On the corner of King and Johnson Streets, The Pilot House, as they say on their website, "is in the heart of downtown". Perhaps most easily recognized by its blue awnings, The Pilot House is open from 11am to 2am, 7 days a week (pretty nice for those of you like me who always have to check online for store/restaurant hours... what did we do before smartphones?!) and offers indoor seating as well as a seasonal patio. Being popular and smaller on the inside, I have heard that it isn't rare for the restaurant to fill up - and the night of our visit was no exception. We were lucky enough to get a table in the corner, and watched as tables and bar stools emptied and filled in cycles over the duration of our visit.
The decor in the restaurant is simple (right down to the metal chairs with blue fabric) and nautical in theme - a large ships' wheel hangs on one wall while a chart of the waters from Picton to Presqu'ile Bay hangs on another. There isn't a formal menu that you are delivered at your table - instead, a chalkboard with all of the kitchen's offerings hangs on yet another wall. There are pros and cons to this style of menu display in my mind. On the good side, it means the kitchen isn't bogging itself down with an excessive menu that can't be delivered, and they truly get to be "known" for what they do. The not so good thing - people like me who are seated with their backs to the menu board have to crank their necks around or turn in their seats in order to decide what to order. All in all, a small "price to pay" for a menu that is done well.
I have only been to The Pilot House once since moving to Kingston years ago... After a day of sailing with my best friend, she was craving fish and chips and I'd heard that this was the place to go, so we ventured off. Based on the current menu, I'd say fish and chips continues to be a specialty - but other offerings are definitely available (which is nice for those like me who don't really enjoy fish). Beyond fish and chips, The Pilot House offers a small kids menu, featured specials, pub dinners, salads and "nibbles" (otherwise knows as appetizers). All in all, if you are looking for a "fancy" meal - you're not going to get it here. BUT, if you want filling food that tastes good for a decent price - that, you will find. Here's what we chose to fill our tummies with:
Carrie: I couldn't turn down the deep fried pickles to start (predictable me!) and as a main, I ordered the club sandwich with a side of heart attack... I mean - poutine.
Tonia: The full order of halibut and chips (excitedly, Tonia exclaimed "Give it to me!")
Samer: small garden salad to start, followed by the full order of halibut and chips
Todd: small garden salad to start, followed by the small order of haddock and chips
Food came quickly in spite of how busy the restaurant was, and smiles lined our faces in no time. Things were fresh, and delicious. I'm not even sure I have anything to say without just cutting to the chase, so - here goes!
Carrie: 4.5 forks. THE DEEP FRIED PICKLES WERE AMAZING!!! For $6.95 (cheaper than anywhere), TWELVE - yes, twelve!! - spears were delivered. That is more for less than anywhere else we have been, and they were absolutely delicious and fantastic. The club sandwich was amazing - lots of chicken and bacon. You know when you order a club and the bacon is gone within one bite? This one had bacon in EVERY bite. Seriously - every bite. Awesome. Sadly, the poutine was a little cold, which resulted in me taking away .5 forks. Not changing my score (but certainly changing how I eat) was the unfortunate reality that comes with the haste with which I eat deep fried pickles. Of course, I ate really quickly; and of course, I burned my mouth. I'm not sure if you have ever tried to eat a club sandwich (or even just toast) with a burnt mouth, but at the risk of sounding over-dramatic, it is pretty painful... Torture, in this case. Darn me and not taking my time. If only I could promise myself that I won't do it again in the future... if only...
Tonia: 4.2 forks. The fish was excellent, the pickles were good (of course, with 12 available, I was willing to share!), and in Tonia's opinion, the fries were just "okay". Even though Tonia was "stuffed to the gills" (good pun, Tonia!!) at the end of her meal, she stated that she would still eat more fish. Must be pretty darn good fish.
Samer: 3.75 forks. Samer's fries arrived slightly cold, which was disappointing... and Samer isn't really into batter, so that was ultimately the drawback for him, but the fish was still okay.
Todd: 4.25 forks. Todd really enjoyed the salad dressing that came with his salad -cucumber wasabi. The deep fried pickles were excellent and very good value, and the fish was excellent with good tartar sauce. Another perk in Todd's eyes - there was no charge for a refill on his pop. Simple, and yet, such a good thing for a customer.
Overall score: 4.18 forks!
A great score for a good little spot with blue awnings.
Our last quote before the night ended: "I'd come back just for pickles and beer." And yes, I would.
The next stop on our 40-in-40 adventure: The Loyal Oarsman in the west end. Can't wait.