Sugar addicts beware, behind it’s gasto-trattoria leaning menu lurks a vicious addiction: the Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sundae (with caramel popcorn and peanuts) at Ottawa’s Town. Worth skipping lunch for, worth ordering first, or saving every last lick for last.
Hey, don’t get me wrong they have honest to God real food in several salty flavours; zesty sandwiches, zippy mains, snazzy small plates and salads. My friend Paula Roy and I are ladies who like to lunch, but we’re not much for tiny morsels and petite bites. We are Canadian gals with appetites and so when we go looking for lunch we want life-sized food.
Enter Town, on Elgin. A narrow brightly lit room with front facad widows that open to bring the fresh ari in and crate an indoor patio feel. It’s lined with tables, a banquette down one side and a bar on the other. It’s a tight but well used space with a bisto-style blackboard menu and causal atmosphere. The staff was attentive and helpful, service was prompt yet patient. We were well on our way with a glass of sauvignon blanc (Lailey Vineyard, Niagara $12) from a short selection of decent bottles as we narrowed our selection from the lunch menu.
“What do you recommend?” we asked our server “the Chicken Fritto sandwich” was her reply “I eat it almost every day“. “What about the Calamari BLT?” we inquired. “That’s what I eat when I’m not having the Chicken Fritto” she smiled. Always trust a server who eats where they work.
The Chicken Fritto ($14); a messy combination of fritto crusted chicken, slaw and ‘rooster mayo’ (AKA: Siracha mayo). The Calamari BLT ($14) pretzel crusted thick cut calamari rings coupled with crisp pork belly, smoked remoulade and tomato. Equally gooey, delightedly salty. (Both pictured above, half of each. They’ll plate that for you, no problem.)
Truthfully, I can’t for the life of me decide which I prefer — the crunchy heat of the chicken or the salty, subtle smoke of the calamari, but one thing’s for sure, you won’t leave hungry. Sandwiches are served on a fresh, house baked buns with a side of lightly dressed salad and marvelously crispy pecorino potatoes (a fingerling potato blanched then deep fried until the skin starts to crack, dashed with salt). Easily as addictive as the salted caramel ice cream sundae, I now dream of pecorino potatoes.
This was a lot of food, can’t believe I squeezed in dessert. I blame bad upbringing, a real lady would have said ‘no dessert for me, thank you’. But I never regret dessert, besides there’s less guilt when you order extra spoons. The Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sundae was so good, we both can’t stop thinking about it. And what do food pros do when they just can’t stop thinking about something? They make it. My friend Paula Roy, Food Editor at Ottawa at Home Magazine and creative behind the blog Constantly Cooking caved today and broke out the ice cream maker to rip out a batch of salted caramel ice cream. DAMMIT. Now I want an ice cream maker! (Recipe link: http://constantlycooking.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/salted-caramel-ice-cream/.)
Maybe it’s just as well that our kitchen is not ice cream equipped, that way I can make clandestine plans to raid Town and scoff back smooth, creamy ice cream. Lightly salted, rich with caramel, topped with crispy bits of in-house caramel covered popcorn and peanuts. Just when you think you’ve had the best of it, you reach the chilled chocolate fudge on the bottom of the cold cast iron pan and you moan, just a little. It’s like the prize in the Cracker Jack box.
Savour the sweet side of Town, Ottawa. It’s pure happiness.
296 Elgin Street