Category Archives: Dining

Everything Old is New Again – The Root Cellar Organic Café

The restaurant industry is one of the most competitive markets out there. Several elements are needed in order for a restaurant to be successful: an enticing menu, outstanding customer service and a welcoming dining atmosphere. Since its inception in July of 2012 as a 19 seat cafe, the Root Cellar Organic Café has certainly offered all of this and more, but recently they unveiled a stunning expansion of their space that has made the dining atmosphere that much more welcoming and in a word: incredible.

Recycled, upcycled and innovatively designed are apt descriptors of the elements you will see when you walk into the new space at 623 Dundas Street East. Everywhere you look you will notice something old that has become new again. From bike frames welded to a counter at the front window to bicycle rims acting as a hanging cup rack. From rebar that has been welded into gorgeous and unique light fixtures on the ceiling, to sheet metal that has been bent and fused into a stunning line of flowers, or a handrail that now holds menu boards. The décor is intriguing and beautiful to say the least.

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Many of the upcycled items were uncovered in the renovation process while others, such as the handrail that now holds the menus and an old yellow counter section, have been recycled from buildings at the Western Fairgrounds that were recently demolished. This space is a feast for your eyes and soul, and it’s easy to feel quite satisfied before you even set eyes on the menu which has an offering for every appetite and every diet. From vegan entrees to water buffalo burgers, local and organic are the two most important words to keep in mind as you peruse the delectable bill of fare.

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With a focus on “from-scratch” seasonal menus, in house artisan baked goods made from local and organic grains, supporting small local farmers is important to the Root Cellar. The concept for the restaurant grew out of a desire to create a relationship between local organic producers and food consumers. To this effect, they began to source local and organically produced items in an attempt to create as small a food chain as possible. All items on their menu are organic (with very few exceptions), and 80% of the food they use on their menu is local. To achieve this they frequent farmers who use season extension techniques such as hoop houses, allowing certain vegetables to be grown during the winter months.

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But the food, décor and incredibly welcoming staff aren’t the only enticements for customers at the Root Cellar. Their walls house a six week rotating art display featuring local London artists. The current display is a collage of local miscellany featuring 30 different artists. The Root Cellar doesn’t collect a commission on anything sold putting all the profits into the pockets of the artists. I was told a story about one of the artists whose actions reflect the values of the Root Cellar, and I would say of the Old East Village as well. Upon selling one of his pieces of art and knowing they weren’t taking a commission, the artist asked who he could make a donation to on behalf of the restaurant. They chose the Unity Project located just up the road from the Root Cellar.

Root Cellar 059Community focused. Local. Sustainable. Responsible. These are words I would easily use to describe the Root Cellar, and the neighbourhood in which it opens its doors to every day: The Old East Village. They are such a good fit for each other that at times I find it hard to believe the Root Cellar only opened its doors two years ago. It has become such a staple of the OEV that it feels like it has been part of the streetscape forever. And if the renovations and future plans for the restaurant are any indication, they don’t plan on leaving any time soon either. With an extended menu that now includes dinner and longer hours from Thursday to Saturday, a new chef, Dani Murphy, who is described as “amazing” by General Manager Ellie Cook, the Root Cellar has said “We are here to stay!”

Root Cellar 053And if that wasn’t enough, there are even more exciting developments in the works for the Root Cellar Organic Café. Soon their old, tiny kitchen will become London’s first co-operatively owned nanobrewery: a very small brewery operation that is defined by a brew system less than 4 US beer barrels. It will be the first worker owned brewery of its kind in Canada and will offer the beer on tap in the Root Cellar, and perhaps in a growler size that you will be able to take home later in the game.

Oh, and about that sign! Whenever I mention the amazing Root Cellar to friends and neighbours they comment on the sign that hangs above the old entry. “When are they going to get a new sign??” everyone questions, so I asked Ellie – who was the sign’s creator, in case you didn’t know.

“SOON!” she assures me, though she says it with slight hesitation. Asrootcellar the sign is being done by the same folks at Reclaimed Innovations who did the new space makeover, it might take them a little time to recover from the hard work they put into the Root Cellar space before the sign is completed. For now, look for the modest yellow hand painted sign that still adorns the front of the building. You can’t miss it and I promise you, the food will still taste just as good.

Drop in to see the folks at the Root Cellar today, and tell your friends about it tomorrow. This is truly a business to get behind in London, Ontario. With breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, and a mandate for local, sustainable and responsible partnerships, you can’t go wrong with the Root Cellar Organic Café.

Bon appétit!


Coffee Talk: Asmara Caffee

There is a rising coffee culture in London, Ontario, with roasteries and cafes popping up all around the city. So much so that a local news outlet recently did a story on the upsurge. However, the story neglected to mention the coffee shops around the Old East Village, and one in particular that I’ve discovered is absolutely worthy of  mention: The Asmara Caffee at 809 Dundas Street East.

Situated in the Towne Square building right next to Geri Fashions, the Asmara Caffee is one of London’s best kept secrets, and I think it’s well past time to let this cat out of the bag. Taking over where the Panafrique Cafe left off, the Asmara has held this space since August of 2012.

