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Food & Drink

Food Renaissance in Waterloo Region

Creative dishes and craft beer create a foodie’s hidden gem

Waterloo — A growing relationship between local farmers and local chefs, catering to a sophisticated business crowd, is driving a surge of independent restaurants featuring local food and drink in Waterloo Region.

Chef-inspired restaurants with menus featuring local foods and drink lists that are dominated by Ontario craft beers and VQA wines are opening with increasing frequency in all corners of the region. What’s more, these restaurants represent a broad spectrum of cultures and ethnicities.

“These dynamic little places are completely under the radar, but they are a foodie’s hidden gem,” says Minto Schneider, Chief Executive Officer of Waterloo Tourism. “We are really seeing farmers and restauranteurs taking advantage of Waterloo’s geography. With three urban centres surrounded by rural communities, you can be in downtown Kitchener enjoying a homemade apple strudel and in 15 minutes you can literally be standing in the orchard where that apple was grown.”

The approach to food in Waterloo is energized and inspired, a response to a crowd that is demanding more creativity, selection, authenticity and taste on their plate and in their glasses. This evolution is creating food “hubs” in local neighbourhoods across Waterloo region, and is supporting the growth of niche stores, like old fashioned butcher shops, and street-side markets where chefs — and home cooks — can buy fresh, local food.

Feeding this new approach is a culinary school at Conestoga College where aspiring chefs can be expressive, spread their wings and experiment with new flavours.

And this isn’t just happening in the urban centres of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. One of Ontario’s oldest brew pubs is The Olde Heidelberg Restaurant Tavern in the rural community of Wellesley, northwest of Waterloo.

“People want fresh and they want local,” says Schneider. “The local bars and independent restaurants of Waterloo add a new complexion and profile to the region. We have done a really good job here with original food and craft beer and — being just down the highway from the Niagara Peninsula — unique Ontario wines you may not find in your local liquor store.”

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