Posts Tagged ‘Fredericton’

Swiss Chalet, Fredericton

November 27, 2009

Full disclosure: This was my first visit to Swiss Chalet.  Not just the Fredericton location, but ever.  It’s nowhere near my house, and my parents are a little bit insane about dining out, so I never got to go when I was growing up.  Case in point: I was 18 before I visited a burger place that wasn’t McDonald’s, and my mother insists to this day that KFC’s chicken is too spicy.  You can’t make that up.

The Contender: Swiss Chalet, 961 Prospect St., Fredericton, New Brunswick

When were you there? November 19th, 8:00pm

How much? I don’t know!  Keep reading for the explanation.

The Experience: So, it turns out 8:00pm on a Thursday is not an optimal time to go to Swiss Chalet.  When we arrived there was a server sitting at a table near the door rolling cutlery into napkins, a sure sign it’s closing time.  The posted hours say they’re open until 10:00, so whatever.

We were seated at a booth next to what turned out to be a very drafty window, and were subjected to way-louder-than-necessary holiday-themed pop music.  (“Is this Justin Timberlake?” “I dunno, I think N*sync had at least one Christmas album, so maybe it’s that.”)  Ugh all around.  The whole place is basically a slightly classed-up fast food restaurant, but I guess that’s what Swiss Chalet is all about.

I was disappointed to note poutine isn’t listed anywhere on the menu, not as a stand-alone dish, nor as a side.  I’d heard Swiss Chalet served it, but saw no direct evidence to support this.  I ordered the much-hyped Festive Special, and enquired whether poutine on the side was an option, and the waitress confirmed it was.  Okay, we’re in business!

The poutine ended up being the best part of my meal.  The fries were fresh-cut style, but definitely weren’t fresh out of the fryer.  The gravy was warm-ish and not over-salted like what you seem to get at many restaurants.  The cheese curds weren’t fresh at all.  They were ice cold and had a slightly sharp taste to them similar to medium cheddar, which says to me they’d been sitting around for quite some time.  Suggestion: maybe if poutine was listed on the menu, they’d sell more of it and wouldn’t wind up serving old cheese.

The Verdict: This definitely isn’t the worst poutine I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t great either.  Deluxe is right across the street, I suggest going there for your uptown Fredericton poutine needs instead.

6 of 10

The Garrison District Ale House II

October 23, 2009

The Contender: Garrison District Ale House, 426 Queen St., Fredericton, New Brunswick

When were you there? October 6th, 6:00pm

How much? $6.99 + tax

The Experience: I caught some flak for my last review of the GDAH’s poutine, in which I gave it 4 out of 10.  Not “flak,” per se, but I did get a series of emails from the owner who wanted me to come in and act as a poutine consultant, trying different recipes and helping them make it better.  I agreed, but he stopped responding to my emails after a while.  In addition, the consensus on Giraffecycle seemed to be that their poutine is actually quite good as-is.

So I gave it another try, thinking perhaps my first poutine was an isolated fail.  This seemed plausible, since I’ve been satisfied (and sometimes very impressed) with every other meal I’ve had there.  Unfortunately, the poutine somehow managed to be worse than the first time.

The fries were warm, but the gravy was tepid at best.  As I munched away, I noticed what I thought was a cheese curd completely coated in the dark brown gravy.  Nope.  Just a wad of cold gravy, gelatinous enough that it could easily be picked up with a fork.  And there were several of them:

Apologies for the photo quality, it's not well-lit in there and my camera phone doesn't do well in the dark.

Apologies for the photo quality, it's not well-lit in there and my camera phone doesn't do well in the dark.

In addition to its unappetizing texture, the gravy was also over-salted.  By a lot.  So much so it made anything it touched close to inedible, and I found myself trying to scrape it off the fries and not-at-all-melted cheese curds as I ate.  Luckily its gelatinous state made this fairly easy to do.

Unrelated to poutine: my dining companions were also unimpressed with their meals during this visit (a pasta dish, and a meal-sized salad, respectively), and I know my friends at Our Word of Mouth also recently had an unsatisfying experience there.

With all that in mind, I’m not sure what’s up with the GDAH right now.  Their cocktails are great, they have an impressive beer selection, and the service is typically excellent, but the food is becoming inconsistent.

