Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bank on Bridgehead on Bank Street

Bridgehead on UrbanspoonVisited this Downtown Ottawa Bridgehead (366 Bank Street, Ottawa) location for a quick coffee.  I stopped by at 12 noon after visiting the nearby bank.  This Bridghead location has a modern interior with a about 8 to ten tables along one side and a long counter and display case along the other side.

I arrived to wait behind a customer who didn't know what he wanted.  A cranberry croissant? Not sure....it has cranberries in it and he had never had that before.  How about something else?  He seemed perplexed and gave up his spot to think about it.

Hallelujah! with only one cash register at this location, an indecisive customer can be a nightmare for both the staff behind the counter wanting to serve their customers in a timely manner and customers just wanting their morning caffeine.

Once we got past the tomfoolery of indecisive customers, the service was excellent.

The Order: 1 Medium sized Medium blend black coffee.

The coffee was poured, the cash was taken and I was able to tap my Bridgehead rewards card before enjoying my beverage.

This last part, the reward card, is interesting.  Instead of having a stamp card, Bridgehead has an electronic based reward system where every 12th coffee is free.  As well, Bridgehead rewards you on your birthday with a gift of free coffee.  Don't worry if you don't get to Bridgehead on your big day as the free coffee is valid until you use it.   The awesome part is that when you achieve your free coffee either by purchasing so many or birthday gift, the system sends a reminder e-mail about your free beverage!

The coffee at the Bridgehead Bank Street location? Excellent as usual.  A strong yet fresh medium brew.  

Overall, this Bridgehead has excellent bubbly service once you overcome the original obstacle of one cash and an indecisive customer.  Beyond that great coffee and friendly staff in a modern cafe setting is something you can bank on here.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

No Dud Spud's Found at this Potato Bar

Spud's Potato Bar and Poutinerie on UrbanspoonFriday for lunch I decided to skip the usual fast food coupons I found in the past weeks in my mailbox.  I decided to raid my restaurant wishlist for some inspiration.  The result, a trip through slushy Ottawa, and a pair of soakers later, I found myself at Elmvale Acres Shopping Centre and Spud's Potato Bar & Poutinerie (1910 St. Laurent Boulevard, Ottawa)

I entered the store at 12 noon to find only two tables occupied in this modern looking fast food restaurant.  On one side was booths with the new McDonald's looking faux leather seating.  On the other stretched a long counter bordering the kitchen that made the place look like a converted Subway sandwich shop.

I ventured over to the long counter and reviewed the 5 large screen televisions acting as a menu to see what I would choose.  There were several types of poutine and other mixtures of fries with whatever you could imagine.  I contemplated the nachos on the vegetarian menu as this seemed an interesting option.  But I digressed wondering how nachos could be done without ground beef along with fries.  But now, in hindsight, I should have dove into that.

I waited two minutes as the previous customer finished ordering and receiving his order before I could order.  Only one employee, standing at the cash, was taking the orders when I arrived.  Not a big deal as there wasn't a crush of people coming in the door.   Another employee arrived from the back to help out and inquired what I would like as another customer entered the store and joined the line.

The Order: 1 Medium Fries and 1 can of Mountain Dew.

The second employee qued up the fries while the other, who had finally finished with the previous customer grabbed my can of pop and rang up my order.  For $8.10 (including taxes) I was ready for lunch.

$8.10 for a can of bloody pop and medium fries?  Yes siree, but the medium fries size were no McDonald's medium fries, they were close to 3 times that amount.

I nestled into one of the booths with my lunch and dug into the fries.

The fries were clearly designed for poutine consumption and not necessarily optimized for individual ordering without accompanying toppings like I did.  But these soft potato fries do suffice for individual consumption like I did.

The fries were fresh and hot as they were right out of the fryer.  Along with a little ketchup and fork they were great to eat.  Better quality and more in quantity than the traditional New York Fries offerings and, on a per fry basis, cheaper too.

Overall, Spud's is a great place to look for quality and quantity of fries as well as to expand your fries eating palette with their selection of not only poutine but other assortment of fries.  Friendly service along with good fast food make for a quality lunch or snack out while shopping.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Postmedia Fails to Deliver: Flyer Force Follies

In the Ottawa area there are two main sources for advertising flyers.  Metroland's community newspapers and Postmedia's Flyer Force.  Both are supposed to deliver their flyers on Thursdays.  My wife likes to dig through the flyers to take advantage of the deals for her weekly shopping list and meal planning for the next week.

