Tuesday, 6 October 2009

ROCKWELL's Restaurant & Bar ~ Ottawa, On


Way down in Southern Ottawa, AKA Nepean, is the Merivale Mall, on Merivale road. The mall is nothing special but one interesting establishment always stands out when I've been - Rockwell's Restaurant & Bar. I'll be honest, I've always judged this place by its cover - and I was always confused by said cover.

From the front, I thought it was a skeezy bar. From inside the mall, a not so nice family restaurant. I didn't think I would ever actually go in. But sometimes you have to look past your fly by judgements and try something new. It didn't hurt I have seen AYCE wings advertised and my curiosity, and hunger, got the better of me.

The inside was much nicer than I expected - clean, bright, open with many different sections for dinning. If you enter from the mall, there is a diner/counter; in the middle is a raised seating area (where I was put), surrounded by a lower tables and chairs area; finally, in the corner, is a bar. I always assumed that the name of the joint, Rockwell's, was based on the proprieter's name or just made up. Instead, it is a reference to Norman Rockwell, the painter, for some reason. There are some prints around the place, but they are overshadowed by hockey jerseys and flat screen tv's everywhere, leading to the identity crisis of the place.

Rockwell's crowd is quite mixed. I saw older couples, I saw seniors, I saw guys on their own (like me) and I saw the 'Bar Flies'. The 'Bar Flies', you know, the locals that are probably in every night, were by far the most interesting. There was Antonio Segal - a very serious, skinny, hair slicked back squinty guy that looked like a mix of Antonio Banderas and Steven Segal. Wolf Man was in black leather jacket, long black beard, long black hair, trucker hat and big glasses who mumbled at me in the bathroom when he kindly held the door open for me. The other guy that stood out was a John O'Hurley (J. Peterman from Seinfeld) look-a-like. It was quite a crowd.

I looked over the menu, and it is quite a menu. Bar food, Greek food, Diner food - they have it all. My waitress April was quick to take my order and explain the whole Wing/Rib AYCE deal. There is nothing on the menu itself about the deal (and the wings sauces are limited to mild/medium/hot/honey garlic) but she pulled over a table-info stand with the details (and a lot more sauce options). Later I also noticed a giant banner over the bar too.

I was excited about the Wing/Rib AYCE combo and April happily took order after order, quickly, promptly, at at the expense of her own supper (I could see her trying to get a bite in here and there at the bar, sitting between the 'Bar Flies').

The AYCE special starts you off with 5 wings and 5 ribs. When you are ready, you order 5 more of either the wings or the ribs. I had a Pepsi to drink, and unfortunately there are no free refills with this deal. I understand they need to make money because they can potentially lose money, and I appreciated April letting me know upfront, but free refills would mean I would fill up on pop, reducing my meat intake and saving Rockwell's money, in theory. I'm just sayin'.

The special also comes with more fillers: an order of fries and some carrots, that had nothing to dip into. The fries were crisp, but they were nothing exciting, and went mostly un-eaten. If they had been really good I wouldn't have wasted them, but I didn't feel too bad for passing them up.

The wings were not very big, but they were crispy and relatively meaty. If it wasn't for the ribs, I would have gobbled down waaaaaay more wings. The wings are advertised as Buffalo style, and I was skeptical, but they came out naked (no breading or dusting) but obviously the sauce determined what kind of wing they were. I do think they were frozen chicken, but they didn't taste frozen.

The ribs really stole the show for me. I was totally taken back by how crispy and meaty and tasty they were. When April came to check on me, I had to ask what the deal with the ribs were. They call them Chicken Fried Pork Ribs, and they are breaded, then deep fried, then sauced just like the wings. I had never had such a thing, but I may have found my favourite style of ribs! I know I know, ribs should be BBQ'd low and slow, but I couldn't get over how good deep fried ribs could be!

Ok, so it's established the ribs were really good, meaty and crunchy on their own. Sauce would only enhance them from there. The Rockwell's Guinness BBQ sauce was a dark sauce, more savoury than a sweet BBQ sauce. I've had it before but I couldn't tell you where (maybe a bottled Bullseye?). It was good, and I would definitely have it on the ribs over the wings.


My first order of wings I went with traditional HOT. Ok, it wasn't very hot, but it was a very tasty sauce. A little sweet (almost like a hint of a sweet BBQ sauce) but there was a tiny bite from a mild cayenne sauce.

It had a great flavour, and I re-ordered hot wings for my last order.

My first single order I went with the ribs with the General Tao sauce. I thought the two would compliment each other, and I was right.

The General Tao sauce tasted like VH General Tao Stir-Fry Sauce, which tastes like no General Tao sauce I have ever had. It's not bad, but not General Tao in my opinion. Fairly sweet with a hint of ginger and sesame, this was another sauce I think better suited for ribs than the wings.

I assumed these were some sort of crazy suicide sauce. I checked with April and she told me they were a hot/honey garlic mix. Ah, confused because one doesn't know if its sweet or spicy.

I still got them even after knowing honey garlic was involved. I should not have. I'm sure HG enthusiasts would love this, but I was stretching to find the hot flavour in there. My mistake, not the sauce's.

I decided to experiment and see if these ribs-done-like-wings would hold up, so I tried them in the hot sauce.

These ribs came very well sauced. I did like the hot and the pork flavours, but I don't think this hot is perfect for ribs. I wouldn't eat more than this particular order. Ok maybe I would.

As mentioned before, I went for one more order of wings, hot. I was interested in trying Southwest Chipotle and the Thai, but by the end I was getting full and wanted to end on a flavour that I was happily established with. Next time, next time.

FINAL SCORE: The wings, were not all that special. Smallish, but crispy. But for me the real winner was the chicken fried pork rib. The combo of the two really kept my orders interesting, and sampling several flavours is what AYCE is all about. $14.99 is not a cheap deal, but I justify it with the ribs. If I came back on another night than AYCE, I would go with a club sandwich or some of their other tasty looking menu items. But the rib/wing combo makes this one special I will indulge again another time. And April made my experience that much better. No wonder Antonio Segal comes here. Proving once again, don't judge an eatery by its cover. 6.5/10

Rockwell's Restaurant & Bar
1642 Merivale Road, Ottawa, On


Teena in Toronto said...

All those wings look delish! I gotta get me some wings!

Chris said...

Would this be owned by THE Rockwell?

(I always feel like, somebody's watching meeeeeeee [weeeeheeee] I ain't got no privacy [whoa-oh-oh])

Those ribs sound interesting and I don't mean that sarcastically:)