Wednesday, 31 March 2010

PUZZLES ~ Ottawa On

*** PUZZLES is now CLOSED  - RIP ***
Click HERE to see it's replacement

Still kicking it in Westboro, I kept eyeing a pub I've passed many times before but never went in. Only steps away from the corner of Churchill and Richmond, this little establishment has been around for a long time, 45 years in fact (1965) so they must be doing something right. Right?

The pub is a place that I have been curious to go to, but something made me feel a bit nervous going in on my own. But I braved it and went in. Actually I walked by first and took a look inside the big windows out front to see what the seating was like. It was empty inside (or so I thought). It was mid afternoon, so I wasn't expecting a lunch crowd or early supper. Once I got inside, I noticed one thirty-ish guy on his own with a pitcher, and in the back corner (not visible from my walkby) was a crew of senior men hanging out, celebrating a birthday. But I get the impression that they celebrate there often.

There is nothing that stands out about the place. It was dark (no lights on really, but the big picture windows up front bring in a lot of natural light). The carpets and tables were old, and the only real decorations were New Jersey Devils paraphernalia. Weird. The music was turned way down low ( I could hear the old guys conversations more clearly) and at one point I swear I heard the Andy Griffith theme and then something upbeat from the later 20th century! There wasn't a negative vibe as this review so far might sound, just no vibe at all. Actually, I don't think you can use the term 'vibe' at this kind of venue.

I sat right near the front window to take advantage of the light and the view. My waitress, whose name I never got, came over and she seemed to be a slightly nervous but a sweeter older woman. She took my drink order, and I inquired if their wing special was on all day or if it started at a later time. No, it was on all day (score!). At least for March anyway, I don't know what April holds. I perused the menu and nothing special here, just great looking pub grub. Burgers, appetizers, they even have popcorn, or popcorn with butter on the menu. That excited me until I found out it was just microwave popcorn.

While I would have liked to try their poutine or the special 'pickin platter' sampler, I went with wings. Surprise surprise. I was worried about my three-part order (hot wings, dusted wings and a side of suicide sauce) because my waitress had to repeat it over and over to herself, but everything came out right.

The wings at Puzzles come $0.60 a piece, or half price on Monday and Wednesdays, and there didn't seem to be a number you had to order. The standard wings are simply deep fried and then tossed in sauce.

The wings did range in size quite a bit. Some were small, other very large. My hot wings were a bit drier (deep fried dangerously close to overdone but not quite) but my dusted wings were perfectly crispy, juicy and meaty. Some of the hot had some meaty pieces too - so size and meatiness were all over the map.

Most of these wings were covered in hot sauce were a nice caramelized red colour. Some wings were slathered in the thick sauce, other just grazed it. The sauce wasn't really hot. It was a medium, partly because it was a slightly sweet sauce.

It was possibly a bbq sauce and hot sauce mix, but to be honest, the taste was very meek. I couldn't get much of a strong sense of flavour either way. It wasn't bad, just really mild flavour/heat.

I don't know what prompted me to get dusted wings, but I am glad I did. It wasn't anything unique or amazing; just cornmeal and some salt and pepper.

It made for a wonderfully crispy, salty skin. Just good fried chicken. And as I had mentioned earlier, the meat was tender and juicy inside. And even better tossed in the suicide sauce.

I got this on the side just in case I didn't like it. But I did. Ok, this was more of a hot than a suicide. Cayenne based vinegar hot sauce with something added in that I just couldn't identify. There was just a bit of a kick, but far from creating a pain that I prefer to have my wings at. But the combo of the dusted and the suicide was just great.

FINAL SCORE: Definitely a place for regulars to come to. There isn't much of an atmosphere to speak of, but a great front for people watching. And the grub is simple, but done fairly well. While my wings were all over the place in quality, overall I was happy with what I got. Next time it will be dusted wings with suicide sauce for sure. 5.5/10

Puzzles: Your Neighbourhood Pub & Restaurant
344 Richmond Road, Ottawa ON


Chris said...

I haven't seen the dusted wings before.

And I still have to try poutine.

Lord of the Wings said...

Chris - dusted wings are an interesting to the chicken wing menu . . . and good luck with the poutine!