My favorites in Hintonburg

As you well know, the burg is blowing up, and I’m super excited to say you can now really get whatever you need right in the hood.

Here are some of my fav’s

Pint: Elmdale (I’d grab a kichesippi) (1084 Wellington) – Great music, friendly staff

Elmdale House Tavern on Urbanspoon

Pizza: Back Lane Cafe (thought I would say Tennessee’s didn’t you) (1087 Wellington)

Back Lane Cafe on Urbanspoon

Coffee: Le Michel-Ange Café (35 Laurel) – They roast their own beans, pick some up!

Le Michel-Ange, Café-Warehouse-Roasting on Urbanspoon

Cupcake: Isobel’s (1018 Wellinton) – We visit weekly for a sweet treat, but make sure you don’t always go on the same day, they have new flavours on Thurs – Sundays)

Isobel & Co. on Urbanspoon

Take out: Hintonburger (soon moving next to Elmdale)

Hintonburger on Urbanspoon

Hangout: Rosemount Library (18 Rosemount)

and what I’m looking forward to:

Hintonburg Public House – Opening Tomorrow! (1020 Wellington) (interesting that they have an 80% like it and they haven’t even opened yet haha)

The Hintonburg Public House on Urbanspoon

10Fourteen (1014 Wellington) Opening “in November” according to the sign – when do restaurants ever open on time? Never.

Hintonburger – at KFC!


Absinthe Cafe Resto bar

I like the food at Absinthe. I like that they stay open late on weekends so you can get a drink not at a pub. I don’t think they advertise that, but there it is. They stay open pretty damn late as long as there are people there (bar service only).

All their servers are bilingual, which is awesome. The server we had last week was super friendly.

We all had the table d’hote. the first course was excellent. The first courses were all really interesting with multiple elements on each plate, and with different applications. Their dehydrated vegetables are really well done, very very thinly sliced which is key I think to make sure they’re crunchy and not too chewy. Dehydrated eggplant? Sounds terrible, but it’s awesome.

For the mid, I had the salad and the others had the soup, which was excellent. The salad was a bit too acidic and kind of boring. the lime flavor was really good but I think something with a bit of sweetness and color would have balanced it off well. The arugula was excellent, spicy but not bitter.

All the mains were also really great. When I remember going last I thought the plates were a tad small but this time we were stuffed so either I was super hungry last time or something has changed. Either way we didn’t finish our mains.

the lamb ragout was AMAZING. really really tasty, and the peas made the dish. the sauce was really rich but it was really well balanced with the pasta which was on the basic side (not in a bad way, they complemented each out perfectly). the lamb was cooked to perfection.

As is my usual complaint, the places lacks on the veggie side. Story of my life.

My one other complaint was that my beer was served a good CM below the pour line, with way too much head, and then the server took it away before I was done. I hate wasting good Kichesippi.

On the plus side they have Kichesippi 1855 on tap, which is a nice change from most places that if they only have one, it’s the pale.

Absinthe Cafe Resto Bar on Urbanspoon

Fatboys Southern Smokehouse

I love Murray Street in the market. It has a great Market feel, but it’s not as crowded and touristy. You don’t go there unless you know to go there.

The classics of Chez Lucien, the Rainbow & Benny’s, as well as Murray Street, Navarra, and Domus. Murray Street has everything!

So I’m super excited that Fatboys Southern Smokehouse is moving in. We’ll see what
Mike Ziola, Steph Legari, Stephen Murphy, Les Richenhaller, & Shawn Dawson come up with next month!

I haven’t yet ventured to The SmoQue Shack on York Street, so I’ll have try to hit them both up for some southern love, and do a full compare.

The Smoque Shack on Urbanspoon

Cupcakes are the new chocolate bars

Isobel’s is in the hood!

Stopped by Isobel’s on Sunday to get me some chocolate. Cupcakes are awesome and Isobel’s did not disappoint. Great service, excellent cupcakes.

Isobel’s experienced great success is New Edinburgh, and recently opened their expanded location on Wellington West.

Isobel & Co. on Urbanspoon

Next up: Hintonburg Public House

Former owner of The Urban Pear Summer JL Baird & Kris Kshonze former sous chef at The Whalesbone Oyster House. Check out their reno pictures, I have a light fixture similar to that at my place, (I used an old wine case)

And they are currently hiring FOH staff and looking for a dishwasher


The Hintonburg Public House on Urbanspoon

The Burg is Blowing up!

The ‘burg is blowing up!!

After last months opening of Alphasoul cafe, and the long-awaited/dreaded/etc opening of Bridgehead, this week two new restos opened on Wellington in the hood.

Back Lane Cafe (beside GT – see review below)
and Burnt Butter (Beside KFC) (review coming soon)

Other big moves:

York Street Entertainment is apparently opening a restaurant where Cozy’s was. A bar? A wanna-be high-end restaurant? Not sure the burg is ready but I’m obviously biased.

