Across Ontario (and beyond) is a chain of Italian-American casual restaraunts. East Side Marios. If you don't like chains, you probably don't like East Side Mario's (ESM). I, however, do like them. I always leave full, with leftovers, and satisfied.
It's not always perfect, but most times it's all good. I have two go to dishes: sausage pepper penne (in ariabata sauce) and Hell's Kitchen (spicy breaded chicken) - both are spicy and I either get a good piece of chicken, or some good sausages. And the meals come with hot loafs of bread and a tasty house salad I like. The place is kind of like Olive Garden, but IMHO spicier and more fun.
LJ went to our usual location at the St Laurent Mall in Ottawa, but it was super packed, so we went to the Gloucester location. Inside any ESM the walls are covered in fake New York City memorabilia, and no EMS is without a person-sized Statue of Liberty. We were sitting in the bar section which was full of flat screens, tall tables, and people watching some sports event.
Normally we don't sit in the bar, and I've already told you what I normally order, but this night was different. We were there for 1/2 price appetizers. Every night after 9pm (depending on the location) is 1/2 price appetizers. Different items are 1/2 price at different locations. Also, you have to sit in the bar for the deal to work.
We ordered Budda Boomers ($5.95). At this location these were not on 1/2 price. At other locations they are. Budda Boomers are deep fried pizza dough tossed in "herbs and garlic, sprinkled with Parmesan Romano." It normally comes with tomato dipping sauce, but we always ask for their garlic aioli. They are slightly crispy, light and very addictive.
We also has an order of Calamari Fritti ($9.99 regular price). These calamari rings were not like any we have had at ESM before. Normally they are tender rings in a panko-like breading that is fluffy and crispy. These were tough and rubbery and the coating was like a bad onion ring. I would swear they came from a plastic bag. This time they weren't that enjoyable.
At least there were wings in our order.
The wings come in orders of 7 wings. Considering they aren't big wings and the cost is $10.99, that's almost $2 a wing! That is a terrible deal, especially for an appetizer. But for $5, that is a better deal.
The wings are all breaded, but depending on your flavour choice, they might be dry or they might be well tossed in sauce. We ordered one plate Hot, and the other garlic Parmesan. They also come with veggies (carrots and celery) and the garParm came with Caesar dressing dip, but hot came with sour cream (oh Ottawa).
The wings were pretty small length wise, but were meaty meaty wings. The breading wasn't too thick, but the saucy nature of the Hot wings made the skin mushy. The garPar stayed crispy.
I really liked these, and normally I wouldn't. Because while there were spicy (I mean in a cayenne pepper sauce way, not heat) but they were also sweet. Like a spicy red sauce from a North American Chinese restaurant.
LJ wasn't a huge fan, she felt they were heat wise spicy, and too sweet. I had no problem finishing them off for her. I don't think everyone would like these wings, but I did.
This was a great concept wing. Crispy deep fried wings that are tossed in a bit of garlic infused oil, tossed in spices and Parmesan cheese.
This is a much more savoury wing with lots of things going on - texture from the crispy skin and breading, the oil and the cheese just add something different, the garlic and seasoning. If you dip this in the Caesar dressing, it's almost too much.
THE SCORE: This isn't really a wing place, but I like the wings at East Side Marios. I like the contrasting flavours of Hot and garPar really compliment each other with the sweet heat and the savoury garlic spices. I like it. They aren't very big, but they are meaty. The other sides this night were hit (Budda Boomers) and miss (calamari). But at least most of the meal was 1/2 price. I would never buy these wings at full price, but for 1/2 price, they aren't bad. 5/10
East Side Mario's
1820 Ogilvie Road, Ottawa (Gloucester) ON (and other locations)