tasted fairly bland and seemed to have been oversteamed at times.  The chicken was dry to the taste and was not the usual delicious chicken one comes to expect from Swiss Chalet.  As well other orders at our table also seemed misdone.

The two servers tried to serve a chicken salad wrap and demanding to know which person ordered it when no one in the party had ordered that item from the menu.  As well the server was not very careful in refilling the water glasses.  She spilled water at least twice on each table. 

The person sitting next to me had to wait ten minutes longer than everyone else even though he ordered a simple Quarter Chicken Dark Meat with a Multigrain roll and Fries.  One would have thought that Swiss Chalet, serving chicken for decades, would be able to serve a simple chicken dinner at the same time as everyone else.  Apparently this was not the case at this location.  

Billing, obviously with the large group, took a while as each person was billed individually. 

Overall the servers seemed ill at ease with their responsibilities despite only twenty people coming in to an empty restaurant.  This despite reservations being made so the restaurant could be prepared for such a large group of people.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Decent time at old reliable Swiss Chalet

Swiss Chalet Rotisserie & Grill on UrbanspoonMy wife and I have been to the Richmond Hill Swiss Chalet (9350 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill, Ontario) before with mixed results. Either it was a long wait to be seated, took a while to get service or everything went well.

This time we seated quickly (no one lined up) with our menus. Five minutes later our food and drink order was taken.

The Order: Quarter Chicken Dark Meat, White Roll with Fries and Pepsi and Chicken on Kaiser with fries and glass of water

The dinner was average Swiss Chalet quality (decent chicken with good fries and sauce not too hot but not too cold either). The same with chicken sandwich.

The only complaint was the waitress came over a couple of times to see how we were doing to which we always replied "everything is fine." However at no time did she offer to refill my Pepsi even though there were, according to the menu "free refills."

Other than that, this place is your standard run of the mill Swiss Chalet franchise restaurant.

Friday, December 31, 2010

End of the Toronto 5 Cent Bag Fee?

Recently Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has mused to the National Post about removing the 5 cents per plastic bag that Toronto retail outlets charge for.  Ford plans to bring this to Toronto council in January 2011 for debate.   One kudo to His Worship, is that he has gone on the record as saying:

"I am personally not in favour of it but I want the feedback from the councillors and the constituents." - Rob Ford in the Toronto Sun.

He told the Toronto Sun that also, before the vote, is looking for a city staff report before considering the item a council meeting.  Basically Rob Ford wants to do his homework on the issue and then bring it forth to be debated and voted on.

I've previously written about this issue before and do believe a reduction in the use of plastic bags needs to occur.  However, strategies in reducing the use of plastic bags need to be examined carefully.

There are a couple of questions that are behind the Toronto five cent bag fee that need to be addressed before the question can be brought forth to council.  These questions include the below:

1. Where does the money, collected as per the City of Toronto by-law, go?

The fee is not technically a tax as the money doesn't go to the City of Toronto. If the City of Toronto collected the fee then it would be a tax and, theoretically, would be illegal under the Province of Ontario's City of Toronto act. So where does the money go? Good question.

Many businesses, like Loblaws, donate the money to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other similar charities.  Others just simply pocket the money as a new source of revenue.  This obviously angers some as the prices for products were never reduced as they used to cover the cost of providing free plastic bags and now the store charges for them.  This whole issue needs to be further investigated by the City of Toronto Staff for the report to be brought to council as this is definately "the homework" that needs to be done.

2. Should businesses have the five cents bag fee as a requirement by city by-law or remove the by-law and let businesses decide?

Currently the city of Toronto's by-law stipulates that all Toronto retailers must charge five cents for plastic bags.  Businesses have been taking a lot of heat from consumers over the charge for five cents per bag.  Business owners throw up the their hands and point to the by-law saying they have no choice but to charge the five cents.  

Businesses should have the choice of charging the five cents and not be mandated by a city government.  This could be perhaps done at the provincial or federal level in order to create a level playing field for businesses to compete in.  Currently only the businesses in the City of Toronto have to legally charge the five cents.  So businesses in Toronto have to compete against those outside of Toronto who do not charge five cents. 

It also means there are issues with programming computer systems in large retailers like Loblaws.  Loblaws must now program the option of charging for bags onto their cash registers in Toronto and not for the rest of their stores in Canada.  Loblaws got around this issue by charging for bags at all their stores accross Canada.  But what happens to Loblaws stores in a city where a city council sets the price per bag higher than five cents?  Does Loblaws raise the fee for the rest of the company's stores in the country?  So obviously this issue is larger than the City of Toronto and should be investigated by a higher level of government.

Businesses should be encouraged to provide incentives to customers in reducing the number of plastic bags.  It is in retailers interest to reduce the number of plastic bags in a financial way.  Less plastic bags used means there are less items to ship to the store and less source for in terms of finding plastic bag manufacturers that can handle the volume required.  For example, it is easier to find a plastic bag manufacturer that can handle an order for 100 plastic bags rather than 1000 and thus it would be cheaper to ship 100 plastic bags to store level than 1000 bags.   Loblaws, for example, already provides incentives for customers by giving away 50 PC points for every bag used.  Customers can cash in 20,000 PC points towards $20.00 for anything in the store. So this translates into Loblaws giving away five cents to customers for every bag not used.

