BURGH BUSINESS BRIEFS
By Andre R. Gagne, Jane Heintzman, Randy Mar and Tamara Miller (this article appeared in the June 2021 edition of the New Edinburgh News.
Farewell to Sundae School
While the pandemic has played havoc with the province’s schools, here in our own neighbourhood, there is one pandemic-related school closure that will affect many of us, regardless of age. In early April, Sundae School owner–operator Lindsay Taub announced on Facebook that her popular summer ice cream emporium is now permanently closed, marking the end of a brief but successful run in our community.
Sundae School first launched in 2017 at the just-opened Kavanaugh condo building at 220 Beechwood Ave. Lindsay and her team went all out in pursuing the school theme in the new ice cream shop, both in artful décor touches and in the menu, which featured such highlights as Recess Pieces, Pop Quiz, Chalk-olate Board, and Class Clown.
In its second year of operation, Sundae School moved to 131B Beechwood Ave., next door to Bridgehead Coffee, where it remained until its closure. While the interior space was slightly smaller than its first location at the Kavanaugh, the nearby outdoor patio area and the synergy with Bridgehead proved extremely successful, and it became a destination treat spot for locals of all ages. Lindsay’s original vision for the business was to create a neighbourhood gathering place where clients, young and old, could experience “the joy of being a kid in an ice cream shop” – and that she did!
As the COVID pandemic wore on, and the third wave struck this past April, it became clear that public health uncertainties were unlikely to resolve any time soon. Like all other small businesses, Sundae School had endured a very tough year. And as Lindsay noted in her farewell announcement, the shop’s whole raison d’être– to be a relaxed and fun community gathering spot – was undermined by the constraints of physical distancing. Even after the crisis subsides and the rules are relaxed, she faced the possibility of an ongoing “gathering chill” in a community accustomed to distancing and risk avoidance.
Lindsay regret expresses at the closure of Sundae School: “I will miss seeing all the happy, eager faces.” But she plans to resume her original profession as a youth and family therapist. In the wake of the myriad stresses on children and families faced during the pandemic, there’s no doubt her services in this domain will be much needed and in high demand. Best of luck, Lindsay, and our thanks for the summer highlight you brought to our community in recent years. –JH
Manor Park DQ has closed
New Edinburgh area ice cream-lovers are watching their spots for cool treats melt away like a dipped cone on an August day. First came the closure of Beechwood Avenue’s Sundae School (noted above) and now, after treating people right for more than five decades, the Manor Park DQ has served its final Peanut Buster Parfait.
With the summer weather settling in, area residents were awaiting the reopening of the popular ice cream shop after the seasonal winter shutdown. Instead of a Dilly Bar, they were met with the words “CLOSED THANK U FOR 54 YEARS OF PATRONAGE” on the restaurant sign. As if to punctuate the message, the familiar DQ logo was removed, only its metal shape remaining of what once guided patrons to cool summer snacks.
Many took to social media to share memories of the restaurant that first opened its doors (and freezers) on 345 St. Laurent Blvd. back in the late 1960s. Some recalled being taken as children by their grandparents.
“I was very sorry to hear the Dairy Queen in Manor Park is closing,” John Newcombe posted on Twitter. “This was a fixture of my childhood – a treat when I was little and the first taste of freedom when I could bike there with friends.”
“A landmark from growing up nearby, but it was looking increasingly forlorn over the past few years,” added Fergus Maclaren, who could perhaps see the writing on the wall for the restaurant.
While the DQ owners could not be reached as of press time for comment on the true reason behind the closure, online speculation points to the property having been sold to a developer for possible condo construction.
