Since the beginning of the month, Anthony had been harassing me. Some would argue he started harassing me long before then, but that’s beside the point. The point is that Red Lobster is back with its Endless Shrimp promotion, and Anthony wanted to go. And he didn’t want to go alone. And so he was harassing me. And so I reluctantly agreed, and made we arrangements with our respective partners and eventually settled on a date.
For a limited time, you can eat all the shrimp you can handle. Apparently, it is the most popular promotion at Red Lobster. In fact, Red Lobster Blog tells us that “as a server this promotion is hell the first week, and hell on the weekends during peak business periods.” Noted. Also, from his point of view, ie as an employee, Endless Shrimp “is the single worst promotion ever created by Red Lobster.” And this girl agrees forcefully. Thankfully, the Waffle doesn’t work at Red Lobster.
So for $18.99 , you will get you an Endless Shrimp dinner, including your choice of salad, unlimited Signature Biscuits and your choice of a side between mash potatoes, baked potato, french fries or broccoli. If you were in the USA, it would cost you only $14.99… Apparently shrimp are more expensive in Canada.
So the 5 of us arrived at the St. Laurent location on a cool but nice Thursday evening. Apparently, they do not take reservations, so we just showed up and were told the wait would be 20 to 30 minutes, which could have been a problem with the Waffle Jr. Thankfully, there were some big ”bibittes” in the lobby aquarium to keep her occupied. It seemed that Red Lobster were running out of them – but thankfully, we were here for shrimp, not lobster.
To keep me occupied, I ordered myself a Bloody Ceasar at the bar, keeping the vibrating pager in my jacket pocket, close to my heart.
We finally got to sit down, ordered some drinks and opened the menu. Well, I didn’t, because I had done my research and already had an attack plan.
During Endless Shrimp, you can choose 2 selections from this list to start:
- Baked Garlic Shrimp-and-Cheese - oven-broiled in a garlic sauce with a cheese-crumb topping;
- Garlic Shrimp - shrimp oven-broiled in a buttery garlic sauce;
- Shrimp Linguine Alfredo;
- Hand-Breaded Shrimp, fried to a golden brown;
- Teriyaki Grilled Shrimp - fire-grilled shrimp brushed with a teriyaki glaze served over rice.
The last one is a new option this year, an attempt to renew the offerings while keeping it real. So to speak.
My plan of attack was simple:
Don’t fill up on pasta. Don’t fill up on biscuits. Don’t fill up on potatoes - I picked broccoli as a side.
Everybody ordered their first round. Soon after, the tempting basket of warm biscuits showed up. Soon after, the salad.
Mrs. Waffle was jealous.
I got to pig out every day while she couldn’t.
She had placed an order for pulled pork early in the week, but circumstances made it impossible. But tonight she was going to get lucky. After a hard day’s work, I made my way to Sparks street to assess the scene and pick up some much needed pulled pork and save my marriage.
However, I was stopped cold by some friends who enticed me to help them drink some ice cold Sangria on Brixton’s patio. Reluctantly, I accepted. But soon enough (ahem) I was back on the quest.
I walked all the way down to the end of Sparks Street. Line-ups were long everywhere, except at the Texas Rangers, where there was no line-up at all. Alas, no luck – they were out of pulled pork! Bad planning or exceptional pork? I will never know: I was on a mission.
I decided to turn around and try a new competitor this year, so new in fact that the official Sparks Street Mall web site didn’t even list its presence: Hawgs Gone Wild.
Hawgs Gone Wild BBQ team is from Daytona Beach, Forida. Their menu is slightly different than the other ribbers: they offer their beans and coleslaw at 1$ each (as opposed to selling them combined.) Also, they offer cornbread and Hawgs’ Hash, and a Heavenly version of said Hash. Intriguing
As I was lined-up, a Hawgs’ staffer was coming down the line to get folks to sample their sauces – the Hot and the Sweet. Hmmmm. Nothing like sauce on a stick.
The Hot sauce had a good kick to it. You could taste the chili peppers, there was no kidding around, but the heat level was totally palatable. Would be great on pork, for sure.
The Sweet sauce was very sweet, with a touch of sourness. To me it was a little too sweet, though I think it could work with chicken.
The choice of Hawgs Gone Wild was also a good one, speed wise. The line was moving quickly.
I ordered a pound of pulled pork, and as a bonus, two side orders of Hawgs’ Hash.
