Monday, June 7, 2010

Morning Owl Coffeehouse - I'm Living on the Edge

Recently I came across a blog entry for the Morning Owl Coffeehouse and Sandwich Bar by Girl About Town. It was an entry from August 2009. Katharine Cornfield of Girl About Town did a super job with her entry getting to know the co-owners and operators, Sarah and Jordan O’Leary, and their cozy locale 538 Rochester Street, just north of Carling.

I had been to the Morning Owl once before on a tip from my walking buddy. That day was just to sample the legendary latte at the crack of dawn. Girl About Town re-peaked my curiousity about this place, which seems to have become an instant success since Day 1. I was in the neighbourhood around Noon today, so I did an impromptu visit, knowing that continuing on towards home would have me greeted with a fairly empty fridge.

I was on a maiden voyage and wholly intimidated as I was shoehorned into a crazy, busy line-up of regulars who knew the lingo and knew the drill. The place is located right in the heart of a government campus setting where Federal buildings line the streets. These busy people needed to be in and out. No lingering lunches here. "Decisive. Be decisive." This was my mantra as I approached the counter for my turn. Wow. The sandwiches were made with Art-is-in Bakery bread. Score one. The selection was endless. I picked the vegetarian sandwich made on Fennel Multi-grain baguette bread. It came with grilled zucchini, grilled asparagus, roasted red peppers, and provolone cheese. Jordan gave it a warm up and a squeeze with the panini maker. I then had it dressed with lettuce, sliced tomatoes, hot peppers, pickled eggplant, and pesto mayonnaise. Score two.

Everybody seemed to be getting a container of the tomato salad, so ‘me too’. Grape tomatoes halved, cubes of cucumber and bocconcini cheese with a light dressing in a 500 mL container. That was going to be more than plenty.

Then on to the cash. Somewhere in my memory banks I recalled hearing that Sarah was quite a baking fiend and that she made almost all of the baked goods for the store. I asked for a bar of the carrot cake. Score three. So impulsive. What on earth was I thinking??? I make carrot cake and I know it is blistering with calories. I don’t need extra calories and I don’t need carrot cake. Sarah didn’t hear any of that though, as my lips actually didn’t move. She handed it to me. Committed now. Oh why not, let’s get a small latte too. Have I mentioned how great their lattes are?

$15.90 later (plus 75 cents in the parking meter for a rich 15 minutes of Ottawa street parking) I had a lunch fit for a construction worker. Gah! What was I thinking? I can only guess that this happens fairly often as temptation reigns supreme here. It all looks so good. I definitely planned on having the latte ASAP, but the rest could be consumed in stages through the day (or days).

As I approached the front of the store to make my exit, I was lured to the bar stools perched by the front counter. Eating my sandwich with a street view! How good. And as it turned out, not so much a street view but more like a parade. The place was streaming with bodies coming and going. What a place. Making sandwiches, making coffee, making baked goods, making money. I can see why co-owners, Jordan and Sarah are so chipper! The setting was just too intimate to get my camera out and document the whole event, so I am leaving it to my prose to carry the day. There is a reason they say that a pictures is worth a thousand words. Stay with me.

So I worked away at the sandwich in all its glory. It was a 10 out of 10. And had it been goat cheese instead of provolone, I am sure I would have moaned out loud. I took great pride in having the foresight to pick vegetarian, considering the bounty I finally purchased. The tomato salad came home, but the taste test at the counter suggests that there is a reason EVERYBODY picks one up.

Now for the carrot cake. The icing was already sticking to the sleeve it was packaged in. I gave it a try too just because fresh seemed important in making any kind of gastronomical assessment. Then it could come home too. Many will say that one taste is never enough for a conclusive evaluation of carrot cake. It is all about assessing the cake, then the icing and if it is an end piece, it is important to know if that detracts in any way from the overall experience. Well, by then it was all gone.

One advantage of the counter bar seat is that it gave me a bird’s eye view of my car across the road. On the last bite of the carrot cake, a Green Hornet zoomed by and did a quick 180 to drift in behind my car! I grabbed my purse, latte and tomato salad, then bolted. And man I bolted. Just in time to do an intervention. My meter was blinking zeros. Before his fingers could touch that high tech wireless device, I had my story out. 3 quarters gave 15 minutes, long line-up, crazy busy store, half eaten lunch. He smiled and moved on. Bless him.

Now how had all of that taken more than 15 minutes? I already knew. It was the savouring bites of that perfectly exquisite sandwich. Long lingering chews. Dreamy sips at my near perfect latte (a small gets you 10 ounces). I don't know Jordan and Sarah but I have to say they have great style and it shows in their service, their product and the joie de vivre of this quaint but hip setting. This may be one of my best Mondays in an awfully long time.

[For the record, I popped another quarter in the meter just to zip back to the store to clean up my hastily abandoned mess. How utterly Canadian.]

Morning Owl Coffeehouse
538 Rochester Street
Ottawa, Ontario

Mon - Fri: 7 am to 3 pm

Morning Owl on Urbanspoon


  1. I've been meaning to check out Morning Owl for quite some time now! Thanks so much for this wonderfully in depth review. I felt like I was there enjoying that carrot cake too :).

  2. I think the biggest joy for me was that vegetarian sandwich loaded with the grilled veggies and roasted red pepper. I have been trying to move away from sandwiches with processed meat. It wasn't just a meatless sandwich called vegetarian, like might be the case at a famous sub franchise. It had its own 'meat' so to speak. I may go on a mission to see if the likes of Danni Panini and DiRienzos can do something as good on the vegetarian front. Many have said they are great for the meat sandwiches. I do like Morning Owl's ambiance and sometimes that is worth a few cents more. Do try them. They are great people. And thanks for stopping in.

  3. Awesome post, great blog. Love your writing. I'm following .... Keri a.k.a. Sam

  4. Keri: Thank you so much for the kind words. Great to have you visiting at If Music Be The Food of Love, Play On. And wonderful to hear you will stop in again.

  5. Your prose is pretty good lady ;) makes me want to scoot in for a latte!

  6. Hi Charlene:

    Maybe I need to accompany you on a 'product research' outing. ;-) Thanks for stopping by If Music Be the Food Of Love, Play On for a wee visit.


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