Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Made In Japan: A Leftover Experience

Back when I went to high school at Lisgar, I used to go out on Elgin every day for lunch. Many weeks, I would endure McDonald's low-budget hamburgers for four days in a row in order to reward myself with the slightly-less affordable (at least for a high school student) allegedly-Japanese food at Made In Japan: A Teriyaki Experience.
Now that I work on Elgin Street, I like to go there for lunch still. The business has changed hands a couple of times, but the food is still tasty:

It's still a bit pricier than some other fast food joints, but the take-away containers seal the deal. You see, they're the perfect leftover containers!

When I actually put effort into cooking dinner, I make enough portions that I can have leftovers the next couple of days for lunch at work. For example:

Honey-garlic chicken wings on tricolour rotini and corn niblets (all from Hartman's):

Steak (from Fitzroy Beef Farmers) with asparagus (from the Ottawa Farmer's Market when in season) on german egg noodles (from Boushey's Fruit Market) with taaaasty gravy:

Honey-garlic boneless chicken breast (sauce and raw breasts from Boushey's) with corn niblets (Hartman's), mashed potatoes and carrots (both from Herb & Spice):

Aside from being just the right size, the containers' lids are water-tight, so you can put them in your bags without worrying about the contents spilling. Here's a hearty serving of baked salmon filet (Hartman's) on a bed of calrose rice (Hartman's) and broccoli (Herb & Spice), behind the lid:

Another lunch place I like to haunt is Boushey's Fruit Market. They have a great hot lunch buffet and salad buffet. But the styrofoam containers they have are too small for a good lunch. Plus they're styrofoam and single-use. I find that these Teriyaki containers are the perfect size for lunch. Here's my lunch from one day: in addition to the permanent fixtures of fried rice and chicken stir-fry, this day there was also shrimp stir-fry with sugar snap peas, and breaded chicken stuffed with broccoli and cheese:

There's some of what Elgin Street has to offer for lunch, and how Elgin Street can help you make your own!

In other food-related news:

For those of you who live in Dalhousie and lament the loss of the Loeb grocery store, this poster beckons your attendance to a Community Grocery Store meeting at 7pm on Thursday, May 7, 2009 at the Somerset West Community Health Centre, 55 Eccles Street.

For more information on the meeting, contact or check out the poster above.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Centretown History Project - Elgin/Museum

This is the inaugural post of the Centretown History Project. You'll be able to filter CHP posts by visiting the url

The Centretown History Project helps to get in touch with the history of Centretown. We've been here for a long time, and it's fascinating to get in touch with the stories that have gotten us to where we are today.

I've started with a visit to the City of Ottawa archives at 111 Sussex to get some old photos. I've scanned them in high resolution and done my best to get a comparable shot from today.

So without further ado, here's my first post:

Here's a shot from the 1954, taken on the grounds of the Museum of Nature ( The owner of Elgin Street Motors is giving away two Studebakers to a contest winner:

Below I've cropped a shot from today and the shot above so you can do a side-by-side comparison. As always, click to view full-size.

There are a number of things to note here. All the buildings on Elgin Street are still there, but a few new buildings were added. Even the two trees in the background are still there, though the one in the foreground has been paved with a parking lot.

The Tiffany building at 150 the Driveway was under construction in the background of the '50s photo. This building was quite a feat: in addition to being a luxury apartment building, it was built on a bog, north of what was eventually to become the Queensway.

There is one building that is visible in the old photo that isn't still there. See the building at the end of Park avenue? In the '60s the City bought up the whole block, as well as the one across the Canal from it, to serve as bridge footings for a second expressway (akin to the Queensway) that would come down Elgin and meet up with the 417. Of course, that never happened, and the the block is now mostly occupied by a residential tower and some houses. Correction: The building at the end of the street was 60 McLeod, Ottawa's first condominium. This replaced the former Cartier Street Public School, built around 1906 and closed in the 1930's to merge with the Elgin Street Public School. It was then picked up by National Defense during WWII, declared surplus and sold to developers in the late 1960s.

Correction continued: The block that the City had owned for an expressway bridge footing was the block *South* of Park avenue, East of Cartier. It was eventually sold to build the Barry Hobin condo at 130 the Driveway (the red brick condo visible on Microsoft Live Maps here).

So there's a little taste of Centretown history, from an amateur historian.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Welcome Signs of Spring

Spring is coming to Centretown. There are signs of it everywhere.

For one, the patio at Bridgehead has been set up. Here's a shot of the truck delivering the chairs and tables earlier this month:

Don't worry, I'm not missing the wonderful weather today. My new laptop battery lets me enjoy the sun as I compose this post on Bridgehead's patio.

Pure Gelato has also been preparing for the nicer weather by rebuilding their front entrance:

On my way over today, I found the many benches installed on Bank Street between Laurier and Somerset. They're all very well used at all times of the day, which really livens up the street. And thankfully, they aren't those ghastly cafeteria chairs that were tested last fall.

The artistic bicycle racks promised for Bank Street haven't yet been installed, but the omnipresent blue bicycle racks were installed on Elgin this past week while I was enjoying an after-work drink at Bridgehead:

I caught a shot of the workers installing the racks and their van outside Boushey's:

The windows at the government building at 333 Laurier (department of the half-beast?) got a good cleaning by workers with very, very long poles:

Neither a sign of spring, nor a welcome sign, but a sign of the times: the Ottawa Citizen has removed many of its newspaper boxes, leaving only a few in the central core. At this rate, the multi-unit newspaper boxes may become unnecessary.

