Lunch Pick

WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: In-house smoked chicken panini at Pressed, the new West Centretown café

Fresh new lunch spot smokes their own chicken, bacon and babaganoush

On my first visit last week, Pressed had only been open for 10 days. I regret that I didn’t hold off a bit longer before testing out the new West Centretown café because I believe this spunky local business deserves a chance to work out some of the kinks. So consider this less a review and more initial impressions.

The simple but appealing menu of gourmet sandwiches and salads is a very good start and I applaud the use of local ingredients such as Whalesbone’s smoked trout and Upper Canada Heritage Meats featured in the pulled pork sandwich. The owner, Jeff Stewart, stopped by each table during the lunch hour to check in with his new patrons. He seemed eager to share the story of leaving behind his government gig in exchange for the immediacy of running a neighbourhood eatery. Ironically, timing seems to be one of the kinks that needs some work. There were multiple delays between ordering our food at the cash and receiving everything to the table. My sandwich was delivered nearly 10 minutes before my friend’s (ditto at the next table) and our side dishes arrived at random intervals in between.

What’s worse, I cannot say any of them were worth the wait: the mac and cheese, which was a tad oily, had to be sent back to be re-heated; the croutons in the caesar salad were impossible to bite; and the chipotle potato salad was drenched in a gloppy dressing. Sandwiches were paired with peppery potato chips (fine), but the pickled green beans and Brussels sprouts, while a cute touch, were much too sour to enjoy.

But here’s the good news. My chicken sandwich was quite tasty. Roasted red peppers and goat’s cheese is a classic combo with chicken; I found the garlic aioli superfluous. I loved the texture contrast of the classic ciabatta bun, crunchy and chewy and hearty enough to contain — but not overwhelm — the moist and plentiful fillings. I love the fact that they have their own smoker in the kitchen. According to their Facebook page, they smoke everything from chicken to wild boar to eggplant for baba ganoush. I love that the space is sunny, cozy and welcoming with that hipster-chic vintage vibe that plays on our hunger for less cookie-cutter, more creative spaces — even if it’s just for a 20-minute lunch break from the office or the singular daily stroller outing for the maternity-leave set.

A fresh, bright space creates a cozy new neighbourhood hangout

Speaking of which, I saw a few tables taking advantage of the cute $4 kids’ menu, which offers the choice of an all-natural hot dog or animal-shaped grilled cheese bites. Every table around me that day was enticed by the third option: the mac & cheese. Judging by the amount left on their plates, it didn’t pass muster with the toddlers either.

Cost: Sandwiches ($6-$13); sides $3.50.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.,  weekends, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Pressed, 750 Gladstone Ave., 613-680-9294.

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