If the bag tax were axed, then businesses could relook at their own bag fee policies.  Some policies are not well thought out. One commenter at the Toronto Star noted fast food delivery in Toronto can be a little  ridiculous in terms of the plast bag fee:

Just yesterday I wrote a note to Swiss Chalet Customer Service as they also charge the 5 cent fee for their small plastic bags. A normal size bag is one I have learned to accept but, come on, 5 cents for a 4” x 6” bag?? This is where I think a retailer is pushing the point and pocketing much more than they should. There is also no choice to a customer here. When you order in, you have to accept their way of delivery and subsequently pay for it. They responded saying it was automatic in their computers, it is a municipal law and to take it up with my city councillor. I think they missed my point. I just wanted them to stop charging for the small tiny bags they use for butter, etc.

The main issue here is did the customer have a choice to not use the plastic bags?  It seems in this case Swiss Chalet delivery didn't give him the option to use one plastic bag for his food and butter.  Instead the way Swiss Chalet normally packages items there is one large plastic bag with the food order and inside this large plastic bag is a smaller plastic bag with the condiments and utensils.  What is even funnier is the large plastic bag is clear plastic.  So it isn't like these items are going to be lost, you can see if the the bag is empty or not. But again, there is no alternative to the plastic bags, that I'm aware of, that Swiss Chalet offers.  Swiss Chalet will need to relook at this issue as obviously it doesn't make sense to charge a customer when there is no alternative given. 

3. Wouldn't charging for plastic bags be better handled by the provincial or federal government?

The provincial or federal governments should investigate a method of reducing the number of plastic shopping bags used.  The province of Ontario, as I commented before, has investigated ways of reducing the number of plastic bags used.  Another investigation at the provincial level, like the one done by Ontario in 2007, should be done.  Since 2007 the invention of the compostable bag has arrived.  Should the province mandate that the compostable bag mandatory?  This would obviously have major implications for the producers of plastic bags as the materials for the new bags would have to be sourced properly.  So a phase of compostable bags would be a must.

Overall, the City of Toronto needs to investigate several items before it can reconsider the bag tax.  The homework assignment has been issued by Mayor Rob Ford.  City Council and Staff need to get this assignment completed and report back for a vote.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Two Nights of Restaurant Hilarity

On Thursday and Friday Yvonne and I ate out at Harvey's and Swiss Chalet in Aurora.

Thursday, Yvonne printed a coupon for a free Harvey's Original Hamburger with the purchase of a burger topped with Canadian backbacon. It was a darn good filling deal of two burgers, fries and Pepsi for less than ten dollars. That was until we got home, flipped on the computer, opened the web browser and (Toronto Star's website) had this headline: "Linked to Harvey's, E.coli cases spread." Well doesn't that make a delicious meal deal into a stomach turning life flashing before your eyes experience. Of course we clicked on the link to read the story. We quickly scanned the article and were relieved to find out it was only the Harvey's location in North Bay that was affected. At this point, however, I wanted to know the name and whereabouts of the Toronto Star's online headline writer whose name would be changed to "mud" for giving me a coronary.

Side note: I go back into my Internet web browser's history to find the link and the fabulous crew at have changed the headline and updated the story.

Fast forward to Friday night. Yvonne and I headed to Swiss Chalet. We brought our previous visit's receipt along with our verification code that we received after completing the restaurant's online customer feedback form. With the receipt and the verification code, we were entitled to a free appetizer of soup, salad or perogies.

We had a good meal even with mess ups. Apparently at this location on that night, the restaurant's attention to detail seemed to be lacking. The worst part it wasn't just one thing it was two! But nonetheless the meal was good.

We ordered:

1 Quarter chicken dinner dark meat with side salad and a MULTI GRAIN ROLL. A glass of water.

1 Quarter chicken dinner DARK MEAT with fries and a white roll. A PEPSI.

We received from the kitchen:

1 Quarter chicken dinner dark meat with side salad and a WHITE ROLL. A glass of water.

1 Quarter chicken dinner WHITE MEAT with a white roll. A PEPSI

We were billed by the waitress:

1 Quarter chicken diner dark meat with side salad and a multi grain roll.

1 Quarter chicken dinner dark meat with a white roll.

1 Perogies, free.

But funny enough, I wasn't billed for my Pepsi despite the waitress bringing it quickly after I ordered and, halfway through the meal, refilling it!

You would think Swiss Chalet would have mastered the art of figuring out chicken orders as they've been roasting chicken for over thirty years. The attention to detail on this visit was absolutely hillarious. But at least the meal was still enjoyable and slightly discounted (i.e. FREE PEPSI!) despite the gaffes.

Thanks Harvey's & Swiss Chalet for a good two nights of entertaining eating.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Trip to Manhattan for a Burger: Part 2

Manhattan's Handmade Burgers on UrbanspoonOn Friday for lunch I made a return trip to Manhattan's Handmade Burgers (407 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa) but to a different location from last time.  

