Friday, April 19, 2013

Nate's Deli: An Ottawa Institution Returns

An old Ottawa institution that was located on Rideau Street for decades.  The front looked like a regular delicatessen with meats and other tempting items.  But the back of the place was hidden a restaurant where delicious smoked meat sandwiches are served.  Owned by Dave Smith, Nate's was a 50 year old local dining institution with the best smoked meat in town.  He sold the restaurant to condos and supposedly retired.

Fast forward to earlier this year and Nate's Deli (340 Queen Street, Ottawa), completely reopened at the corner of Queen & Lyon Streets with the city awarded "Dave Smith Crescent" road sign proudly displayed. The institution had supposedly returned, but would the food live up to it?

I arrived at 11:30 P.M. and walked in the front door and waited.  I was met my "Bernie" who bubbly inquired if I wished to stay or go with my order. The whole place seemed to it's customers by giving them time to decide whether to eat in or take out as well as peruse the menu at your leisure. I said I would be more than happy to sit in the front window overlooking the Queen Street sidewalk.

I inquired with Bernie about the smoked meat sandwich platter selections and she opened the menu and showed me the options.  She offered to get me a drink and went to fetch it while I looked at extensive menu that included burgers and other diner food as well as the famous smoked meat sandwiches.   She returned and I was ready.

The Order: 1 Jumbo Smoked Meat Sandwich Platter (1 Smoked Meat Sandwich on White, Fries and Cole Slaw and a can of Pepsi).

I sat down at the front counter with place settings with silverware on paper placemats overlooking the Queen Street sidewalk.  Free copies of the local Metro newspaper were also available at each spot.  Nice thoughtful touch.  I did a quick look around noticing the main restaurant area is located along the Lyon Street side and the counter behind me on the Queen Street side.  Tiled floors throughout and old Nate's memorabilia on the walls seemed to be the order of the day.  People from nearby offices streamed in as the clock got closer to noon.

In five short minutes my order was prepared and in front of me.  I commented to Bernie that this was fast indeed.  She ensured I had the ketchup and mustard close enough and was ready to eat.

The first target on the plate was of course the smoked meat sandwich (watch the toothpick holding it together!).  The meat was fabulously fantastic. Slightly moist but not overcooked and dry that some pretenders have done before.  The juices were definitely there to make themselves known as well as the slight taste of mustard.

The fries, Bernie had promised me before ordering, were just like traditional chip truck fries.  Was Bernie right?  A squirt of a little ketchup and some dipping.... sure was. Perfectly slightly salted these were some of the best fries I have had since moving to Ottawa.  Potato slices by nature with a crispy outerside they complimented the sandwich beautifully like old school Jewish deli's.  

To finish up the delicous platter, the coleslaw.  A healthy portion was provided in glass container.  Unlike other restaurants, the coleslaw helping was generous. Tasty vinegar based professionally made salad with fresh tasting cabbage included.

Bernie returned after my meal to remark that I finished the sandwich quickly and offered desert.  I declined the desert feeling a little full. I asked for the bill and of course it came within 2 minutes.  Great service by Bernie.

Overall, Nate's has resurrected itself back to where it left Rideau Street. Delicious carefully made food with excellent service.  The only complaint? $17.50 for the platter seemed a little high.  Hopefully this price can be bumped down below $15.00. Service and food wise though Nate's Deli has returned with a vengence.

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