For good measure, I squirted a good helping of BBQ sauce on each side of the pork – the hot on the left, the sweet on the right. I should have squirted more, I’ve got to say.
I had some leftover buns and we used them to make some delicious sandwiches. The pulled pork was tender but could have been shredded better. It was a tad bit on the oily side, however. And as expected, the hot sauce worked better with the pork than the sweet sauce. However, mixing the two sauces together also worked.
As for the hash, well, it is a nice addition to the usual menu. In this case, all it was was skin-on smashed potatoes, but they were cooked properly, were fluffy and chunky. Good stuff.
Overall, Mel was pleased. And that’s what mattered.
Finally, the House has recessed for the summer.
Finally, I’ll be able to enjoy a full rack of ribs and not be pressed for time between meetings and Question Period.
You either go Full Rack or Go Home, they say.
Well, they don’t really say that, but they should.
With lunch time approaching, it being Friday and the Heat Wave still scorching Sparks Street, there was no time to waste in order to get good quality Q with minimal wait.
I got out of the office and lined up at the closest stand, right outside the Sparks Street exit of our research bureau: Billy Bones BBQ.
Bill Wall, aka Billy Bones (no relations with the pirate from Treasure Island), has been in the business for 36 years. From their home base in Sanford, Michigan, Billy Bones BBQ has participated in cooking competitions in every state of the United States of America, and also in Ireland and Jamaica, and has accumulated over 350 awards over the years.
In Canada, Billy Bones BBQ is operated by the Brunton siblings from Fort Erie, ON, interestingly, the Brunton family also handles Silver Bullet.
Legend has it that Billy Bones learned to cook at the side of an ol’ gentleman on Central avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the Sixties. What do you know.
They were working the grills hard. The decaled flames weren’t needed to imagine how hot it must have been behind the grill. I could only hope their hard work would be worth it. I ignored the pulled pork, I ignored the chicken, I skipped the beans and the coleslaw and ordered the Full Rack (22$) of Billy Bone’s St-Louis style pork ribs.
Billy Bones’ ribs were tangy with a smoky bite. They were meaty, tender, juicy. Well-balanced by the sauce, neither too sweet nor too bitter: vinegar, soy, brown sugar. A good blend of flavours underneath. They were easy to eat, and went down fast, with the help of an ice cold Diet Coke.
Because you do have to keep an eye on your calorie intake.
Day two of the Sparks Street Cook-Off. Day two of the Heat Wave. The sun was blasting (the planet, not the paper), so grillers were sweating and hungry patrons were burning as they lined up to get their fix of ribs, pulled pork, chicken, beans and coleslaw.
That was the scene as we walked out of the National Press Building, following the NDP’s press conference reviewing the Spring Parliamentary sitting.
The Leader of the Official Opposition looked at his watch, looked at me and said “We must get some ribs!” Why, yes, I said! Why, no, said the NDP’s House Leader. His loss.
We sent our vegetarian colleague to reserve some seats on Brixton’s patio. Brixton’s has the brilliant idea of offering its space to rib-lovers, as long as they buy a beverage. (A smart idea!)
So we lined up at the Silver Bullet location. The ribbers were working hard to keep the pace as the lines were growing longer.
Silver Bullet is from Fort Erie and mostly tours in Ontario. They are regulars here in Ottawa, and a crowd favorite every year, partly because of a favorable spot at the corner of O’Connor, partly because they know what they are doing.
The crew is always into it, they seem to have a lot of fun at Silver Bullet, and it was the case once again, folks yelping and being really energetic despite the heat.
The stall was generating lots of smoke while we waited in line, and the grillman was working hard to grill and mop the meat. I finally decided to go with the Texas Teaser (22$), in order to sample all the meats on the offer (Ribs, chicken and pulled pork). My boss had the Ribs and Pulled Pork Bullet Classic Combo (15$).
The ribs were great. Very tender and lean, yet not giving completely, and look at that nice smoke ring! The smoky flavour was fantastic, all the way to the bone, underneath a crusty bark. Also, lots of meat on them, this was a solid 1/3 rack of ribs, and the sauce was a great complement.
Silver Bullet’s sauce is sweet with a hint of spice and heat. Not too thick, and gluten-free, it was also very good with the pulled pork. Talking of the pulled pork, the meat was very tender, very well pulled too. Not too fatty, it needed a bit of sauce to round out the flavours, and it was delicious.