Not to end with these scoops of sadness, here’s a cheery cherry on top: you can still get all your Dairy Queen favourites at the 401 McArthur Ave. location, just a five minute drive from Manor Park. –AG
Il Vagabondo soldiers on
For more thsn 40 years, Il Vagabondo Restaurant has been a fixture at the corner of Barrette Street and Marier Avenue, a cozy, unpretentious Italian eatery offering home-made pasta dishes at modest prices. Artist Karole Marois’s eye-catching mural of the Eastview Electric Street Car in 1909, emblazoned on the Barrette-facing façade of the restaurant, has helped compensate for its somewhat off-the-beaten-track location. But more importantly, its reputation for providing tasty, affordable favourites in a welcoming, home-like setting has attracted loyal regulars. And never have these regulars been more crucial to the restaurant’s survival than in these last months of the pandemic.
Il Vagabondo’s owner–operator Adriana Roy, a Chilean by birth who acquired her skills in Italian cuisine while working for an Italian diplomatic family, is neither a pessimist nor a complainer. On the contrary, she is as positive, cheerful, and resilient an individual as it’s possible to imagine. But even Adriana concedes that the pandemic has been a very tough go for her restaurant, and this spring’s third wave, the toughest of all.
Like other restauranteurs, she has been forced to pivot to take-out during lockdown phases of the pandemic, shifting back to indoor dining when constraints were relaxed. While take-out has offered a lifeline, Adriana concedes that business “is not great,” presenting significant challenges. Not the least of these is attempting to safely navigate food suppliers to provision her kitchen with the fresh ingredients she insists on for her Italian fare. “I’m very picky,” she admits.
While there is (we all hope) light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine rollout and the gradual subsiding of the third wave, Adriana thinks that businesses should remained closed until we exit the tunnel, probably not before the fall.
In the meantime, says Adriana, “it’s better to keep laughing” and to be grateful for all of one’s blessings, however challenging our circumstances. She’s thankful to have her health, spirits, and her resilient little restaurant – a survivor through four decades of change. We wish her the best of luck, and thank her for her many years as a loyal advertiser in the New Edinburgh News. And here’s hoping that some of the new residents of St. Charles Market (up the street from Il Vagabondo) will soon swell the ranks of Adriana’s regulars once the pandemic ordeal is over! For take-out, call 613-749-4877. –JH
SushiMe victim of vandalism
One evening in late May, the front window of SushiMe at 8 Beechwood Ave. was smashed by vandals. Regrettably, the restaurant’s security camera was not functioning at the time, but the incident took place before dark, so numerous passers-by saw the event. According to witness reports, a group of three teenaged boys inflicted the damage, but in the absence of video evidence from the security camera, Ottawa Police Service has been unable to pursue the case. SushiMe owner/operator Sue Jung noted that the week before this incident, another break-in and minor theft had occurred at the restaurant, this time via the rear door, but she doubts that the two cases are related.
Sue anticipates that the cost of replacing the large window at SushiMe will be significant- and an especially cruel blow during the pandemic, which has devastated the bottom lines of restaurants everywhere. This is a moment to show community support: let’s be alert to signs of suspicious activity and give SushiMe a prominent place on our local take-out lists. Call 613-741-4777. Best of luck Sue, and our sincere regrets at this pointless act of vandalism. –JH
Bibi’s to expand opening hours
Since opening in January 2020 on the corner of Putman and Beechwood Avenues, BiBi’s Middle Eastern Kitchen has established itself as a fast, fresh, takeout option – a team committed to hospitality, sustainability and quality.
We had a chance to speak with Adam Weiss, owner–operator of Bibi’s, to ask what it has been like for his first year and a half in business to have coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adam has worked in the restaurant industry for 15 years. He credits his time as opening general manager at Fairouz Café for expanding his appreciation of fine-dining Middle Eastern cuisine. He hoped to apply this learning to a quick-style restaurant – bringing the elements of hospitality, great flavours, and fresh ingredients to a takeout milieu.
Even as restaurant regulations have changed during the pandemic, Bibi’s has enjoyed continued success. Although they initially had room for 16 guests inside their restaurant, their small team always saw itself as more of a take-away establishment and planned to work with companies like Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes, etc.
However, Adam credits their ability to remain open on his loyal customers. “We wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for the support of the community,” he says. “Of course, when the pandemic first hit, there were ups and downs, but we are still here because of the community. We do miss having our guests inside, and can’t wait to have them return.”
