Honest Foods has big plans for Hamilton
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.”