On my last visit to a Manhattan's I noted that the burgers themselves were pretty good with the fries rivalling Swiss Chalet despite claiming to be handmade.  Would this location, across the street and a block away in a food court from the previous, do better, worse or the same?  Let's find out.

I visited the Minto Place Food Court (located on the Northwest corner of Laurier Avenue West & Kent Street) to find the Manhattan's.   My wife accompanied me on this visit, but had already had lunch and had already previously visited this Manhattan's location previously.  We arrived at 12:50 P.M. to find the food court, as you would expect in the downtown of any nation's capital, full of government workers on lunch. We found an empty table right away where I left my wife and I headed over to the Manhattan's counter to join the line.

This Manhattan's is like any traditional mall food court where you move from one side of the counter to the other just like a cafeteria.  Here it is quite orderly, choose your drink, place your order, get your toppings and bun made up, pay for your order and finally have your food put together and given to you.  The service appeared like clockwork and the customer's only job is to move with the container.

I grabbed my drink and slid down the counter to place my order.

The Order: 1 Cheeseburger combo with fries and a can of Coke. 

The lady behind the counter, one of 5 employees, wrote down my order on the Styrofoam container in black magic marker. She then takes your container and puts it in one of two places depending on what you order.  For wraps it goes along the back wall where another employee is stationed to make them.  For burgers and salads, like my order, the container is put at the front where another employee does the buns and toppings.   At the toppings station I ordered my toppings but did note a couple of things, Manhattan's could improve their topping ordering by putting a sticker on the glass, like Subway, with the listings of toppings available.  The best thing about Manhattan's is the variety of toppings.  The only toppings that Manhattan's charges extra for are bacon and cheese.  But you can have spinach, two types of onions (instead of the usual one choice) and much more all at no additional charge.  The freshness though, rivals that of Five Guys Burgers & Fries.

I paid for cheeseburger combo ($10.10 including taxes) which I thought was a little steep.  At pubs around these parts I may pay a dollar or two more but get unlimited refills on my pop and better ambience than a mall food court setting.  But the burgers are supposedly better than your average McDonald's Big Mac with fries.  Manhattan's fries though, as mentioned previously, are not any better than Swiss Chalet.  So perhaps the price should be more in line at $8.00 to $9.00 taxes included. 

After paying, I advanced to wait for my burger to be situated correctly on the bun with the toppings and fries dished up. Here there are all the condiments available, napkins and anything else you may need.

So far so good compared to the previous Manhattan's experience at 360 Laurier where the service seemed a little disjointed.  At the Minto Place location all the staff knew what they were doing, handed off orders one to the another in a timely fashion and had all the necessary supplies in an easily accessible location to either themselves or, if needed, the customer. Thus, there were no slowdowns due to employees inquiring about certain orders or to wait for customers to juggle the ketchup bottle while standing at the cash like at 360 Laurier.

Next, I headed over to my food court table to dig into my lunch. 

The fries were exactly the same as the 360 Laurier location, tasted just like I would have at Swiss Chalet.  In other words not crisp and firm but potatoey and somewhat soft. Fresh cut fries? I think not, Manhattan's should save their money on torturing employees from hand cutting these fries, call Swiss Chalet and order their fries instead.

The Cheeseburger itself was tasty with the right proportion of toppings to burger and cheese quotient.  Nothing to runny that came spilling out back into the styrofoam container like other burger places.  Cheeseburger itself was exactly the same as the 360 Laurier location, a strong contender for a better handburger than McDonald's but not up to Five Guys Burgers & Fries or The Works.

Overall, this Manhattan's Handmade Burgers at Minto Place was better servicewise than the 360 Laurier Avenue.  The food court location works like clockwork during the lunch rush with equitably good food.  Best burger in Ottawa, close but no cigar.  Price wise as well this burger place seems a little on the expensive side.  Perhaps this is done intentionally to take advantage of the local clientele, the average government worker who has a slightly larger pay cheque than those in the private sector.  To the average person though, Manhattan's should be seen as slightly better than the average lunch counter. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What I Expect at a Restaurant

Recently I had a comment come in reply to my review of Casey's Restaurant at Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket.   I've held off in publishing this comment to the post as I felt a reply was duly needed, hence this post.  Also, there should be clarification on what I'm looking for when posting a Restaurant Review on this blog and thought that the below response would also do that nicely.

So first the comment:

"you have obviously never served before... and reading your post is an absolute unreal complaint or even aspect. first off if a server is busy god forbid she drop everything for your table she has 7 others... they try and treat everyone as a guest in their own home but unfortunately there are tables much more needy then others. For you to insult a server at that and not tip... you realize they make less then 9 dollars an hour?? how about you take a step back next time pull your head from you but and realize your not the only table in the place.... ESP if they are understaffed or busy.... people like you make our job as servers so much harder. maybe try serving or realize our jobs are much harder then you think thanks to dicks like you. Iv never been to caseys but im sure as hell to go just because of your stupid complaint."

