Montreal style bagels. Just hearing those words is often enough to get even the pickiest eater’s mouth watering. It’s a Canadian staple; a heavy savory bread, wood fired, and served fresh. When done right, there’s nothing better.
My wife and I had heard good things about the Ottawa Bagelshop, situated right next door to Strawberry Blonde Bakery. Always happy to use ANY excuse to get a scone at Strawberry Blonde, we decided to venture over to see what they had to offer.
The Ottawa Bagelshop has an exceptionally large floor plan, especially in the often cramped confines of Hintonburg. It doubles as both a restaurant, and a store – where fresh bagels and other accessories are offered up. The bagels are made fresh daily, the way they’ve always been done since 1984.
Emily and I went to order lunch, and I was a little taken aback by how rushed the gentleman working the cash was. He didn’t wait for me to finish placing my order prior to taking the ticket and sending it to the kitchen – causing me to have to iterate I still had some requests he hadn’t noted. He gave me an annoyed look, and gave me a “yeah yeah” when I finished up order. Not off to a swimming start, on the customer service front.
The lackadaisical approach to service showed when the food arrived, and the sandwiches arrived with no side dishes. We had asked to forgo the slaw and olives; but we were still expecting the pickles and chips. The server said he’d look into it, returned to the front where the cashier let out a loud and exasperated “they didn’t WANT them!” They returned with only half of our request; one side of chips and pickles, enough for one of the two sandwiches we ordered. By this point, they’d made it clear that our business was causing them far too much work, so we didn’t press the point to have our orders fulfilled – rather eating what we had and opting to move on.
Look, I can’t knock the food. The toasted sesame seeds were so sweet, and such an awesome flavor boost to the sandwiches that there’s literally nothing negative I could ever say about it. I had smoked meat with swiss cheese and yellow mustard; the most iconic of iconic Montreal staples, and the pairing is so undeniably perfect that it may be the best sandwich creation in the history of North America. The pickles were crisp and garlicky, exactly how I like them. Emily had a club sandwich, piled high with thick, crispy pieces of bacon. And the bagels were so delicious, that we even picked up a dozen of them despite the fact we had shared such a lousy experience; which speaks to the power of the bagel.
However – because of the overall service, I can’t in good consciousness recommend them as a place to eat. We are the kind of customers who come in, order our food, and move on; and if a mistake is made, all we’d like is for the store to own it, fix it, and we’re good. Instead, we were given a mix of indifference, and annoyance that he had been asked to do the job he was paying to do. I can’t possibly believe that we are the first customers he treated with that disdain, and we certainly won’t be the last. A real shame, given the high quality of the excellent food.