Hundreds of well-dressed food and music lovers walked the red carpet in downtown Ottawa on Thursday night before they noshed on exotic tacos, Asian dumplings, mini burgers, gargantuan doughnuts and more, all to the thumping beat of a hard-grooving live band.
But as unique as the scene was at the VIP launch party for Queen St. Fare, it was just a taste of what’s to come at the unprecedented hybrid space that combines a half-dozen food vendors, a cocktail bar and a bandstand.
The so-called “food hall,” which takes its inspiration from high-end multi-vendor spaces in New York and other cities, is a 9,000-square-foot space in the Sun Life Financial Centre on Queen Street, where Hy’s Steakhouse had been until it closed in 2015.
It has a capacity for almost 400 people in its roughly rectangular space, and is to be open seven days a week, catering to downtown workers with morning coffee and lunch, but also hoping to keep or lure people downtown for dinner and weekend brunches, often with live music as an added attraction.
“It’s going to change the way downtown works,” said Sean O’Sullivan, vice-president and general manager for Bentall Kennedy, which manages the building.
The project’s tenants include the established Ottawa food businesses Fiazza Fresh Fired, which speed-bakes pizzas, licensed hipster coffee shop Bar Robo, Vietnamese eatery Sen Kitchen, and health-conscious food counter Green Rebel. Newcomer businesses include Capitol Burger, a burger counter with a retro feel, Mexican street food purveyor Mercadito and Q Bar, a cocktail lounge next to the bandstand at the food hall’s east end.
Lending his star power to the project is Ottawa celebrity chef Rene Rodriguez, who won the 2014 edition of Top Chef Canada, the Food Network Canada TV show. Rodriguez, the chef at Mercadito and a yet-to-open French restaurant on Elgin Street, was doling out pork cheek tacos, brightly flavoured cauliflower “ceviche” and more on Thursday night.
Asked what he thought of the food hall, Rodriguez said, “I love the concept.” He said he expects Queen St. Fare to flourish at lunch time and dinner, and he noted its prime location steps away from the yet-to-open LRT Parliament station.
The food hall opens to the public Friday at 6 a.m., with Bar Robo doling out coffee. As on other weekdays, the other businesses will open at 10:30 a.m. and closing time for the food hall will be 10 p.m.
On Saturdays and Sundays, the food hall will open for brunch at 10 a.m., and live music will be part of the mix until 2 p.m. It is be open until late on Saturdays and closes at 6 p.m. on Sundays.
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