Monday, September 22, 2014

Subpar Soggy Sandwich at Subway Gloucester

Subway on UrbanspoonWednesday for dinner my wife and I found ourselves at Gloucester Centre's Food Court before a movie preview of This is Where I Leave You at the nearby SilverCity.

In search of non-overpriced movie theatre food, we tried bringing A&W coupons.  But the A&W apparently was, according to a note a the darkened storefront, having technical difficulties and would reopen tomorrow.  No luck on a Teen Burger combo, we scoured the choices and settled on the nearby Subway (1980 Ogilvie Road, Ottawa).

I ventured over and waited behind an older gentleman in line.  Just my luck, he wasn't sure what cheese he wanted on his sub. Would it be American white or Swiss Cheese?  Oh the horrors of choosing cheese!  I rolled my eyes as I could only imagine what would happen once he got to the vegetable choices.

Eventually a second employee stepped forward and took over the walking disaster of choice ahead of me and I was able to order.

The Order: 1 Cold Cut Combo and 1 Meatball Marinara both on 12" size 9 Grain Wheat.

After ordering, and thank goodness Mayor McCheese ahead of me surprisingly took a reasonable amount of time deciding on his veggies and not hunting for his last penny.

I took the sandwiches over to eat with my wife who was waiting patiently in the mall's food court seating area.

The Cold Cut Combo was made to average Subway specifications accompanied with lettuce, tomato, green peppers, red onions and mayonnaise.  The mayonnaise was not overpowering but just right.  Nothing to complain about.

The Meatball Marinara was a different story. Topped with lettuce, tomato, green peppers and black olives, the only sauce was the tomato sauce from the meatball marinara.  Normally the tomato sauce isn't an issue with other sandwiches prepared at other Subway locations, but this one was soggy.  So soggy in fact we left about a quarter of the sandwich uneaten.  Upon investigation, the preparation stage was the issue, too much sauce was added with the meatballs.  This let the sauce gradually soggify the bread.  Not great as the longer the sandwich sits, the more soggy the bread gets.

Overall, we were not impressed.  Average cold cut combo, but a soggy mess of a meatball sandwich.  Sure service was decent speed, but the meatball marina sandwich could have been better.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Everything is Merry at the Merry Dairy

Merry Dairy on UrbanspoonToday my wife and I were fortunate to be invited to the 13th Annual Corn Roast at Balena Park hosted by Ottawa City Councillor Peter Hume. As part of the festivities there was served Hamburgers, hot dogs, potato chips and pop.  This, of course, had to be followed up by a dessert!

Dessert was supplied by local food truck The Merry Dairy.  At the corn roast the truck is contracted to hand out their traditional fresh vanilla frozen custard with rainbow colour sprinkles only so there was no need to order.

The truck had 2 employees dishing up the cones to waiting families including excited kids. The team of two moved pretty steadily through the line without any noticeable hiccups.

The ice custard was pretty rich quality tasting.  Standard sprinkles were had and the cone was average from any truck.  But the custard is a lot better than the standard soft serve found on most trucks.

Overall, the Merry Dairy has quite a good concept going.  Locatable from the truck's website on a daily basis as it roams the street of the nation's capital and a normally larger menu, the truck is gem to be enjoyed.

A Second Cup of Java While Waiting for the Doctor

Second Cup on UrbanspoonRecently, we've been to the local hospital a couple of times. Nothing to worry about, just a few routine tests.  Each time I've stopped by the Second Cup (501 Smyth Road, Ottawa) on the first floor for a cup of coffee.

Located just behind the escalators to the second floor in patient and emergency room and yet just before the elevators, this coffee shop is in the perhaps the most convenient location in the entire hospital for a coffee shop.  Added to this convenience, according to the Second Cup website, this location is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

This past week we ventured in the morning.  The only bad time to attend this Second Cup is during regular hospital staff shift changes.  These shift changes result in hospital staff grabbing their coffees before or after their shifts.

This Second Cup location also provides the full suite of services of a regular Second Cup which is different than other hospitals I've been to.  Usually hospital coffee service locations have stripped down minimal donuts or baked goods with coffee served up by hospital unionized employees.  This location provides a full selection of Second Cup baked goods and at least 6 different flavoured coffees on a daily basis.

On our recent visit, I waited about three minutes in line behind 3 nurses who were just starting.  But the line behind me gradually grew.  There were three servers behind the counter working the full coffee bar, taking orders and mixing drinks.  I was through in an impressive 5 minutes.