Metroland's newspapers in the Ottawa area are sister papers to those found in the Toronto area including The Liberal in Richmond Hill as well as having the same parent company as the Toronto Star.  Since starting distribution to my home at the beginning of January 2013, the Metroland Newspaper in my area, Ottawa South News, has been delivered weekly on Thursdays.  At first it was hit and miss as I guess the local delivery was being established.  There have been a couple of occasions when we received the newspaper late on Friday or even Saturday.  But this newspaper currently really only has the M&M Meat Shops and Freshco flyers that are worthwhile. The others usually are the one offs here and there.  So we are not usually too worried if this particular paper arrives on time.

Since the beginning of January,  Metroland's Ottawa South News has been delivered either Wednesday evening or sometime on Thursday in a prompt fashion, dry and secured in my mailbox. The carrier might even be a Canada Post employee doing extra deliveries as they have a Canada Post emblazoned bag while doing the paper route.  Right on time and dry, what more could advertisers' ask for?

Postmedia's Flyer Force is supposed to deliver a package of flyers to residential doorsteps between on Thursdays between  6 A.M. and 7 P.M.  according to Flyer Force's website for the Ottawa area.   Since moving into my home in October 2012, I doubt this target for delivery has been achieved. Most of the flyer packages, if delivered at all, are delivered either after 10 P.M. on Thursday or even Friday evening or early Saturday morning.  With the bulk of the major flyers being delivered by Postmedia's Flyer Force in the Ottawa area, advertisers are getting ripped off.

A case in point is delivery of the flyers since late December 2013 until now.  Just before Christmas delivery of the flyers stopped.  Nothing for two weeks, not even the Boxing Day flyers were delivered to our address.  Don't tell me brands like Wal-Martt, Future Shop, Target, Best Buy and others do not have Boxing Day flyers!

January rolled around and this non-delivery continued.  My wife was puzzled and frustrated as she didn't have the flyers to go through to figure out what was on special at the various grocery store flyers.  We did some online digging and called Ottawa's Flyer Force to investigate on Friday January 10th after nothing arrived.  My wife left a voicemail and received a phone call from Sal who said they would have someone drop off a new set and it happened by 2 P.M. on the Friday.

A week later on January 17th, nothing was delivered, my wife called again and Sal had someone drop it off.  Wash, rinse repeat for the January 24th.

January 31st, I spoke with Sal after yet again nothing arrived on our doorstep.  Sal inquired about the history of receiving our flyers.  I ran through that the flyers were usually delivered late on Thursdays, Fridays or even arriving late Saturday afternoon.  There was really no rhyme or reason to the delivery.  I even asked Sal if perhaps the number of addresses being delivered to by the carrier might be an issue and the carrier was trying their best.  Sal declined this option saying the lady needed the position.  I tried to inquire with Sal what the issue was, but he declined to comment.

It should be noted that my street during the entire month of January has virtually had no delivery of Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Future Shop, Food Basics, and Sears flyers because Postmedia's Flyer Force can't deliver.  Only after taking our calls did Sal have flyers delivered to our street.  But mysteriously only my next door neighbour and I received copies.  Across the street?  I checked 5 houses across the street each time and mysteriously nothing was on their doorsteps.  Seems like Sal's supervisor of carriers is trying to pull a fast one on us by trying to make it look like the flyers were delivered late.  Nice try, but quite frankly only delivering to two addresses on the street late after a phone call doesn't cut it.

Last night, Thursday, at 8 P.M. we received our flyers.  I peaked out to see lady pulling a grocery buggy down the street with the packs of flyers.  She would pull up to the end of a driveway, roll the flyers up, elastic them and fire them to the door step.  She did one side of the street and 30 minutes later, did the other.  She made quick work of the street.  I'm not sure if this is the old carrier who finally found nice weather to deliver her flyers in or a newly recruited carrier.  Either way, the flyers were still delivered later than the advertised 7 P.M.

