7/1/12 Update: Ottawa Tavern has closed per mlive.com
"Long-terms plans for our company have been to exit from properties we don't own. We have sold Bite, Trillium, closed Thornapple and with an impending lease renewal at the Waters Building, I fast forwarded the decision to continue on the long-term plan." (Greg Gilmore)
Great location on the corner of Pearl and Ottawa, this casual sports bar is also a popular lunch spot and was fairly crowded. TVs, large and small, are everywhere. High tables edge the room, the bar is in the middle, and a dining area is located at the far end of the restaurant. We took a high table by a window and were promptly served by a friendly waitress. The appetizers included some interesting choices and we chose the Chicken Apple Spring Rolls (chicken, red onions, cilantro, apples and thai sesame aioli). Unfortunately, the rolls were incredibly overcooked. The flavors were all there but the rolls were so dry they would have been inedible without the sauce, which was delicious. They were also served without small plates so we were eating over the table; a little awkward.
Our lunch choices were the Prime Rib Sandwich and the O.T. Burger. The Burger was ordered medium rare and no option was offered for the Prime Rib (and to be fair, we didn’t ask). The Prime Rib came well done but was a great sandwich (peppers, onions, provolone and horseradish aioli). The accompanying fries, while attractive with sprinkled parsley, were so heavily salted they were rendered inedible. The O.T. Burger was medium rare on one side and moved to medium well on the other but on the whole was a good burger (Michigan white cheddar, smoked bacon, herb roasted tomato, Bibb lettuce, and garlic aioli on a kaiser bun).
Their claim to fame is the “Build Your Own Burger” with tons of toppings and sauce choices available. But this is probably a better bar than food venue. Next time we’ll walk through to try the connected “Bite”. (Both are part of the Gilmore Collection.) It is a friendly, comfortable atmosphere but better suited for Happy Hour than dining. With the tip, our bill came to $30.00.