Address: 1563 Bank St, Ottawa
Hours: 12 – 8pm (Tue – Thu), 12 – 9pm (Fri), 12:30 – 9pm (Sat), closed Sun – Mon
This takeout-only spot in Ottawa South is Margo’s second location, along with the mothership up in Lowertown. It had only opened weeks before I tried it out last year, but with the experience of the owners, I figured that there shouldn’t be the same hiccups that purely new restaurants have.
On my first time there, I pre-ordered while running some errands in that end of town. The menu isn’t big and consists of Haitian mainstays like griot (fried chunks of pork belly), rice, and a few different preparations of chicken. Haitian staples akra and salt fish patties were sadly 86’d when I ordered.
I’ve had griot before, so with that baseline in mind, I got an order of their medium griot plate ($13) with rice and peas as my starch. An extra $5 will get you a large order, which also includes a garden or macaroni salad.
My order was ready right on time, and I slid my car seat back to have my lunch in the scenic locale of a south Ottawa parking lot.
The griot was perfectly cooked. It had an ultra crisp exterior that enveloped juicy meat – not even the less fatty pieces were overcooked. A thin, lightly tomato-y dipping sauce added further flavour.
My one plantain may have been a bit lonely, but it was a big one, and also deftly cooked. I find that a lot of un-sauced fried plantains can be starchy and dry, but Margo’s was the perfect thickness and had light, crispy edges.
The rice and peas were OK, although I would prefer a variety of rice that was a bit more toothsome than what they’re using. They did not skimp on the kidney beans though.
A small cup of pikliz – Haitian slaw – cut through the rich dish (and then some!), with a vinegary hit and the biggest punch of spice on the whole plate.
On my return to Margo Xpress, I dove into the chicken side of the menu, and akra were available so that was an easy choice as well.
My fried chicken was decent. The two-piece (thigh and drumstick) order had tender meat and a light, crisp batter, which benefited from being eaten immediately after receiving it. It was good, but it was no Korean fried chicken. Sorry, Haiti!
For my side with the fried chicken, I got the rice and bean sauce. If you’re wondering what that entails, it’s exactly as billed – plain white rice which you can douse to your liking with a thin, savoury black bean sauce that’s served on the side. Go to town, because the added flavour and hint of spice is a must.
This was my first time having akra! The salt cod fritters were fantastically crisp; the batter had a lattice-like texture. The interior was moist and garlicky, with only a mild fish flavour. I’d have liked a more fish-forward flavour, but that could just be the Nova Scotian in me and may not play as well with the general populace.
Margo Xpress is serving up great food in a snap, and at wallet-friendly prices, so order up and take in the asphalt views.