This column consists of regional culinary information, including a large scoop of local news and inside information. There is no charge to be included here, and we encourage chefs, restaurateurs, brewers, fundraisers, culinary artisans, farmers — and everyone else with information to share — to send us details. Short and sweet! We want to include as many items as possible. See the end of this column for contact details.
The Berlin, the much-heralded restaurant in downtown Kitchener, has closed. It will re-open as The Rich Uncle Tavern, offering gastropub fare, according to owners The Ignite Restaurant Group. Executive chef Ben Lillico came on board after The Berlin was opened by chef Jonathan Gushue (who recently left for Fogo Island, Newfoundland). He says the menu will focus on shareables and small plates. The plan is to have the new concept open and serving by June. www.richuncletavern.ca
A few blocks west of The Uncle on King Street, San Francisco sandwiches has closed. The window is emblazoned with “La Cucina” — but it has nothing to do with the new pizza and pasta place with the red awning in the west end called La Cucina, a sister restaurant to the Guelph Italian upscale casual restaurant. Kitchener’s version has wood-fired pizza, house-made pastas and other simple Italian fare. lacucinakitchener.com
The Ignite Restaurant Group is also in the process of construction on Red Circle Brewing Co., Graffiti Market and Red Circle Coffee Co. at Catalyst137 in Kitchener. Co-owner Neil Huber tells us that they have other projects that they’re looking to announce in the near future.
Belmont Village, nestled between downtown Kitchener and uptown Waterloo, continues to grow as a self-sustaining food destination — and that quality is only amplified with Arabella Park Beer Bar clocking in at No. 46 among the top 50 bars in Canada, according to canadas100best.com. Chef Byron Hallett combines innovation with classic and modern ideas to create playful and shareable cuisine that pairs well with beer. The cocktail that you should try there is a pint of Cascade Brewery barrel-aged triple ale with marionberry and Meyer lemon. arabellaparkbar.com
Other notables in Belmont Village are restaurant landmarks like Café Rugantino and Janet Lynn’s Bistro. Check out The Culinary Studio for cooking classes, Rawlicious for plant-based and gluten-free cuisine. The smartly appointed Wilhelm’s Café + Bar (the name draws inspiration from a mysterious lost bust of Kaiser Wilhelm 1 ) is a stellar spot for a meal and drinks. The Belmont Bistro, located next door to gourmet coffeehouse Berlin Bicycle Café, is where Chef Brandon Gries, a Stratford Chef School alumnus, creates dishes from scratch, taking no shortcuts and changing the menu seasonally.
Restaurateur Zafar Quazi was born in Bangladesh, studied civil engineering in Ukraine, and worked six years running restaurants in Great Britain before coming to Canada. In Scotland, he met his Ukrainian wife Olena, and their first Canadian endeavour was in Brantford, followed by the Tandoori Grill in Fergus. Great success came with his celebrated Raja Fine Indian Cuisine in Stratford. Three years ago, Quazi set his sights on Belmont Village. The Raja serves upscale Indian cuisine in sophisticated and elegant surroundings by a knowledgeable, well-trained staff. The service is white linen, deferential and friendly. After being seated, diners are offered crisp, crunchy poppadum served alongside a dazzling selection of vibrantly coloured condiments, ranging from sweet to sour to spicy, to get the taste buds tingling. rajakitchener.ca
Mark June 25 on your calendar for a mid-day tasting menu event. It’s the inaugural Signatures: A Taste of Waterloo Region’s Best. The lunchtime taste testing and fundraiser for Parkinson Society Southwestern Ontario takes place at Catalyst137 on Glasgow Street, Kitchener, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Waterloo Region restaurants and catering companies share their signature dishes, and participants include B Elegant Catering & Event Planning, Big Jerk, Bobby O’Brien’s Irish Pub, Chef D, Gusto & Beckford Catering, Liaison College of Culinary Arts, Mamma D’s Delicious Eats, McCabe’s Irish Pub, Meals without Madness, Reid’s Chocolates, Shawerma Plus, Taste of Seoul, The Park Hill, The White Rabbit, Watchtower Restaurant, Wooden Boat Food Company and ZOUP. Tickets are only $20 and include food and entry into multiple draws and giveaways. parkinsonsociety.ca/event/signatures-taste-test-waterloo-regions-best
From restaurateur Darryl Haus and Grand Trunk Saloon, look for The Grand Surf Lounge to open on Ontario Street near Charles. Haus calls it a bar and lounge “with a focus on rum, big fruit-based drinks and escapism.” While he can’t quite describe the menu yet, he says it’s inspired by Polynesian pop culture. As for the entire concept, he says, “It looks pretty cool. I’m really digging it.” grandsurflounge.com