The Order: 1 Belgian Chocolate Coffee.

The Belgian Chocolate Coffee is perhaps my favourite coffee from Second Cup.  A rich chocolaty flavour along with a strong, but dark roast, coffee flavour.  Excellent smell and even better taste.  Brewed right, like the Second Cup Ottawa Hospital location does, it's one of the better coffees I have.

Overall, the Ottawa Hospital has a real credit to it's hospital food offerings in Second Cup.  A full cafe seems to be doing well at the large General Campus.  Perhaps this is due to the convenient location just inside the front door near the major traffic area to the elevators and just behind the escalators to the second floor. Coupled with decent steady service with coffee made to corporate specifications, this location is perhaps just what the Doctor ordered.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Loblaws Logistics Issues Continue

O'Tasty dumplings advertisement from Loblaws Flyer.
In their weekly flyer starting starting Friday August 22nd, Loblaws advertised for sale O'Tasty Dumplings.  The advertised price of $2.98 on page 8 of their flyer seemed like decent deal.  My wife and I even planned to visit Alirang Restaurant on Nelson Street in Ottawa which happens to be just up from a Loblaws store at 363 Rideau Street (at Nelson Street).

Seemed pretty simple enough, enjoy Korean food at Alirang and then venture the nearby Loblaws for grocery shopping.  Everything went off without a hitch until we tried looking for O'Tasty Dumplings.  There was sign on the back bunker freezer showing the sale price but nothing below.   We even inquired with one of the frozen food workers who double checked.  Nothing, but the truck may have something come Monday if it was ordered, perhaps. No worries, we had other stores to visit over the weekend and we could perhaps pick them up.  Add in the fact that Loblaws' sister banner, Your Independent Grocer, had the same dumplings for $2.99 and all would be in order.

Saturday we were headed to Costco, but were able to stop off at Gloucester Shopping Centre to visit the Loblaws there (1980 Ogilvie Road).  Nothing, just a sign with no product just like the Rideau Street location.  We asked one of the ladies who worked in the frozen food section.  She said they had nothing and weren't expecting any in for the rest of the week.

Sunday rolls around and I make 3 more attempts.  The first is McDonah's Independent Grocer at Billings Bridge Mall (2277 Riverside Drive).  No space for the dumplings on the floor.  So I ask one of the guys working the floor.  He double checks with the head stockperson who double checks the back.  Just as they both thought, the store doesn't carry the product normally and doesn't order any.    I continue south on Bank Street to the Loblaws at South Keys Shopping Centre where things really get interesting.

First I start off in the frozen foods section checking all the bunkers as I had previously found the spots for the dumplings at the Loblaws Rideau and Gloucester Centre locations with nothing to show for it.  I asked one of he workers standing nearby inventorying batteries figuring she could help locating and possibly telling me if they have any in stock.  No way, she said I should consult with the deli area as they have tofu and other items.  I ventured over to the deli area and perused that area.  I ended up inquiring with one of the employees in that area who looked at me strangely and said it should be in the frozen food area.  I replied I had been there and was told to come here.  She suggested I try the meat department.  The three butchers working the meat department have no idea and start laughing when I told them my travails from frozen food to deli and back to them.  I head to customer service for one last attempt.

The Customer Service counter is understandably busy with customers doing returns and lottery tickets. I patiently wait until it's my turn and explain the gentleman of my issue.  He looks puzzled as he reviews the flyer. I politely ask if the store manager is available,  Mr. Hatoum is paged and arrives. I go through my story of trying to get the dumplings advertised at his and the other stores overseen by Loblaws Company's Limited. Mr. Hatoum explained he's always running into this issue with Loblaws advertising these products which his store doesn't carry.  He pointed out the Toronto area doesn't have an issue with this as there is a large enough population to go through the inventory.  He agrees to order a few boxes of the product and that I should ask customer service for a rain check.   Mr. Hatoum returns in the direction of his office and I receive a rain check.

Loblaws Rain Check
On the way out of the South Keys Loblaws store, I try calling Loblaws Customer Service using the number on the back of the flyer.  Not surprisingly, Loblaws Customer Service is only open Monday to Friday 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.

