Hon­est Foods has big plans for Hamil­ton

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - STEPHANIE HENDERSON

The folks at Hon­est Foods are cre­at­ing quite a stir.

They have an am­bi­tious, mul­ti­lay­ered and mul­ti­pronged plan that in­cor­po­rates, among other things, the pop­u­lar­ity of fresh, made-to-or­der food, Asian-style bowls, nose-to-tail cook­ing and lo­cally-sourced in­gre­di­ents.

The com­pany is aim­ing to open two dis­tinct yet linked gourmet-bowl-based eater­ies in the Cork­town Plaza in the com­ing weeks, but has al­ready made its mark by tak­ing over a half-cen­tury-old in­sti­tu­tion, the Black For­est Inn, last De­cem­ber while beef­ing up the Locke Street food scene with The Bev­erly, a pop­u­lar spot for brunch and lunch that opened this spring.

Hon­est Foods Inc. is a col­lab­o­ra­tion out of Forge & Fos­ter in­volv­ing restau­rant cre­ator Scott Les­lie and ur­ban re­newal ad­vo­cate Joe Ac­cardi, who is the founder of the Green Smoothie Bar.

Hon­est Meat Co.

At the heart of Hon­est Foods’ bur­geon­ing em­pire is Hon­est Meat Co., an in­no­va­tive, 1,200 square foot meat op­er­a­tion at Ot­tawa and Can­non set to open June 5 that will feed some of its sis­ter busi­nesses.

The idea, says culi­nary di­rec­tor Mark Brown is to “use 100 per cent of the an­i­mal” through an on-site butcher­ing op­er­a­tion.

“No hor­mones or an­tibi­otics,” says Brown, a chef and ed­u­ca­tor who taught at the Strat­ford Chefs School for four years. And some “prime her­itage breeds.”

This is where it gets in­ter­est­ing: Brown says the op­er­a­tion will func­tion as a sup­ply chain for some of the restau­rants in the Hon­est Foods sta­ble. Bones, for ex­am­ple, will go to the Black For­est Inn to make soups and stocks. Pork shoul­ders will be sent to Eatwell to be roasted. Pork bel­lies will head to The Bev­erly while the trim­mings will be used in sausages for the Black For­est Inn.

Hon­est Meat Co. will also sell their cus­tom cuts re­tail, be­gin­ning with a few cool­ers in a 300-square-foot shop. Ded­i­cated food­ies will be able to watch the ac­tion through a glass par­ti­tion, Old World style while wait­ing for their cus­tom-cut or­der, with op­tions rang­ing from ar­ti­sanal sausages and salamis to tra­di­tional cuts of beef, pork, chicken and lamb.

Brown says his staff is busy pre­par­ing mor­tadella and kiel­basa to get it started. Two months in, they’ll add pancetta, and three to four months down the line, salamis: Basque, bre­saola, Genoa-style and Toscanos­tyle.

Prod­ucts from eth­i­cal pro­duc­ers such as Mur­ray’s Farms and Black­view Farm will also be part of the mouth-wa­ter­ing mix.

“There will be her­itage eggs, fresh from the farm,” noted Brown.

At the Cork­town Plaza, Eatwell and its sis­ter restau­rant, Lit­tle Big Bowl, will of­fer chef-in­spired bowls that can be cus­tom­ized to fit cus­tomers’ di­etary re­quire­ments, from full-on car­ni­vore to veg­e­tar­ian and even ve­gan.

“It’s fast ca­sual, where the cus­tomers will be able to in­ter­act with the kitchen staff,” said Brown.

And the flavour com­bi­na­tions are “not nec­es­sar­ily Asian.”


Din­ers will be able to “step up to our open kitchen and watch as one of our cooks build a bowl that is to­tally you,” ac­cord­ing to Eatwell’s web­site, goeatwell.com, still un­der de­vel­op­ment this week.

Eatwell’s menu shows veg­e­tar­ian dishes such as “The Goat in the Gar­den,” fea­tur­ing asked goat cheese, or­ganic greens, sun­flower seed hum­mus, as­para­gus, pep­pers, mole crunch, es­pelette and sour cherry gas­trique.

There’s also a cus­tom bowl op­tion, where din­ers choose from a range of build­ing blocks for their bowl, start­ing with a starchy or salad base, then adding on their veg­gies and a pro­tein if they so de­sire, for an up­charge. Ba­sic bowls (the base item with a sauce) start at $9.99.

There’s a big fo­cus on qual­ity in­gre­di­ents, here and through­out the Hon­est op­er­a­tion. For ex­am­ple, Brown says they’re work­ing with a Guelph farm, Sim­pler Thyme, to grow unique va­ri­eties of greens in­clud­ing eight types of Swiss chard, 10 beet va­ri­eties and even bronze fen­nel.

This way, he says, “we’ll be able to change the menu quickly” from sea­son to sea­son.

There’s Cana­dian-caught al­ba­core tuna from Bri­tish Columbia. And the shrimp for their pink shrimp salad is “beau­ti­ful and sweet,” cooked right on the boat on which it is caught.

Even the salt has Cana­dian roots, com­ing in from The Van­cou­ver Is­land Salt Co.

Lit­tle Big Bowl

Tucked into about a third of that Cork­town Plaza space will be Lit­tle Big Bowl, of­fer­ing break­fast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The seat­ing area will be painted in “fun and vi­brant” yel­low and neon pink, ac­cented with black.

Like the Bev­erly, LBB will go big with break­fast, with staff cre­at­ing smooth­ies and yo­gurt-based bowls with fresh fruit, gra­nola, herbs and other good-for-you good­ies.

These in­clude the “Su­per­food” bowl with mango and pineap­ple, goji berry, pas­sion­fruit, and su­per­seed gra­nola; and the “Lon­don Fog” with al­mond milk, earl grey, sul­tana raisins, blue­berry and al­monds.

Dough­nuts and more

The com­pany is also work­ing to launch a “fresh new ice cream con­cept” on John Street South this sum­mer fea­tur­ing flavours such as peanut but­ter toast and straw­berry jam. Plus ice cream sand­wiches, floats and cakes.

Dough­boy, a riff on a “neigh­bour­hood dough­nut shop”), is slated to open in July at the Green­hill Plaza in Stoney Creek. Think Nutella Rocky Road and Pear Frit­ter ice cream, in­clud­ing some ve­gan op­tions.

Al­ter­na­tive Bread, open­ing this sum­mer or fall, is a bak­ery with a fo­cus on prod­ucts made with in­gre­di­ents such as chick­peas rather than wheat.


Lit­tle Big Bowl will of­fer break­fast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. This is their Dragon Heart Bowl with dragon fruit, cran­berry, straw­berry, co­coa nib, mo­lasses and pump­kin seed gra­nola.


When in Romen: soft egg, semolina noo­dles, miso, porcini, broth, cab­bage, broc­col­ini, sprouted grains, edamame, cu­cum­ber, cel­ery slaw.

This Lit­tle Piggy: her­itage pork, rye dumplings, spicy turnip, pep­pers, hot sauce, cu­cum­ber, cel­ery and date yo­gurt.

Poke in Par­adise: tuna, jas­mine rice, cu­cum­ber, cel­ery, edamame, av­o­cado, radish, sea­weed and “Seeds of Par­adise.”

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