Click on the menu to enlarge it.
Click on the menu to see it larger.

Featuring free WiFi, all day breakfast, gluten free food options, fresh baked pastries and a full lunch and dinner menu, the Asmara Caffee has much to offer behind its doors.


But the pièce de résistance at the Asmara  is their deliciously bold,  in-house roasted fresh, free-trade organic coffee. Some might feel that  “a cup of coffee is a cup of coffee”, but to coffee lovers that is completely untrue. A cup of coffee may be just that for some, but a good cup of coffee is an experience. And if you are a true coffee lover, the Asmara roast is a cup you must try.

Misgna came to Canada from his home of Eritrea, a country on the Horn of Africa, 25 years ago. He studied civil engineering at Fanshawe College, has worked for London Health Sciences and is a great supporter of the community. The latter is very likely due to the sense of community that comes out of the culture of Eritrea, and more importantly the culture that exists around coffee.

Over second and third cups flow matters of high finance, high state, common gossip and low comedy. [Coffee] is a social binder, a warmer of tongues, a soberer of minds, a stimulant of wit, a foiler of sleep if you want it so. From roadside mugs to the classic demi-tasse, it is the perfect democrat. ~Author Unknown

Asmara – the cafe’s namesake – is the capital city and largest settlement in Eritrea, bordered by Sudan to the west, Ethiopia to the south, and Djibouti to the east.  It is home to approximately 650,000 people and sits over 2,300 feet above sea level. Typically known as an Italian built colonial city, the history of Asmara reaches back to dates between 800 and 400 BC.

And as any coffee lover knows, BC really stands for “before coffee”.

Coffee plays an important role in the culture of Eritrea, with coffee ceremonies being held regularly to bring friends, relatives and neighbours together in friendship and conversation. Coffee in Eritrea is a staple of every day life and is one of the most recognizable parts of their culture.

It begins by roasting the green coffee beans. Once the beans are roasted, each participant in the ceremony has the opportunity to sample the aromatic smoke with a waft of their hand. The beans are then ground and put into a ceremonial pot to be brewed. This pot called a “jabena” is usually made of pottery with a spherical base, long neck and pouring spout. It is then poured into small cups for each guest by the host, and great care is taken to  make sure that the coffee grounds don’t make it into the brew.

As each cup is taken, another cup is filled and each guest must have 3 cups in the duration of the ceremony. Each cup has a name – the first cup is called awel, the second kale’l and the third, bereka which means “to be blessed”. A guest cannot leave after the first cup and must stay for all three to complete the ceremony. This allows time for the sharing of stories, information and general conversation. The coffee is usually accompanied by a snack of some sort, often a sweet Himbasha bread (a slice of which Misgna fed to me on our recent visit and I can only describe with one word – YUM!)

Misgna talked to me about holding a coffee ceremony at the Asmara Caffee in the future. Perhaps on a Saturday when his coffee is roasting and passersby and guests can smell the beautiful aromatics of the beans being readied to drink. I told him I think he has a fabulous idea, and would love to see the community help me in encouraging him to treat us to this special cultural ceremony.

Asmara-page-001But first, stop in the Asmara and give the coffee a try. Take a seat by the “hut” Misgna has created in the front window and think about the story of the coffee ceremony I have told to you. Take some time to enjoy the bold taste of the coffee, the sweet ambiance and flavour of the cafe, and the genuine warmth of the host, Misgna.

And be sure to return to the cafe with your friends and family to enjoy it again. Because understanding tradition and culture within our community is important, and supporting local matters.


Shop Local For Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 11th. Are you stumped on what to get your mom? Nothing says I love you like shopping local! Here are a few ideas of gifts you can find right here in the OEV.  But you better hurry! Time is running out.

Tickets for an upcoming show at the Palace Theatre:

Queen Milli of Galt – Opens May 16th (preview May 15th)

In 1972, the Duke of Windsor (Edward VIII) dies. Two weeks later an 80 year-old woman in Galt, Ontario has her tombstone engraved, claiming to be his wife. Flashback to 1919 when Edward, visiting Canada, slips away from his official duties and begins a romance with a charming young woman.

Ten Chimneys – Opens June 20th (preview June 19th)

Summer, 1938. Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, the two most revered stars of the Broadway stage, have decided to perform Anton Chekhov’s The Sea Gull. But first they must retreat to “investigate” the play at Ten Chimneys, their sprawling Wisconsin estate, surrounded by actors, family and hangers-on. When a young actress named Uta Hagen arrives, a romantic triangle begins to mirror the events in Chekhov’s play about passion and art. The result is a funny, poignant and revealing look at private lives that never really leave the stage.

