Bowman’s Bar & Grill, nestled on the south side of Carling near Island Park, has been on my hit list for a year.
What took me so long? Probably the location. It’s out of the way for us and for all our friends. But let me tell you – it’s well worth a special trip.
To be fair, I knew I was going to like Bowman’s before I even stepped in the place. The chef, Jordan West, is no stranger to me. He hired me at Feleena’s way back in 2008. I vividly remember working slow, rainy Saturday nights at the Mexican spot, when he would take over the kitchen and whip up the most delicious concoctions for his staff, just off the top of his head. At the time, he actually wasn’t working in the kitchen, but it was clear that’s where he belonged.
Since his time at Feleena’s, Jordan, his father and brother went on to open Bistro Rutherford in Wakefield, QC. I’ve yet to go, but have heard amazing things. At the restaurant, the family developed the vegan Nutstravaganza burger, which is gaining popularity and market share in the Ottawa valley region for it’s meat-like consistency and flavour.
Full disclosure – I also worked alongside Bowman’s owner Peter West (no relation to Jordan, to my knowledge) one winter at the original Mexicali Rosa’s (now Rosie’s Southern Kitchen & Raw Bar). So you could say visiting Bowman’s was a little nostalgic for me.
Here’s the thing: I knew I would like it, but I didn’t expect to love it. I should have known better, because I can’t imagine Jordan cooking something mediocre. The man is passionate about all types of food, and carefully crafts all his dishes. I mean, just look at his Instagram feed. Just look at it!
The decor was clean, unassuming and minimal – perfect for the open-concept space. The restaurant is divided into two sections by bank seating – one side has proper dining tables, and the other has more of a sports bar feel, with high-top tables and big TVs.
The menu is diverse and original – clearly representative of Jordan’s style – with the perfect number of items. If there’s one thing I hate at restaurants, it’s a huge menu. At Bowman’s, there are just enough options to please everyone… and enough to make my decision really hard. We settled on the “Dill”icious Pickle Chips, Chicken & Waffle and Wild Mushroom Gnocchi, washed down with a beer and some wine.
My only regret is not being able to eat more. I’ve had chicken & waffles at a few places recently, included Union Local 613 and Hooch Bourbon House, and this blew theirs out of the water. The massive chicken thigh was tender, juicy and flavourful, marinated in buttermilk. It needed no sauce or added seasonings. The dill pickle chips were tasty, similar to what you’d find in the southern United States. The mushroom gnocchi was unique and downright mouth-watering, topped with slivers of red chilies that gave it a slight kick. I’m a sucker for gnocchi and mushrooms, so it had me at hello.
As for drinks, they’ve got it all, including micro-brew beer and cider on tap, which is always a win with me. Lots of solid options on the wine list, including an Australian red I highly recommend.
After exactly a year in business (we visited on the restaurant’s first anniversary, December 6th) Bowman’s seems to be doing pretty well for itself. For a Saturday, they had a steady stream of customers, particularly come 9 p.m. when they held an open mic. With a chef like Jordan, I can only imagine the booming business this place would do if it were in the Glebe, on Preston or in the market.
Moral of the story – if you live in the area, Bowman’s needs to be your new favourite spot. And if you don’t, you’ll thank yourself for making the extra trek.