There’s something happening in the Glebe these days. Something new, exciting, and most importantly, fun. And that something is Thr33’s Company Snackbar. This new Ottawa hotspot, located at 589 Bank Street, officially opened its doors on July 19 but has been delighting neighbourhood residents with tasty bites and good cheer even longer.
Take a quick glance around the intimate and cozy space, and you’re sure to see at least one of the titular three who form Thr33’s management/ownership team. Industry veterans all, the trio consists of Tam Auafua, formerly general manager of El Camino on Clarence; Ian Wilson, formerly manager of the Senate Tavern; and Tyler DaSilva, formerly chef de cuisine at Sidedoor.
These three friends bring not only an industry pedigree with them, but a shared sense of life and joviality to a neighbourhood that is on the cusp of change. Couldn’t we all use a bit of fun right now?
Their enthusiasm is infectious, even as they describe some of the hurdles involved in getting their doors open during a pandemic. Having been planning their own perfect spot since the winter of 2019, they knew just what they were looking for. Amid research trips to Toronto, they scouted properties here at home before finally deciding on their Bank Street location.
“We had never stopped planning… so we moved quickly. We finally had our spot.”
“We first looked at this location in June,” says DaSilva. “It really had what we wanted. All the equipment, chairs, and tables. It was about as turnkey as we could have hoped for. But it was just slightly out of our budget.”
Their luck changed in December, when the trio got a tip that the location, formerly Indulgence Café, was back on the market, this time within their price range. “We had never stopped planning,” DaSilva continues, “so we moved quickly. We finally had our spot.”
With the lease signed at the end of February, the guys began transforming the space shortly thereafter. While repainting the stark white interior to darker, more intimate tones, they often had the front bay windows open. It didn’t take long for other Glebe businesses and residents to come by, introduce themselves, and try to get the scoop on the new restaurant.
“We were really welcomed into this neighbourhood,” says Wilson. “That’s really important to us, because we really want to be a neighbourhood restaurant. We want to be a fixture of this community, and having our windows open while we worked and planned ended up being our own guerrilla marketing.”
“Having our windows open while we worked and planned ended up being our own guerrilla marketing.”
With the blessings of their neighbours, the trio worked towards their mid-April opening date.
“I gave my notice on March 1,” says Aufua. “We pretty much all did. We expected to have maybe a week to ourselves to decompress. Then everything shut down.”
“But it gave us a chance to slow down, iron things out, and really nail down what we wanted to do and what we wanted to give people,” continues DaSilva. “If there was a silver lining, it was us realizing just how much we didn’t know and getting the time to learn.”
“All while panicking about the future,” finishes Wilson, “because we had the place and it was ready to go, but we couldn’t do anything with it.”
While many restaurants were pivoting towards take-out service, the trio were initially hesitant to make that move.
“It’s not really how we wanted people to get to know us,” says Auafua. “With established restaurants, you know what you’re getting, so any deterioration in food quality due to travel time, you can kind of accept and mentally bridge that gap, because you’ve had the real thing before. But we didn’t have that luxury.”
Still, with the space ready to go, something had to be done. DaSilva quickly started testing items that would stand up well to travel, and on June 19, Thr33’s had its first unofficial service.
“The drumsticks were a huge hit,” says DaSilva. “We sold 200 pieces that first day. After serving those as grab-and-go for a couple of weekends, we launched the Snack Packs.”
The Snack Packs, five items for $50, were another hit for the guys, giving the public a chance to sample more of what Thr33’s Company would have on offer.
“We’re all at once a pub and the anti-pub. You really have to come in and experience it.”
Shortly thereafter, the city allowed restaurants to open distanced patios where they could. “We pulled a patio together out of nothing,” recalls Wilson.
“I joked about it, called it our eight-seat Michelin-star patio,” continues DaSilva, alluding to the fact that many Michelin star restaurants have very small seating capacities.
Through the whole ordeal, the boys have stayed tight-knit and positive, meeting each new challenge head-on. “We got extremely lucky,” says DaSilva, “in that we got to take our time, and really hash out and perfect what we wanted to offer. We got to take it slow. We’ve been able to hire a few staff and we know who we are as a business. I think people are really realizing just how hard it is to open and run a restaurant, even at the best of times.”
From their gin-focused cocktail list to the eclectic, world-inspired menu of snacks and small plates, Thr33’s Company has something for everyone. “It’s great to see people using the place in different ways, trusting us to safely give them different experiences,” says Wilson. “It’s designed so you can try the whole menu and have a full dinner, or just drop in later for a snack and a drink. We’re all at once a pub and the anti-pub. You really have to come in and experience it.”
However, with news of the second wave of COVID-19 looming, will that be possible? “I think it will,” says DaSilva. “Restaurants are held to such a high standard. We’re doing everything we can to keep our guests safe, as are many other restaurants. The case spikes aren’t coming from restaurants, so I’m hopeful we’ll get to continue.”
“We’re working on a contingency plan, just in case,” continues Wilson. “A different take-out plan, maybe some delivery. At least at this point, we’ve gotten to introduce ourselves. We’re happier to roll out new take-out now that people have tried the product with us at the restaurant.”
“Being in the restaurant industry, you just kind of learn to go with the flow. You adapt because you have to. And that’s what we’ll do,” finishes Auafua.
Thr33’s Co. Snack Bar is located at 589 Bank St. They are open for indoor dining, patio dining and take out. You can order online at www.thr33sco.ca and follow them on Instagram @thr33sco.snackbar.