Shinla Korean at King and Scott in downtown has closed. That leaves a dearth of Korean in downtown Kitchener. In the west end, four restaurants on the south side of King Street have closed (due to land appropriation for a major new residential development between Francis and Water streets). However, Rana Taste of Turkish (ranaturkish.com) still has its University Avenue location at Regina Street in Waterloo. Unity Baking (www.unitybaking.com) has moved to 1 Water Street North in Galt, Cambridge, and is scheduled to open again soon. Latina America Grocery and Eatery is now at 1120 Victoria Street North, Kitchener. Check it out for pupusas, tamales, churros and more. americalatinavariety.ca
Having built a considerable reputation, the very busy Crazy Canuck (across the street from St. Jacobs Market) has added a new location in downtown Kitchener at 30 Duke Street West (the RBC tower). It often pairs up with its Apollo Cinema neighbour for movie and snack events. thecrazycanuck.ca
Look for The Falls Road Pub (thefallsroadpub.ca) to open this May on Victoria Street at Lancaster. A small food and beverage hub is growing in the area. Nearby are the new Public Kitchen and Bar, Jimmy’s Lunch, Sam’s Kitchen, and Descendants Beer and Beverage Co. The cheekily named wine and charcuterie venue Swine and Vine (swineandvine.ca) has taken over the former Public space on Lancaster.
The Culinary Studio’s new food venture is now open on the second floor of the Communitech building: The Well Food Co. has taken over kitchen space left behind when Google moved to its magnificent campus across the street. While not open to the public, The Well Food Co. will happily provide its catering services to the community. thewellfoodco.ca
Charcoal Group offers unique dining packages. Book a chauffeured luxury stretch limousine for eight people and ride in style to a “progressive dinner” to up to five different Charcoal Group locations. Enjoy a different course and beverage at each stop. Suggested destinations include: Charcoal Steakhouse, dels Enoteca Pizzeria and Martini’s in Kitchener; The Bauer Kitchen, Wildcraft Grill + Bar in Waterloo; and Beertown Public House in Waterloo, Cambridge and London, and the family-friendly Moose Winooski’s in Kitchener is also in the Charcoal Group fold. Great for company parties, celebrations or just a luxurious night out, other custom options are available. Call 519-894-0110 or go to charcoalgroup.ca/events.
Foodtruckers at Breakfast Blues and Barbecues are building a bricks-and-mortar version of barbecue at the former Sing Lee Chinese Restaurant at 105 Victoria Street South, between Oak and Michael. The word is that they will be open by June. breakfastblues-bbqs.ca
Meticulously designed, The Walper Hotel provides a unique, modern boutique experience. Built in 1893, architects combined contemporary building technology with the best of the hotel’s heritage features during the hotel’s most recent refurbishment. The Lokal is the striking piano bar and lounge on the second floor. We enjoyed craft cocktails and conversing with friendly upbeat staff in TWH Social, the subterranean bar/bistro. Chef Jeff Ward — his business card identifies him as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer— has a culinary pedigree that includes Stratford Chefs School, Langdon Hall, Toronto’s Canoe and Auberge du Pommier, and Kitchener’s former Marisol. The menu is touted as “local ingredients done well, with a thoughtfully sourced menu focused on sustainability and diversity.” Breakfast at the Barristers Lounge is a treat. walper.com
New to Waterloo Region, and about to open, is The Wooden Boat Food Company. The brainchild of Chef Thompson Tran, Wooden Boat has floated in from south Vancouver and now resides on Hurst Street alongside a couple of other food and beverage businesses, creating a small food hub. The company is a food store for authentic Vietnamese sauces and a take-away shop for banh mi, Vietnamese fried chicken, shredded rice paper salad, sticky rice and more. Says Tran, “We’re using local, sustainable high-quality ingredients to make authentic Vietnamese dishes. There’s a motif from the mid-1970s, the time of the Vietnamese boat people, with black and white pictures, some memorabilia from the era, and a television playing old MuchMusic videos.” woodenboatfoodcompany.com
LOT42 is a 17-acre “global flex campus” providing a unique collection of flexible spaces for use in the arts, technology, manufacturing, athletics, and community events, at 41 Ardelt Place. Expect to see more concerts and public events here, in addition to private and corporate gatherings. Amongst Lot42’s partners are B•Hospitality, the owners of the Cambridge Hotel & Conference Centre, B•Elegant Catering, The Bruce Craft House restaurant and The Bruce Caboose food truck. Promising event services with “a commitment to crafting incredible guest experiences that leave a lasting impression,” here’s a great resource for your wedding, special event or festival. lot42.ca and bhospitality.ca
