local news

Small-town feel, Big-time taste in Ottawa’s westboro

It’s a miracle an old diner and ice cream parlour transformed into a trendy and picturesque dining room, bar, patio, and one of Westboro’s most popular eateries.

Brenda Freije and coworkers from previous Mexican restaurants opened Milagro Grill in March 2006, to offer a unique atmosphere and dishes not found elsewhere in the area.

“Westboro was ideal. We’ve been trying to get in here for a very long time and finally found a perfect spot,” says general manager Freije.

The name “Milagro” – “miracle” in Spanish, just seemed to fit.

The 100-year-old hardwood floors, Latin decor and dimly-lit lanterns hanging above each table illuminating the exotic flavours on plates make the space reminiscent of a quaint Mexican café.

Located in the heart of Ottawa’s Westboro Village between Churchill and Roosevelt Avenue, Milagro’s motto is “Mexican with attitude” – but the friendly service and staff on-hand are anything but.

Maybe that’s what keeps their regulars coming back. Or, it could be Milagro’s extensive and original menu, that features South American, Latin and Mexican flavours.

Whether it be the restaurant’s distinctive Kronenbourg or Tuborg beers, famous classic margaritas, or anything from the Milagro salad to the Brazilian Shrimp Stew, Milagro has something for everyone. Sports fans can sit at the bar on one half the restaurant, families can enjoy one of the many booths, and candlelit corner tables are perfect for dates.

Freije says sandwiches at lunchtime are very popular, as it’s a go-to spot for local businesspeople. Their specials, she says, are also a big draw.

“Our Brazilian chef, Lino, is always putting great specials together,” she says.

Others opt for my personal favourite: the never-disappointing Milagro Special – three enchiladas of beef, chicken, or cheese (or a combination), with beans, guacamole and salad.

“That’s the nicest if you want to try a bit of everything,” Freije says.

When the warm weather finally hits, two large garage doors will open up onto bustling Richmond Road for extra patio dining, adding to the 78 seats they have available.

During Westfest, Westboro’s annual outdoor weekend art and music festival, Milagro will join plenty of other vendors and open up their service onto closed-down Richmond Road. From June 10-12, Freije says they will turn down their menu in order to accommodate the orders, and have seating available for 65 on their extended patio.

So what’s next for the owners of Westboro’s little miracle? Trying to pull off another – right across the street.

“Churchill’s” will be opening in a couple of weeks, offering pub fare in a relaxed setting. Freije says they, too, are hoping to open up the patio onto the road for Westfest.

So if you’re strolling the street for a great meal with an inviting atmosphere and authentic Latin flare, you can’t miss the aromatic flavours coming from Milagro’s kitchen – or the colourful mural on its exterior.

DAVIDsTEA opens store in owner’s hometown

Treading over dirt and debris from the construction site that is Churchill Avenue just north of the Richmond Road intersection, it comes as a surprise that an immaculate new urban store lies just a few steps away.

A pristine white sign reading “David’s Tea” hangs above the floor-length opened windows inviting passers-by into the freshly-painted turquoise shop on a crisp fall weekend afternoon. The aroma of cinnamon and walnut spills out into the sidewalk, allowing cyclists and walkers to experience, if just for a moment, a world infused with flavour, energy, and a passion for tea.

For me, it was much more than a mere moment.

With 125 types of original tea and a story behind each one, it was also a learning experience.

From the watermelon, lemon cream pie, banana nut bread, Egyptian chamomile and pumpkin chai flavours, the store provides a fresh alternative to the two Bridgeheads and Starbucks on the same street.

David’s Tea’s 31st store came to the founder’s hometown of Westboro last Friday.

“We thought it would work really well here with the mixed-age range and heavy foot traffic,” says Lyla, a sales associate.

David Segal started the gourmet chain in Montreal of 2008, after his search for a good, premium cup of tea came unfruitful.

The Westboro crowd has steadily wandered in and out of the store since its opening, browsing the teapot, mug, and gift selection and sampling the strawberry rhubarb crumble tea-of-the-day before buying a cup for $2.63.

“We wanted to put something fun and creative in the town, and knew across from Lululemon would be a good fit,” says Lyla.

 

Apparent Success for American Apparel

The American clothing manufacturer known for its risqué advertising techniques and casual, hipster trends, flooded newsstands recently as concerns over American Apparel’s rising debt grew.

One of two stores in Ottawa, the outlet at the corner of Richmond Road and Winston Avenue in Westboro is showing no sign of slowing down, says manager Jennifer Tran.

“We’ve been here for almost three years now, and it’s business as usual,” she says.