Bibi’s menu offers something for everyone, and Adam’s team was deliberate about reaching clientele with various dietary requirements. The Baharat-spiced chicken wrap is their number-one seller, and their vegetarian items – including falafel wraps and bowls – are very popular.
As we move into the summer, Bibi’s is looking to expand their pantry items. Currently available are items like their signature iced tea, hibiscus lemonade, saj chips, hummus, garlic sauce, spice blends and tahini chocolate chunk cookies which are so popular, they have trouble keeping them in stock! Their pantry will continue to grow, and we will see the wraps and bowls evolve.
More good news! This summer, Bibi’s will be moving back to being open all week. “When COVID hit, we moved to being open six days per week,” Adam tells the New Edinburgh News, “but we realized that sometimes there aren’t that many options for people for takeout on Mondays and we want to be available to our community and online seven days per week.”
ONEC thrilled tennis can resume
Seldom in its long existence has the Ottawa New Edinburgh Club membership been so enthused and proud, but at the same time, anxious for activities to begin.
“We are very excited to get back into the Boathouse once the renovations are finished, so we can continue to offer community access to water sports and to help reanimate the Ottawa River” said ONEC President Meghan Hanlon. “We hope our members and the public will share our excitement when they see all the improvements that will result from the completion of the project.”
With an infusion of funding from the National Capital Commission, a careful renovation of the two-and-a-half-storey heritage boathouse on the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway is well on the path to completion as part of the Federal Infrastructure Investment strategy. The ONEC board and members are eager to see the unveiling of the multi-year renovation to completely update the landmark boathouse, club facility, and riverfront. Featuring 16,000 square feet overlooking the Ottawa River, the soon-to-be year-round facility is designed to serve many generations of the public to come.
On the other hand, the extended provincial stay-at-home order is still in place (with a reopening plan recently announced), challenging the Board and staff to ensure members and guests have adequate time to plan their summer adventures at the Club.
Tennis was among the outdoor activities allowed to resume on May 29; the seven clay and four HarTru courts draw hundreds of avid players of all ages who are itching to swing a racquet outdoors again and resume friendly rivalries.
A start to the ONEC rowing, sailing, and paddling season usually depends on Ottawa River water levels, but with levels ironically at lowest for many years, the club is now waiting to begin installing 7,000 square feet of docks. This requires an army of member volunteers to muscle the docks into place along the riverside before water activities can officially begin.
Both water and tennis day camps programs for youth aged 7–17 have been drawn up, and staff and instructors are ready to go full steam ahead in accordance with public health guidance once given the green light.
To broaden member offerings, ONEC has trialed pickle ball, stand-up paddle boards, and group voyager paddles. Given the interest, the club will be looking to expand its paddling program in the coming years.
Of note, the ONEC will celebrate 100 years calling the Boathouse home in 2023. Stay tuned for upcoming plans to mark this historic milestone!
Here’s to calm waters and a few aces in the coming weeks.
The Ottawa New Edinburgh Club (ONEC) is located at 504 Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway. Contact them at 613–746–8540 or visit onec.ca –RM
Building better eating habits
For a variety of reasons, the COVID pandemic has brought food to the fore in our lives. For some, it’s been a source of relief from stress and boredom; for others with a culinary penchant, it’s provided an occupation and distraction in a home-bound environment; and for the health conscious, it’s been front and centre as a means of supporting our immune systems.
Of these, stress-related eating habits have perhaps had the most visible impact. An Apr. 29, 2021, Ottawa Citizen story reported on the results of a study by Agri-Food Analytics, which indicated that close to three quarters of those surveyed had changed their eating habits during the pandemic, with close to two-thirds reporting “undesired weight changes” (read: weight gain).
In this context, local nutritionist Susan Alsembach’s practice has taken on new relevance as a source of professional guidance. While most of us are acquainted with the Don’ts in the dietary realm – overindulgence in fatty, sugary, salty snacks comes to mind – we may have less assurance about the Do’s involved in healthy food choices, combinations, and amounts, which is Susan’s area of expertise.