It is much more easier to reply to the comment when it is broken down into repliable bits:

"you have obviously never served before...and reading your post is an absolute unreal complaint or even aspect. "

Very true, I've never been a waiter in a restauarant before.  But I've had a lot of experience being a restuarant customer throughout southern Ontario, New York City, Vancouver and Las Vegas.  I've watched  many a server do their jobs.

"first off if a server is busy god forbid she drop everything for your table she has 7 others... they try and treat everyone as a guest in their own home but unfortunately there are tables much more needy then others."

No, I'm not expecting the server to drop everything and serve me.  I do have patience.  Where I get a little irritated is when I've duly requested my bill and she has served the other table with 8 people on two occassions before dropping off my bill.  At this particular restaurant, as stated in the review, she spent an large amount of time serving them:

"We watched our waitress first take the drink orders of a new large group (8 or so people) seated near us. Then come back with their drink order and return to take the order. A brief stare from myself as she was taking orders brought an apology that our bill was coming. The waitress dissapeared soon after taking the order."

It took at least 3 minutes for her to stop by and take their drink order and dissappear.  Another three for her to pull the drinks together and return to drop them off.  Then she could have easily excused her self by saying "I will be right back in 2 minutes to take your food order, I'm just going to drop off the bill to that table over there" and done that before scooting back over to the table to take the order.  All I was basically asking was to get the bill in a reasonable amount of time.  At a restaurant like Casey's where there was a host at the front and a couple of other servers around who could have helped, I wasn't asking for rocket science.

"For you to insult a server at that and not tip... you realize they make less then 9 dollars an hour?? how about you take a step back next time pull your head from you but and realize your not the only table in the place...."

Again, I realize I'm not the only table at this place.  However, when I visit a restauarant like Casey's I'm also paying for decent, not necessarily the best, service.  Thus, I could care less as to what the waiter/waitress is making.  That is a contract between the restaurant owners/managers and the server themselves.  As a customer I could care less what the serving staff is making in wages, here is what I'm looking for:

1. Decent timely service with a smile when taking the order, bringing the food out and attending our table to ensure our meal is satisfactory.

2. Decent tasting food that is not over or undercooked. 

3. I do appreciate value for money.

4. Timely presentation of the bill when requested (i.e. it shouldn't take 10 minutes to figure out how much a customer owes the restauarant).

5. Clean amenities (e.g. entrance, bathrooms, floors, etc.)

For all of the above I ensure I tip.  However, if I get irritated with some or all of the above (i.e. at Casey's Sweet Potato fries that taste like cardboard and 10 minutes to even present the bill), I do leave less to no tip.  I feel good service from serving and support staff should be rewarded, but bad service should not be encouraged.  Hence the tip I choose to leave will reflect this. 

"ESP if they are understaffed or busy.... people like you make our job as servers so much harder. maybe try serving or realize our jobs are much harder then you think thanks to dicks like you.".

I attended Casey's on a Saturday evening.  Most restaurants in that area of similar value (e.g. Swiss Chalet, Boston Pizza, etc.) are normally lined up out the door.  So Casey's would not be understaffed for this evening as customer volume is expected to be higher on Friday and Saturday nights throughout the year.  I would expect more customers on those nights in comparison to a Tuesday evening.  Thus, the staffing should reflect the need for more service due to more customers. 

If a restaurant on a Saturday is so run off it's feet because it is understaffed this is a reflection on poor management and the workers should be complaining about it as the tips will obviously be lower. This is because people are less likely to tip and return to a restaurant if they receive rushed poor service. 

A server's job isn't easy, I fully admit it.  But a customer has the right to expect a certain level of service, food and atmosphere.  This is after all what a customer pays for and tips.  So if a server wants that tip, they had better show a decent effort for it.  As for the waitress at Casey's, she seemed more interested in the tip from the table of eight than she did in finishing up a decent experience with us. 

"Iv never been to caseys but im sure as hell to go just because of your stupid complaint."

Congratulations! I hope you get/had better service than we did. 
So hopefully that clears everything up in terms of what I expect at a restauarant. I've nearly seen everything from the great (Swiss Chalet service) to the worst (also Swiss Chalet) and everything in between.  My wife and I obviously provide repeat business to places we like (Jonathan's Fine Foods in Aurora) and rarely return to places we have had issues with (recently at London Pub).  However, we do allow places to improve by returning in six months to a year to a place with a bad review.  We also return to a place we can't decide if we had a mediocre time (i.e. can't figure if we like the place or not) to give it another try.
Bottom line, if you want our business you have to give us a good time and decent food.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Milestone of a Meal

Milestones on UrbanspoonSaturday for Lunch, with a gift card melting my pocket begging to be used and my wife and I in downtown Ottawa, we visited Milestones (700 Sussex Drive, Ottawa).  

Milestones is owned and franchised by the Cara group of companies who also own and franchise: Harvey's, Swiss Chalet, Kelsey's and Montana's. Each banner name (i.e. restaurant name) has a different flavour for the dining pleasure.  Harvey's is the traditional burger place that competes with McDonald's, Burger King and others.  Swiss Chalet is the family rotisserie chicken place competing in the Quebec and Ottawa area with Scores. Kelsey's bills itself as "Your Neighbourhood Bar & Grill" which also typically has more family friendly pricing in a place that pretends to be a bar/pub but really isn't.  Montana's is supposedly a cookhouse that specializes in serving up grilled meats of whatever flavour you wish. 

