A first dinner-event of its kind at the relatively new…
20 Heldmann Road (at Sportsworld Crossing)
Kitchener, ON N2P 0A6
Cost: $65-$75 for two
Moose Winooski’s: fun to say and fun to visit.
The roadhouse-cum-sports bar-cum-family restaurant-cum-emporium to Canadiana, a landmark since the mid-1990s, is nothing if not a relaxed casual restaurant and bar — the latter with lots of televisions. I mean lots.
Among the best times you can spend at the Kitchener Moose (there is also a Barrie Moose) – other than summer patio time with a few wobbly pops – is game day for the Kitchener Rangers. Sometime around 4:30 or 5 p.m., groups of Rangers replica-jersey’ed folk start rolling in for a bite to eat and a few drinks.
The atmosphere changes. There’s a convivial, communal goodwill. There’s a fun energy and a playfulness that evolves between tables of strangers (especially when you pretend you’re an Owen Sound fan), an engagement of individuals who have no connection other than the great Canadian game of hockey. (There is some sort of shuttle system from the restaurant to the Aud for games; that’s great. Check the playoff schedule and visit, even if you don’t plan on going to the game.)
On busy late-afternoons — hockey or no — people line up to find a high-top table on the bar side. The floor is crunchy with self-scoop peanut shells.
On the other side, the restaurant dining room is an expansive space with open tables in the middle and booths along the side. It’s like a dining hall in a lodge with the Canadian and northern theme well pronounced.
In between the two spaces is a large fireplace, overseen by a gigantic moose head and antlers. Even more gigantic is what must be the nation’s largest map. Like its sister restaurants in the Charcoal Group, the service is attentive, friendly and professional.
The menu is solid roadhouse quality — the nachos are legendary — but with a few otherwise notable items such as Kale and Beets, Sesame Thai Chicken and Muskoka Quinoa.
The wings are huge and come in about four sizes; they taste very good naked, too (the wings, that is). The burger is home-made with 100 percent ground prime rib from a local packer; it came with some juiciness and some good fries in a stainless steel cup.
The classic club house gets an injection of energy with a good amount of Swiss cheese and Cheddar, as well as a seven-grain bread to give it an added layer of flavour. Smokey bacon and roasted-but-moist turkey make this a well-built sandwich. A large bowl of creamy mushroom and onion bisque is smooth, heady and rich for one of the last chilly rainy days of early spring.
Three fish tacos are a good-sized portion. Though the flour tortilla was a bit dry, it didn’t affect the flavour inside: crisp parts were crisp and hot; tender, moist parts were tender. There was a well-executed balance of acidic pico de gallo and a perfect touch of heat that was smoothed out by guac. The Napa cabbage is a good ingredient to add with its mild taste and lovely texture.
The Moose is fun and especially at hockey time. And with peanut shells underfoot, how could it not be?