In non-COVID times, Susan operates her practice in Santé/Health Beechwood, a complex of therapists on the third floor of 35 Beechwood Ave. in the New Edinburgh Square Building. During the pandemic, however, her consultations have gone online. Appointments begin with a 60-minute in-depth health assessment and review of a client’s concerns and objectives, followed up by 30-minute sessions to review meal plans and track progress. These in turn may be followed by biweekly or monthly coaching calls.
Susan’s cosmopolitan background has acquainted her with a broad range of professional experiences, as well as a host of different foods, cooking styles, and food cultures. Following her early years in Switzerland where she met her Canadian husband, she earned a nursing diploma at the University of Brighton in the United Kingdom, working in surgical, medical, gynecological ,and palliative care wards. Later, while living in Brazil, she completed a Bachelor of Science and Social Studies through the U.K.’s Open University.
When the family moved to Canada, Susan’s daughter was diagnosed as gluten- and dairy-intolerant. This challenging diagnosis inspired Susan to train as a holistic nutritionist at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, where she graduated in 2016. Two years later, she established her practice here in New Edinburgh.
The two pillars of Susan’s practice are her weight-loss and Type 2 Diabetes programs. In both cases, the overarching objective is to develop a plan to help clients build better eating habits, “bit by bit.” Susan insists on a gradual approach, as opposed to an immediate, dramatic (and likely unsustainable) change. In formulating meal plans and associated recipes, her aim is to educate clients in the range of available options, leaving the final choices to them, depending on their individual tastes, preferences, and lifestyles.
Among the first topics covered in Susan’s preliminary client assessment is the family profile, a snapshot of the number and ages of children; school routines; parents’ work routines; and the overall household dynamic. With this in mind, Susan tailors her meal plans and recipes to suit the time available for meal preparation, as well as the types of food with which the family is comfortable. She often tweaks familiar recipes to boost their nutritional value and recommends food combinations that increase digestibility. Quantities prescribed in Susan’s meal plan for a family of four are geared to cover two morning meals for the adults only and four evening meals for the whole family.
For details, visit susanalsembach.com or call 613-620-3249, and be sure to check out Susan’s Blog, which contains information about a broad range of food-related topics. –JH
Tavern awaits the green light
Owner–operator André Schad reports that his outdoor eatery, the Tavern on the Falls, is “ready to go, the second we are allowed to.” In fact, the restaurant has been poised to launch since late March, a plan suspended since beginning of the third wave of the COVID epidemic and the ensuing stay-at-home order, which shut down all dining and patio operations.
André remains hopeful that steadily dropping COVID case numbers, combined with the stepped-up vaccine rollout, will allow for a gradual reopening this summer, with outdoor patios leading lists of safe dining spots. Unlike last summer, when pandemic protocols were relatively uncharted territory for stores and restaurants, they’re now routine, and will click into place at the Tavern on the Falls as soon as it opens.
The Tavern’s COVID protocols will once again entail tables separated by plant barriers and arranged at the required physical distance; plexiglass dividers separating the kitchen and bar from the dining area; hand sanitizing stations; regular disinfection of tables and chairs between sittings; a security team to ensure compliance with the rules, and a check-in procedure at the entrance to permit contact tracing. With this regime in place, the Tavern managed to have a safe and successful summer 2020, and André’s team has every intention of doing so again this year.
The Tavern on the Falls is located at 50 Sussex Dr. behind the Canadian Geographical Society building overlooking the Rideau Falls. The Tavern’s crowning glory is the view from the outdoor patio. It’s among the most spectacular vistas in Ottawa, encompassing the Rideau, Ottawa and Gatineau rivers, the Gatineau Hills, and Jacques Cartier Park. And all summer long, diners at the Tavern have a front-row seat for glorious sunsets over the Gatineau Hills.
