Location: 225 8th Ave SW (Scotia Centre)
Though it’s classified as a restaurant, I wouldn’t exactly call National a restaurant, but then again it’s not exactly a pub or a bar either, so I suppose restaurant it is. Both of my parents have been to National before, one for a casual lunch and the other for a work hosted lunch. Both said that it was horrible, so naturally, I had to try it out for myself. Today I went with my sister and cousin.
My sister and I ordered a dry vanilla bean soda and my cousin had a Village Monk Chai Porter 6.2%. I have never had a dry soda before and I’ve always wondered what dry alcohol was like…well now I know. Weirdest sensation in my mouth ever. The vanilla bean was very light, almost undetectable. It was a good experience, but not ordering that again. I’ll just stick to water since everything here is super salty. I have no idea what the porter tasted like, but not liking alcohol I’d probably say it’s bitter and gross and I don’t like it, lol.
I had been craving wings for weeks and I suppose this was my chance to go for some. Being a Wednesday, it was their special to have one pound of wings for $5, but it was only applicable after 3 and I wasn’t in the mood to wait until then for them. Knowing National’s reputation, I knew not to go for typical lunch items like the Mac and Cheese or any such things like my parents had. Instead we stuck to things under “Snacks and Standards,” the staples of a bar-pub-restaurant. We ordered the spicy hoisin wings, two bite corn dogs, and deep fried pickles. Originally we had intended to split them, have half spicy hoisin and the other half honey mustard, but were informed that we couldn’t do that (waitress said it isn’t our policy to do so). My sister then noted that that wouldn’t be enough food for the three of us and ordering more appetizer style foods would become quite costly, so we decided on a fish and chips.
The appetizers came first. As expected, the freshly cut vegetables paired with the wings were carrots and celery, which were very crudely cut. However, I didn’t expect there to only be 10 wings. For $14, I expected a little more than 10 wings, two carrot sticks, and two celery sticks. The flavour was good, spicy and sweet as promised, but not good enough to warrant a price that high. The fried pickles weren’t terrible, but they weren’t amazing either, though on the salty side as to be expected of food typically paired with beer or some sort of alcohol. I preferred National’s pickles to Buffalo Wild Wings because spears are easier to handle than slices, but I liked that Buffalo Wild Wings went with a smoky chipotle sauce rather than the slightly overused, classic, ranch dip. The corn dogs which I was most looking forward to turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. I would say the choice to use a wiener with a case similar to those used on European wieners was commendable, the fact that is was buried and suffocated by the batter made it nearly undetectable. And the dipping sauce, the ballpark mustard, though different didn’t really live up to its name. It was a refreshing contrast to the two ranch dips with the wings and pickles, and there was a bit of tartness, but there was no uplifting zing that I expected from mustard.
Normally I really look forward to fish and chips, but I was disappointed yet again. The fish was greasy and the chips over-salted. The fish didn’t hold together well, crumbling the minute I tried to pick it up with my fork. The one wedge of lemon was hardly enough for one piece, let alone three pieces. I wish that they had some vinegar to go along with it as it would have helped to cut through the heaviness of the deep fried fish. Tartar sauce, though cream based still has a tartness to it, this tartar sauce did not have a single bright note on my palate. It was almost as bad as putting whipped butter into my mouth. The last thing on the plate, the coleslaw could have saved it, but it didn’t. It was bland and boring and honestly, there was no point to have it there at all. I think we would have made a better choice choosing a slider or a different main.
My assessment of the place is that everything was overpriced, over-salty, and very heavy. Service wasn’t great, but I didn’t expect it to be. In my experience, the service in places like these is on the negligent side. People tend to want to be left alone to their conversations rather than constantly interrupted by the waitress, which I understand and agree with. However, when you say a couple minutes and your waitress doesn’t come back for 15, it’s a bit annoying. Furthermore, when we asked for a split bill, we were told that it isn’t possible to split the food onto separate bills. Like really? Then why did you ask if we wanted separate bills in the first place?
I won’t be coming back to say the least. Next time I want bar food and drinks, I’ll make the extra effort to go across town to Buffalo Wild Wings. My parents said it was terrible, I should have taken their word for it. I’d rate it 1.5/5 because it is not worse than noodle box in Vancouver from some years back (at least I could eat this stuff), but I’d say I was being generous with that rating