The Verdict: This poutine was disappointing, doubly so because this was the second time.  Shame on me, I guess.  I can’t endorse it, and I definitely can’t endorse charging $7 for it.

3of10

William’s Seafood, Fredericton

September 30, 2009

The Contender: William’s Seafood, Exhibition Grounds, Fredericton, New Brunswick

When were you there? Friday, September 18; 8:00pm

How much? $4.25 + taxes

The Experience: William’s is an independent fast food-style restaurant. There’s lots of faux-wood formica, and no glass or stoneware in sight — everything here shows up in styrofoam or cardboard. As the name suggests, they mainly serve seafood, along the lines of [fish of your choice] and chips.

I was genuinely surprised at how busy it was when I visited and there were only a few empty tables of about fifteen. Not that William’s has a negative reputation, but the exhibition grounds are a strange location and not near any other eateries, save for a Tim Horton’s.

The procedure here is that you order and pay at the counter, and if you’re going the “for here” route, they bring the food to your table. I didn’t think to time exactly how long it took from ordering until my food was in front of me, but it defintely seemed longer than you’d normally wait for fast food. I had time to read and refresh Twibble several times, anyway.

williams

When it arrived, the curds were soft and perhaps starting to melt, but not there yet. The poutine might have been better if I’d let it sit and congeal for a few minutes with the lid on, but I was quite hungry so I got to it right away. The sauce was pale chicken gravy with little green bits in it.  My palate is not sophisticated enough to detect what the green bits were.  Parsley?  Summer savoury?  Those are my best guesses.

I couldn’t really tell much about the fries, either.  I believe they were good.  Enough cheesy gravy goo had seeped into the depths to prevent me from eating many fries without it, so it’s difficult to evaluate them on their own.  My fish and chips experience at William’s says they were probably fresh cut but maybe a little limp from being left under a heat lamp.  And you know those really long fries you get at some places, and you look and think, “Wow, that potato must have been HUGE?”  There are none of those here.  Little French fries, made from regular sized potatoes are what you get. Those are fine by me, but a lot of people seem to have a preference for long, skinny, McDonald’s-style fries.

When I was about finished, I noticed the gravy left in the bottom of the container had the consistency of meringue or slightly runny mayonnaise.  I could form it into soft points with my plastic fork and it might bake up nicely as a topping for chicken pot pie or something.  Kind of gross like this, though.

The Verdict: I was disappointed with this overall. I know I’ve had the poutine from William’s at least once before, and I remember it being one of the better ones I’ve had in Fredericton. The lukewarm, gelatinous gravy is what killed it for me this time. It’s not awful, but I’m going to stick with their fish an’ chips from now on, which are pretty great.

6of10

The Snooty Fox, Fredericton

August 12, 2009

The Contender: The Snooty Fox, 66 Regent Street, Fredericton NB

When were you there? Sunday, August 9; 12:30am

How much? $4.99 + tax

The Experience: The Snooty Fox used to be pretty good. Decent food, (usually) decent service, reasonable prices, good drink selection, all within walking distance of my house. This is a recipe for win. However, my last several visits there were horrible experiences, involving screwed up orders, unbearably slow service, absentee servers, and questionable or dangerous food, so a little while ago I declared a full-on boycott. But it was late, we were tipsy, we were hungry, and we sure as shit weren’t prepared to walk to The Diplomat, so off we went.

Despite their inconsistent-at-best performances, The Snooty Fox is most often packed on weekend nights. Perhaps word has finally gotten out, though, because when we showed up last Saturday night, there were only one or two occupied tables, and I think at least one of those was populated by bar staff. All the tables in the back dining room were closed, with chairs stacked on top. Woo hoo, we get to sit in the window! And it’s apparently $3.75 cocktail night. Bring on the Slings and Alabama Slammers!

Right, so. The poutine. It’s served in a basket with a sheet of fake newspaper as a liner, like the fish n’ chips, wings, and a bunch of other things at The Snooty Fox. I always wonder about food served this way. Like, how many times have you eaten wings and ended up with grease and wing sauce all over the the basket? You can’t sanitize wicker, you know. Anyway.