The chicken, however, was a bit of a disappointment, as the meat was bland, and on the dry side of things. Once you were past the skin, you were out flavour. Unfortunate, but you can skip the bird.
Nevertheless, Silver Bullet remains a strong competitor on Sparks Street and as we walked back to the office, the line up had actually doubled in size.
So Ribfest, or as it is officially known, the International Invitational Chicken-Rib Cook-Off Competition, is on.
The Waffle is planning to pig out this week, and Mrs. Waffle has put in an order of Pulled-Pork to bring home.
But things are busy on the Hill as the Spring sitting comes to an end, and time is precious. One cannot wait in line for too long to enjoy the meat on offer.
So you either have to go early, or late, ie avoid the high-noon rush hour. and considering the scorching temperatures hitting Ottawa these days, a shorter line is definetely better. But if you have only time to eat around noon, here is another tip: favor the extremities. Line-ups are usually shorter in the block past Kent (Boss Hogg, Texas Rangers and Blazin’ BBQ) or near Elgin (Texas Outlaws and Crabby’s) .
But often, shorter lines can mean lesser quality. Time is money, but is it good food?
The Waffle went ahead to check things out for you on Opening Day.
Indeed, the line-ups were quite short at Crabby’s BBQ Shack. In fact, I waited for Marc-André to make it and didn’t feel the need to get in line and save a spot. Once he got there, we had our food whitin 5 minutes.
Crabby’s BBQ Shack has been in the business for 20 years. Hailing from London and founded by George Kefalidis, Crabby’s is still a family owned business and operates at least three independent rib teams at any given time, the first hitting the competition circuit in 1999.
Crabby’s uses natural wood and cooks over an open flame, the good old fashioned way! Crabby’s has won over 350 ‘Awards’ to date for ‘Best Ribs’, ‘Best Sauce’, and ‘Best Chicken.’ Now of course, all these teams win prizes all the time. If a team wasn’t winning, they wouldn’t have much to put on their banners and no trophies to display, so who would come?
Still, in 2011 Crabby’s won 1st place for their Ribs at the Gatineau Beer Festival, and at Ribfests in Etobicoke, Scarborough, St. Thomas and London. Their chicken won 1st place in Peterborough, Mississauga and Sudbury Their pulled pork won in Gananoque, and their sauce in St. Thomas and Lindsay.
As promised, the Waffle hosted it’s 1st Wild Wing Challenge at the McCarthy Road location.
The Challenge was thrown to all who had shown interest, especially those who bragged about their capacity to indulge. Cedric, Marc-André, Jordan, Patrick and Youssef were challenged. Patrick and Youssef were nowhere to be found, no doubt hiding in a chicken coop. Jordan, who had been bragging about her wing-indulging capacity for two weeks, tried to back out, only to come back in once Scott said he was in too. But Scott got cold feet and chickened out five minutes after accepting the challenge – he had just remembered his last trip to the chicken wing eatery… Jordan used that excuse to back out again – definitely gone was the bravado. As the competitors were getting ready mentally for a 3 way challenge, a dark horse emerged, a fierce competitor courageous enough to take a last-minute stand, Justin the Eating Polish.
On the last day of the All-You-Can-Eat-Wings promotion, which it turns out was part of a contest where you could win a trip for two to Las Vegas to attend the UFC 132 event where Roy “Big Country” Nelson was NOT scheduled to perform. We had limited interest in either the contest or why “Big Country” was on the poster, but we all had an unlimited appetite for chicken wings. Or did we?
The Rules were as follow:
1 – The flavour ordered must be the same for all
– participants will nominate in rotation.
2- The number of wings consumed must be tabulated loudly as we go.
3- No one can go to the bathroom alone once the contest has begun.
4- The last one standing wins.
We all ordered a beer (the promotion was all-you-can-eat wings for $18.99 with purchase of a beverage. No doggybags allowed.) and got to work.
(4 basket of fries were delivered – a trap one must not fall in.)
We were looking for something fun to do before Parliament came back – and what’s better than pigging out, I thought. Thankfully, I had heard that Montana’s All you can eat ribs promotion was back. And so 4 of us decided to kick-off March with…
THE WAFFLE’S FIRST MONTANA’S ALL YOU CAN RIBS CHALLENGE!!!