And the best sign of spring is the annual Eco-Stewardship Fair at the RA Centre. Among the many displays was one of the City of Ottawa booths advertising the green bins that are coming in 2010. They were giving out paper leaf-and-yard-waste bags advertising this announcement. A sample green bin was on hand, which was the first time I got an inkling of how big these things will be (the answer: not very):

The company building the processing facilities for this organic waste also had a booth. Apparently they're starting out with the capacity for 200,000 tons of material per year from the City of Ottawa, but will eventually grow their operations to accommodate 200,000 tons. Private companies, like condo buildings and restaurants, will also be able to dispose of their waste there. The facility will be funded by a combination of dumping fees and sales of the processed material to farmers.

If you ask me, 2010 isn't soon enough to start diverting this stuff from landfills!

Happy spring!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Down, Down, Down

There's been a burst of demolitions in Centretown lately. Some are more promising than others.

Tommy & Lefebre Fire

As mentioned in the previous post, Tommy & Lefebvre's flagship store suffered a fire last week. The North extension of the building, the part which was most damaged, was taken down. T&L have opened up a temporary location in the Glebe, in the former home of the Olympic Sport Shop, more recently known as Le Pannier.

The firewall between the sections of the building kept this fire from destroying the whole block. It's singed, but intact.

The more southerly part of the building is somewhat intact, though it's boarded up. It'll definitely need some renovations before reopening. But do you see what the demolition has revealed?

On the side of the wall are some old advertisements painted onto the brick. There are two of them: the black one that seems to read "[AU]CTION ROOMS", and it is partly painted over by a red advert for auto accessories.

This is really fascinating, because the wall tells its own history. The black ad was painted, then a building was put up next door, partially covering the black ad (you can clearly see the outline of the building, including where it juts out a bit at the top edge). Then the red ad was painted. And, probably when the T&L building was constructed, the front part of the building was sliced off, taking part of the red ad with it, and the new facade installed in its place. I guess Bank Street was widened around this time.

Congress Centre

The 20-year-old Congress Centre continues to be slowly eaten away by yellow gremlins. Here's how it looked last October:

Demolition began in the late fall and by March the front had been removed and most of the insides gutted:

By last week, they had gotten further, and the roof was coming off as well.

You can see some of the new condo buildings in the Market and Lowertown in the background, and the skate chalet in the foreground. Right at the very bottom, you can see some work the NCC is doing on the part alongside the canal. It looks like they're extending the pathway along this section. A lot of activity in one view!

150 Slater: O'Connor Smoke Shop/Café Deluxe

The quaint building containing the O'Connor Smoke Shop and Café Deluxe were demolished this past weekend. Here's a shot of the building while still in use:

And after it was vacated:

The machines made quick work of it, as they will do on the other buildings on the site, as they make way for the new 19-storey EDC building. I believe a couple buildings on Laurier were also taken down. Unfortunately, I didn't get before shots of those.

The parking lot, by the way, is closed.

Mekong Grocery:

I thought I had a shot of the former Mekong Grocery from when it was still boarded up, but I can't find any. The closest I have is a shot of it through the rubble at the Booth & Somerset building from Augsut 2007:

The reason I bring it up is that it was demolished recently. The site owners don't seem very keen on removing the rubble:

There's an old Japanese proverb, "Fall seven times, stand up eight."

In that line of thought, each of these demolition sites has a different story. The T&L owners vow to rebuild on the site where their building was taken by fire. The former Mekong site, however, looks like it will be a vacant lot for the foreseeable future (as will the Booth and Somerset building). The Congress Centre replaces one of the newest of all the buildings (though also the ugliest) with something bigger for Ottawa's business community to play in. And the O'Connor Smoke Shop, while a building of quite character and history, will allow in its passing a better use of a large lot in the central business district.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tommy & Lefebvre fire

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the Tommy & Lefebvre store at 464 Bank Street suffered a terrible fire. The location was the flagship store for the family-owned company established in 1958. Luckily, no one was hurt.

Here's a shot of the store from last fall:

Marc Racine a pris un video de l'incendie, qu'il a mis sur YouTube:

By Tuesday afternoon, all that was left was the charred shell of the building. But the sun still glistens off the trim and the building stands tall and proud, just like the owners who vow to rebuild.

Parts of the roof have collapsed, and the windows were all broken in. The building spans nearly a whole block.

The Southbound lanes were closed to traffic, with the Northbound lanes left open to minimize congestion. T&L Vice-President Natalie Tommy chats with some onlookers as police and fire vehicles populate the background:

The Vietnamese Kitchen next door as well as the adjoining apartments escaped serious damage, but they'll still be closed for a while due to the smoke damage. The fire marshall, climbing on the roof of the building, will determine when it's safe to return.

The rarely-used back doors of the building were open, and the glass tubes of the familiar neon lights were broken. A golf bag is on the sidewalk in front of the empty window displays.

The signs on the outside are just slightly singed by fire, but they belie the $2 million in estimated damages inside.

Along the side of the building, you can clearly see the marks left by the ferocious flames we saw in the video, as an engineer enters the building to inspect the damage.

Two workers from the City's signage department install signs permitting two-way traffic on McLeod from Kent to Bank, so that people can still access their houses on the other side of the blocked street. (This will also be useful in the upcoming construction on Bank Street this summer)

Centretown has had a few fires in the last little while: the two arsons in the building at Bank and Somerset, Aimee's Convenience store, among others. The site at Florence and Bank remains vacant since the fire at 2003, though I distinctly recall Galaxy Camera announcing their flagship store to be constructed there.

As for T&L, they'll rebuild. They're tough. They'll get through this.