When the Canadian Press recently wrote about Ottawa’s flourishing foodie neighbourhood of Hintonburg, writer Jennifer Ditchburn chose to focus on local favourites such as Hintonburger, Suzy Q Doughnuts and the TacoLot (naturally already featured on our blog). While the budding restaurant scene was well covered, a few of the more novel tummy-pleasing spots were missed, including Simply Raw Express. The café and takeaway shop, which opened in May 2012, is quickly becoming a destination for those who prefer their food uncooked and unprocessed. If owners Mark Faul and Natasha Kyssa have their way, it will be a place to take their green smoothies, quinoa salads and transformational way of living to the masses.
Owned and operated by the soft spoken husband-and-wife team, Simply Raw Express is the evolution of Kyssa’s raw food consultancy Simply Raw, which was run out of the couple’s Glebe residence up until May. While not always a devotee to rawism, Kyssa describes the difficult story of how her passion for raw food developed over an after-work smoothie.
The early years of Kyssa’s professional life were spent between Hong Kong, Munich, London, Vienna and Singapore. Kyssa’s profession: a model (check out a few of her pictures here). While enjoying the constantly changing scenery and cocktail party circuit, the lifestyle began to take its toll. With constant pressure to be thin, she developed bulimia and anorexia. And with that, her modelling days were over. Added to these challenges was the onset of depression.
Finding little help from the medicines she was prescribed back in Ottawa, she turned to her mother, who reminded Kyssa of the simple natural and unrefined Austrian food she had been raised on. “I’ve always been unconsciously raw,” Kyssa explains.
With her health back in check, and a full convert to raw foods, Kyssa began to help her friends and family explore the importance of diet and nutrition to all aspects of one’s health. Thus began Simply Raw. Kyssa’s boyfriend Faul became involved as yet another convert. A vegan, he thought he was eating healthy, but didn’t realize just how much of his food was processed. “It’s easy to get caught up and neglect fresh, healthy foods,” Faul shares.
Through her various individual and group sessions, Kyssa kept hearing the same problem with adopting the diet – how to have easy and quick access to tasty, ready-to-eat raw food. Seeing a niche, and furthermore challenged by the physical constraints of running sessions out of her home, the couple began exploring places for the business to grow. They soon zeroed in on an old oriental rug shop at 989 Wellington Street West (right next door to Suzy Q’s and the TacoLot). It was love at first site, according to Kyssa: “The space just felt right.”
The café and takeaway eatery’s menu is relatively simple. There’s a daily soup and quinoa bowl, green smoothies, Thai-style wraps, raw sushi, raw quiches, and raw cheesecakes (which they market as gluten, sugar, dairy, egg and guilt free). It’s a great spot to grab lunch, a weeknight dinner to go, or pick up a smoothie to enjoy while strolling through the neighbourhood. A juice and order of rice wraps will set you back about $15 – the price to pay for raw, organic, and fresh ingredients.
While getting the eatery up and running is the couple’s priority (for the time being), they’d like to continue building the raw food community they’ve been fostering over the past decade through events like monthly raw food potlucks, guest speakers, “cooking” classes, and the Raw Food Festival (check out pictures from the 2010 version here, including their famous raw pie competition. And yes, that’s Bif Naked you see). Once the back part of their space is renovated, the community events that were traditionally held in the Glebe will move to Hintonburg, along with Kyssa’s individual and group sessions.
In the meantime, swing by for a smoothie, and join the green wave.
Check out their review over on UrbanSpoon, too.