For as long as we have lived in Old Ottawa South, I have always been intrigued by 70A Leonard Avenue. We arrived too late to see the birth of Red Apron, who now run a highly successful ready-made food service out of a beautiful location at 564 Gladstone Ave. But we did get to see the start of Life of Pie in that same location. And as anyone in OOS will know, they too are a great success story, with two subsequent moves along Bank Street. And while I am not a vegan or a fan of raw food, it was still sad to see Herbivore at the Door close, not in the least because I loved their logo! According to HatD’s Facebook page, chef Candice Bernes has moved on to Simply Raw Express in Hintonburg.
The most recent successful kitchen-based adventure at 70A Leonard Avenue was Top Shelf Preserves. I was an immediate fan of their simple, yet incredibly delicious preserved vegetables and pickles and was happy to see that rather than close, they too outgrew the confined space. Top Shelf Preserves now operates out of a kitchen at #21-5340 Canotek Road in Gloucester. Their preserves are for sale online, as well as in a variety of stores around Ottawa, including Life of Pie and McKeen Metro in the Glebe.
Now, after this long string of food related businesses that got their start at this odd little location in our neighbourhood, a very different type of store has opened its doors.
In many ways, a pro-tennis store makes a lot more sense at 70A Leonard Avenue. Apart from the small kitchen and confined space, it must be hard for a food based business to survive in a spot that does not see a lot of foot traffic. And to a large degree, this is of course true for any business. However, with a tennis club (The OTLBC) only a stone’s throw away, Performance Tennis may have very well found the perfect location.
Gary Hawkes, a USRSA certified stringer, opened his doors a few months ago and the business focus is tennis, tennis, and tennis. Starting this small business is Gary’s third career. From ’76 until ’90 he was a Winnipeg police officer and he spent the last 26 years in the Foreign Service with Citizenship and Immigration Canada. During his foreign assignments, Gary played a lot of tennis and never lost the love for this sport.
In addition to stringing and racquet customization services, Performance Tennis also has a small showroom with new and used tennis racquets, balls, accessories, and a small selection of Wilson clothing and footwear.
And as Gary puts it himself: “I am thrilled to be able to run my tennis specialty shop in my favourite neighbourhood in the whole world.”
Check them out in person or at www.performancetennis.ca.
Although perhaps not as illustrious of a location, 435 Sunnyside Avenue has its own share of drama. As many may remember, this space was at some point called Raven’s Soup and Sandwich, until Carleton University’s lawyers sent the owners a cease & desist letter to stop using the Ravens name and logo. The shop, rebranded as Sunnysides Soup and Subs, closed its doors a few months ago.
This is where Anh Nguyen comes in. This ambitious young lover of cooking and food saw it as a sign that a small, manageable space was up for sale while he himself was becoming more and more disenchanted with life in the public service.
Anh learned the love for food and cooking in his mother’s kitchen and the family kitchens of his friends and relatives. While at the University of Ottawa, Anh competed in various cooking challenges, and won U of O’s first Iron Chef challenge. He now continues his culinary dream at his newly opened restaurant. Chez Anh focuses on Vietnamese and French fusion cooking. So in addition to classics such as pho and rice wraps, the menu also features bahn mi (a delicious Vietnamese sandwich on a French baguette) and macarons.
I had a chance to stop in on opening day (May 12th), and had a delicious lunch of a classic bahn mi and Vietnamese coffee. The space is tight and cosy, but provides place for about 16 people for sit-down lunch or dinner. The windows roll all the way up, which make it feel like you’re almost sitting on a patio, which is a nice added bonus on warm summer days. If the tables are all occupied, you can always get take-out and bring the food home or to Brewer Park.
All in all, I have to say this is a great addition to our neighbourhood, and I look forward to sampling the rest of the menu in the future.
Erik van der Torre has lived in Old Ottawa South for over 7 years. He is a member of the OSCA Board and is an active member on Hopewell Avenue PS’s Parent Council.
Originally published in the June 2017 OSCAR.