Moose McGuire’s, a newish pub in the Hunt Club/Walkley/Riverside area, is kind of a special place. While it draws primarily from the surrounding residential neighbourhoods, it’s actually worth the drive for those of us in other parts of Ottawa.
What sets Moose McGuire’s apart is that it is among the rare sports bars which make food an equal priority to beverages. Co-owner Dan Butler has an excellent pedigree in the hospitality industry; he’s flanked by business partner Chef Ken Harper who has made a name for himself in various culinary circles over the years, included as the owner of the successful Chop Chop Catering. (Disclosure: I hired Ken to cook at a party I was hosting several years ago. It was fantastic. Too bad he’s out of that line of work now.)
Moose McGuire’s may bear many of the trappings of an upscale pub, but the décor isn’t the only reason. Not only do the premises include a cozily-decorated private lounge area, but the menu is, as mentioned, a cut above most other sports bars. Freshly made, from scratch is the hallmark of Chef Harper’s offerings – from classic pub appetizers to salads, sandwiches, handcut fries, pizzas, fish & chips and the most delicious, homemade-tasting burgers you can possibly imagine.
Harper says the secret is in his burger sauce, which he is considering bottling for sale, due to its popularity. His inventive toppings add a huge flavour kick and the soft Ace-bakery buns are a nice complement (flavourful yet easy to bite into). Look for other signature Harper touches throughout the menu, including his in-house pickled jalapenos which deliver both sweet and heat, along with house made desserts including scrumptious apple-cinnamon doughnuts. I look forward to tasting my way through more of the menu on my next visit.
Now that spring is here, Butler and Harper have a number of enhancements planned for Moose McGuire’s. The beer lineup will be rotated, with a number of local craft brews to be featured, including Beyond the Pale. Weeknight food specials will continue, as will their popular live music events on Saturday nights, alternating between various genres including jazz, rockabilly, blues and rock ‘n roll. The pub’s emphasis on music is no accident. “I consider myself a musician first and chef second,” admits Harper, who studied music in university before embarking on his culinary training. He is presently involved in several musical projects including The Lowball Bidders (catch Harper on drums in this fun video).
A large 100-seat patio is due to be installed shortly and Harper looks forward to working outdoors, grilling up special dishes. “I’m thinking about some fun ethnic plates; things like Greek, Moroccan and South East Asian. It will probably drive everyone crazy when all those delicious aromas are wafting through the neighbourhood,” laughs Harper. “We’ve enjoyed such tremendous support from this community and we are happy to be able to give back by sponsoring a number of sports teams, including women’s Roller Derby team.”
Stay tuned for more news of Butler and Harper, who have plans in the works for a second, slightly more upscale venture in another part of Ottawa.
Moose McGuire’s is at 3320 McCarthy Road; www.moosemcguires.com or 613.680.4411.