Thankfully, after calling to reserve a few days before, I was informed that the promotion was extended to March 14th, which was great news – we didn’t want to miss out, but we didn’t want to rush into it either.
First, the rules needed to be clear – and I received the rules from Cara’s Guest services department. Then I had to clarify our own rules:
- Everyone had to try every type of ribs – Pork Back, Pork Side, Beef.
- Everyone had to try every type of sauce – Texas Bold, Apple Butter, Honey Garlic.
- Everyone had to fill out the scorecard
- Everyone had to drink beer.
So we proceeded to Montana’s in South Keys, armed with our scorecards to evaluate their ribs with the following criteria: Taste, Texture, Aroma, Temperature, Quality.
We ordered a pitcher of Rickard’s Red, got the scorecards out (much to the staff’s amusement) and we got down to business. After the jump, the results of our deliberation:
How often do we ask each other that question when it is time to go for some food?
No matter the occasion, we often end up at our favorite locations because we can’t think of anything.
This little guide can come to the rescue. I am a very sporadic contributor (and therefore I won’t make any money if you do buy it!!) to CheapEats Ottawa, but I find it very handy as a foodie looking for new places to indulge.
It is well organized by types of cuisine and neighbouroods, has pretty straightforward ratings and give you very direct tips about what to get wherever you are.
It includes restaurants across the entire Capital Region – from Barrhaven to Wakefield, from Orleans to Kanata.
So, what is a CheapEats?
Very simple definition, in fact. A place where you can get either:
- Breakfast for under $5
- Brunch for under $10
- Lunch for under $10
- Dinner for under $15;
INCLUDING taxes and a drink!!! (Mind you, a soft one)
And you can even get Jack Layton‘s own recommendation in it!!
Ya ya ya.I know this happened three weeks ago, but I still had to add a few thoughts about this year’s ribfest.I moved to Ottawa 11 years ago, and every year at the end of June, I am looking forward not only to the end of the parliamantary session, but more importantly to the International Chicken and Rib cook-off, held on Sparks Street.
Folks often don’t realize that east of Bank St., there are more bbq shacks. And usually not as busy. Carmello’s patio is big, and they invited you kindly to enjoy your ribs as long as your purchase a beverage. It is the case for most patio on Sparks Street, kudos to Carmello’s and Brixton’s especially, but for some reason the people at the Centretown Tavern (the trendy-ish waterhole attached to the not-so trendy Yesterday’s) are stubbornly refusing to join the fiesta and are turning ribfesters away. We were six enjoying a beer there, and we left when we realized we couldn’t eat the tasty bbq treats there. Not very smart, and not good for business. Shame.On a funny note, Jazz’oo Cafe’s daily special on the Friday was ribs. Interesting timing.
Kilgore: Smell that? You smell that?
Kilgore: BBQ, son. Nothing in the world smells like that.
Kilgore: I love the smell of BBQ in the morning. You know, one time we had a pig roasting, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ‘em, not one stinkin’ bone.
The smell, you know that sweet smell, the whole pig. Smelled like… victory.
This year, I had the opportunity to try – in chronological order :
Uncle Sam’s, Silver Bullet, Camp 31, Gator BBQ, Crabby’s.
Gator BBQ had baby back ribs, which were cooked to perfection, even though we went on Saturday morning as most of them bbq folks are still waking up. A little citrus tangy taste to the sauce, I enjoyed them at Carmello’s with a pint of lager. Great combination.
I’ve got to go with Gator BBQ again. The crew from Florida’s chicken was tender, juicy, tasty, with none of the dryness that sometimes plague the birds at the BBQ shacks.
Silver Bullet, no questions asked. Spicy, very nice heat, not too thick, it was certainly one of the highlight of this year’s cook-off. It was particulary great with the pulled pork, as the meat absorbed the flavor very well. Not bad on the ribs as well.
BEST PULLED PORK:
Silver Bullet, I think mostly because of the sauce, but also the tenderness of the meat. Unlike Camp 31′s pork, which was really oily and had no distinct flavor to it, the Bullet’s hit the target with their slow cooked piggy meat. No dryness to it at all, and very well pulled in small chunks as opposed to sloppy big dry pieces we could find at other locations.
The familly deal at Crabby’s. For 40$, you got half a chicken, full rack of ribs, a pound of pulled pork, two servings each of cole slaw and beans, and a bottle of sauce. Sweeeeet.
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