It had been over a year since Ms. Waffle and I had ventured together to the Ontario side of the Ottawa river for a lunch date on location. After a stop at Decathlon on St-Laurent, we had a false start at the Boston Pizza in the same mall parking lot: there was a line-up and Boston Pizza is not worth the wait.
So we headed south on St-Laurent in search of another spot to eat out. We soon spied The WORKS, who’s patio didn’t look too busy. We were soon sitting down and peering at the menu.
Established in 2001 in Ottawa, The WORKS is now a well-established chain of craft burgers, with 27 locations across Ontario. Owned by MTY since 2017, the chain’s plan is to expand in Manitoba, Alberta and British-Columbia. The chain went through a re-branding last year, The WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro becoming The WORKS Craft Burger & Beer. I hope it was worth the consultants’ fees.
The Ottawa-Manor Park location has a very small patio in two parts, one which is basically in the mall’s parking lot; the other one is on St-Laurent, across from the Beechwood Cemetery. There was space on both, but Ms. Waffle decided that looking at the Cemetery would be a nice touch during lunch.
We peered at the new menu, which is not even a year old. The menu features two new crafted poutines, namely the Brisket Case Poutine and the Tragically Poutine, (topped with crumbled maple bacon, crispy bacon sticks and drizzled with bacon roasted garlic aioli) and new crafted milkshakes like the Birthday Cake Cookie Dough, the Bella Nutella or the Shake What Your Brownie Gave Ya!
On the burger front, some of the classics are still kicking around, like the Gettin’ Piggy With It (Canadian bacon, smoked bacon, cheddar, onion strings) or the Malibu Meltdown (Havarti, Gouda, Brie, Beechhouse sauce, O-Ring).
But you’ll also find new offerings, like Not Your Grandpa’s BBQ Burger (maple bacon, smoked brisket, maple bacon jam & bacon garlic aioli), The Pig Popper (bacon, cream cheese, sliced jalapenos), the Hella Nutella (maple bacon, crispy O-ring and optional Nutella), the Strip Cheese (bacon and cheddar) and the Magic Mushroom Melt (mushrooms, caramelized onions and cheddar).
Once you have chosen your burger, you get to choose your patty amongst eight options: Beef, Chicken Breat, Crispy Chicken, Mushroom Cap, Beyond Meat, Wagyu, Elk and Cheese-Stuffed Beef.
Ms. Waffle and I both chose the beef on the Sesame bun. She selected the Love Goat (get it?), with a Peppercorn crusted beef patty, topped with goat cheese, sweet & spicy sauce and bacon ($18.01). I elected to go with the Blues Burger, a simple beef patty garnished with Blue cheese, blue cheese ranch dressing and bacon. It is apparently “John and Dan’s go to!”, although I somehow doubt that the Blues Brother were ever here.
Our burgers ordered, we got to work on our pitcher of Barking Squirrel while contemplating a front-end loader truck filling up a grave at one end of the cemetary.
Our burgers arrived within 15 minutes, interrupting our contemplation.
The Love Goat looked lovely.
The Peppercorn Crust, which you can get on any patty by the way, didn’t look as luscious as it does on the corporate photos – not to mention how the goat cheese seems to be a thick layer while it was actually just a dollop.
Nevertheless, the extra pepper gave the beef patty a burst of flavour, although the “hot” warning in the menu is not warranted.
Still, there is no mistake that this was a superior beef patty: ½ lb of fresh AAA beef (there is a 4 oz option available as a lunch special).
The burger was topped with the goat cheese, which was pretty mild but still recognizable. The sweet and spicy sauce is sweeter than spicy, but it did work well with the goat cheese. Two nice strips of crispy bacon completed the burger.
Blue cheese and beef is a classic combination. The sharp flavour usually works nicely against the fatty meat. I was expecting a pack of flavour, because of the addition of the blue cheese ranch dressing on top of the blue cheese. You could taste the blue cheese, but in my opinion it wasn’t sharp enough and didn’t stand out – likely there was simply not enough cheese and the dressing was mellowing everything. Between the beef and the wide strips of bacon, the blue cheese barely added a subtle edge to the burger. You either need more, or you need sharper cheese.
Not that it was bad, mind you. It was fine. I’m just not sure it was worthy of the Blues Brothers. The beef patty was cooked to a medium well, the usual for an Ontario burger. Still, it was moist and tasty, with a nice char crust.
Both burgers were served on a Multigrain with Sesame bun, at our request. (You can also choose White or Lettuce or Bunless). The buns were toasted on the inside, which helps preserve the intergrity of the burgers, which remained stable through the end. A must.
As a side, I had picked the Weeds, which is The WORKS way of telling us we probably shouldn’t order the salad. I mean, it was fresh enough, but it was quite simple: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and grated carrots. The dressing, nominally Greek, was mostly bland. My date had picked the Bottomless French Fries, but she hit the bottom and didn’t order an extra helping, despite my attempt to help her out. The fries were fresh cut, with a good crisp, a little on the light side of golden. Simple, efficient.
Overall, it was a pleasant experience. The burgers are a bit on the pricey side, but at least they are offering a quality product. The service was friendly and prompt, the one minor faux pas being not checking on us during the meal to make sure everything was ok. Or perhaps we were so hungry she didn’t have time to do so!