Later that evening, I make one last effort.  I visit Loblaws at 100 McArthur Road (Vanier Parkway & McArthur Road).  I do the usual walk around of the frozen food bunker with nothing to be found.  I find lady who works there and explain my situation.  She smiles and explains that this happens quite often at this store.  There is a promotion on dumplings or some other item the store doesn't carry.  A shipment comes in pretty well at the end of the flyer period.  The store is left with a bunch of product that they don't normally carry and have nothing to do with it as they can no longer sell it at the normal price.  I leave the store laughing at Loblaws continue issues with logistics. It was at least 5 years ago Loblaws Head Office was forced to cancel store conversions and expansions due to troubles with their logistical issues.  Apparently, the problems continued now with items on promotion in a major Canadian city over 5 locations and maybe more.

Later that day, I visit Loblaws on Facebook.  I notice lots of promotions celebrating their 95 birthday.  I leave a message about visiting 4 Loblaws Company Limited (LCL) stores and leave a message there explaining what I ran into.

Tuesday rolls around and Loblaws replies asking which store I normally shop at.  I reply the Rideau Street location.

August the 29th happens and Loblaws replies again stating the Rideau Street Store has successfully received three cases.  I inquire if Loblaws was willing to honour the pricing in the flyer.  Loblaws declined the price as the flyer dates had expired but if I "PM" them, they would take care of it.

In the Personal Message (PM), Loblaws offered a $5 gift card if I provided my address.  I replied that I would prefer a phone call on Tuesday from a Loblaws Head Office Manager to discuss the situation of the obvious false advertising for a product they never had adequate supply in the Ottawa area.  I, of course, posted my results to the Facebook page conversation to keep others notified of Loblaw's advertising practices.

On Saturday. I inquired about the supply at the Loblaws South Keys store in a message on Facebook.  Loblaws never replied.  So Saturday August 30th I called the Loblaws South Keys to check in on the status of the dumpling supply. I ended up in phone hell going around and round through the choice of options.  Firts and second times trying to go to Customer Service counter that only looped me back.  Third tried Management and that looped me back again.  Somehow, somewhere, someone took pity on my and the   the lady at customer service picked up and offered immediately to transfer me to the freezer section.  I protested not wanting to repeat my visit by being passed around incessantly by employees who thought it was someone else's department.  I eventually spoke to the Store's Assistant Manager as the Store Manager, Mr. Hatoum, was on a conference call.  The Assistant Store Manager put me on hold and, 2 minutes later, a "Dave" picked up.  I asked if they had found the dumplings, put on hold again.  The Assistant Store Manager picked up again and said they had some.  I inquired how many, they said about 4 cases and they would be in the main freezer and I should ask for the Grocery Manager named Riley.

That afternoon, I visited the store and went straight to Customer Service.  The lady behind the counter took my Rain Check and proceeded to ask if I had checked the back bunker before coming to customer service.  I replied that the Assistant Store Manager had asked me to come to straight to customer service and ask for Grocery Manager named Riley.  She paged the Grocery Manager and we waited.  Her cohort behind the counter did the same a 2nd and third time.  Eventually Riley returned the call and brought forth 4 cases of dumplings.  Finally, after a Loblaws head office and store runaround I had my dumplings.  I, of course, updated that Loblaws South Keys finally resolved the dumpling need. But an explanation was needed as to why this occurred.

Of amusement is the written promise on the Loblaws South Keys Rain Check:

Loblaws policy has always been to provide sufficient merchandise to cover advertised specials. This item was subject to a greater demand than we anticipated. Please accept this rain check with our apologies.

So Loblaws Head Office, as the policy would suggest, believed almost nobody at these particular stores would be looking for this advertised product?  Even worse, three out of the five stores don't even carry this product normally and yet had it in their flyer for their store.  Perhaps Loblaws Head Office management needs to review this apparently long standing policy to ensure that "sufficient merchandise| is available "to cover advertised specials" because I highly doubt there was "greater demand" than anticipated.  There was demand but it was for a product that was simply not available.

Now all there is left is a phone call from Loblaws Head Office Management on Tuesday to explain why their logistical department failed to deliver an advertised product. It will be interesting to find out how 2 grocery flyers, which are generally printed at least 6 weeks in advance, were distributed to homes with an advertised item knowingly not in stock.  I wait with amusement at what excuse I'll be told by management as to why either stores were not properly stocked before the flyer hit the door steps and why there wasn't a listing of stores that carried the product like I had witnessed before in the Toronto area.  It really should be amusing how Loblaws management stick-handles this logistical dumpling issue.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hazeldean Mall Stop on the Subway of Sandwiches

Subway on UrbanspoonThursday I found myself out for a meeting in Kanata near Hazeldean Mall (300 Eagleson Road, Kanata). With time to kill, I stopped off for lunch.  I perused the small food court of an A&W, Sushi Terayaki and Subway.  I chose the latter as A&W's line seemed to be taking forever, I didn't want Sushi and Subway's two employees seemed to be moving their line consistently.   I ventured forth, got in line, and ordered.

