Address: 96 Preston St, Ottawa
Hours: 4pm – midnight (Tue); 11am – midnight (Wed – Sun); closed Monday
When trying to decide on an easy-going, post-dinner locale for a drink and a snack, my wife and I ended up at neighbourhood pub, Pubwells.
The bar underwent renovations in recent years and while I’m not aware of the full extent of the work, some definite improvements have been made. A former…interesting…mix of drop ceiling tiles and black and white checkered tiles has been replaced with gorgeous tin that lightly reflects the warm lights of the bar. Just about every other surface of Pubwells is covered in your standard array of knick-knacks and the place has an overall air of warmth and coziness. That’s not something all pubs are able to maintain as the years go on, but Pubwells is doing well by their investments in the business.
My wife and I ate a fairly light dinner at home to leave room for some more indulgent bites on our evening excursion. Pubwells’ menu is fairly broad, but not overwhelming in size. There’s your standard mix of appetizers and pub grub, burgers, sandwiches, and what seems to be their specialty – pizzas.
They have ten kinds of pizza available in 10” and 13” sizes, a make-your-own option and a 10” gluten free crust.
Hailing as we do from Nova Scotia, the Garlic Fingers and Garlic Cheese Fingers immediately caught our eye. The garlic fingers avec cheese seemed to be more in-line with what us Nova Scotian ex pats know and love as “garlic fingers”, so these were an easy choice that was made all the easier by the $8 price tag.
To keep our healthy, late-night snack on thematic track, we tacked on an order of sweet potato fries ($9).
While I’ve been leery of another East Coast food import in Ottawa – donairs – due to generally poor execution, garlic fingers are a much simpler dish, and indeed are often made without knowledge of their place in East Coast’s culinary pantheon. While Pubwells’ garlic cheese fingers make no allusion to any East Coast roots, nor do they come with donair sauce for dipping, they were a very good facsimile.
I appreciated the crust, which was slightly thicker and crisper than most garlic fingers back home, although this may have more to do with eating them in-house rather than getting G-fings as delivery back in Nova Scotia. There was plenty of cheese and a good punch of garlic, and while the dusting of herbs isn’t a thing back home, that isn’t what Pubwells is going for. Honestly, it works quite well, giving your taste buds a break from the relentless richness of garlic butter and cheese.
The sweet potato fries were your standard SPFs but were cooked with a deft hand at the fryer, so they were crispy to the last bite. A lightly spicy mayo made for some added flavour for both the sweet potato fries as well as the edge pieces of the garlic cheese fingers that weren’t as cheesy as their more central brethren.
Visita Número Dos
On our return visit in warmer days, it was just nice enough to eat on their front patio, albeit with our jackets still on, and not lingering long past sundown.
This time around, I opted for one of their pizzas, the Deluxe. Topped with their house-made marinara, strips of bacon, pepperoni, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and mushrooms (I nixed the olives), the 10” sounded like it would be more than enough for my meal.
The topping-loaded pie was certainly a sight to behold when it arrived, with the bright tomatoes and peppers bursting with colour and crisp pieces of pepperoni and bacon.
Execution-wise, it was a solid pub pie. The cornicione had some airiness to it, with a crisp exterior that was flecked with char from its time in the oven. The crust held up reasonably to the pile of toppings, although the cherry tomatoes seemed to make things a bit watery.
Given my origins in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, I’m partial to ungodly amounts of cheese on my pizzas, but I won’t fault different styles for being themselves.
Service was very prompt and super friendly on both our visits, which really added to that great neighbourhood pub vibe.
Being geographically separated from its pub peers on Elgin and the Market seems to have served Pubwells’, uh, well. It’s allowed it to become a great little neighbourhood spot with the atmosphere, food, drink and service that you’d want at an old favourite that you can keep going back to.