Tickets: Adults $22,  Seniors $18,  Students $16, Children $10


Tickets for an upcoming show at the Aeolian Hall:

Valdy and Nadina – May 21st, 2014

The singer-songwriter will appear with celebrated solo bassoonist and frequent collaborator, Nadina Mackie Jackson, whom he describes as an “incomparable” player.Valdy and Jackson have recently played eclectic programs with orchestras, including the recent “Valdy to Vivaldi” concert with the Rose Orchestra in Brampton, Ontario – “a tapestry of baroque and folk.”Best known for his anthemic 1972 hit “Play Me a Rock ‘n’ Roll Song,” Valdy has deep roots in London. He was a member of the London Town Criers folk group during the 1960s and a perennial favourite at the Home County Music and Art Festival.

$25 (advance) / $30 (door)

Emilie-Claire Barlow – May 23, 2014

Dubbed “Canada’s incomparable vocal-jazz jewel,” Emilie-Claire Barlow has thrilled fans from Tokyo to London (Ontario) with her exquisite recordings and effervescent live performances in the company of la crème de la crème of Toronto-area musicians.

Wherever she appears, Emilie-Claire endears herself to critics, peers and audiences alike with her polished yet relaxed demeanor, her charming humor, and a voice of unforgettable beauty.Born in Toronto to parents who were both professional musicians, Emilie-Claire was encouraged to sing and study several instruments, including piano, cello, clarinet and violin. Emilie-Claire names Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder amongst her greatest musical influences.

$30 (advance) / $35 (door)

Matthew Barber – June 5th, 2014

Matthew Barber, JUNO Award-nominated singer-songwriter, returns with his 8th album Big Romance produced by Gary Louris of The Jayhawks. Big Romance features guest appearances by Matthew’s sister Jill Barber, Michelle McAdorey, and his backing band Dean Stone (Sarah Harmer) and Julian Brown (Feist).

Big Romance can equally be understood as a varied collection of songs that, while broadly indebted to the tradition of what happened when folk music got a backbeat and rock rolled out of the sock-hop and into the concert halls, also represent the latest layer in a singular sound that Barber has been refining over 7 full-length albums.  If you really want to break it down, this record has soul-searching ballads, foot-stomping rockers, some groovy mid-tempo tunes and hooks-a-plenty.

$20 (advance) / $25 (door)

For a full list of upcoming shows at Aeolian Hall, go to: or visit the box office at 795 Dundas St.


Contact a local artisan for a unique gift, just for mom.

Vibe Jewellery – 826 Dufferin Ave.
Custom jewellery using natural healing crystals and gemstones.Etsy Shop:
Facebook Page:


Phylis U’Ren – Artist/Sculptor – London, Ontario
Creating both mobiles (kinetic art) and shakers (percussion instruments) using a very eco-friendly and sturdy yet refined paper maché process. Designed for and delighting all ages.

Phylis can be contacted at for an appointment, and her art can be found at Market Crafts downtown, 121 Dundas Street.




Richard Sturgeon, Metal in Fusion – 630 1/2 Lorne ave, London, Ontario –
Gorgeous, hand crafted works of art using metal and natural materials such as stone and wood.



Create Beautiful Beads – Mallory Knox
Handcrafted bead work. Take a look to see Mallory’s current offerings, or request a special piece for your mom.



London Clay Art Centre – 664 Dundas Street
Home of the London Potters Guild
Locally handcrafted pottery and gifts. Retail Store open everyday from 11 am to 3 pm – 7 days a week.



Purdy Natural – 1010 Dundas Street
Purdy Natural is a modern skin care company made with love. Located inside Eat Green Organics.

Purdy Natural offers all natural skin care made in the Forest City! We provide natural choices for those who are trying to live a healthier lifestyle and those looking to make the switch! Come get healthier with us and make change happen!! Purdy Natural is perfectly located inside Eat Green Organics where most products are made on site.

TUES 10am-4pm, WED&THURS 10am-3pm, FRI 10am-5pm, SAT 10am-3pm, SUN & MON CLOSED




Shop ’til you drop!

Click the link below for a list of unique stores in the Old East Village.  Drop by any of these fine stores for a unique gift idea, or perhaps a gift certificate so Mom can choose her own gift!



If all else fails and you can’t find a gift, why not take mom out to dinner to one of the many fine restaurants in the Old East Village. There is something for every palate. Be sure to make reservations in advance so you won’t be disappointed! Can’t make it out with her? Give her a gift certificate!

Cheese, glorious cheese!

Join All ‘Bout Cheese this Thursday April 17th as they celebrate the wonderful cheeses of la belle province, Quebec!

Sampling selections will include raw milk and organic cheeses, pates and poutine. The  Artisan Bakery will be providing croissants, baguettes and tourtieres, and Kin-Eh-DN Maple Sugar Co. is bringing the maple syrup. You can also enjoy some Montreal smoked meat from the Hungary Butcher and french vanilla coffee from Kingfisher Coffee Company. Music will be provided by Bob and Sue Manester.

This really is a community affair like no other! Join us for this spectacular evening of fabulous food with a french flair in the Old East Village, April 17th at 6:00 pm; 898 Dundas Street.

“This night of sampling promises to get those taste buds spoiled! Admission is free for this event, although we humbly ask for a non perishable food donation in support of The London Food Bank.”