The Order: 1 Cold Cut Combo with Sun chips and fountain Coke.

The two ladies behind the counter were quick.  Moving steadily from grabbing the bread, topping the sandwich and getting me on my way.

The Hazeldean Mall food court area is pretty small compared to other larger malls.  Not too many people use it either on a weekday lunch.  So finding a seat is not an issue.

I sat down and opened my quick yet neatly prepared sandwich and dug in.  A traditional combination of mayonnaise, tomatoes, lettuce and onions.  Nothing overpowering in taste and, the best part of all, none of the toppings falling out the end.  But they didn't skimp on the veggies or other toppings either.  Just a smart put together sandwich.

The only weird part of the Subway experience?  The refills.  Sure the fountain pop machine is customer accessible to chose your own beverage instead of having the employee do it for you.  But usually these machines are not accompanied with a tiny sign slightly hidden away saying "No Refills, Refills $1.00".  Perhaps the addition of this sign was needed because the franchisee was too cheap to reorient the machine so it was no longer customer accessible.

Overall, this Subway is an average small mall fast food sandwich storefront. Employees efficiently work together to move the steady customer flow in an efficient manner.  Sandwiches are neatly put together and wrapped for clean eating. I'd return to this Subway stop for sandwich again.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Half Price Quiznos Sub? Sure I'd Bank on That!

Quiznos on UrbanspoonThe previous week, I received a few Quiznos coupons in the mail.  So Friday for lunch I stopped off at Quiznos (139 Bank Street, Ottawa) in hopes of eating a nice sandwich.

I walked in at 11 A.M. to see one employee behind the counter who inquired what I would like to order.

After perusing the menu and reading the fine print on the coupon I was ready.

The Order: The Traditional Sandwich (Roast beef, Turkey Breast, Honey-Cured Ham, Cheddar, Tomato, Lettuce, Red Onion, Black Olive, Ranch Dressing) with a fountain Coke. 

The employee made the sandwich and zipped it through the conveyor belt oven and pulled it out on the other side ready for vegetable toppings.   After that I was off to attempt to retrieve my drink.  

At the drink machine I filled my glass with ice and tried the Coke dispenser.  Nothing, not even a drop.  I looked back at the employee and explained the situation.  

Quiznos Storefront

The employee said he forgot to turn the fountain machine on, I just needed to turn the machine on.  A turn to the right and the machine was on!  The Coke fountain worked and I was off.  Who knew you had to turn on the machine?  I guess this method is to ensure any unscrupulous overnight employees don't abscond with unpaid for or untracked fountain beverages of any type.  

I sat down in the front window and reviewed the sandwich.  Looked well put together with little extra toppings to slip out. The sandwich was delicious with a little melted cheesy taste to it.  Add in the the cooked meat and this sandwich could become one of my favorites.  

Overall, for a six dollar and change meal it wasn't too bad.  Minus the fountain drink fiasco, it was a pretty good lunch for the price paid. 

Nuclear Meltdown of Service at Atomic Rooster

Atomic Rooster on UrbanspoonFriday for dinner my wife and I headed over to Atomic Rooster (303 Bank Street, Ottawa).  We arrived at 4:15 P.M. to a place recommended more for a weekend breakfast spot by one of my former reliable coworkers.

We stood in the front door not knowing whether to seat ourselves or to wait for someone to show us to a table.  There seemed to be two waitresses chatting on the left side of the restaurant. Meanwhile a bar tender slinging drinks on the right to about 10 patrons at the bar.  Ironically it was the bartender who politely raised her voice and said to sit anywhere we want while the two waitresses continued to chat.

We chose a table in the front window and sat down.  We chatted for 10 minutes while periodically looking over to see if anyone noticed our existence.  The two waitresses eventually stopped chatting as one headed to the kitchen and disappeared.  The other started walking across to the bar to perhaps get menus?  Nope, no hope there as she just merely continued her gabbing with a new victim....THE BARTENDER!

We waited until 4:30 P.M. and left.  No one even acknowledged our existence except for the initial yell across the restaurant by the bartender.  The two waitresses were more interested in chatting to each other and their coworkers than serving customers.  The only person in the entire place with 20 patrons in attendance doing any resemblance of work was the bartender.

We left Atomic Rooster with a sense that the only thing "Atomic" in there was the nuclear meltdown of service.

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