SnootyPoutine

The portion size is good, not skimpy but not huge either. Fresh cut fries with skin on, this is a definite plus. And real cheese curds. Saints be praised! The Snooty Fox used to use shredded mozzarella, but they have stepped up to the poutine challenge in this regard. Good job!

The major point of fail is our usual suspect: the gravy. It was tepid at best, and way too salty. The fries were fresh, but their heat alone wasn’t enough to melt the cheese much at all. Not good, fellas, not good.

I’m not sure why it’s so tricky for restaurants to serve tasty gravy, but I think I figured out why so many places fail hard in this respect. The gravy you get at a lot of restaurants is bouillon-based goo that’s been sitting in a warming tray since the kitchen opened at 11am or whenever it was. Even if it was passable when they mixed it up, it’s going to lose moisture if it sits around for hours, and that will obviously affect the taste and texture. If this is what’s going on, adding a little warm water and giving the whole thing a good stir periodically throughout the day would probably help a lot.

The Verdict: I’ll give this poutine a “most improved” award, since The Snooty Fox’s version used to be absolutely awful. What they’re doing now isn’t amazing, but it’s on par with most of the other poutines available around town. You could certainly do a lot worse. The service this time was also much better than it had been recently, so I’ll end my boycott of The Snooty Fox on a probationary basis.

7 of 10

The Garrison District Ale House, Fredericton

March 30, 2009

The Contender: Garrison District Ale House, 426 Queen St., Fredericton, New Brunswick

When were you there? Saturday, March 28; 6:30pm

How much? $6.99 + tax

The Experience: This was my third visit to the new-ish Garrison District Ale House (TGDAH hereinafter). This location has been home to a bunch of different restaurants in the last few years. Most recently Mojo’s, before that it was The Jester’s Court, and possibly at least one other thing in between.

Its current incarnation has the best beer selection in town and does the “upscale pub food” thing pretty well (though they’re not kidding about the upscale). The first time I was there I had some wings, which were good but unbearably hot. It should be noted that I have a low tolerance for heat in my food and usually go with “medium” wings, but somebody else was buying that night. On my second visit I had a burger, which I later declared via txt message to be the best cheeseburger I’d ever eaten anywhere, ever. I’ve eaten my share of cheeseburgers, let me tell you, so this was obviously txt-worthy information.

I think TGDAH is also one of the few places (possibly the only place) in Fredericton which serves my current favourite girly beer, the St-Ambroise apricot wheat. I really like the service, too. Sometimes your food takes a little while when it’s busy in there, but the servers I’ve had were all friendly and accommodating. Anyway.

The poutine was disappointing. Heart-breaking, even. I really like this restaurant and I wanted to be able to tell you they make the best poutine in town. But they sure don’t.

The main source of fail was the gravy. It was possibly the worst I’d ever had. I get that a lot of fast food and questionable take-out joints use bouillon gravy. Sup, Island Greek. But when you’re charging $7 for a poutine, I would like you to use quality ingredients, please. Please, please, please. The gravy was so salty I couldn’t even finish my poutine, and that, sir, is an atrocity. Besides being stroke-inducingly salty, the gravy was also not hot enough to even sort-of melt the curds. Yuck-o.

The strengths of this particular poutine included the fries, which while slightly overcooked, were at least fresh-cut with the skin on. This is about my favourite kind of french fry, although the classic crinkle-cut will always have a special place in my left ventricle. There were also cheese curds and not shredded mozzarella, which shouldn’t be notable, but unfortunately is. AND. TGDAH’s serves its poutine in a bucket. Like, an actual pail:

tgdah_poutine

I love it when food is honest. Serving poutine in a metal bucket gets to the heart of that, “I am a hog a the trough” feeling of self-hatred I sometimes get from regular poutine consumption. I’m pretty sure this is an affliction of Anglos, as every Quebequois I’ve ever encountered has no shame about it.

The Verdict: Like a good New Brunswick food critic, I will tell you that while the food wasn’t very good, at least there was a whole lot of it. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this poutine in good faith, nor will I order it again. I will, however, continue to visit TGDAH when finances permit and encourage dining companions to order the poutine so I may pick at their food and determine whether the one I had this time was a one-off mistake or part of a larger pattern of failure.

4of10