Milestones' dim lighting for the evening with supposedly higher end culinary chef inspired food attempt to make the ambiance and food romantically inclined.  Daytime wise it still has aspects of romance to it as well, but less so with light streaming in through the windows.  

The downtown Ottawa Milestones is in a picturesque location nestled between the upscale yet historic Chateau Laurier Hotel across the MacKenzie Street side of the building and yet on Sussex Drive opposite the Byward Market. But the building also has a architecturally significant tierred patio built into it providing great views from the Milestones' bar / lounge area with wrap around windows facing the Government Conference Centre (formerly the Ottawa Train Station) that provide great opportunities to look at historic architecture as well as people watching of the hoards of tourists walking by on Rideau Street. 

We arrived at the MacKenzie Street entrance through the double front door to meet the two hostesses standing at a table.  The interesting part is about said table is it is really as soon as you walk in instead of a little further back to allow other guests coming in to wait in the warmth.  It was like the designer of this Milestones location thought this was Los Angeles, California where the weather is nice year round instead of a February in Ottawa where it is below freezing and customers may be wielding ice skates before or after a venture on the nearby Rideau Canal Skateway. Not very well thought out, but lucky for us the restaurant was not that busy for a Saturday noon time lunch.

At this point you are given an option by the hostess to either eat in the dining room or in the lounge.  Not knowing that difference was I selected the dining room.  It wasn't until later that I ventured over to the bar area to realize the above noted wrap around windows overlooking the corner with Rideau Street.  I got a few looks from the waitresses when I visited like "can we help you?"  I just looked, went, o.k. that is the view and scurried back to the dining room. 

We were lead to the table by a hostess who, while on the way, showed us where the washrooms are.  At the table she dropped off a slip of paper with our table number on it and the time we were seated.  I'm not sure the reasoning behind this slip of paper but I used it to guage the timely progression of our meal.  

We were seated below a panorama historical picture of the Parliament Hill view from the Hull (Gatineau) side of the Ottawa River.   After perusing our menues for both brunch and dinner I took a closer look at that the photo and noted the time period was definately before the First World War as the Chateau Laurier was absent, the railway was prominent and the Victoria Tower on the Centre Block of Parliament Hill was still present as opposed to the Peace Tower.   An interesting view compared to what that same view is today.  

While perusing the menues,  I first observed the different somewhat gourmet style named and increased pricing compared to your average restaurant.  But offerings weren't that high brow that I was going to need to sell my first born to attend or to expect the Prime Minister to visit with the Queen.  But we did find something for each of us that we would be content with. 

Our waitress, five minutes after us sitting, stopped by to reiterate that the menues were looking at were the brunch and dinner menues and we were free to order from both.   She asked if we wanted to order drinks, we replied nicely that we were ready to order our food as well. 

The Order: The Montreal Stack (Montreal smoked meat, aged Cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and ripe tomatoes served with a house made blackberry ketchup with curly fries on the side) & a Pepsi and a Spicy Thai Chicken Rollup (A warm red flour tortilla, spicy smoked chicken breast, Jasmine rice, peanut sauce and sesame cucumber mayo with curly fries on the side) & a glass of water.

The waitress was pretty quick with service.  The odd thing was she would dissapear for five minutes at a time leaving her three or four tables unserviced for a while.  She would reappear later, service all of them and dissappear again.  No real issues with the service but she seemed to have this down to a science knowing where in the meal process each table was in and what they would need next.  At no time did I have to ask for a refill on my Pepsi, she just quickley offered, grabbed the glass (which I ensured was always at the end of the booth table we sat at), refilled it and returned it.  The only service issue we had was actually with the refill on the Pepsi when our food arrived. 

When our food arrived, in a timely manner, our waitress ensured we had everything and offered to refill my Pepsi glass.  I agreed, she dissappeared and it took three or four minutes for her to return.  She apologized for the delay as I had already dug into my meal.  No sweat though, other than that she was top notch service wise with a dose of good cheer. 

The Montreal Stack smoked meat sandwich was nicely done with finely sliced beef brisket, fresh tasting tomatoes and cheese.  Admittedly, I missed the "caramelized onions" until I reread the menu for this review.   Although the menu promised "blackberry ketchup" I didn't see anything except for a little thing of ketchup that I assumed was for my fries.   This is also because my wife's Chicken Rollup was also accompanied by same said small ketchup container.

The accompanying curly fries on both plates were hot as well.  They were an interesting take on the traditional bar fries that looked like little rings.  At one point I had about six fries intertwined to make a chain of which any five year old playing with his food would be proud of.   The accompanying ketchup tasted better than the Heinz you would find at your average bar and made a good compliment to the fries.

The spicy chicken wrap my wife asked for the spice to be more mild in nature.  She reports that after a couple of bites there was a tang to the chicken spice but it wasn't eye watering suicidal like it might of been.