Gilt is an open, airy and sophisticated resto with a millennial vibe in the heart of Kitchener’s Innovation District that recently celebrated the fourth anniversary. Owned by Trella White and Chef Stephanie Randall, the bar, lounge and 65-seat restaurant on the ground floor of the office tower at 305 King Street West is their second venture; they also operate Cork Restaurant in Elora. Chef de cuisine Alex Janke has been at Gilt since the beginning, and incorporates his favourite Thai and Mexican flavour profiles while using local ingredients, but expect pleasant surprises. Korean Fried Chicken with honey bourbon and hoisin has a super crunchy kick. Janke serves an excellent steak tartare. Try the Curried Oxtail Gnocchi with dukkha sweet potato gnocchi, candied ginger cream, parsnip chips and curried tomato butter. giltrestaurant.ca
Relish Cooking Studio has moved to its new home in downtown Kitchener at 70 Victoria Street North. relishcookingstudio.com
Abe Erb Brewing Co.’s brewhouse, in the Tannery building near the corner of King and Victoria, boasts a full production facility on site, including a canning line. Part of the appeal of Abe Erb is pairing both brewing and restaurant experiences. The tongue-in-cheek mission statement reads “Our trifecta is the combination of beer, food and live entertainment. We take your patronage as seriously as we take our beards and moustaches.” abeerb.com
Public Bar and Kitchen is a small, indie restaurant on Lancaster Street, in one of Kitchener’s oldest neighbourhoods. Chef/co-owner Ryan Murphy and partner Carly Blasutti take pride in making small, shareable plates and well-crafted cocktails. The Spanish-themed chalkboard menu changes on an almost daily basis. Think, potted foie gras and chicken liver pate with house-cured pickles and sherry gastrique or crostini of salt cod brandade with shaved Manchego and pickled shrimp banderilla. The wine list features new and old world wines and there is an all-Ontario craft beer list. kwpublic.com
For more than 140 years, the Kitchener Farmers’ Market has offered meat, produce, dairy products and more. Saturdays 7 am–2 pm year-round. Upstairs, check out the International Cuisine Vendors, Tuesday–Friday 8am–3pm and Saturdays 7am–2pm. 300 King Street East, with parking lot entrance on Cedar St. kitchenermarket.ca
Waterloo native and “Chopped Canada” champion Chef Trevor Ritchie is headed to Le Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, France, in January 2019. The George Brown culinary instructor, formerly of Benjamin’s in St. Jacobs and Langdon Hall in Cambridge, won silver in a qualifying competition in Mexico. Assisting Ritchie will be commis Jenna Reich and coach James Olberg, a Kitchener native.
It took Paul Boehmer 25 years to open a second restaurant in Waterloo. The Region’s long-standing anchor of south-east Asian food, Bhima’s Warung, now has a long-awaited sister, Loloan Lobby Bar. Specializing in cocktails as well as items such as a lobster bisque Escoffier in the style of the Connaught Hotel (Mayfair, UK, not Hamilton), Loloan is located on Princess St. a block or so north of King at Dorset. “It will invoke memories, transporting guests to a place and a time of class and craft, a culmination of travels, studies, work, friendship, life and love,” Boehmer says. loloanlobbybar.com
Formerly at 105 King Street North in Waterloo, and having looked a little dog-eared, Empress of India is relocating a few blocks to 34 King St. S, Waterloo.
Grin and Grind Holdings, the team that developed Abe Erb, has created Settlement Co. in uptown Waterloo. The urban café blends old-world, traditional craft with modern Scandinavian elements. It is part café, coffee roaster, social hub and cocktail lounge, featuring contemporary café cuisine and offering a toast and waffle bar. settlementco.ca
Baker Sasa Duricin has opened Legacy Bakery, specializing in eastern European pastries and breads, on Weber Street East at Montgomery. Favourites are the burek and the classic Russian Hat, a layered cake and cream pastry with coconut. legacybakery.ca
Located in the busy food and beverage area near Wilfrid Laurier University, Lana’s Lounge opened in April with the goal of being a local-music based lounge and a full-service restaurant geared to people who want a quiet venue to enjoy food and drink. lanaslounge.ca
Check out the 88-year-old Harmony Lunch in uptown Waterloo replete with its silver-circle swivel chairs and a menu of home-style classics that include a Fried Chicken Sammy, The Pig Mac, Vegetarian Bun-pology and Grilled Cheese on white bread with processed cheese. The landmark has been revitalized by The Fat Sparrow Group which also operates the ever-popular Taco Farm that supports local farms and farmers. Be sure to try the crispy fired cod with cabbage crudito, farm sauce, cilantro and Jake’s garlic chilli sauce. Also worth a visit is the 1870s-livery-stable-turned-casual-fine-dining-restaurant Marbles, and ten-year-old Nick & Nat’s Uptown 21, now an event venue, offers lunch service from 11:30-3, Tuesday-Friday.
