Monday, June 15, 2015

Two Guys at a Five Guys? Why so?

Click to add a blog post for Five Guys Burgers & Fries on ZomatoEarlier this month I made a couple of trips out to Barrhaven to visit clients for my business.  After a client visit I usually stop off for a meal before heading home.

Five Guys Burgers & Fries (1181 Greenbank Road, Ottawa) is near OC Transpo's Strandherd Transitway station and also easily accessible from the nearby Greenbank Road.  I use this as great spot to both transfer from nearby streets to Ottawa's transit system to head homewards.

This Five Guys Burgers & Fries is located in the Riocan Centre located at Greenbank & Strandherd.  During the weekdays it is a nice quiet place to have lunch as most locals are either in school or gone to work in downtown Ottawa.

I entered shortly after noon on two occasions about a month apart.  I was warmly welcomed by one "Guy".  There was another "Guy" at the grill with burger flipper in hand eagerly awaiting my order to begin cooking.  

This brings me to an eternal question I have of this franchised set of burger places. Sure Five Guys, as you'd expect, was founded and operated by five guys.  However, each store isn't operated by five guys working the kitchen. Today there were only two.  Heck, one time I visited the Ottawa Trainyards location to find the store worked by "Five Gals".  And no, they don't change the sign when that happens.  But I hilariously digress.

I, of course being a Five Guys periodic attendee across town at Trainyards, already knew what I wanted to order...

The Order: 1 Little Hamburger, 1 Regular Fries and 1 Regular Coke.

I paid and received my regular size fast food style beverage cup to fill at the nearby fountain drink station nearby.  The kitchen "Guy" started his magic by unloading one paddy onto the grill and the other "Guy" started the fries.

As I waited I loaded up on the free peanuts and started munching as my burger and fries cooked.

It's pretty quiet on the two occasions I ate there.  Only the odd area worker and stay at home moms and dads stop by with their little charges bringing up the rear.   This makes for a semi-quiet atmosphere that probably changes after school and work lets out. But for a daytime lunch spot I'll take it!

The burger and fries usually are ready about ten minutes after ordering.  I visit the counter, grab the paper bag and return to my seat.

The burger, as usual, is awesome with it's own unique taste as they grill burgers using peanut oil.  I usually top the burgers "All the way" which includes ketchup, relish, mustard, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, grilled mushrooms, and grilled onions which provides a delectable tasty burger combination.  The only complaint is the burger's appearance after unwrapped.  Both Five Guys Barrhaven and Trainyards have burgers that appear "smushed" when unwrapped from the tin foil.  Is there no way around this?  It's like the burgers are put together and then roughly wrapped by the kitchen crew using cinder block hands. Is there not cardboard burger packaging like McDonald's has for their Big Macs.

The fries were overflowing as usual.  The key thing with Five Guys Fries is they first take the regular size container, fill it and then add another heap of fries into your bag.  Sometimes they can be a little oversalted to some tastes but I usually find them just right.  Make sure to get ample enough ketchup for your fries.  Pro tip: After opening your paper bag and unloading the hamburgers, strategically rip the paper bag to lay flat at on the table to provide a communal french fries station!

Overall, the Five Guys Burgers & Fries in Barrhaven is a great spot for lunch.  Quiet atmosphere and good service accompanied with the taste that Five Guys' is known for makes it hit with me.  I wouldn't hang around till the evenings though, especially on the weekends, when this location must be hopping with the area locals and tables must be hard to find. When in Barrhaven, I'll be back!

Friday, June 05, 2015

A Zomato Meetup at EVOO Greek Kitchen

Click to add a blog post for EVOO Greek Kitchen on ZomatoA couple of weeks ago I received an invite from Zomato to attend Ottawa's first Zomato Meetup at EVOO Greek Kitchen (438 Preston Street, Ottawa).

After purchasing Urbanspoon in January 2015, and after many months of Zomato's tech team amalgamating and sifting through reams of data,  finally turning out the lights on Urbanspoon on June 1st, I was intrigued about learning more about Zomato and what their meet ups entailed.

I arrived at  6:25 after a tour of Ottawa's Little Italy, Preston Street to find one other local food blogger already there.   While waiting for others to arrive water and red and white wines were offered. Our waiter, Michael, stopped by periodically to refill our drinks even with asking. There were some times throughout our meal I could have sworn I emptied my glass only to look back two seconds later to find it full again.

EVOO Greek Kitchen on Preston Street

The Zomato Community Managers Samantha (Ottawa Community Manager) and Kevin (Canada East Lead Community Manager) handed out the set menus for the evening.

Michael gave our party of ten an explanation of how things are served at EVOO. All the meals were served "family style" with individuals being able to dish out to their own plates.  This made serving from the kitchen pretty easy as all they had to do was to artistically arrange the food on large wooden cutting boards and add utensils to serve to the smaller plates provided to each diner.

Greek Spread for Appetizers

The appetizers were a mixture of Greek dips to be spread on pita bread. The dips were melitzanossalata, spicy feta dip and taramosalata. These all had different textures and tastes ranging from similar to a yogurt to a spicy aftertaste.  This was accompanied by a separate dish of Cypriout Halloumi Cheese.  This is a fried cheese was quite interesting as it was soft and chewy.

Fried Octopus, Greek Salad & Calamari

Next was the interesting part of the evening. Fried Octopus and Calamari with Greek Salad. Terrific except at our table of four (the other table had six) there was 1 vegan and three who didn't care for seafood.

I was willing try one of the offerings and thought the Fried Octopus seemed interesting.  But where do we begin? The four of us had no clue as seafood wasn't really our specialty.  A few sheepish looks at each other and gazes to the other table finally brought some helpful guidance to avoid the more charred end.    The Fried Octopus was a surprisingly tasty dish that I equate to a pork chop.   I finished the whole thing and had a second tentacle.  For the record, the suction cup like pieces of a traditional octopus  after cooking do not stick to your mouth or throat on the way down.

Roast Lamb & Greek Chicken
Next was the Roast Lamb and the Greek Chicken. The best part of the night! The lamb was perfectly prepared being tender.  The chicken was too die for!  Great preparation all around.

Luckily, out of the four at my table, one person had to leave for a soccer game, another had her own vegetarian dish (which also received rave reviews) and the Zomato representatives switched!  So I got even more of the Lamb and Chicken deliciousness!

Overall, the food was excellent and the chef even came out to greet us. He was originally from Greece and started this restaurant after coming to Canada.  He fills an Ottawa need superbly, well made Greek cuisine that simply isn't fast food prepared by mere high school kids.

The service, as you would expect was awesome with probably their best waiter and supplementary assistance. This is really the only thing that bothered me. Of course I'm going to get the gold plated treatment when your expecting me and other writers there looking to write about their experience.  It kind of removes the intention of writing about the average experience a regular person off the street might encounter.

The Swag!

Zomato meetups are interesting and I would gladly do this again as it was fun to meet other local bloggers who not only write about restaurant food but also fashion, recipes, newspaper (local neighborhood newspaper editor) and social media.  It was also interesting to put a face to a name on the old Urbanspoon and new Zomato Leaderboards.

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