The Cherry on The Che

Feb 28, 2009

After having shared a bag of popcorn with Mel while watching part 1 of Che at the Bytowne, we felt that more substantial food was needed.  Théo’s original idea was to go to Nate’s, which is according to him, the best Deli in Ottawa. unfortunately, it was closed – quite early for a Friday Night.  (Too bad – everyone needs to catch Nate’s Smoked Meat while they can – the clock is ticking.)

So we opted for something easy, close by, and so Canadian it’s not even funny: Don Cherry’s Sports Grill.  Don Cherry’s is a typical Canadian sports bar and grill, but the one on Rideau Street is not a very nice one.

Attached to the Quality Hotel, they have 26 TVs, most of them small and old, the 5 big screens are also kind of old.  A few cool pieces of paraphernalia too, anything less would have been a disappointment.  The Ottawa location is owned by Dan Cowley, the son of NHL Hall of Famer Bill “Cowboy” Cowley.

The first Don Cherry’s opened in 1985 in Hamilton under the name Don Cherry’s Grapevine.  The famous Hockey Night in Canada colour man and former NHL coach started it with family members and partners.

It has evolved into a chain of 15 licensed establishments and although Cherry no longer holds a significant share of the company, he his obviously still involved in promoting the chain.  The chain used to have a location in Ottawa’s west end hitech industrial park, but no longer.  Their growth concept is based on “conversion”, taking over local independent sports bar and grill, and converting them into a Don Cherry’s licensed franchise.  The good people of Airdrie, Alberta, will be the next lucky ones to enjoy Don Cherry’s menu as created by Corporate Chef Carlo Mori.

Talking of Mori’s creations, that’s what this post is really all about, isn’t it?  First, let me say that the menu is all over the place – trying to offer something – anything – to everyone.  It makes it tough to pick right.

Laura and Théo already had dinner, so they decided to share something light.  For some reason, they picked the Irish Nachos.  Cherry Chips topped with cheddar and Monterey jack, bacon and green onions.

Look at this thing!  Lots and lots of cheese on deep fried potato chips, there was also plenty of bacon but it was light on the green onions.  The Cherry chips were dry and kind of bland – not a good substitute for corn chips.  The saltiness you expect from nachos was absent.  Although there was tons of cheese, and despite being served with a side of sour cream, the result was very dry and definitely not Irish.  Perhaps a scoop of Irish gravy would have made this a hit.

I went for the Mississippi Beef sandwich.  Beef strips tossed in peppercorn sauce, topped with sautéed green and red peppers, onions, and completed with cheddar and Monterey Jack, everything served on a ciabatta bun.

The sandwich was surprisingly good.  The beef was tender, the peppers fresh, and although the cheese mix was the same as the nachos, it was nicely melted.  The bun was nicely toasted too, but not dry or too “bready”.  Not a bad sandwich, and I understand, it is a signature item at the Ottawa location.  However, it didn’t come with the fries I had ordered, but instead with Cherry chips. Again. They are as advertised, though, thinly sliced skin-on deep fried crisp and crunchy potatoes.  Very lightly seasoned with salt, they are quite bland and not something I would get again.  They came with a side of ranch dressing of commercial make.

Melissa decided she would be the healthiest of us all and ordered the Thaï chicken salad.  Romaine lettuce, red peppers, cucumbers and green onion, topped with sliced breaded chicken tenders and served with a spicy sweet and sour sauce.

I would likely have never ordered that just by reading the menu. Now that I have seen it, I will certainly not order that ever.  I counted four pieces of cucumbers, and three pieces of red peppers. There was plenty of chicken, though, a full breast cut in strips. It was Romaine lettuce, though, not Iceberg, so a few points there. However, the only “Thaï” touch here was the sauce (it wasn’t dressing), a commercial one served on the side as requested.

Although I might go back again, this is not a favourite place of mine.  It had a “hotel” feel as opposed to a “local” feel.  I liked the atmosphere in the west end better, it was more open and more modern.  This place, when packed, could be fun, but it is kind of narrow and you could feel a bit squeezed. They have daily specials and I would not reject the idea of going back. I would certainly avoid the Cherry chips, though, and  I won’t make the place a friend of mine on Facebook.

Don Cherry's Sports Grill on Urbanspoon

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