The fare at the Tavern this summer will continue to feature gourmet “dawgs,” ranging from “the classic” (ketchup, mustard, and relish) to more adventurous, spicy options like the Tijuana. Also on the menu are gourmet tacos, including a vegetarian option, and salads ranging from light side-dishes to a meal-size option. And of course, a wide range of drinks will be on offer – it is, after all, a tavern! – including some new cocktails André plans to introduce as soon as doors open. Best of luck André and the team: our fingers are crossed for an early and safe reopening! –JH
Chilaquiles feels your love
“A big thank-you to our community for supporting us through these unprecedented times.” says Kelvin Molina, who, with Soemy Sanchez, is half of the husband-and-wife team that brought Chilaquiles to 49 Beechwood Ave. in late 2019. “We have been welcomed and made to feel part of the community from day one,” Kelvin tells the New Edinburgh News.
Now firmly planted on the Beechwood strip with its traditional Mexican cuisine, Chilaquiles continues to up the neighbourhood’s global cuisine offerings. Soemy oversees all recipes and kitchen preparations reflecting her Yucatán roots and expansive native cuisine, and the restaurant is named for the traditional Mexican dish, chilaquiles, made from pieces of lightly fried corn tortillas cooked in green or red salsa, with either tender chicken or beef, and garnished with variety of cheeses.
After moving into their street-front location in late 2019, the pair were just hitting their stride when the pandemic hit. Even during the bleakest times, the Chilaquiles team proudly managed to stay open seven days a week, with the support and encouragement of the surrounding community.
Not surprisingly, family-oriented dishes like the homemade chilaquiles described above, along with enchiladas and burrito verde were in demand, while individually-sized tacos, burritos, and quesadillas remained popular for takeaway. They continue to offer many of the most well-known Mexican beers that conjure up images of sandy beaches.
Online ordering is a necessity now, as is curbside pickup, but delivery is also available via UberEats or Skipthe Dishes. Note that all Chilaquiles containers are now made of recyclable or biodegradable materials!
Sadly, a second Cinco de Mayo has passed with Chilaquiles unable to host the traditional Mexican celebration with food and live music. But Kelvin, Soemy, and their team are looking ahead to sunnier times and warmer weather while planning new menu offerings, including weekly and month-long specials featuring new recipes. They are considering launching their own in-house delivery service as well.
Chilaquiles is located at 49 Beechwood Ave. Contact them at 613–699-7100 or chilaquiles.ca. –RM
LCBO up and running
After many months of anticipation, the new Beechwood outlet of the LCBO (Store # 686) quietly opened its doors on Mar. 29 – a “soft opening” if there ever was one!
The shop is reasonably spacious for physical-distancing purposes, offering more than 5,000 square feet of display space for a selection of 1,680 wines, spirits, beers, ready-made cocktails, and coolers. “Buy local” patrons will find more than 200 Ontario wines, including 145 VQA wines, and a wide selection of Ontario craft beers and other domestic brands. There is also a substantial section for chilled beverages, always in high demand in the steamy summer months. Five well-spaced checkout aisles for in-store shoppers should help to keep lineups to a minimum.
The new Beechwood store offers same-day pick-up for online orders (lcbo.com) with a relatively swift turn-around time of only three hours. Customers can pick up orders in the parking lot behind the store: enter via 411 MacKay St.
LCBO Beechwood manager Marc works with eight full- and part-time employees to offer service seven days a week, from 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call 613-741-5046.
Whether or not your tastes run to alcoholic beverages, it’s a great relief to see some life on the ground floor at Minto Beechwood. –JH
SCM boosts local businesses
The majority of the homes in the St. Charles Market (SCM) residential development are now occupied, and over the coming summer, new residents will be acquainting themselves with the neighbourhood. As a welcoming gesture and a boost to local businesses, SCM developers, The Lake Partnership/ModBox, have given each new homeowner a gift certificate to a local restaurant or food shop, encouraging them to discover the many amenities within walking distance of their new homes. Pandemic permitting, there’ll be much to explore! –JH