Overall, Milestones is a good restaurant if you are in search of a romantic spot probably away from the crayons and associated place mats of the family dining establishments. There are a few interesting culinary delights to find here but because Milestones is part of a chain, don't expect the food to overly great with the chefs onsight taking culinary liberties like other single family owned locations.   Looking for a decent romantic spot out in downtown Ottawa after a date on the canal or before a romantic walk at night around the rear of Parliament Hill food you know will be decent? Milestones just might be your place.

Friday, January 04, 2013

A Trip to Manhattan for a Burger

Manhattan's Handmade Burgers on UrbanspoonToday for lunch I visited Manhattan's Handmade Burgers (360 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa) and to investigate why this locally based restaurant chain hadn't made any top lists for best burger in Ottawa. 

I entered at 11:50 to a medium sized line and three employees working the counter of this store.  Two employees were working the food prep area and one employee working the cash register.  I found the back of the line and observed the menu overhead to investigate what I wanted.  The menu had a variety of sandwiches, burgers, wraps and salads

I first chose the club sandwich but changed my mind and decided to go for the Cheeseburger Combo.  I changed my mind as the name of the store did include the words "Handmade Burgers".  Thus, a challenge to see if they could add the word "Quality" to their store name I thought was in order. 

The line moved pretty consistantly with the two ladies behind the counter working efficiently.  I placed the order within three minutes of arriving which surprised me due to the length of the line.

The Order: 1 Cheeseburger platter (Cheeseburger & French Fries) and a can of Dr. Pepper.

The only slowdown in the line was the wait for the burgers to finish cooking.  But in the meantime your bun is garnished with the over 10 different garnishes and condiments to choose from.  The paddy comes next and then your entire plate is wisked over to the fryer and heaped in french fries.  

I took my full plate over to the cash register where really the only service issue occurred.  The employee working the cash register had to ask a question about how to ring up a salad another customer had ordered.  Thus three customers stood in line waiting for the query to be answered.

Also at the cash there is a little bit of a juggling act to obtain the ketchup for your fries hidden in the Coke machine refrigerator next to the cash.  You can place your plate down at the cash and then reach back and pick up the ketchup use it and put it back in the fridge.  Next is the juggling of the napkins which is on the other side of the cash.  This only slows the line down, especially during the busy weekday lunch rush.  Instead of juggling the items as you try and dodge your fellow customer who only wants to, just like you, pay for their meal, grab their condiments, have lunch and move on with life, the restaurant coule easily fit a condiment station after the cash register like at fast food locales like McDonalds. 

After the cash register/condiment station I found a seat at the window to watch the passing pedestrian parade along Laurier Avenue.  I finally was able to take off my jacket and oggle my food. 

The burger was the first victim.  A couple of bites in I could taste that yes the burger was fresher than your conventional McDonald's or Wendy's burgers but as good as Five Guys Burger & Fries contender.  Nonetheless, the burger was a decent burger for a downtown lunch counter like Manhattan's.  The toppings were fresher than the fast foodies but on par with Five Guys and The Works.   Was it a top Ottawa burger?  Not really, the paddy was thinner than The Works and Five Guys, but still juicy.  As well the buns were nothing special either. 

Manhattan's claims on their website that:

We specialize in hand-cut fries which are cut daily on site and cooked to order using our Trans Fat Free, Cholesterol Free, Canola Oil.

So why do the fries then taste and look similar to Swiss Chalet fries?  The fries were decently warm in temperature and were easily complimented with some ketchup.  But the similar taste to Swiss Chalet fries overshadowed the entire consumption. 

After finishing up my meal, I scanned the restaurant.  I had a china plate and a couple of napkins to dispose of.  Does the restaurant staff bus the tables like Tim Horton's staff do to retrieve the plates and cups?  Nope, Manhattan's has a bin for the plates and garbage can for everything else right at the start of the line to order your food.  Great placement during the lunch rush so those that are clearing their spot after a fine meal now must square dance to drop off their unwanted plates with those waiting in line dreaming of food.

Overall, Manhattan's Handmade Burgers is a decent lunch counter for local office workers looking for a meal either out for lunch or for take out while working on a project at the office.  The restaurant doesn't provide necessarily the best hamburger in town but does provide a solid meal to fill you up.  Fine tuning placement of the condiments and after meal plate and garbage bins would make this place into a practical place for a decent lunch.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

My Avenue to Steeling Good Deli Food

Steeles Deli Warehouse on UrbanspoonFor lunch today I felt a need for something a little different.  We had been to all the chain restaurants in the area (e.g. Swiss Chalet, Kelseys, etc.) and many others.  We had been to Pho Xe Lua, Annalisa and other asian restaurants as well.  Today I wanted something different.  Something solid, something familiar and yet someplace we had never been to before. 

In the past my wife and I had walked by the Steeles Deli and never set foot in it.  There was always a large line up at the door and the place was packed. Always a long line up. 

So this being quiet Saturday afternoon I thought why not attempt a visit to this normally very popular local establishment.  Worse comes to worse we end up visiting Pho Xe Lua if we can not get a table in time.   But we never got the chance, there was a table at Steeles Deli. 

