Sunday, September 1, 2013

I got the Hooch

On Saturday evening some friends and I had a serendipitous experience on Rideau Street, which Ottawa locals will know is not the kind of experience one usually has there. My friend J was in town for the long weekend, and our friend M was taking a class downtown and then we were all planning to grab some food before taking in a comedy show at Arts Court. I remembered a recent review in Ottawa Magazine of a new place called Hooch Bourbon House, which happened to be on Rideau close to Arts Court, so I suggested we try it out. Everyone was amenable so off we went.

As it turned out, it was their "grand opening" night (they've been open for at least a month as far as I know, but were waiting for the long weekend to formally launch) so there was a limited menu available, but get this: food was complimentary. As in, FREE. We decided that definitely merited sticking around and buying some yummy libations. I, sadly, had a burgeoning migraine and could not indulge in alcohol but the proprietor who took our orders offered to have the bar make me a virgin version of their "Straw Dog" with black iced tea, lemon, mint and strawberries. It was so delicious I had another one - well-played indeed. I did taste the full-test cocktails that the others ordered, with bourbon and lovely fresh things like blueberries, hibiscus cordial, pineapple and lemon. All were stellar. They also have plenty of beer and wine available should you not be a bourbon fan.

Here's the part where I admit there are no photos forthcoming in this post: I blame the migraine meds. But our table of four managed to order all three menu items on offer, and all of them were prettily presented and mouth-wateringly delicious. I adventurously ordered the chicken and waffles, which was indeed half a Cornish hen, crisply breaded and fried to perfection, atop half a buttermilk waffle with a maple-chipotle sauce and a scattering of mustard cress. It was rich but not sickening, salty-sweet-spicy and utterly addictive. M's mushroom po'boy sandwich came on a lovely brioche roll with slaw, and the mushrooms themselves were breaded and fried. Snazzy and tasty. Chris went with the house poutine, with pickled cheese curds, smoked ham and red-eye gravy over excellent frites. This is drinking food at its finest.

We were served by, and chatted with, a fellow I believe to be the manager, and he was an affable gentleman recently transplanted here from Boston. He seemed chuffed that we loved the food and drinks, and when we walked by on our way home later on I was pleased to see that the place, half-empty at six, had filled up considerably by 9:30. I want this place to succeed, because it has a great vibe, terrific food and lovely cocktails, and because it's a bright spot on an otherwise rather sad section of Rideau Street. I'll be headed back to try their full menu and a bourbon-laced drink, very soon, and I think you should go too.

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