Since moving into our house, Postmedia's Flyer Force has failed to deliver the product on time or even at all. It is a wonder how the advertising departments of the major retail chains put up with such shoddy service.  Hopefully Postmedia can pull up their socks in the delivery department because it is awfully hard for readers to enjoy Postmedia's product if they can not receive it.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Postmedia Fails To Deliver: National Post False Promotion

Last December, my wife found a free 8 week delivery offer from the National Post if she took an online survey via the National Post website.  There were no strings attached to this free subscription, even for those who previously subscribed and left the paper for whatever reason.

Previously, we had enjoyed a free 3 month subscription to the National Post when living in Richmond Hill.  We had only one missed delivery to our Richmond Hill home and then everything was tickety boo with the paper arriving like clockwork.

After filling out the short survey in December 2013 we were promised:

Your complimentary Monday to Saturday 8-week trial will begin on January 6, 2014 and you will continue through to March 1, 2014.

Great!  A free subscription to the National Post after the holiday season. Might try it out to see how it compares to the what we received in Richmond Hill in 2010.

The first day of January 6th I opened the front door and peered out.  Nothing on the doorstep and nothing on the driveway either.  Did a quick rescan before shrugging my shoulders and heading inside dejectedly. Same thing on Tuesday January 7th as well.  There was no loss so to speak of as this was "free trial".  At this point I was eagerly awaiting nothing to be delivered and the 8 week deadline to go by for the usual phone call from the Post's subscription services department asking us if we liked our free subscription and wanted to continue with a paid one.

Surprise! A week later on Monday January 13th I happened to take a peak out the front door to see what the street was like weatherwise when I noticed the mailbox lid was slightly askew.  I opened the mailbox to find that days edition of the paper.

Things went swimmingly for the next month with the newspaper always in the mailbox before 6:30 A.M. That was until Thursday February 13th when the mailbox was emptier than a plate of cookies with a certain blue monster around.

My wife picked up the phone and called the National Post's subscribers number to inquire.  Of course the automated system picked up and said "all the customer service representatives are currently busy, our automated system is available to help".  So she worked her way through pressing numbers here, there and everywhere. Next we waited on hold for "Ottawa Citizen Customer Service" to pick up.  Approaching 10 minutes into the phone call we were wondering if there was even a "Customer Service Representative" even available?

Fortunately, the Ottawa Citizen's customer representative picked up.  We inquired about our free subscription status to the National Post. She pulled up our information and said that it was a "1 month free subscription promotion that has ended".   We declined to subscribe for further delivery of the paper and hung up the phone.

I turned tried tweeting to the National Post's account in one last ditch effort to figure out what was going on: 






As of today, no reply from Twitter or any resumption of delivery for the National Post newspaper.

Considering it was free, I'm not worried about it as I'm out nothing financially.  But the offer to sign us up for a paid subscription when the National Post couldn't even deliver for the time frame promised for the free subscription does sting. If I pay for an 8 week subscription would the National Post unilaterally shorten the subscription down to a 1 month or 4.5 week subscription?  For this, the National Post and, it's parent company, Postmedia failed to deliver on this promotion.

Monday, February 17, 2014

2 A.M. Smoke Detector Wake Up Call!

Smoke Detector
Just put to rest my smoke detector problem.

First things first, I did not burn down the house!

There is no feeling more awesomer than being woken up at 2 A.M. Friday morning by a smoke detector. I checked everywhere 2 times for even the faintest hint of smoke. Nothing!

Best part? The smoke detectors are hard wired! Off with the switch on the circuit breaker that also takes out the power to our bedroom alarm clocks and lights. Great!

Friday, I consult Dr. Google for some advice on my issue. Clean the smoke detectors of dust and cob webs as well as check for drafts. I close up the nearby vent to the the detector in the basement. Next, whip out the vacuum and clean out the detector outside the bedroom and basement. A little spit and polish and we are good to go. Feel pretty good at my handiness as I switch the breaker back on.

This morning at 6:30 A.M., the detectors start wailing again. Off with breaker again. I make short work of removing the 2 smoke detectors, capping, and taping the wires in the junction box. Also screwed in a plate on the box. I flick the switch on the breaker panel and....what the heck is that sound? It's the wail of a smoke detector. Check the attic on my ladder and..nothing.... I must be hearing things.

A trip to Costco for new Smoke Detectors (Quantity two detectors with sound and LED lighting for $20...SWEET!).