Ethel’s Lounge is the go-to-place for jazz and blues and al fresco drinking and dining. Highly recommended by are the nightly specials, standouts being Ethel’s burgers and signature meatloaf served with beef- mushroom gravy and scalloped potatoes. ethelslounge.com
Undoubtedly a gem in the crown of Waterloo Region dining, Langdon Hall Country House Hotel and Spa has staked its claim among the best in Canada. It was recently selected as the No. 5 Best Restaurant by Canada’s 100 Best. Executive chef Jason Bangerter credits the entire Langdon staff. “What a wonderful achievement to have the passion and hard work of the entire team recognized for this distinction. We are all thrilled at this, and I personally am honoured to work with such talented individuals.” langdonhall.ca
Cambridge Farmers’ Market, started around 1830, is one of the oldest farmers’ markets in Canada. The 40 Dickson Street location includes a one-storey structure built in 1887 and a two-storey structure built in 1896. Learn what’s in season and experience everything the market has to offer through an interactive market map and comprehensive vendor directory, and stay up-to-date on the latest market events and programs at cambridgefarmersmarket.ca. Open Saturdays from 7am to 1pm year-round, and now open Wednesdays from 8am to 1pm until October 3.
The downtown Hespeler Stables Farm to Fork Bistro, a breakfast and lunch venue, has closed after only a few months, as has The Loose Grape on the main drag in Preston.
After eight years operating Napa Grill & Wine Den at the corner of Park Hill & George St., Sandra and Dirk Boer have rebranded the restaurant as The Parkhill. Notable changes include the addition of Head Chef Denis Hernandez and Sous Chef Graham Barr and a new menu. Classic food with a modern twist is the theme, with local fresh ingredients and everything made in house, including the butter. New website and Facebook page coming but for now go to fb.com/Napa-Grille-and-Wine-Den-139328466114875
Guelph & Wellington County
Long before it was a full-fledged movement, restaurateur Bob Desautels began procuring local ingredients for his restaurants. His culinary ensemble, The Neighbourhood Group, has supported local farmers and fishers, brewers and winemakers for many years. Desautels and his son Court Desautels are proponents of Feast ON, a criteria-based certification program run by Ontario Culinary Tourism Association that recognizes businesses committed to sourcing Ontario grown and made food and drink. The program helps diners identify and experience restaurants (ontarioculinary.com/restaurants) that champion our Ontario food system, using both verification and enforcement mechanisms to maintain its integrity. Among the Neighbourhood Group’s Feast ON-certified restaurants are The Woolwich Arms & Arrow, better known as The Wooly, a pub/restaurant located in a 115-year-old, beautifully restored Victorian home; Miijidaa Cafe & Bistro (from the Ojibway language meaning “let’s eat”) and The Borealis Grille & Bar in Kitchener and in Guelph. neighbourhoodgroup.com/restaurants
Supporters of local food and drink should also check out Transparent Kitchen, a platform that connects diners to restaurants, their suppliers and their local food and sustainability initiatives. Customers can visit restaurant websites and see photos of beautifully prepared dishes, then click for more information about the menu, the farms and producers where the ingredients come from, and the restaurants’ and chefs’ philosophy. Local participants now making their kitchens “transparent” include Guelph’s Atmosphere Cafe + etc at 24 Carden Street, The Neighbourhood Group’s Miijidaa Cafe & Bistro (with Chef Shea Robinson) and Borealis Grille in both Kitchener and Guelph. transparentkitchen.ca
Chocolats Favoris, a Canadian artisanal chocolate shop and creamery, opened a location at Clair Marketplace, 20 Clair Rd. W., in April. An in-store station is dedicated to dipping soft-serve ice cream in 12 exclusive chocolate flavours, and take-home offerings include canned chocolate fondue and fine, handcrafted chocolates. chocolatsfavoris.com/en
A craft beer-inspired five-course dinner with beverage pairings will launch EatStreet: A Brewers’ Feast at Old Quebec Street, June 16, from 7:00pm–midnight. Featuring the talented chefs of Bin23, Delhi Street Bistro, Elizabeth Street Eatery, KB Sweets & Royal Electric, and with Taste of Craft cheese pairings, local foods will be featured, paired with a cider or craft beer from Heartwood Cidery, Wellington Brewery, Royal City Brewing Company, Sleeman and Brothers Brewing Company. This sit down harvest table dinner for 100 will include animated discussions about the food and the chefs. Following the dinner, the venue will open for a post-dinner street party with Ecelctic Vinyl Orchestra (EVO), beer garden style with all Guelph breweries present, with more drinks, even more food and a whole lot of dance. Get tickets at eventbrite.ca/e/eatstreet-a-brewers-feast-tickets-46010979077