Ben Baird (of the Urban Pear)’s wife is apparently also opening something in the hood. Not sure what the story is here (collaboration? Retaliation?) but I’m excited (for the food)

Also of note: KFC is no longer. the neighborhood chains are closing and the franchise seems to be sticking to mall locations. This would be an amazing spot for a licensed patio (I’m imagining Ronnie’s Local in Kensington) but I think it would be a hard sell for winter since there’s no seating space. My ideal would be if the Hintonburger moved in, in further collaboration with the Elmdale – Amazing?! YES, like the Grilled-Cheese – Ronnie’s collaboration:

Back Lane Cafe, Hintonburg

The ‘burg is blowing up!!

After last months opening of Alphasoul cafe, and the long-awaited/dreaded/etc opening of Bridgehead, this week two new restos opened on Wellington in the hood.

There were no grand opening signs on either (as far as I know), and as Somerset is closed at Preston I hadn’t been by that part of Wellington for a few days, so I apologize if they actually opened last week. I know Back Lane was open a few days ago and so we decided to make a reservation. At the time they had a sign on the door saying they nod not yet gotten a liquor licence and could only accept cash, so we were ready, cash in hand, for a prohibition style supper. However, they had gotten in the license the night before and had spend the day shopping at the LCBO. Our reso was early so we actually got to christen the wine list with complementary glasses of bubbly – sweet!!

Other liquor licence highlights – they were the first to get Granville island pale ale in, and it looks like they’re all set to have a serious amount of draft (I think I counted ten taps, although currently only three have been filled. Looks like they are waiting on delivery from Kichesippi & Beau’s as well, so that should be imminent.

The wine list seems to be faily general-list centric, but we had a stellar bottle of New Zealand Sauv Blanc, which we actually ordered right off the Excel spreadsheet as the owner was literally just putting together the list when we walked in.

We noted that they are doing wood-fired pizzas, and although we didn’t get a chance to try one, some chef-friends were in at the same time and they said they enjoyed the pizza they had. Not sure how that will go with Tennessee Willems across the street, but I’m happy to support anything that doesn’t involve an orange box.

To Start: Lentil Soup & Paté. The soup was phenomenal. They had obviously just touched it up with extra greens before serving, which was a nice touch because the greens were still nice and bright amid the more neutral colors that lentils tend to give everything. Not sure if the base of this soup was vegetarian or not, I forgot to ask. We also had some bread with chili oil and vinegar.

The pate was HUGE for a starter. I think this dish could be served as a starter to share or could be made into a bit of a smaller disk. The pate was actually mushrooom based, so it wasn’t as heavy as a meat paté but it was very flavourful and servied with a well-arranged and colourful array of condiments, and there seemed to be exactly the right amount of everything, which is nice in dishes that are ‘build your own’

For mains I went with the Grilled Veg Quinoi salad with Califlower Gratin on the side (the mains were mostly mean-centric, but they did have a good selection of starters). Again the Quinoa salad was a great size, and really attractively arranged, and I probably didn’t need the cauliflower side dish. The grilled veggies were really well done and not at all greasy.

roasted veggie salad\" title=
roasted veggie salad\”

My BF took the lamb with the bulgar side, which was suggested by the server as the one that the shef intended to go with the dish. I wasn’t as excited about that dish just because it was a bit too ‘meat and potatoes’ for me (no veg!) But the BF loved it (he’s the lamb guy) and the side was really really good. The Lamb looked like it had been perfectly cooked to request (M-R).

We ended up not finishing our bottle of wine, so the server was nice enough to dig up a cork and find a bag for us to put it in. We were also surprised with one of their house chocolate bars, which is a perfect little dessert if you are ‘too full’ for dessert. They had another almond dessert which I think I will have to go back for.

One other note: I also really enjoyed how the server brought us our plates and said ‘I’ll let you try that and then I’ll come back with freshly ground pepper’ instead of just offering it before you’ve tried anything. I am the type that generally just peppers soup before even trying it and I’m really glad that I didn’t because the soup was perfectly seasoned and actually nothing I had needed pepper or salt. I think the BF may have added some pepper to one of his dishes, but generally seasoning was spot on.

Welcome to the Burg Back Lane!

Follow them on Twitter @BackLaneCafe

The bathrooms are awesome. I like the lack of stall that is becoming more and more common – awesome! (As long as it isn’t encouraging any of the debauchery that has been happening at Churchill’s over in Westboro – did you notice that the SINK was broken? Rumors abound…)

Back Lane Cafe on Urbanspoon

Haven’t been there yet? You can check out the interior over at Karen McRae’s blog:

La Crema Canela, Barcelona, Spain

This place is a total Jem in the middle of tourist hell-town, AKA la Ramble. You probably can’t avoid going to la ramble while you are in Barcelona. It seems to be the heart of tourist town and you can’t get away from the crowds. All the places are overpriced and not terribly good.

This place had really great food. We were staying at a hostel just on the other side of la Ramble from here and we ate here at least once a day, and on one occasion twice. Their lunch is especially good, for only ten euro you get a three course meal (app, main and desert) with a glass of wine included.

the supper choices are not a cheap but the food is all very good and very fresh. This is not a typical “catalunian” restaurant, rather more of a mediterranean-style place but given it’s convienient location it is a really great choice. They have a great patio, which actually extends to the other side of the walkway and there is lots of great people watching.

