I forgot what food could taste like… was supposed to taste like.
Justin, a friend of mine since College who now blogs as “The Bitter Guy”, was in Ottawa over the weekend for a gamer convention. After meeting and catching up at his downtown hotel on Saturday night we, along with my girlfriend, walked down Bank Street looking for shawarma or a decent falafel.
Three blocks down Bank we had passed four small restaurants specializing in shawarma, but none had a table for more than two people… we did walk into a small Caribbean restaurant ready to try their jerked goat, but the owner/manager said the kitchen was closed and they were turning the small, narrow restaurant into a dance floor for the evening.
So we decided to keep walking until we got to “Shawarma’s King”, a place I used to frequent when I was a younger dude living in Ottawa.
My girlfriend and I have been in Ottawa a lot over the past few months, but mostly on the fringes where we take her son to movies, or indoor playgrounds. Sometimes we’ll go to movies alone, but we just don’t have the time to get into downtown for a decent restaurant… so we end up in food courts, or eating at the theatre.
In my village there are six full service restaurants serving the population of a medium-sized high rise building. In the small city next door there are at least twenty just on its main street — including four chain restaurants. There’s a hamlet of fewer than fifty people twenty minutes from my apartment with three sit-down restaurants, two chip stands and a bar.
And, except for two or three, they all taste exactly alike. Within a twenty minute drive from my front door there are at least — at least — fifty restaurants with exactly the same menu, and if it’s not the same cook they’re all cousins. The only difference is in the cost… there are basically three price points, but for two people you can have the same meal for $30, $40 and $60.
But the food is boring, thick and mostly tasteless… and monotonous.
I do eat out a lot, and I do order takeout a lot… way too much. When I was living in Ottawa or Toronto I mostly went out to eat. I liked finding restaurants, and new food. One of my favourites in both cities were two Ethiopian restaurants — I can’t remember the name of the one in Toronto, but in Ottawa it was The Horn of Africa on Rideau Street. Both of them were small, fewer than six tables, but the food tasted like food.
There was also an Afghani place in Ottawa’s ByWard Market I tried to get to when I could, but I can’t remember its name. The restaurants I enjoy aren’t fancy, generally I could take a friend and never spend more than $30, but they are urban places. And away from the fringes.
Since I moved back here I’ve been stuck with the monotony of a single menu, or stuck in a food court. Saturday night, back at Shawarma’s King with my good friend and girlfriend, was the most enjoyable meal I’ve had since moving back here five years ago.
Justin had the Chicken and Beef Shawarma combination plate, my girlfriend and I had the Beef Shawarma plate. The large plate came piled high with hommus, garlic potatoes, Lebanese Salad, turnip, hot peppers, rice and pita bread.
When I finally looked up after finishing my own meal I saw Justin getting ready to lick his plate… so I think that’s a five star review.
My girlfriend loved it as well… she’s had shawarma once before, but only the sandwich. If shawarma is to be eaten properly it has to be the platter. Unfortunately, due to a communications misunderstanding on my part, we missed out on the after-dinner baklawa.
As we were leaving I found a pile of business cards for a law firm near the cash register. They specialize in immigration and human rights cases, but market themselves as “CompetentLawyer.com”… either it’s one of those weird cultural mistranslations, or a typically Canadian response to the ambulance-chasing lawyer commercials we see on American television.
We didn’t want to spend money on parking, or have to spend an hour finding a spot, so my girlfriend parked at a “Park & Ride” on the outskirts of Ottawa and bused in… turns out it was the very first time she had taken a city bus.
Back in grade school she had taken a bus all of three blocks while visiting a friend, but I’m not sure that should count as a full ride.
After dinner we couldn’t stay very late with Justin, in fact we walked straight to the bus stop after dinner — my girlfriend had to be back in town so she could close the convenience store where she works. She had switched shifts with another worker who didn’t know the ‘closing procedures’.
We were actually running late, so most of our trip back consisted of finding rural back-road shortcuts that might’ve cut a few minutes off our time. It worked, we got back ten minutes before the store closed, but most of those roads were designed by people in love with right angles.
We found out tonight her soon-to-be-ex-husband (STBEH) had been in the vicinity of the parking lot, and had watched us getting off the bus and into her car. How’s that for creepy?
My girlfriend hasn’t been feeling well since Thursday. She saw a doctor yesterday (Sunday) and I’m going with her to the hospital tomorrow so she can have some tests done. It’s mostly her ear, but a couple of other things as well.
Her son (Little Monkey) is with his grandparents until dinner time, so if she’s feeling better I think we might go driving in the mountains afterwards.
…I don’t think that’s code for sex.
Here I thought I was restaurant food savvy and then I saw Shawarma. I really thought you were making a joke or parody, like in Spaceballs when they said, “May the Schwartz be with you.” But thank the world for Google and now I know what Shawarmas are and I am on a quest to find them in the South Jersey/Philadelphia region.
I found your blog through Marine Snow’s blog. I think your blog is pretty cool.
Hello Mr. Blue Skies… thanks for commenting, and may the Schwartz also be with you. Marine Snow is one of my favourite blogs. If/when you find the shawarma — it’s also known as “donair” and “shish taouk”, but that’s more the shish kebab dish — go with the platter, if it’s available. The sandwich is good, but I find the pita just gets in the way.
I found a couple of restaurants in Philadelphia which serve shawarma… I can’t guarantee quality, but at least it’ll be a start: Maccabeam Restaurant, 128 S 12th St and Mama’s Grill, 630 South St.
Who is this on youtube?
Hi voodoo, that is Electric Light Orchestra…
ELO and donair in the same place. I think I might die.
Finally a lebanese place opened in town, and it’s awesome. Sadly, it’s also in THE most inconvienient place it could possibly be, so I’ve only gone once. But it tasted like real food, and months later, it’s still a lovely memory sitting on my tongue.
And yes, creepy. As creepy as thinking about what eas in that McDIck’s meal.