Tag Archives: Sandy Hill

Ayoub’s (or all is good again in Sandy Hill)

Almost 5 years ago we moved to Ottawa. I came about 8 weeks ahead of my good man to find housing and get us settled.

After a brief search and viewing only 3 apartments, I quickly chose a great space in Sandy Hill. I moved myself in with the kitchen table and a futon that posed as a bed until my furniture arrived 2 weeks later.

Within walking distance to my downtown office, the Byward Market and Rideau Centre, I thought I was in the perfect place. I came to discover so many more wonderful things about living here, including great neighbours, a pub we fell in love with, and Ayoub’s.

Ayoub’s seemed to be the heart and soul of the neighbourhood. A busy family market that sold fresh fruits and vegetables along with organic product, a deli counter and items made in their little catering kitchen at the back of the store. The best hummus, zatar and tabouleh to be found but what stole my heart, and sold me the instant I saw it was my absolute favourite yogurt (yes it was that simple)!

The first time I visited Ayoub’s I ended up with about $60 worth of groceries and much to my dismay realized I left my wallet at home. The first thing they did was try to send me away with my groceries and my promise to return and pay. I was stunned, could not believe they were saying that to me, they didn’t even know me. I had lived in the neighbourhood for less than a week. I took the groceries, went home and returned to pay right away. I have been a devoted Ayoub’s fan ever since.

One morning in our second year here, I was walking to catch the bus and saw plumes of smoke coming from Somerset East. When I reached the corner my heart literally sank, Ayoub’s was on fire and it looked really bad. It was bad. Our lovely neighbourhood was heart-broken and a wonderful family was devastated and had lost their business. I can’t imagine what the last 3 year’s has been like for them.

Let’s fast track. 3 long years later and with much anticipation the southwest corner of Somerset East and Blackburn is alive and thriving once again. Ayoub’s is now open (a little celebration last Sunday was just what we all needed) and all is good again in Sandy Hill. Welcome back good people, it’s wonderful to see your beautiful smiling faces once again. xoxo

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The Giggling Jerks

I knew I would eventually get to The Giggling Jerks a new Caribbean style restaurant in my neighborhood opened by brothers Devin and Dylan MacLeod. I was excited about the upcoming Food Network Show, “The Opener” with David Adjey that documents their early days (Adjey=secret crush). I knew I absolutely had to go when I heard they were having difficulty on their street with neighbours petitioning against them having their liquor license between 11am and 5pm (the brothers have requested a license to run between 11am and 11pm). I live in this neighbourhood too, not on their street, but on a street with a corner pub so I think I have a bit of insight. I also think I am within my rights in voicing my concern about restaurant owner’s who feel they are getting pushed out. A recent Ottawa Citizen article explains it well.

Don’t get me wrong I am all about safe neighbourhoods, but I also think that trying to get this stopped is hindering someone’s livelihood and doubting their ability to be responsible to their liquor license privilege before we even get a chance to get to know them. Sandy Hill has a big void when it comes to really great eating establishments, there are only a few, and we are missing out when other neighbourhoods like New Edinburgh, Hintonburg and Westboro are thriving in that department. Good eating establishments add value to neighbourhoods, they normally contribute to the community they are in (Giggling Jerks have already done this in their few short months), they bring people from other neighbourhoods in which allows us to showcase our neighbourhood, and contrary to popular belief they add value to properties (hello have you watched HGTV?).

I am not even going to talk about the students, there is no relation to students here. The students will continue to make loud noise and exist, because we live in the same neighbourhood as a major Canadian university, and please to those of you who do, stop calling it the student ghetto, this area is abundant with families, couples and singles not attending school. ‘Nuff said.

So on to the good stuff. This is a colourful, vibrant space with lots of good music. Let me tell you what I know so far about the food at The Giggling Jerks, it’s good, not just good enough, but really good. I ordered the Cod Fish Fritters with Homemade Mango Chutney and the Jerk Chicken Quesadilla.

The fritters came piping hot with a dark, crispy outer coat (apparently one of Adjey’s ideas… blush). Inside was moist and tender, not at all fishy but just the perfect amount seasoned nicely. The homemade mango chutney was lovely, sweet and full of flavour, it reminded me of biting into a fresh mango. I brought the rest home for toast in the morning.

The quesadilla were nicely grilled, loaded with lots of tender white chicken breast painted in the Giggling Jerks own barbecue sauce, laden with fresh peppers. The homemade salsa was fresh, fresh, fresh and packing some heat!

Other menu items included Coconut Spiked Seafood Ceviche, Island Style Pepperpot Soup, Jerk Chicken and Pork Tenderloin. They also serve all day breakfast.

