Kenzington Burger Bar

I first met owner Brandon Clark and his best friend and right hand man Neil Ornella at the ORHMA awards at the Nottawasaga Inn. They were alongside Marco Ormonde from The North offering diners classic Whiskey Sours, traditionally made with Crown Royal, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, egg whites and bitters. The attention to detail for a drink is unusual for a bar, but quality matters and they know it. The drinks were fabulous and I decided then and there, drinks and dinner at Kenzington was in order.

I rolled in first one Saturday night with a gal pal; we took our seats at the bar, this being one good looking, fully stocked, back lit, bar that serves up classic fresh made cocktails.

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We ordered our drinks and settled in with spinach dip for snacking, having observed the size of the loaded nachos and realizing it was far beyond the size of our appetites.

I don’t usually recommend drinks, but I can’t say enough about the cocktails shaken and stirred at Kenzington. The talented bartenders are mixing up classic signature cocktails, using fresh ingredients. Fresh makes the difference be it at the bar or in the kitchen, as Neil Ornella tells me “we use fresh squeezed lime juice vs bar lime, we do it properly”.

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The bar also houses the mighty iMac, with a playlist I would like to have. The music is the perfect accompaniment, it keeps the room humming until the live band starts.

Neil Ornella told me during our interview that he is responsible for the bar music, which is a compilation gleaned from their own playlists, carefully blended to suit the mood of the days. If it’s Saturday afternoon; it is going to be Blues and Rock, Stones and Faces, Led Zeppelin with a side order of Motown. Very tasty!

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Neil apparently takes to the stage to play music too and I am marking my calendar for the annual “Those Guys Christmas Spectacular”.

I returned to the Kenzington with an appetite to try the namesake burgers; taking two hungry teens with me. A first for me was the bartender’s creation of a namesake cocktail; the “Penelope” was to my liking, Grey Goose based, magic in a glass with a hint of lime, it had my taste buds primed for the main event. The menu is ably explained; step one, pick your style of burger, step two, pick your bun, gluten free options are available, step three, pick your meat, beef, chicken, turkey or veggie, step four, choose your side, perhaps you’re in a mood for fries or rings, or green it up with a salad.

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There are suggested favourites too; I went with the “Black & Blue”, Blue cheese, blackened spice and bacon”, on a Brioche Bun. The “Californian” is a popular choice; avocado, Monterey Jack, bacon and chipotle mayo. Feeling “Crazy”? That menu item requires 24 hours’ notice and includes 1 lb. of beef! For non-burger fans there are numerous poultry options, veggie wraps and the Canadian tradition of Poutine also appears in a plethora of incarnations. We three were pleased with our burgers and sides. The kitchen is small, so sip your beverages slowly, staff are upfront about this and your burger is worth the wait. As they say, this is “simple food, done properly”.

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Timing and longevity are partners for Brandon Clark; Kenzington has been a fixture on Dunlop Street for seven years now and we can expect to see cross branding with his purchase of Tropical North next store. This partnership is hot, bringing watersports and SUP rentals to the waterfront and these sports enthusiasts will logically bring their appetites to Kenzington Burger Bar.

Another appetite enticing option is for the Kenzington Food truck to come to you! What a great way to bring flavour and party atmosphere to your wedding or family celebration.

I wonder if it comes with the same great sound track.

Neil Ornella captured the essence of Kenzington when he said; “It’s a true testament to the bar, and all the integral components of what make it a successful business to have an independent restaurant, especially in downtown Barrie be a staple, and be a staple for as long as it has been and continue to be. It’s just starting for us, in all honesty within the last 8 months the amount of growth that the bar has gone through in regards to the food business is incredible, just incredible!”

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Well Neil and Brandon, I think business at Kenzington Burger Bar is about to become even more incredible! The famous Kenzington “Kitchen Sink burger” caught the attention of John Catucci, host of the Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here”, who came recently with the film crew to the resto and shot a segment for the series which will air during Season 4 in the new year. Big congrats! I hear mojitos are making an appearance on the summer menu, fresh muddled mint and lime, a fitting time to raise my glass to toast your continued success!

Kenzington Burger Bar
40 Dunlop St E, Barrie, ON L4M 1A3
(705) 725-1667
www.kenzington.ca

Written by: Penelope Morrow

Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets
@penelopejmorrow.

Photos by Celeste Morrow-Bailie – CMB Photography

Lunch at Shirley’s Bayside Grille

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I went for lunch at Shirley’s Bayside Grille and tried out the patio. On a hot day, the patio is perfectly tucked away from the sun, decorated with beautiful flowers with a scenic view of Kempenfelt Bay. Shirley’s has a full lunch menu as well as a Dinner menu in the evening. Shirley’s was priced as expected for a classier restaurant in downtown Barrie. When the food was served and I had the chance to try it, me and my friends were all pleased and felt the quality of meals and portion sizes were quite exceptional.

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The most typical dish we tried was the club sandwich, so I’ll say that it was priced at $13.00, which isn’t unusual or terrible and almost on par with what you’d pay for a sandwich at Subway or Quiznos. The sandwich was delicious and came with a wonderful salad that had melon and strawberries. The restaurant also had a couple pizza dishes on the menu. There was a smoked salmon dish and a large selection of salads to fill out the lunch menu.

To me, I much preferred the Caesar salad that came with both the baked chicken wrap and grilled sirloin steak. The quality of salad was far superior to many Caesar salads I’ve tried at large chain restaurants. The dressing was delicious and the large chunks of bacon really made these two dishes come alive. You just don’t get quality like that at a sub shop or on the giant salad bowls you get at East Side Mario’s. As a side-note, The Eggless Caesar Salad at Shirley’s is priced at $11.00.