We were welcomed as soon as we walked in the door.  There were only two tables left in the old time deli restaurant with with an open concept kitchen with four cooks being fed orders by two experienced waitresses.  We were shoehorned in near the kitchen.  The only other table available appeared to seat eight and was further back.  Shoehorning people in appears to be the method at Steeles Deli as each of the tables seems to be carefully arranged so as to take up the minimal amount of space so that the small intimate deli space can serve all its patrons yet have the clientele not feel rushed.  

Our order was taken by a friendly waitress who wanted to ensure we felt cared for yet not be overserviced. 

Our Order: Deli breakfast (sausage, bacon, toast, scrambled eggs, & coffee) and a California Style Chicken Sandwich (grilled chicken sandwich with Guacomole, lettuce etc.) with a side of fries.

Our order took less than ten minutes to find its way to our table.  The kitchen staff works together like clockwork to ensure your order makes its way to your table piping hot and fresh.  You can even see the meat slicer working as fast as possible to ensure all deli meats are feshly sliced and the team of four works like well orchestrated team.  There is even one person just the otherside of the kitchen counter to ensure all the orders are read out to the kitchen team and correctly put together before the waitress wisks them quickley to the table as fast as she can navigate her way to the table.  McDonald's could sure learn a thing or two from this operation in terms of food service!

The food was of similar quality as the service. My fries were crispy hot, yet delicious and not  overcooked. The chicken sandwich was excellent with the chicken not too over or under grilled.  The lettuce and all the trippings tasted to be freshly made. 

The only issue was the scrambled eggs from the deli breakfast.  There were a few egg shells pieces, but this is really a minor quibble within an otherwise excellent meal. 

The atmosphere of the place was interesting as well.  The ornately old deli style walls with pictures of actors from yesteryear mixed with customers who seemed to regulars of this fine dining establishment. 

Overall the Steeles Deli was an a great place to visit.  The deli could easily take over the floor space the nearby Swiss Chalet as the Deli seemed to have more patrons than the famous Canadian Chicken establishment.  But that would mean the Deli would lose some of it's charm, a place with great food with others in close quarters within in an intimate setting.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What happenned to the CNE? - Longing for the CNE of years gone by

Over the past two weekends I have been down to the Canadian National Exhibition's (CNE) 128th season.

The first weekend I was really excited to go to "The Ex" as I hadn't been in quite some time. I also had reason to, a former colleague from New York was up here on vacation and I thought "Let's go to The Ex!"

Over the next two weeks I was dissapointed:

First, after getting off the streetcar I paid $12.00 admission to get into the grounds. Sure this twelve buckaroos would have been great if it included even one or two rides. Nope sorry, out of luck. This twelve simoleans only lets your sorry ass get through the gate and the right to enter a melting pot of a flea market and land (carni market? flea land?).

While walking around the CNE I was fairly dissapointed that really the only excitement was the rides which I will point out you had to pay for at a cost of $3 to $6, various casino games, traditional "try your luck" or carni games.

Inside the old buildings things weren't that much better. A the food building, overpriced food supposedly prepared by well known vendors like Swiss Chalet, Pizza Pizza, and other Toronto area chain restuarents were a great dissapointment. This disspointment emanated from the fact the food quality people have come to expect from these chains was lacking.
Basically the food building was a large mediocre food court. If I wanted this type of environment I would head to Vaughan Mills Mall or Upper Canada Mall thank you very much!

Over at the Sports exhibition in the "Better Living" building more of the same flea market stalls were present. These "stalls" sold everything from sweat socks to ball caps. However there was a glimmer of excitement in the hall! While I was in this building for an hour there was one half time basketball show that was fairly good. The players would jump off trampolines and dunk a ball in a basketball hope. This was perhaps the funnest thing at the CNE.

Over at the Horse Palace, which apparently in the olden days used to be a two floor building brimming with the sounds of stallions and mares in yesteryear I was again dissapointed. The building was perhaps only a quarter used if that. There were two aisles describing to the youngsters what horses were and why horses were important. Sure this was great for the four or five year old who grew up in the city and has never seen or even been near a horse before. But I was looking for perhaps some trick riding or some true horsemanship.

I was sadely mistaken, all I got was one gentleman with a horse on a rope running around and around and around. I felt sorry for the horse having to be watched by all the city slickers and going around and around and around in order to get some excercise.

It seemed the horses in the horse palace seemed more like a inmates or a nuisance than anything else. Children had to use tongs in order to get a chance to feed a horse a carrot. Ride a horse? Sure the kids got to ride a horse! A fake mechanical horse at that! It seems horses at the CNE are more to be kept in stalls with "Do not pet" signs on the outside doors of the stalls. I really felt sorry for the horses that were there, at least the few of them that were there.

Was there anything great about the show? On the second weekend (and really the only reason I returned to "The Ex" at all) the Air Show was, as it usually is during this time of year, pretty good. It wasn't spectactular as the weather was drizzley to rainy. But the CF-18, the Aurora aircraft, the Harvard planes and the Canadian Snow Birds made appearances. I didn't get to see the Snow Birds while I was there on the Saturday of the Air Show because I was too cold, wet and hungry after two hours of standing outside. So I retreated to the warmth of the Food building for some substandard fries from Swiss Chalet. But at least I got to see a CF-18 woosh accross the sky and hear the unique sounds of three Harvard Aircraft doing tricks in the sky.

