The Locker Room
I'll be honest, I don't usually like sports bars. But when I saw a Groupon for this new place in Sugar Land and I saw they served Canadian poutine...and the Olympics were on TV...I said "Let's go!"
Inside The Locker Room!
Don and I grinned when we walked in the door and realized this place was connected to the Sugar Land ice rink. Not only were there 4 or 5 flat screens (mostly showing Olympics) but we could actually look out the window and watch some hockey on the ice! This would be fun!
We started with some Molson's on draft and took a look at the menu. It was a little before 7, just in time for the Olympic coverage to start up. It was also about time for a youth hockey team practice, so the atmosphere was starting to change.
If we lived somewhere north of Texas, this might not be quite as thrilling, but I got a kick out of watching the big machine get the ice ready for the kids. (The pic is a bit blurry because of puck dents in the plastic!) While the kids near the rink got ready to burst onto the ice, the bar/dining area inside began to fill with a curious mix. There were some men with beer at the bar, but many of the tables had kids and moms. There were some young boys eating pizza (they call them ringers on the menu) and moms with laptops. Some kids were doing homework while they ate and I had smile when I saw two little girls arrive, carrying their American Girl dolls, who seemed to be wearing ice skating outfits!
Two years ago Don and I were in Ontario and didn't have time to try out the Canadian favorite called poutine. So I was excited that we finally got to sample the decadent treat of French fries with gravy and cheese! The order we shared was huge! (And this was before our hamburger and salad arrived!) We were both impressed by the tangy flavor and the fresh cut potatoes. (At least they looked and tasted fresh!) Winding the oozing mozzarella on the fork, made the whole poutine experience fun and messy! A big thumbs up for our poutine experience!!
Adults on Ice
I guess we'd been seated an hour when we noticed the kids flying off the ice and the goals being moved out of the way. Zamboni did it's work again and then it was time for an adult league to take over the ice.
We had just about finished our poutine when Scott, one of the owners came over to introduce himself. He seemed pretty amused that we were so excited about the Canadian items on the menu. We told him we were equally thrilled to have the novel experience of dining with view of the ice rink. It was fun hearing about how Scott got into hockey. He is the one non-Canadian in the trio of owners. He laughed about the difficulties they had getting some of the candy and chip products that Canada won't sell to the US. He talked about some of the complications of opening a bar/restaurant connected to an ice rink.
It must be hard catering to so many different crowds throughout the day and evening...when the rink draws children and families, adult hockey and sports crowds and figure skaters. It sounds like they have found a pretty magical way of making the place comfortable for all kinds of visitors. I'm sure the little boys who were playing air hockey in the back room were replaced by adults hours later, when the hockey players came off the ice.
Tim Horton's and Lay's Ketchup
Luckily we stayed long enough for another one of the owners to arrive, carrying in a box of Tim Horton's coffee. Tim Horton is the name of a famous hockey player and donut/coffee shop hugely popular in Canada. Don and I have had the coffee before, but we needed to try the Lay's Ketchup chips. They taste just like you would expect, but still it's a bizarre surprise to the tongue. Evidently the local Canadian's crave these. They were sold out of the Old Dutch brand ketchup chips.
As soon as David put down the heavy box of bagged coffee, Scott introduced us. As David's shirt suggests, he is from the Toronto area. We heard some stories about his hometown, Mississauga. David and Scott sort of chuckled about the fact that the big train derailments of 1979 was the town's main, claim to fame.
We got off on many tangents as well as the fact that I do a dining blog. Scott was quick on his phone and found it, knowing just our first names. He is very quick. Scott and David couldn't have been more welcoming and fun. I know this business has got to be work, especially since it's only been open a half a year, but both seemed upbeat and good humored about this odd world of food, drink and ice
Skating on TV
Don and I finished up our dinner, (Excellent burger by the way) and enjoyed a little Olympic ice skating on the TVs. Funny that they showed a glimpse of Tara Lipinksy on the screen. The young gold medal figure skater of 1998 actually lived in Sugar Land back then.
When we first moved to Sugar Land in '98, there was a big Congrats to Tara banner near this rink!
Off We Go
Around 9, we said good-bye. Scott said he was heading onto the ice with his league at 9:30. We didn't ask Ryan, our high school aged waiter if he had homework, but we did inquire about his lacrosse tee shirt. (Yes, he plays...and football, too) We wished Ryan good luck with his college plans and headed out, passing a welcoming patio with big TV, bar-b-q grill and heaters for cold weather. No heaters needed on this balmy February evening. In fact a number of people inside, who had been enjoying the rink and Olympic viewing were wearing shorts! I had to laugh as we headed to the car.
As I already said, I don't usually care for sports bars, but I left wishing I could lift up this place and transplant it to a corner in my neighborhood. What a fun place!
Only One Day in Ontario
This is the first country I'm adding to my diverse dining list that involves a food adventure outside the U.S. That feels like cheating.
We didn't have time for big meal outings on our visit to Ottawa, but we did manage to stop at Tim Horton's as soon as we crossed the border from New York.
I wasn't familiar with Tim Horton, the well known hockey star, but I guess everyone in Canada knows about him and his doughnuts!
Very Grumpy People Encounter
"NO PHOTOS!" Yelped the woman with the sharp nose and angular glasses when I snapped this photo. (I wish I'd captured her in my one photo) After my stern reprimand she continued to bark questions in her scolding voice. "What size coffee!!! What size Timbit box!!!!" I felt battered by the time we ended ordering.
The "Timbit" doughnut holes were yummy, though. I wish I could have tried all 35 flavors.
Tim Horton's has been selling doughnuts since 1964. I'm sure there are lots of people in the 3,000 stands and shops across Canada who are not so cranky.
And it's nice to know, Tim Horton's has been supporting a Children's Foundation since 1974. Sadly that was the year Tim Horton was killed in a tragic car accident. A sad story, but a nice cause.
More Sweets in Ottawa
After a few hours in the National Gallery seeing the Van Gogh exhibit, I was ready for another treat. We headed to Byward Market a few blocks away, where I discovered Beaver Tails! 34 years ago Grant and Pam Hooker used a family recipe and opened up a shop to sell this fried pastry... in the shape of a beaver's tail!
I don't even know what that means, but I'm picturing the frustration of stretching not enough pizza dough to fit a too large pizza pan. So I must hand it to the hard working Beaver Tail Makers! My Maker, in the red shirt was very good humored. She offered to cut my chocolate and banana topped pastry in half and she seemed absolutely delighted when I handed her a 5-dollar bill. (I had no Canadian money) "Wow! I can't believe they have Lincoln on this AND the penny!" I'm sure there are many Americans who have not taken note of that.
If We'd Had More Time
I would have sampled some Poutine Fries which were sold at this tiny shop behind the bike. This Canadian treat of French fries smothered in gravy and curd cheese would have been a nice balance to all my sweets! And then I would have headed to the Chateau Lafayette for maybe a Canadian Whiskey...or something. This is the oldest tavern in Ottawa, open since 1849!
Something Fishy Here!
We did stop in Lapointe Fish Market, which has been in the smelly food business since 1867! I could have gotten my salt fix with some of these fish pictured below.
But I guess I'll save the Salt Cod Cheeks and the Bloaters for another trip!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.