Post by Travis Facette
I am obsessed with The Bowl.
The idea behind one of Hintonburg’s newest food spots, The Bowl, is immediately intriguing: they make one dish. That’s it. You can get a drink or a side, but there’s only one main dish. No decision paralysis, no agonizing over a menu, just one option.
This approach has other advantages, too—it lets them minimize waste (even the containers and utensils are compostable), they consistently use a bunch of local ingredients, and they serve their customers quickly. But for that to work, your one dish has to be really, really good. And it is! It is. My apartment is littered with bowls. I have constructed a fort from them, from which I plot circuitous routes to avoid The Bowl so I am not further tempted.
…I’m eating a bowl right now.
The eponymous meal is brown rice, beans, salsa, sour cream, cheddar cheese, avocado, cilantro, roasted chickpeas, Kalamata olives, and the house Kiki sauce. Any ingredient (except the sauce) is optional, so you can easily make it vegan or leave out the olives. You can get a side of local tortilla chips, as well, and usually some homemade brownies. After tax, a bowl will run you about $10.
It’s quite simple, but it’s very pleasing, and so is the adorable little space they’ve set up at 83 Holland Avenue. As a deeply superficial person, I long for charmingly minimal eateries in which to take horrible little selfies, and The Bowl is superbly Instagrammable. I chatted briefly with Kristy Gaetz and Amy Munro, two of its creators, and they told me there was a strong aesthetic vision from the start—and an ethical and operational vision, too.
After working in the food industry for years, Kristy and Amy have seen how wasteful the industry can be, even when staff make a dedicated effort. They described it as “devastating,” especially when you look at larger venues. This is part of what inspired Kristy to develop the original idea, based not just on aesthetic minimalism but functional minimalism as well—a small space, a small footprint, less labour, minimal waste, and keeping prices down for their customers. Making just one dish was the perfect way to achieve these goals, but there’s a sort of ideological minimalism here too, a repudiation of the idea that choice is king and having a vast array of choices will make us happy consumers.
My cousin was really skeptical about that last point, saying she’d try it but couldn’t see repeat visits without a varied menu. A week later, she texted me to say that she’d gone three times already.
The Bowl is also taking square aim at community involvement. As they grow, they plan to focus on community connections and contributions, working with food banks and schools and growing local food. The staff and owners are enormously friendly and outgoing, and they’re deeply enthusiastic about this project, so go support them! I’ll probably be there!
The Bowl is located at 83 Holland Avenue. They’re open Monday to Friday, 11am to 7pm, and Saturday 11am to 6pm.