The Great Canadian Steak & Buffet – Not that Great…

Great Canadian Steak & Buffet

The Great Canadian Mis-steak and Buffet

Little Miss Muffett may have sat on her tuffet, eating her curds and Whey
But she never went to The Great Canadian Steak and Buffet, she was wise to stay away!
It’s true there was food from all nations perhaps made in haste
’cause from my point of view, it wholly lacked taste!
Desserts were a bright spot but insufficient to save the day!

It is one of the unfortunate facts of life that often the anticipation of an event is much more pleasurable than the reality! 

Where we went: A few weeks ago, someone noticed that the old Nickels location at the Gloucester Centre in Ottawa’s East End was sporting a new banner offering an ‘International Buffet’. It was really only a matter of time, once Céline Dion terminated her relationship with the Québec-based chain of restaurants, before this mediocre diner bit the dust. A few years back, we used to visit frequently to take advantage of their breakfast special ($2.99 weekdays before 9AM). That price point can give you a hint that this was quite some time ago. Thus is was that this recent Friday night, the Supper Seven decided to give the Great Canadian Steak and Buffet a whirl.

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The first sign that things were not going to go swimmingly was the fact that on entering the restaurant, there was a distinct feeling of déjà vu! The interior decorations were virtually exactly the same as they had been in its former life as Nickels, including some of the ‘flair’ still adorning the walls. Now this could be understood if Nickels had been well decorated. However, the place was already looking fairly tired before it closed and now it looked no better!  Even the patrons looked the same. Not that I recognised any of them, but it just seemed like the diners were going through the motions. There was no buzz! This could have been due to the fact that in prime time on a Friday evening, the place was still half empty. Perhaps the word had not yet gotten out (or maybe it had!)    We could only hope that first impressions were misleading and that  we would be wowed by the food and all would be forgiven!


What we got: Let’s start off on a positive note. There was a wide variety of food that really lived up to the moniker of  ‘international’. As usual, the two older girls, Amber and Lara had a great time selecting their food and seemed to genuinely enjoy it. Once again, I must declare my bias against most buffets. It is extremely difficult to maintain any degree of quality when multiple dishes must be prepared en masse, be cooked in short order and then remain heated and open for an undisclosed period of time. Nevertheless, any restaurant attempting to do this must somehow overcome these limitations. In this area the Great Canadian Steak and Buffet did a barely passable job. None of the food was disgusting but neither was any really outstanding. I often use the expression: ‘Jack of all trades but master of none’ when describing myself. It could well apply here, except that they don’t appear to know Jack 😉 One bright spot was the dessert table. Although it looked similar to many of the Chinese buffets, its quality was better. The cakes and pastries were not the usual sickly plastic-tasting affairs but were actually fresh and moist. The profiteroles, for example, were similar to those from Costco. The fresh fruit salad was also above average.

Worthy of note: I have read other reviews where they claim not to have found any steak on the buffet. This is because you need to know that you must order them specially from the kitchen. One of our group, Greg, did just this and proclaimed it to be very tender and tasty. Table service, at a buffet, can be hit and miss. For us, it was mostly a miss. Empty plates were not collected in a timely fashion and although the restaurant was not at capacity, wait staff seemed few and far between. Overall, this was shades of Ponderosa Steakhouse which went the way of the dinosaur. If Great Canadian Steak and Buffet does not get its act together, it may be joining them sooner rather than later.


  • Positives: Wide variety of foods. Steak is available ‘à volonté’ and was deemed to be good! Compared to comparable buffets in the area, the price is not out of line especially if you take advantage of the crab legs and steak.
  • Negatives: The décor is tired,the service was mediocre as was the food!
  • Recommendation: To be fair, three of our group of seven really liked the place: Greg, Amber and Lara; Dorothy and I did not; Norma and Fayth were neither here nor there!
Category Rating Explanation
Food Quality ** Poor to average
Price $$$ Moderate
Decor ** Unexciting
Service ** Lacking
Overall Rating ** Not recommended

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Frivolous Foodie Facts

Q: Where does the name “steak” come from?

A: When the Saxons and the Jutes, who lived in what’s now known as Denmark, conquered Great Britain, they brought with them skills as cattlemen. The Saxon word STEIK means meat on a stick. The Saxons liked to cook their beef on a pointed stick over a campfire.

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    • Denis Lacasse on January 22, 2011 at 10:29 am
    • Reply

    i think you re being a little harsh, its not the keg or als steak house, but i know of at least 40 people that went and all recommended it to me. I went with 4 friends my treat and all were satisfied so its a new place and the service was ok at that time with about 50 per cent capacity at 8 pm. I recently recommended somebody to go there and they went for brunch and thanked me for sending them there

    1. Denis, In fact, you may be right. Since writing the original review, I have been back twice and both times were slightly better than the original visit. I still stand by my major complaint with almost all buffets that most of the dishes are mass-produced and are not top class, especially after they have been sitting on the hot table for a couple of hours. When I get a chance, I will add an update to the post!

    • Ter on February 14, 2011 at 4:04 pm
    • Reply

    Why would you go back if you didn’t have positive reviews after your initial visit?

    1. Good question Terri! I go back because others in our Supper Seven group choose to go there. I have to admit that things have improved somewhat from my initial visit, especially the service.

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