Looking for some casual eats on Friday, Mack and I ended up at Otto, located in Norwood, a neighbourhood just north of Little Italy/McCauley. I had been once before with a friend in their first week of opening back in December, but had wanted to return again after they were more established.
Had the temperatures been more co-operative that day, I’m certain the garage doors separating Otto from the sidewalk would have been up and open – with the late evening sun streaming into the dining room, the restaurant definitely had the upbeat atmosphere of a summer weekend kick-off. Otto was full, with patrons ranging from families with young children to groups of friends catching up. Owner Ed Donszelmann (formerly of Culina Mill Creek) said they hadn’t been that busy in some time, but they were doing their best to keep up.
The interior hadn’t changed much since my first visit – a modest sized room with a worn-in feel, Otto is unpretentious and comfortable. They had wanted very much to become the go-to neighbourhood place; anchored by a bar and a large communal table, the restaurant has the infrastructure to do so.
The menu is equally straightforward, and celebrates the timeless pairing of beer and sausages. They have several local beers on tap (Yellowhead, Alley Kat, Lacombe’s Blindman Brewing), as well as an extensive selection of cans and bottles. Mack felt a pint of Alley Kat’s summer incarnate Main Squeeze was in order, while I took the opportunity to sample my first wine in a can. Oregon’s Underwood Wines Pinot Gris was easy to drink, and is definitely something I’d seek out for trips to the lake.
Edmonton sausage and charcuterie maker Fuge Fine Meats supplies all of Otto’s sausages. That day, the menu contained nine varieties, including lamb merguez, pork chorizo, curried cod, and a vegan smoked apple sage. Served with saukraut and mustard, sausages run between $7-9. However, you can also upsize your order in two ways – sausage on a bun, NYC style, for $10, or currywurst with fries for $13. We went this route, with andouille on a bun, and beef bratwurst for the currywurst treatment.
Otto also offers a handful of sides in addition to fries to round out your meal: potato salad, house salad, beets with goat cheese and horseradish, and mac & cheese. On this occasion, we chose to share the small mac ($6) and a small coleslaw ($4).
As mentioned, the restaurant was slammed that night, so our food was noticeably delayed. Staff did check in to reassure us, but we did end up looking longingly at our table neighbours who ordered after us but finished their meal before our plates even arrived.
The andouille ended up being our favourite dish – snappy with a good portion of fat for a satisfying, flavourful sausage. The currywurst was interesting – a curry powder-laced tomato sauce overtop the bratwurst and fries. While the sauce had a moderate heat level, we both found it a tad too sweet for our liking. The fries themselves were great, however, and on future trips, we agreed that we’d likely just order a side of fries to complement our sausage on a bun.
Currywurst with fries
As for the other sides, I did enjoy the coleslaw, refreshing with a thin dressing and lots of dill. The mac and cheese was creamier on this outing than my previous visit, but just isn’t worth the $6 charge for the small portion.
NYC style with mac and cheese and coleslaw
It’s always great to see new restaurants setting up shop in underrepresented central neighbourhoods. The price point for Otto’s sausages and beers is reasonable, and service as a whole was welcoming. With this straightforward concept, it’s no surprise that Otto is becoming a destination for diners seeking a comfortable gathering place. I hope to return when the weather allows the garage doors to be fully operational!
11405 95 Street