By Joseph Hutt –
Polar vortexes aside, the weather is getting warmer by the day. It’s time to unpack our walking shoes, go for a stroll through Westboro and Wellington West, and discover the gems that have popped up since the winter months.
First up is Whassup Dog. When SuzyQ Doughnuts moved to a bigger location, Thomas Williams, one of the original owners of Hintonburger, decided to return to his roots at the small food shack at 991 Wellington West. It seems only logical that a restaurant priding itself on its burgers should try to corner the street meat market with gourmet hot dogs and poutine.
“There are a lot of these hot dog places [in New York City],” Thomas explains. After frequent visits and observing the bustling street vendor culture, he decided Whassup Dog could be a really good lunch option for Hintonburg.
From veggie dogs to all-beef jumbos, Whassup Dog offers creative combinations for discerning street meat enthusiasts, from special in-house cheese and Bollywood sauces to their own take on Philly cheese steak.
Helping to get things ready for the busier summer days ahead is store manager, Jeff Hynes. A former Hintonburger employee himself, he agrees the venture is a promising one.
“This location is fantastic,” says Jeff, “and I like a challenge. It’s a brand new shop… and you have to do just about everything from scratch.”
Now, while we are all hoping to have seen the last of this cold weather, there is a new Vietnamese noodle house which will certainly help stave off those early spring chills. The Pho Shack, owned by Tan Huynh, has moved to the former location of Richard’s Hintonburg Kitchen, at 1202 Wellington West.
If you are a pho fanatic, this is definitely a place to check out. This shop dishes out some classic favourites—vegetarian spring rolls, meat skewers and rice wraps—but they also serve appetizers as well, such as dry-rub chicken wings, marinated quail and beef carpaccio. The Pho Shack also offers a number of rice and vermicelli noodle dishes—with vegetarian options available—that you can take to go, a great option for warmer days when soups aren’t looking as appetizing.
With their doors set to open on the first week of May, residents can look forward to the grand opening of Ola Cocina’s second Ottawa location, at 1079 Wellington West, where ZaZaZa used to be. This Mexican-style restaurant is a perfect fit with the Kitchissippi scene, as owner and founder Donna Chevrier will be bringing her reputation for her in-house hot sauces and tortillas along with her. With 30 years of experience in the restaurant business, Donna has achieved notable acclaim and success with her Vanier location over the two and a half years it has been open.
To make this expansion a reality, Donna has also partnered with Ion Aimers—a man who has left his mark on the restaurant scene in Ottawa—being a partner with many well-known restaurants, including The Pomeroy House and Wilf & Ada’s.
As well as providing their full menu—with numerous gluten-free options—Ola Cocina will also stock bottles of Donna’s own hot sauce so you can spice things up at home.
A quirky sauce to keep an eye out for is Donna’s Chocolate Habanero Hot Sauce. “It’s based in blueberries and a molé sauce, so there’s coffee in it and chocolate and stuff. It’s very different from most of the hot sauces out there which are vinegar-based.”
Also new to open its doors in Kitchissippi, Saje Natural Wellness, the popular Vancouver-based health and wellness boutique, has established a second Ottawa location at 350 Richmond Rd. in Westboro. They carry a wide variety of salts and soaps, scented mists, candles and skin creams, all of which are produced in Canada and created from safe and renewable resources.
Store managers, James Machika and Pourie Torabi, lead a dedicated staff who believe in the positive effects that the various essential oils in their products can have.
“We focus on healing,” says James. “Whether that’s your mental health, or physical ailments, or just your everyday skincare.”
After spending a year at their Rideau Centre location, he feels that the expansion into Westboro was the right thing to do.
“Westboro village is great. They’re amazing people. They definitely live and breathe our culture and values.”