Address: 834 Clyde Ave, Ottawa
Hours: 7am – 3pm (Mon – Wed, Sat – Sun ); 7am – 8pm (Thu – Fri) (current pandemic hours)
Since I’m centrally located in Ottawa, anytime I’m outside my normal stomping grounds, I try to make hay while the sun is shining and visit new-to-me restaurants. It was with that mindset that I stopped by Al’s Diner for a late brunch before going to the massive Canadian Tire across the street.
Located off Carling in a commercial/light industrial part of town, it’s no surprise that the building itself isn’t much to look at. The interior fares better, with a new coat of paint that belies the restaurant’s age of 30 years, and a black/red/white motif lends a diner-y feel, without trying to go full retro. Several widescreen TVs dot the restaurant for your sports viewing pleasure.
Since I arrived an hour before closing (they don’t do dinner service on the weekend), I was seen to quickly throughout my meal. The menu is on par with most of its peers (quite large), with the breakfast menu comprised of familiar sights like omelettes, eggs Benedict, pancakes and waffles, breakfast sandwiches, and several breakfast platters.
I wasn’t quite feeling like a massive breakfast like the Trucker’s Special (three eggs with bacon, ham, sausage, home fries and toast) so I opted for their Classic Bennie ($12.99), with home fries.
My food came out so quickly, I barely had time to look at my phone after placing the order! The Classic Bennie is what you’d expect with a name like that – poached eggs on lightly grilled ham and English muffins, with a dousing of Hollandaise. Diner food can be hit or miss, but Al’s Diner’s egg bennie is definitely a hit.
Lightly poached eggs spilled their rich, golden goodness at the touch of a knife, and while I’m not entirely sure if the Hollandaise was from scratch or a powder, I did enjoy its tanginess and hint of sweetness. And while some hollandaise addicts might disagree, I appreciated that while there was a generous amount of the buttery breakfast staple, there wasn’t a pool of it.
The home fries had the look of being from-frozen, but were cooked perfectly, with a light crispness that gave them just enough crunch without being too hard to absorb the delicious mess from the bennie.
I’m not a big coffee person by any stretch of the imagination, but Al’s was pretty good for a standard diner – not burnt, not watery, and refills aplenty.
My breakfast may not have been 100% from scratch, locally sourced, chef-ed up fare, but Al’s Diner is putting out very good food!
My second visit occurred after donating blood at the nearby Canadian Blood Services, as I was looking to start rebuilding the ol’ red blood cell and iron supplies.
One of the specials that day was a roast beef dip platter, which included soup and fries, for just $13.99! It was an easy call.
My soup came out first – a hearty tortellini soup. Multi-coloured pieces of cheese-stuffed pasta filled the bowl, with the odd bit of chicken here or there. The thick, tomato base had a potent seasoning of Italian herbs, and it made for a nice start to the meal on a cool, fall day.
The beef dip itself was a comprised of a thick stack of slices of roast beef, oddly found between sesame seed burger buns, with crispy-coated fries, coleslaw and of course, some au jus for dipping.
I couldn’t quite figure out if the roast beef is done in-house or not, but in my iron-deprived state, it didn’t matter too much. However, a proper sub bun or baguette would have been preferable for more structural integrity during dipping. The au jus was nothing to write home about – salty and lightly beefy, with no depth of its own.
Crispy-coated fries are guaranteed to have come out of a freezer, but I don’t care; if they’re cooked properly, they’re so crispy! These were a win.
All things told, Al’s Diner makes solid diner-style fare at prices that are incredibly easy on the wallet. If you’re in the west end and want a hearty breakfast or lunch, stop in!