Last week, the New York Stock Exchange gave the company until Monday, Nov. 15 to file financial data due in June 2010. Failing to file it will put the retailer at risk of being delisted from the Exchange, according to BusinessWeek.com.shirts

American Apparel also reported a preliminary second-quarter loss, says the site, meaning a sign of potential bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, Westboro’s store still attracts the same teenage customers on their walk home from local high schools.

“The traffic depends on the weather,” says Tran. “ The summer is best, but also anytime after 3 p.m.”

Business student and customer Aaron Lindgren says the unique style of the brand will make him continue to shop there for as long as they’re around.

“It’s very fashion-forward merchandise, and they’ve shown consumers it’s possible to be chic and still comfortable,” Lindgren says. “I have full faith the CEO will do what is needed to keep this controversial but iconic brand alive.”

Check out more inside the store.

Hilson helps homeless this Hallows’ Eve

Westboro elementary students start “Halloween for Hunger” campaign

Instead of asking for chocolate bars, jujubes, or gumdrops this Halloween, students in Grades 4 to 6 from Hilson Avenue Public School will be filling their bags with non-perishable food items after saying “trick-or-treat.”

For the first time ever, the Westboro school is adopting Free the Children’s Halloween charity campaign, which gets youth to partake in reducing hunger, homelessness, and poverty in their neighbourhood on a popular holiday.

“Were hoping students can show they can give up their candy for an evening, and give back to other kids whose families rely on food banks,” says Michael Patriquin, a Grade 5 teacher at Hilson, and the campaign’s publicity coordinator.

All food collected from “Halloween for Hunger” will be given to theWestboro Region Food Bank – an agency of the Ottawa Food Bank – which provides food for families in need living in the region bounded by the Ottawa River, Island Park Drive, Dovercourt Avenue and Broadview Avenue.

Halloween for Hunger sign in the school

Teacher organizers Raquel Alves and Laura Charlton showed students a slideshow about how hunger and homelessness impact families, and gathered a group of them to encourage their classmates to get involved in the activity.

Ten students agreed to collect cans this October 31, with the rest of the student body and staff involved in the food drive.

“Students at this school are well-off enough to give back and do something positive for other kids on a rather selfish holiday,” says Patriquin.

The group hopes to raise 500 canned or boxed goods – equal to two items per student.

The Ottawa Food Bank says 40 per cent of the 43,000 residents they help every month are children.

“It’s very important that youth get involved in the fight against hunger,” says Chris Cline, Communications & Education Coordinator at the Ottawa Food Bank.

A lot of the Food Bank’s volunteers are students, who help sort and distribute the food, but most importantly, gather it, says Cline.

“Collecting is definitely a big part of the help, especially around the Halloween season,” he says.

Katherine Hobbs, a candidate for city council in the Kitchissippi ward, and former global educator on sustainable development, says this is a perfect opportunity for youth to take part in their neighbourhood.

“Some kids are so responsive and caring about what goes on in the world and in their immediate communities, it’s quite amazing,” she says.

Free the Children began the annual campaign in 2000, and last year saw 217,713 pounds of food donated to local food banks. It is done throughout North America with schools, community groups and local organizations.

Patriquin says the initiative will benefit families all around the area of the school, located at Hilson Avenue and Richmond Road.Hilson Avenue Public School decided to start the program after Free the Children broadened the campaign’s marketing.

While Westboro may not be the first place you think of when it comes to homelessness and hunger, as Patriquin explains, the campaign has students learn the value of reaching out to others that may be less fortunate.

Homelessness and hunger in Ottawa is spread across the region, and there isn’t one specific area that requires the Food Bank’s help the most, says Cline.

“Most of the people in the Kitchissippi area do have a place to live, but there is a certain amount of homelessness,” says Hobbs.

This is a phenomenon local students are working to alleviate.

“Involvement is really critical, and it teaches youth how to be proper global citizens and care about what’s going on around them,” says Hobbs.

If it’s a success, Patriquin says they will continue the campaign next year and for Halloweens to come.

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6 thoughts on “local news

  1. Jonathan says:

    Steph, what an incredibly well-written and interesting piece about The Neighbourhood! I am truely impressed, Westboro is privaledged to have such a talented individual writing about its’ qualities.

    Keep up the great work!
    -Jon

  2. Nancy Robertson says:

    Enjoyed reading all about the Westboro area as I have just moved here and loving it so much, want to explore more around here and get to know more businesses and find out more things that I can join for the future. I have a Interior Design business and have had for many years and need to get the word out there about the business.

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