By Nathalie Freynet and Shawn Katuwapitiya of Bytown Bites
There are many things that come to mind when you ask Ottawans about Vanier. For us, it’s one of our favourite areas to explore when we want to discover something new. Its affordability and diversity make it an area of the city where you can find unique places, a perfect spot for our second exploration of Hidden Gems of Ottawa for Apt613.
Vanier’s roots are in the traditionally Francophone village of Eastview, having only been officially amalgamated into Ottawa in 2001. Vanier today remains a stronghold of the Franco-Ontarian community, which is reflected in numerous institutions that call this neighbourhood home. One such institution is Muséoparc Vanier, where you can learn about Franco-Ontarian history and get a taste of the Franco-Ontarian joie de vivre at the sugar shack. The cabane à sucre, delineates itself as being one of the few to produce maple syrup in an urban setting.
Today, the neighbourhood is reflective of the multiculturalism within our city, being home to several communities from traditionally French-speaking countries. Its diversity allows you to experience a variety of cultures, often within the span of the same strip mall. It wouldn’t be unusual for us to pop into the Portuguese corner store (Mario’s Food Centre), the Lebanese meat pie shop (Zaatar & Cheese bakery), and the Cote D’Ivoirian charcoal chicken (YKO Chicken) restaurant on the same afternoon. The variety of unique, regional ingredients and their affordable cost make it a great place to visit and explore.
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Walking around Vanier, you’ll notice new businesses but also many institutions with strong roots in the community, such as Louis’ Pizza, Bobby’s Table, or McArthur Lanes, all of which are icons in their own right. Next to them might be some of the best tacos you’ll try in the city (Aztec Tacos, currently closed due to a fire), or Ethiopian injera (Habesha Restaurant). Some of the finest cheeses and treats in town can be found at gourmet grocer Jacobsons.
We filmed this edition of Hidden Gems in the pre-pandemic era. Businesses in Vanier and beyond have since shown immense courage and flexibility in adapting their business models to survive. The Sugar Shack in Vanier has faced the additional challenge of a fire in late August. They intend to rebuild, and have set up a donation campaign to help with these efforts.
During the pandemic, it is these local institutions — that reflect and compose the culture of our neighbourhoods — that would benefit from your patronage more than ever. Join us in becoming masked (!) tourists in our own city. Our hope with these videos is that they inspire you to get out of a comfort zone and try something new within your city, whether that’s in Vanier or beyond.