The White Horse is yet another establishment my parents drove me past thousands of times, never stopping. I wasn’t curious about their culinary offerings but the name White Horse always seemed romantic to me and stirred up thoughts of prospectors, gold mining and a wild frontier. It turns out the restaurant name is more closely linked to a horse that’s white. As with The Fontanelle, I had long forgotten this tiny place, in no-man’s land out by the train station and nestled among industrial businesses, and very little else.
At dinner with friends the other night, we were describing our search for great old-school diners, and one of our party brought up the White Horse. Rob and I jumped to attention immediately. We both had childhood non-memories of this place, and after our excellent experience with local resto, The Fontenelle, we were wondering if there were other Ottawa gems such as that which we had overlooked. At the time, we were dining in a chic restaurant in Westboro, and our friend was very skeptical that this was the kind of place we would enjoy. His own wife accused him of eating there only because it was cheap. This sounded like the perfect place for our Saturday breakfast!
The White Horse seemed immediately promising, family owned, operated and decorated. Our lovely waitress, a vision in all shades of pink from head to toe, told us to sit anywhere and came by shortly to take our breakfast order. It was after 11 am so coffee was no longer included with the meal. The White Horse grinds its own hamburger and makes gravy from scratch.
I order a breakfast club on white with coffee and orange juice. Rob orders a make-your-own meat omelette with smoked meat, onion and cheese. Coffee is good, O.J. comes in a cold bottle. Our food arrives shortly and we are not disappointed. My club is nicely toasted with good ham, eggs cooked perfectly, tasty fresh tomato, crisp bacon and plastic orange cheese. Along with tasting great, it looked great with strata of breakfast-y goodness. Home fries which are pan fried and not deep fried, accompany my sandwich with an order of dark brown, rich gravy that has a nice salty flavour but is not overdone. I am sensitive to salt and avoid most commercial preparations. This was very good poutine-style sauce. Rob’s breakfast includes the same potatoes and a well-made omelette with the ingredients he chose: ample smoked meat, chopped onion and American cheese.
The restaurant serves on fairly large plates, that they probably use to accommodate a good sized burger and order of fries. My club ran up the middle and one third was occupied by home-fries. I am pleased that the cook is comfortable with this plating and does not feel he/she has to fill the empty third with pale, under-ripe cantaloupe, an orange slice and frissee, and charge me an extra $2 so they can throw it away after I leave.
Friendly service, honest food. The White Horse truly fits the bill as a lost Ottawa gem. Well, only to us as it has clearly fed and still feeds Ottawans in the know for over 40 years.