I did a double take when driving down Merivale Road the other day. The sign outside of Dick’s, the kitschy but reliable hamburger joint, stated “Ice Cream Milkshakes & Ostrich, Bison, Veal, Kangaroo Burgers & Foot Long Hotdogs.” Wow, that’s one wild lineup of animals! I thought it was perhaps a joke, something designed to grab your eyeballs as you whizz past in your car. But when I stopped in to investigate, the owner, Kelly Nguyen, confirmed that the menu items are no joke. In addition to beef burgers, she offers perhaps the greatest variety of burgers I’ve ever come across.
A few months ago, she found her supply of local bison was running low so she began to call around looking for a new source. She found a supplier in Gatineau and he asked if she’d like to try out the locally-raised ostrich and the kangaroo meat he imports from Australia. “We tried it and we liked it,” says Nguyen. “We gave some samples to our customers and they liked it too.”
The next thing I know, I’ve got a huge chocolate milkshake and a red plastic basket heaped with fries and panko crumb-coated onion rings as well as a charcoal-grilled kangaroo burger. My server warned me that it would have an “acquired odour”, which was a polite way of saying it smells kind of weird. I had to admit, once I got past that odd aroma, the flavour was interesting, surprisingly mild, and not at all gamey. But I can’t say I actually liked it. Nor could I shake the image of those adorable Winnie the Pooh characters, Kanga and Roo.
Next came the ostrich burger, which I expected to enjoy more (no bedtime story associations). Nguyen described the lean red meat as tasting similar to duck — there would be no gamey scent or flavour. I am a huge fan of duck, but I can’t say the same for ostrich.
I might actually be in the minority here. As it turns out, the ostrich burgers, which have been on the menu at Dick’s for a couple of months now, are quite popular.
“We sold 10 kilos of ground ostrich in one week,” says Nguyen with an expression of shock and delight. “And it’s local!” she adds.
Who knew? Once again the Ottawa palate is full of surprises.
Dick’s Drive-in & Dairy Dip, 1485 Merivale Rd., 613-274-3425 www.dickshamburgers.com