By ANNE DESBRISAY
The name on the picture window announces this new Glebe arrival as “Erling’s.” But the sign above the bar reads “Earl’s.” So does the website.
Once the page is open, the name change is explained: restaurant chain Earls (with roots in western Canada) came a-calling. Lawyers representing Earls suggested to this little Glebe whippersnapper (in so uncertain terms) that the name was Not On. And if it wasn’t changed tout de suite, there would be trouble with a capital T. So they renamed Earl’s Variety to Erling’s Variety. Owner Liam Vainola’s grandfather’s nickname was Earl, but his real name was Erling. A much more distinguished moniker anyway…
But it can’t be cheap to change a brand. There’s paperwork, no doubt, and the cost of physical and electronic re-signage. But the unexpected gift of a great David and Goliath tale — small new restaurant taken to task by 64-outlet strong North American restaurant chain for name calling — picked up in the media and widely published, had to have been pretty sweet. And that’s what happened to Erling’s Variety, tucked out of sight off Bank Street in the northern bit of the Glebe.
You might say David’s pebble still hit the target, if the target is free publicity.
I dropped in for lunch last week. The menu’s a bit dull — much of the same sort of fare you find in lots of places, including ye old beet salad with goat cheese and arugula. I sat at the the bar and had a bowl of soup and a meatball sub. Sure, it was the ubiquitous butternut squash on offer, but it was a great rendition, with roasted pears, pureed to smooth, perfumed with cinnamon and nutmeg and shot through with chili heat. A pretty swirl of crème fraîche on the surface, a drizzle of oil. Nothing to make the heart go pitter patter, but a well-executed version of a typically over-executed soup.
Meatball sub next, with fries and salad. So nice when that’s an option. Great fries, nice salad, good meatball sub — flavourful, fresh. Not much else to say. I enjoyed my lunch at the new Erling’s Variety, and I liked very much the handsome room. But here’s hoping the spring menu is a bit more dynamic. I’m looking forward to returning to check it out.
Soup, $8; sub with fries and salad, $15
Erling’s Variety, 225 Strathcona Ave., 613-231-8484, earlsvariety.com (for now)