It’s a Saturday afternoon as I get dropped off in Hintonburg, Wellington West from Hotel Le Germain’s complimentary car service. The streets are quiet, people are going about their business and the shops are open. I sit down on a park bench and take in the vibe of this working-class neighbourhood before heading over to my first meeting spot “Stella Luna Gelato Cafe”. I’ve signed up for a food tour “C’est Bon” and we are going to visit at least eight establishments for food tastings plus hear the backstory on how Hintonburg has become an “It” neighbourhood.
Food walking tours are a great way to discover new neighbourhoods. C’est Bon has been running Gourmet food tours around Ottawa for over 6 years. We get an overview of how this neighborhood has evolved over the last 10 years. Some establishments, like Stella Luna Gelato, started as a pop-up shop but now are a brick and mortar establishment.
There’s no doubt Hintonburg is going through a gentrification. Star chefs and eclectic shops are opening up mixed with new residents flocking to the area. What’s evident is that a new crop of entrepreneurs in Hintonburg recognize there is an economical disconnect between the old and new residents. As we took the tour, we saw many examples of giving back to the community through the shop owner programs.
The C’est Bon food tour was filled with culinary gems, here are a few of the stops on the tour.
Last years opening of Nu Grocery, another stop on the tour, brought the concept of zero-waste to the residents of Hintonburg. With no single-use packaging, this store is saving the environment, one reusable container at a time. In fact, you can bring in your own containers. Walking into this space is quite incredible, its open and airy and features all the things you need, without all the packaging. They sell only natural products and locally sourced ingredients when possible. We tasted some delicious cheeses, pesto, and Kombucha on tap. This concept has been present in Europe for years, but with the addition of Nu Grocery, those in Ottawa can practice zero waste.
Next stop is Guru’s Inspired Food Bar which features a full range of Indian and Pakistani cuisine. If you are looking for an authentic ethnic food experience, you have come to the right place. Grab a Lassi or Chai while you are there and check out their diverse menu. For lunch, there is a wide array of sandwiches, burgers, and more and from spicy to mild depending on your taste. Gourav Chef/Owner whips up a Hakka** wrap for us to taste. Made with Indian flatbread, very thin and filled with a spicy mix of potatoes, onions, peppers and covered with Guru’s Hakka sauce.
** Hakka refers to a specific type of cuisine that blends Chinese cooking techniques with garam masala and other Indian spices.
Carb-lovers will rejoice at Bread by US, an artisan bakery, and espresso bar. From the minute you walk in the door you are greeted by the smell of warm, fresh bread and coffee and it takes over your senses. They craft their artisan sourdough bread in small batches to ensure the highest quality possible. Not only do they produce an amazing product, they support local growers and run their business sustainably. Co-owner Jessica Carpinone believes in paying it forward and has instituted a program at the bakery that allows customers to suspend purchases. That means if you buy two coffees or extra bread and you can donate them to customers from lower income levels.
Just down the street is SuzyQ Doughnuts, a gourmet donut shop that leaves you wanting for more. The proprietor uses a traditional (and top secret) Finnish recipe for “Sugar Munkki” as the base for unique creations like Maple Bacon, Pistachio, Bloop (Blueberry Vanilla Fruit Loop), and Mango Lassi doughnuts, for which regulars line up en masse.
Next up is MeatPress, a gourmet charcuterie and sandwich shop which serves up hearty sandwiches and meats from local farmers. There you can grab one of their delicious sandwiches like the smoked beef and cheese. If you time it just right and stop in on a Saturday after 12, you can try their amazing brisket sandwich. Let’s not forget the aged steaks prepared to perfection. They don’t have a huge selection but you won’t be disappointed in whatever you pick. Eat in or take out.
Our final stop on the tour, Art-Is-In Bakery is an edgy, character-rich gastro-bakery serving up pastries with a serious pedigree. Located in a warehouse just off Albert Street. On the weekends a farmers market is held in the parking lot. This buzzy all-day establishment attracts loyal locals thanks to its modern atmosphere and devilishly delicious baked goods. When you are there, you must try the bakery’s Kronut—a croissant and doughnut hybrid—and Dynamite baguette, available in varieties like cheddar and jalapeño and rosemary and roasted garlic. Each one of their homemade bread, sweet treats, and twist-on-a-classic dishes are dreamed up by classically trained pastry chef and co-owner Kevin Mathieson.
If you like this post and want to read more about Ottawa then check out my story Celebrate Nature at Mosaiculture 2018 Gatineau.
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For more information:
Hintonburg, along with the Wellington West corridor, is located 10 minutes by car from downtown Ottawa.
C’est Bon Food tours run in spring, summer, and fall. Check the website for tour times and exact pricing.
Visit Ottawa Tourism website for additional information.
Note: My C’est Bon Food tour was arranged by Ottawa Tourism. All opinions expressed in this post are mine based on what I learned on a hot Saturday in Hintonburg.