Typical in europe, the service is not exceptional or overly friendly (with some exceptions) but the service are cute – you can’t have everything!!

Charles is at Canvas, Hintonburg

This little spot (former home of Absinthe, then Allium I believe) on the corner of Holland and spencer, just a hop skip and a jump from Tunney’s is a fun location. It’s cozy, has lots of window seats (not drafty) and a good sized bar. Generally, you can get in without a res, but don’t show up on Friday night at 7 and say I said so. And if you do, be willing to sit at the bar. That’s where the show is anyways.

I’ve been to canvas a handful of times. It’s in my beloved hood and is one of the closest nice restaurants to our place (although now that has been beat for location by Tennessee Willems)

What is great about this place is the service. None of that ‘I don’t really care’ or ‘I’ve been serving too long and am bitter’ these guys put on the real show.

I can’t do it justice in words, but both Charles and the other guy (sorry guy) are just hilarious.

Charles somehow managed to insert “and yes it does have your daily dose of Vitamin B12” into his speech about the desserts. Yes, the desserts! And the other guy has these great lines like “Are we sad the wine is all gone?” or “The empty beer light just went off, is everything ok?” (with an alarmed look on his face). Always good for a laugh.

So, on this note, what the heck is with the SIG awards? They call them Service awards, but if you take a look at them, it’s just a popularity contest for those that work in the market. Get a life. Best server award should go to these two at Canvas!

Canvas Resto-Bar on Urbanspoon

“Guidance” Counsellors

When I was in highschool I wanted to go to college. I took all the U level courses (OAC’s in the day) but really thought I would be best in college. My guidance counselor, who had sat patiently and talked me through more than my share of crying sessions, advised me that I should go to University. “College is for people who do the work. University is for the people who are in charge” I went for Management, possibly accounting, and I hated it. Management is for jerks is what I learnt in my intro to management course.

I switched to Arts, and then translation. By the time I figured out what translation was all about I was in third year and waist-deep in student politics. I didn’t really want to do translation but I didn’t really want to switch again, and to what?

I finished University (BA Translation AND BA Arts) and I got a job at a translation company. It was like a factory farm for translators. I eventually got a new job working as a consultant, doing translation and a myriad of other things. I like the variety my job offers but I can’t say I like it.

As soon as I got my first job out of university I signed up for Wine courses at the community college. I did one, then another, then another until three years later I emerged a Sommelier. The idea was that if I stayed in school, then once I figured out what I really wanted to do it would be easier to “go back” to school. But, I still don’t know what I want. I signed up for an accounting course. I liked it, and I excelled, I signed up for another one, and then I applied to a full-time professional accounting course.

It seems, I have come full circle.

Now I am at a crossroads. Do I quit my job, which I don’t like, and go to school full-time, only to potentially find that I don’t like accounting that much either?

Where is my guidance counselor now, and if he was here would I be able to explain why university maybe wasn’t right for me in the first place?

Was it just his agenda to get as many students into University as possible that caused him to encourage me to apply to University, and not even bother applying to college?

Juniper kitchen and wine bar, Westboro

We visited Juniper, finally, after having lived in the hood for about 2 years. I’ve been meaning to visit but haven’t had the chance. The place just looks so cool…like a car dealership (which it was).

We had the kick in the pants we needed, in the form of a free date night that was not already tied up with other plans. The place is huge, but I always recommended making a reservation. We made the res the night before by phone, but they have an online reservation system. The res got lost but they had room anyways and there was not problems.

We were seated by the window (most of the seats are by the window) but the windows are well insulated and the tables right next to them so it wasn’t cold until a draft started coming up from the vent on the floor. Still not uncomfortable though.

The place is huge, and not terribly loud. They use tablecloths and have a lounge area of padded benches in the middle so that helps to soften the sound a lot. Also the tables aren’t terribly close to each other, which is a nice change, though I understand that it’s also a luxury that a lot of restaurants cannot afford.

We were served by Phil (as he introduced himself) or Paul (as the bill stated). Whoever he was, he was super friendly and had lots of answers.

I highly recommended you check them out for dueling chefs, perhaps alongside another one of your favorite chefs/restaurants. Tickets are 200$ but it includes gratuity, food and cocktails, and apparently a lot of the food and produce was sponsored, in order to allow more of the ticket price to go to charity.

I’ve wondered from time to time why Juniper doesn’t seem to appear in the press much, and I think it’s really because Ottawa is a small town, and it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. I really feel that restaurants that get lots of press are the ones that are owned by people who know people.

So don’t base your next restaurant pick on the one that was featured in Ottawa Magazine, get out there an try something new!

Overall Juniper is a good splurge, with entrées in the 30-40$ range. A great place for cocktails in the lounge (I assume that’s the purpose of the wide open space in the middle) and a good option if you hate having to wait for your table at the door and in the way (like in most restaurants).

Juniper Kitchen & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

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