Devin MacLeod is a nice guy. He is a good neighbour who chose Sandy Hill because it represented to him a similar neighbourhood he once lived in and all the good memories that go with that. He is also an Ottawa boy who grew up in the south and west end. Lets applaud him for having enough wisdom and insight for bringing something fresh to his hometown and providing employment and pleasure for the folks who live here.

The Giggling Jerks
332 Wilbrod St.
Ottawa, ON
613-695-5375

Lounge Lizards

After a busy day, involved in a neighbourhood garage sale and realizing the work the house needed after lugging things in and out, we decided cooking supper was not an option. We cleaned ourselves up and walked over to Sandy Hill Lounge and Grill at 321 Somerset St. East

A delightful surprise, Sandy Hill replaces the former Drumlins Irish Pub. While we did visit Drumlins several times, we sensed on one of our last visits that Drumlins days were numbered.

A fresh coat of paint, beautiful hardwood floors, and lovely black and white photos of local history, have definitely done wonders for the place. A new supper menu and a fabulous weekend brunch menu have taken the place of all-you- can-eat wings nights. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a neighbourhood gathering place, but with a different spin.

We were ravenous after drinking coffee all day outdoors. I started with a large Keith’s Red and Adrian wimped out with a diet coke. We decided on apps and chose the Sausage and Chicken Gumbo (which was recommended by another site), it was the perfect choice and while a little on the salty side, the thick, creamy base was delicious, sausage with a bit of a bite and tender pieces of chicken with rice reminded me of a similar gumbo I had in New Orleans in March. While it seemed like a simple dish, it was full of surprisingly complex flavours. This hearty meal in a bowl would definitely be enough for lunch (and possibly dinner if you weren’t starving), a generous serving.

For my main I chose the Beef Stew with Spicy Cornmeal Bread. The stew reminded me of Mom’s, real comfort food full of flavour, tender beef, carrots and potatoes, no surprises, but just what I was looking for. The cornbread turned out to be a little gastronomic masterpiece-the size of an extra large muffin (or small loaf), filled with bits of hot peppers and my fave, cilantro. It was melt in your mouth delish, but I couldn’t eat it all and handed half over to Adrian-served with butter (but not necessary). I tried to get the recipe out of the chef-but much to my dismay he refused. I was glad to know it was his recipe, and I also want him to know, I have not given up yet. Adrian chose the Meat Lovers Pizza, full of chicken, sausage, and beef on a light, crispy dough, it was good, really good-I hope they keep pizza on the menu.

We had a great wait staff who was attentive, but not overly, she was excited about working in the new space and it shone through in her service.

One really great, new thing is that you don’t have to order a large draft, they come in 10 once size as well.

So do I recommend Sandy Hill Lounge and Grill? Absolutely, I love supporting neighborhood restaurants and pubs. I want this place to be hopping every night-so drop by and if you don’t live in Sandy Hill, it wouldn’t hurt you to come downtown to try it out, what about next Sunday for brunch?

Casa Mia

Who knew? Who knew in this wonderful little neighborhood of Sandy Hill there was such a hidden gem? Casa Mia on Somerset serves up some of the finest Italian outside of Preston Street in the city. On recommendation from one of our neighbours we made a Friday night reservation with weekend guests, and we were not disappointed.

The atmosphere is warm and cozy. The walls painted in a rich cocoa, beautiful artwork and nice music set the mood. Jason the owner is attentive and extremely accommodating. We never felt rushed.

We ordered an Italian red and were served bread and oil to dip. I started with the Calamari, aside from a little too much grease it was wonderful, delicate in a light batter served with fresh lemon and seafood sauce. Others opted for house salad and bruschetta, pleased all round.

For my main I tried the Pollo Principessa a large chicken breast topped with fresh asparagus, cheese and a lemon cream sauce, served with a side of pasta. The chicken was moist and tender and the lemon cream sauce was lovely, really creamy and smooth with just a hint of lemon. I had to share (which you know I am so fond of) but got to try, Camberoni Alla Marinara, a wonderful pasta with jumbo shrimps, tomato, garlic and white wine and the standard spaghetti and meatballs. We could not leave without a cappuccino and of course the traditional tiramisu. One of our guests who had most recently resided in both Florence and Venice thought the food was quite comparable.

Finally a visit to chef  Joe in his kitchen to say hello and thank you.

I would recommend reservations in a space this small, I expect the clientele will only get larger…..

Dinner for 5, with wine and tip $205.00

Casa Mia Italian Restaurant, 287 Somerset St. East, Ottawa

613-321-3606 www.casamiaottawa.com