But I think next year I would skip paying the $12.00 admission and just watch the air show from the lake front. I found the two announcers who described every single detail of the planes right down to the type of screws used to fasten the door handle, to be a little annoying. In fact they were repeating things over and over again.

Would I go next year to the CNE? Probably not because I can go to carni land and flea markets for the less than $12.00 in other locations in the Toronto area. So this being the 128th season, what happenned to the CNE's past glory? What happenned to the CNE?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Triple Play at Triple O's

Triple O's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoAfter having a delicious burger at White Spot, later that week I decided to try out White Spot's "sister brand", Triple O's (700 Hamilton Street, Vancouver).  This Triple O's is located on the ground floor of the CBC building at the corner of Georgia and Hamilton Streets.

Despite being in an urban downtown area, the Triple O's is actually a spacious 50's or 60's diner inspired inside with a  service counter at one end.  Add to this a condiment and drink counter along another side the entire interior set up is like a McDonald's forced to combine operations with a diner.

Triple O's in the CBC Vancouver Building
Triple O's in the CBC Vancouver Building

Being 11:30 a.m., I walked up to the counter and ordered right away.

The Order: 1 Bacon Cheddar Cheeseburger with Fries and Coke.

After ordering and paying, I was promised the order would be brought out to me but here was my soft drink cup that I could fill up at the fountain pop machine nearby.

Triple O's Interior
Triple O's Interior

I filled my cup up and found a seat nearby.  I logged into the free wifi to catch up on my usual rounds.  But before I get much further, amazingly my order was being brought out!  Who would of thunk it that ordering at a McDonald's like restaurant would let their customers go and sit with their drinks while their order was prepared and then bring it out them?

Triple O's Bacon Burger Combo with Fries
Triple O's Bacon Burger Combo with Fries

The burger was similar to Harvey's hamburger except a little more juicier.  Of course, the "Triple O's Sauce" added a little more to a usual burger topped with cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato. A decent burger experience.

Triple O's French Fries
Triple O's Fries
The fries were similar to the Harvey's & Swiss Chalet fries I've enjoyed in Ontario except a little thicker cut.  Pretty good temperature and taste wise pretty good with a small dose of ketchup.

Triple O's Original Hamburger
Triple O's Original Hamburger

Overall, Triple O's has been a favourable experience.  I've since been back a couple of times to this location to find friendly service a decent prices.  Tuesdays are the best days to go if you're looking for simple hamburger as they offer a Original Burger, fries and drink for $7 to $8 including taxes.  When in Vancouver, I'll return!

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

MMMMM...Burger at Kelsey's

Kelsey's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Earlier last week I was able to take my father out for a beer and dinner while using a Cara Gift Card we had recently acquired by redeeming some Scene points.

We headed to Kelsey's (Elmvale Shopping Centre, 1910 St. Laurent Boulevard, Ottawa) to check out how well this location does in a dated local area shopping centre vs the traditional big box store format.

We entered on Monday evening to find a couple of tables occupied by customers and greeted by what we presumed to be a hostess who promised to be with us in a minute.   Turns out the hostess was also a waitress as she would later be serving us our food and drinks at our table while another person worked the bar area.

We were shortly seated at a booth and handed presented with the menus.   After a quick review of what was on tap and little bit of a wait longer than expected for our beers we ordered our food.

The Order: The Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburger (Double stacked 4 oz. sirloin patties topped with double-smoked bacon, peameal bacon, cheese, fresh tomatoes, crisp leaf lettuce, red onions and mayo spread on a toasted pretzel bun) with fries and a Shock Top Belgian White beer.

Shock Top Belgian White Beer
Shock Top Belgian White Beer

The Shock Top Belgian White beer was perfectly cold and refreshing.  Served in an appealing tall glass with an average fresh orange slice to add a little more flavoring, the beer goes down easy yet tasty.

After a reasonable short wait of 15 minutes of pleasant conversation our orders arrived.  

Kelsey's The Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburger with Fries
The Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburger with Fries
The Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburger was pretty good. For presentation purposes, the burger was skewered by kitchen grade knife to hold it together while sitting on a plate alongside a small bowl full of fries.  The burger itself was pretty decent tasting with the melted cheese, adequately cooked bacon and juicy burger.

The fries were average bar fries at best.  Nothing great but not the worst I've had.  Cara restaurants, including Swiss Chalet and Harveys, though aren't really known for their fries.

Overall, this Kelsey's is similar to a neighbourhood pub as opposed to a destination their other locations are at the big box store plazas.  With a low key leisurely feel it was nice to have a no rush quiet dinner and drinks plenty of space between you and the next table over.  This location serves up average Kelsey's fare along not overly great but not terrible service. It may be worth a return visit on a busier Friday or Saturday evening in the future to see how things change with a few more customers coming through the door.

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