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I’m very glad I tried the Sirloin 6oz. Steak. It was priced at $15.00 and was the most expensive dish we tried. It came with grilled mushrooms and caramelized onions which were a very tasty addition. I really love going to a place like Shirley for a change, because I’m always afraid of the prices, but in reality Shirley’s Bayside Grille is a nicer place to spend your afternoon than any of the in and out sandwich shops but really has prices that are about equal anyway. If you’re with a group, the variety on the menu just adds to its appeal.

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The atmosphere and service at Shirley’s was as expected. The waitresses were friendly, the food came quick and cooked perfectly. The music weather and tables were all great too. I can see why Shirley’s has been in that spot along Dunlop Street for over 15 years. It was very busy inside the restaurant as well. If anything, the interior eating area seemed like a nicer atmosphere than the patio. But I guess I’ll have to try the main seating area for dinner one night. Also, Shirley’s Bayside Grille is featuring live music on Wednesday nights if you’re looking to go out for a relaxing and lounge-like setting sometime. I don’t think it gets as rowdy as some of the bars and pubs the rest of downtown Barrie has to offer, but I can’t say for sure. Check it out! It’s a great lunch spot in Downtown Barrie.

Written By: Michael Whone

Check out Michael’s Website www.rivervanstyle.com and follow him on twitter @whoneranger

Barrie Jazz and Blues Festival XIX June 2014

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I wish my editor could insert sound bites in this review so that I could provide you with auditory tidbits to sample, but my words and photos will have to suffice. You simply must mark your calendars for the winter version to tempt you and hold you over until next summer, as the Barrie Jazz and Blues festivals are not to be missed.

Robin Munro is the organizer extraordinaire of the Jazz and Blues Festival and with his “right hand ma’am” Sharon Winchester they have garnered together a stellar group of sponsors, partners, and media supports, of which Simcoe Dining is one. With such vast community support you are assured stellar performances; from the crème de la crème of jazz and blues musicians, the up and coming new talents and the charming recital students, new to their craft, each will delight the audience.

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I have heard more music in the last ten days then I thought was humanly possible and I loved every minute! From the Out to Lunch jazz concerts at the rotunda in Barrie City Hall with the aforementioned Yamaha piano, glossy in its instrumental glory, to the Heritage Park Concert Series, and a multitude of venues in-between. I saddled up at bars, sipped coffees, and danced on the grass under a magnificent moon. If there was music to hear, there was a crowd of music lovers eager to share the scene. This festival creates community within our community, bringing together a wide range of musical styles in a broad assortment of venues. Hip Hop at the Urban Village, the cultural richness of The First Peoples Concert, heartbreak Blues, classic Jazz or the Sunday Morning Big Tent Revival Meeting, we had it all.

My faves;

I was blown away by Tia Brazda; when she played at Manhattans, her stunning vocals literally stopped traffic, I mean that. I saw drivers that simply had to brake and listen to Tia sing, regardless of the stoplight colour. Listeners of CBC Radio 1 and Jazz FM91 will be familiar with her release “Cabin Fever”. I suggest you take note; she is a star that will shine bright. Hard at work in studio on her next release titled “Hard Luck”, Tia Brazda doesn’t need luck, this lady has talent and I suspect it will take her far.
http://www.tiabrazda.com

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Shane Dennis, AKA “L.S.”; Barrie knows this man, married to the Unity Market, weekend warrior for year round Sunday community clean ups, he who camps out in the winter to raise much needed funds for those in need. I refer to Shane as “altruism personified”. He is a humble activist who works tirelessly to make the world a better place. Shane also sings, and he sings very well. As host to the Urban Village Concert he had the crowd on their feet in obvious adoration and admiration. Impressive.

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The First Peoples Concert Series; rich rhythmic drumming and dancing, the poise and grace of the Jingle Dancers, Logan Staats on stage from Brantford, and then the rocking performance by Marc Nadjiwan. This man has presence; his talent, his heritage, his father is Finnish his mother Ojibway and his height, he commands the stage. Tight with the guys in his band, they appear to enjoy making music and as such we feel it, we enjoy listening. Conversation with Marc was enlightening; he will be playing the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. I hope to be there.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marc-Nadjiwan/21549274920

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Paul James at Sticky Fingers, this is now a Jazz and Blues Festival tradition for me, it should be one for you too, it just works, ‘nuff said. http://www.pauljamesband.com/

Ditto Jack de Keyzer. He is the crème de la crème. Billed as the Festival Finale Concert, “A Great Moments in the Blues” concert, it was a recreation of Buddy Guy’s “Left my Blues in San Francisco” and it was amazing. The tent flaps were blowing, the hands were clapping, and encores were called for, classics were played, including a personal favourite, Mustang Sally. The crowd rose in unison to bop and jive as Jack de Keyzer jumped stage and roamed the length of the Heritage tent, delighting us with his guitar mastery, bringing it right down to us, we felt his music, every note. This is why the man has won Juno awards.
http://www.jackdekeyzer.com

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An observation; I thought the established clubs and restaurants could create more promotional buzz for the jazz and blues performers playing in their venues. A few of the musicians mentioned this to me also, with talent of this caliber they should be playing to packed houses. It would be great if there were links on the Barrie Jazz and Blues Festival website to the restaurants and clubs websites and have them updated daily. It was great to see social media presence, but more of the restaurants could participate. I commend Robin Munro for bringing us this festival; it is a labour of love that enriches our community.

http://www.barriejazzbluesfest.com

Written by: Penelope Morrow

Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and food aficionado from Barrie, follow her
tweets @penelopejmorrow

Photos by Celeste Morrow-Bailie – CMB Photography