Saturday, December 08, 2018

Eating OFF the Hill: Capitol Burger at Queen Street Fare

A little over three years back in Ottawa and I've lunched at about pretty much everywhere I want to lunch within walking distance of the Parliamentary precinct. So, when Queen Street re-opened to two-way traffic this week and my bus to work was re-routed (to link up with the Parliament O-Train stop which looks like it may actually open at some point) I was happy to see that Queen Street Fare was nearing completion -- and indeed, opened to the public on Friday on Queen between Bank and O'Connor, right accross from the CBC.

I read a breathless preview about it in the Globe & Mail a few weeks ago, that described it as some sort of new concept in commercial office building food delivery they're calling Ottawa's first Food Hall. Sounded like a fancier food court to me, but whatevs -- another lunching option is always welcome.

So I popped over for an early lunch on Friday, hoping to avoid the combined lunch rush/new thing rush, and just barely managed to do so. I would say my earlier take as a fancified food court was borne out. There are a number of different reasturants available, all non-chain operations which is a nice change from a standard food court. I found the layout a bit hap-hazzard with some tight corners to navigate, even were there less people milling about. There's a mix of large communal tables, smaller tables and bar seating.

There are a variety of options, including tasty-looking Mexican and grilled oven pizza places I will try in the future. But this day, I had my sights set on Capitol Burger Counter for a burger. Claiming inspiration from the Capitol Theatre which stood on this site until 1970 as a concert venue, its a basic burger, fries and shakes stand -- although the shakes weren't available on this day -- made with locally-sourced ingredients.

I decided to pass on the fries as they didn't seem as thin as I tend to like, although they did look crispy and possibly twice-fried. I ordered the Bacon Project -- as did nearly every person in line behind me -- which is basically a bacon cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato (I held the pickes) and their thousand island-inspired special sauce. And for the bevvy, it's all glass bottled options. I opted for a bottle of Pepsi which appeares to be the sugar and not fructose-sweetened variety -- which was nice, as Diet wasn't available.

With the open kitchen I could watch them preparing my order. The brioche bun gets a smear of butter before going into the toaster which was nice, although the bun was cold by the time the burger caught up. The beef comes from the fridge in little balls which go onto the grill to be flattened by a griddle -- it reminds me of Smashburger, which I had a few times in trips to Los Angeles. (Smashburger side note: their Filipino owners, who also own Jolibee, told me they do plan to bring Smashburger to Canada in the future).

I seemed to have caught them at the beginning of the cycle, as I had to wait while they grilled about 10 burgers from scratch, with my order at the front of the line. But maybe 10 minutes later, I had my burger and Pepsi on a metal tray and went to a communal table to dig in.

I mentioned the bun earlier. While I enjoyed the chew of the top contrasting with the toast of the bottom, had lost its toaster heat; but it was still good. A burger comes with two patties, which I'd guess work out to a quarter pound in total. It was tasty and juicy -- not quite Burger's Priest, but certainly the best burger for blocks -- but I felt like $15 for a burger and drink, no fries, pushed the boundaries.

On a side note, it wasn't super-clear what to do with the glass bottle -- into the organics or paper recyclables bin? -- so I left it on top, with the trays.

Still, a tasty lunch and in interesting concept. I'll be back for future lunches to try out some of the other options. There's also several bars on site, and it turns into more of an entertainment venue in the evenings, with live music and what not.

A welcome addition to the downtown Ottawa lunch scene, which is certainly in need of innovation. And a Popeye's Chicken, as I continue to lobby for at every opportunity.

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