The 13th annual Taste Real Guelph Wellington Local Food Fest will be held June 24, 11am–4pm. Watch food skills demos and pick up fresh, delicious and real local food. Learn about mushroom growing and foraging, sausage making, fermenting and composting, backyard chickens, cider making and fish butchery through free workshops offered throughout the day. This was the winner of Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance’s 2015 “Event of the Year.” Ignatius Jesuit Centre, 5420 Hwy 6 North, Guelph/Eramosa. Admission is a minimum donation of $5 per person, $10 per family. wellington.ca/en/business/tr-localfoodfest.aspx
Lighthouse Lemonade is “Summer in a Bottle” … all year round! This all-natural heritage cordial has deep Maritime roots with the recipe dating back to before Confederation (1867). It has only six ingredients and is crafted in small batches in a solar-powered facility in Fergus. Drink, bake, cook — the options are limitless for lemonade. lhlemonade.com
The Townships & Beyond
The 1870s Baden Hotel, also known as EJ’s Restaurant and Tavern, has closed and is re-opening as The Baden Brewery and Restaurant. Waterloo resident Abhay Patel says that a brewpub will be built on-site and will eventually include a retail store for merchandise and suds. thebadenbrewery.com
Farm tours are available at Stonetown Cheese, an on-farm cheese plant and purveyor of Swiss mountain-style cheeses. Hand-crafted by master cheesemaker Ramon Eberle using unpasteurized milk from farmers Hans and Jolanda Weber’s herd of Holsteins, Eberle creates nearly a dozen types of Alpine-inspired cheese. 5021 Perth County Line 8, St. Marys, stonetowncheese.com
A highlight of the Oxford County Cheese Trail — an enjoyable culinary experience exploring every facet of cheese — is a visit to Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese outside Woodstock. Sample a large outstanding variety of handcrafted cheeses or book a tour. gunnshillcheese.ca and tourismoxford.ca
The Open Kitchen program is a direct result of building the Stratford Chefs School kitchens at 136 Ontario Street. The school now welcomes the public, not just as dinner patrons, but also as active learners. Public cooking classes has, in return, opened the door for new community partnerships. Bradshaws & Kitchen Detail is the 2018 Open Kitchen Season Partner, providing students with the knives, wine glasses, and kitchen tools used during the classes, as well as take-home gifts offered with select classes. The annual Stratford Chefs School’s Long Table Dinner, affectionately called the friend-raising event, takes place Sunday, September 9. stratfordchef.com
Perth County Slow Food Market goes outdoors starting Sunday, May 6. Enjoy Perth County’s local produce, meats, breads, cheese, coffee, pastries, preserves, prepared foods, handmade artisanal products, and gluten-free and vegan options in Stratford’s Market Square from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays until Thanksgiving. Parking is free on Sunday in downtown Stratford.
Smoke afficianados are invited to Cigar Night in Stratford for a celebratory roast beef dinner (with three cigars included) on Thursday, June 21. Sponsored by Stratford’s The Buzz Stop and importer Kretek, the event will take place at the Army Navy Air Force club, 151 Lorne Ave. E, in Stratford. Tickets are $40; call 519-273-6768.
Celebrate pork in Stratford, in June. Take the Stratford Bacon & Ale Trail, a self-guided tasting tour of delicious pork and beer-inspired treats at selected restaurants and pubs. Stratford also welcomes the Ontario Pork Congress (June 20-21), Canada’s largest pig trade show, which brings together all segments of the pork industry to showcase new technologies, get educated about the latest issues and celebrate a healthy, vibrant sector. visitstratford.ca/culinary-adventures#trails
Summer season at Stratford’s The Red Rabbit means the return of the pre-theatre menu (fixed price) and to being open 7 days a week. Their sister location, Okazu 85 Downie, is Stratford’s hot spot for delicious chef-inspired cuisine and the perfect late-night stop for grown-ups. Join them for dinner to taste global fusion prepared with local inspiration or stop by for innovative, fresh cocktails shaken or stirred by the fabulous staff until the wee hours. redrabbitresto.com and OkazuSnackBar.com
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