Before installing the new detectors, I try the circuit breaker again. Off....count to 30 and back on again.... the wail.... Run up the stairs quickly and there is a smoke detector just inside the front door I've walked past for 1.5 years and never....EVER.... seen. Two minutes later it is no more!

Five minutes later...we have two new smoke detectors installed and 1 hole for a new one.

Moral of the story, get battery operated smoke detectors. Interconnected smoke detectors are from the devil...especially at 2 A.M.!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Winterlude Tea at Tea Store

Tea Store on UrbanspoonThis morning, after visiting the library to drop some returns off, I walked along the cold streets of Ottawa to the Byward Market and the Tea Store (53 York Street, Ottawa).

I visited shortly after 11 A.M. to find one table with a pair of women politely sipping their tea, one worker rearranging the tea canisters behind the counter and a dog lying on the floor.  I got the polite welcome from the store dog who got up and gave my ankles a polite sniff and a welcome tail wag.

I reviewed the choices of loose tea leaves in glass jars on the shelves built into the wall shortly after seeing what looked like to be the limited time only teas on the counter.

Of course, I chose one of the teas I first saw on the counter instead of one of hundreds I reviewed later on the shelves along the wall.

I politely locked eyes with man behind the counter and ordered.

The Order: 1 Winterlude Tea to go.

The gentlemen grabbed the Winterlude glass container of loose tea, poured a little into a loose leaf tea bag, added the bag to a large size cup (similar to a Tim Hortons large) and added hot water from a machine.  He politely placed it on the counter and went to ring it up at the register while I merely put the lid on.  The server didn't put the lid on as he was giving me the opportunity to add cream, milk, honey, sugar or anything else available at no extra charge.

I paid, received my changed and was on my way out the door to tour the market.

The Winterlude tea started off tasting with a hint of apricot and finishing, after disappearing down my throat, with a caramel aftertaste.  A unique blend.

I'm not sure how the tea is associated with Ottawa's Winterlude, but does warm you up after a day trudging around Confederation Park, skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway or snow sliding at Jacques Cartier Park.

Overall, the Tea Store is a good spot to engage your inner tea lover or buy something for the tea person in your life. Knowledgeable staff, great Byward Market location plus a vast selection of teas to choose from mean I will return for another cup.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Quick Quiznos

Quiznos on UrbanspoonReceived Quiznos coupons in the mail a couple of weeks ago.  On Friday, I fished them out in search of a different place to have lunch.

I arrived at 11:45 to Quiznos (42 York Street, Ottawa) which is in the same building attached to The Laff bar.  In fact the bar and sandwhich shop share washrooms and allow you to take your sandwich to The Laff and order a beer to go with it.

I was the only customer in there when ordering but shortly after sitting down after receiving my order, another five customers rolled in.  So I had an advantage, no wait to order!

The Order: 9" The Traditional Sub (Roast beef, Turkey Breast, Honey-Cured Ham, Cheddar, Tomato, Lettuce, Red Onion, Black Olive, Ranch Dressing) with a 1 bag of Ruffles All Dressed potato chips and 1 Medium Coke)

It takes about three to five minutes for most subs to be made.  First you start ordering the bread and type of sub from the menu.  The server then puts your order together, feeds it through the oven and meets you on the other side for additional toppings.  Next, just like Subway, from the list of toppings you can choose to add more vegetables before the server wraps up your sandwich and takes your cash.

I sat down in this unique shaped Quiznos location.  Unlike other fast food places, this one has been shoehorned into a layout rather than built from the ground up.  So this location has nice little alcoves built in with customer tables.  Pretty sweet deal along with the access to The Laff's bar if you are looking for a brew to go with your Quiznos sandwich.

The Traditional sub was delicious.  Melted cheese along with the roast beef was a nice combination.  I had to double check the turkey breast and honey cured ham was there (which they were) after a couple of bites.
Price wise at $7.50 for a sandwich, nevermind the combo upgrade to include a 40 gram bag of potato chips and a fountain pop.  So with a coupon this is good value especially the fact the fountain pop has free refills at customer accessible fountain station.

Overall, this is a unique Quiznos due to the access to the bar and alcove style seating area.  Service was friendly and prompt which was to be expected as this location was not that busy at the time.  The food was delicious and appeared to be made to corporate specifications as they did weigh each of the toppings to make sure the sandwich was made to spec.   Quick and easy to obtain a sandwich which friendly service.  I may return.

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