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Hood Wars Final! Centretown vs New Edinburgh

By Katie Marsh on May 23, 2012


The story to date:

Hood Wars first erupted in 2011 and soon spread across the city like Jim Watson on a fundraising bender, spreading verbal violence and bad puns throughout Ottawa. No one knows just how it got started, although local conspiracy theorists claim it’s a plot by Larry O’Brien and the giant spider statue to kill the light rail project.

In spring 2012 the violence broke out once again. Four veterans – Hintonburg, Chinatown, Centretown and the Glebe – took on the as yet unbloodied New Edinburgh, Gatineau, Sandy Hill and sweet little Almonte, only 180 years old.

In the Eastern Conference, returning champion Hintonburg took out Chinatown in a heartbreaking match by only 6 votes, leading many to wonder if there are any Apartment613 editors named Pierre Poutine. The Hintonburg Army, getting a little cocky from its success, was later taken out by the Centretown legions, who had stomped all over the Glebe in the Centre Conference earlier that week.

Looking to the East, New Edinburgh easily took out Sandy Hill, which had been conveniently emptied of its students weeks before. In the meantime, a hotly contested fight broke out between Gatineau and Almonte, who was by no means as sweet and innocent as we had thought. Almonte pulled no punches, using quirky historical facts and even ethnic slurs in its quest for victory, but ended up losing by only one vote. In the end, Gatineau was not as tough as it appeared, and New Eddie was assured its place in the finals.

Now after weeks of Rocky-style training, complete with triumph over self-doubt and the powers that be, the two competitors are ready to fight for a year’s supply of glory and the right to be called Ottawa’s best hood. Will the sheer mass of the Centretown legions be enough to ensure it takes the prize? Or will the spirited citizens of New Edinburgh go all Braveheart on us?

As usual, you decide. Read the arguments of the two defenders and then vote at the bottom of the page. The voting will last 24 hours (until May 24 at 7:00pm), after which the winner will lay claim to being THE BEST NEIGHBOURHOOD IN OTTAWA.

Defending Centretown: Mike Fancie is a partisan government employee and former La Rotonde Arts & Culture volunteer of the year. He has been to Chez Lucien, but not Hintonburger. In the evening, he helps people plan new media campaigns. He supports the ongoing Quebec student strike. Find him on Twitter at @Fancietweets. When I first read Apt613’s call-out for neighbourhood champions, I duly noted that the editorial staff encouraged the referencing of mommas in our smack downs. Not having seen any to date, allow me to satiate their appetites.

Remember that time that your mom came to town, took the #7 bus and missed your stop by so much that she crossed the Rideau River, then called you in a worry because she had no idea where she had found herself? Something about a sketchy Metro supermarket? Yep – your mom accidentally visited New Edinburgh.New Edinburgh seems like a nice place; it really does. It is also totally nicer than Vanier, its further-down-Beechwood brother. But a Centretown it is not.

I’d like to take you on a tour down Centretown’s own Somerset Street West, away from the Golden Triangle that we know. One of the most underrated spaces in downtown Ottawa, Somerset West is now home to a number of restaurants that ball hard.

Chief among these little giants is Ceylonta, a Sri Lankan restaurant between Bank and Kent that serves as good an Ulunthu Vadaias I’ve ever tasted.

Further down the road is Jean Albert, which offers up the best Southern comfort food in the city, period. At Jean’s you can sample huge portions of fried chicken cooked in a mind-blowing array of sauces, served all the sides from candied yams to Collard greens to mac and cheese. In a stunning show of foresight, cutlery and condiments are brought to the table in a wooden basket complete with a built-in paper towel roll. The staff are beyond friendly: my first visit ended with the server asking me if I wanted to sign up for a Jean Albert paintball match (that was cruelly stolen from me by a six-week work contract in Toronto, I might add).

Just down the road, check out Dundonald Park, a green heavyweight in its own right, which is home to, among other things, Centretown Movies, an annual al fresco screening of a wide array of cinema. Fun fact: Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko lived in an apartment across Somerset Street from Dundonald Park; RCMP officers scoped out his pad from the park when his colleagues from the Soviet embassy came to snatch him.

Deeper into Centretown one can find Scone Witch nestled into a small, two-story house with a white-gabled facade that seems more at home in the Ottawa Valley than on Slater Street. Seeking it out requires patience, but it is well worth the healthy alternative to the grease-addled brunches of the Triangle. The Witch is notably close to the recently-closed Glue Pot Pub whose shuttering, along with the Sens Mile and increasingly-garish public service commuter chic, is one of the great Centretown tragedies of the past decade.

Not sold on Centretown? Here’s one last pitch: Centretown is also home to an outdoor mural that features an individual with a striking resemblance to Tommy Wiseau.

Defending New Edinburgh:Katie Marsh is an Apartment613 editor and a mercenary pen for hire. Despite having already defended the Glebe, she now sees the light and believes that New Eddie is not only the best neighbourhood in Ottawa, but the best in the WORLD.There’s a reason why Centretown empties out every night as people head to the homey little neighbourhoods they love, places like New Edinburgh. It’s because they are looking forward to being back in their corner of the world, which while flawed, offers something that the crowded downtown can’t manage.

Most nights people don’t want flashy and over priced drinks, but a place where they can simply be themselves like the New Edinbrugh pub with its truly awesome patio. Or they head to their favorite restaurant – maybe Za Za Za, maybe Farbs, maybe the Fraser Café – for a bite after being welcomed like a regular by the staff. The people of New Edinburgh know that it’s not quantity, but quality, that counts.

New Edinburgh is perhaps the part of town that best balances city life with access to the great outdoors. Near to the shops and restaurants are long stretches of beautiful park land by the river. You also don’t have to go far to get to one of the better swimming holes in Ottawa at McKay Lake.  Did I mention that Canada’s only urban sugar shack is nearby?

However the greatness of this hood, of any hood, lies in the little things that make it unique. We could (and have) go on and on about restaurants and art galleries, but at the end of the day it’s the unexpected and mostly hidden parts of a neighbourhood that really make the difference.

Take the infamous Shrine House for example, which lies just off of Beechwood in a part of Vanier close enough to New Edinburgh to count. I visited the site for the blog almost two years ago, and the experience was like stumbling across an ancient Mayan tomb. The front lawn of the house was covered in more knick-knacks then you could shake a stick at, with full display cases of nativity scenes, Christmas lights and Smurf action figurines. Even if the decor is long gone, I still remember how it announced New Edinburgh to be a place that wasn’t afraid of being a little bit different.

A landscaping scheme of such daring originality would never have passed in conformist Centretown, with its cold office towers and ubiquitous condos. Management offices and condo boards just won’t allow those little touches – a gnome statue garden, Christmas lights in the summer- that bring life and levity to street life. The downtown core which makes up most of Centretown is becoming a predictable repeat of itself. Want proof? Just count the number of Bridgeheads or Royal Oaks on Bank Street.

Sure, Centretown has the size, but New Edinburgh has the heart. Even if you don’t live here just think of your own street, your idiosyncratic neighbours and your favourite hang outs, and cast your final vote for New Edinburgh.