Ottawa’s long-suffering West Enders finally get a vegan restaurant

Have you heard the news?  After a few years of selling her wares at farmer’s markets and through catering, Melanie Boudens has finally signed a lease to open her restaurant, Grow Your Roots.

Except, unlike virtually all other veg restaurants in the area, this one will be in Kanata. Downtowners will have a bit of a trek, but no doubt suburban Ottawa vegans, vegetarians and veg-friendly people  will rejoice.

And yes, she will be serving her beer battered deep fried avocados…along with a vegan eggs benedict on weekends. Woo hoo!

I asked Melanie for all of the details – check out the Q&A below!

Processed with MOLDIV

PT: Describe the Grow Your Roots restaurant concept for readers.  What is it?? 

MB: I’ve wanted my own restaurant since I was 12. I use to draw up blueprints and designs dreaming how it would look. I want the Café to feel very organic and raw. We’ll have a mixture of industrial, rustic and natural elements. I’ve been collecting a lot of antiques from family members, friends and shops over the years so I’m super excited to finally have a permanent home for a lot of those pieces. There’s something about a cozy little Café that I’ve always just adored, so I really want to bring that friendly, comfortable vibe into the space. It will be the perfect place to have a coffee with an old friend for hours chatting, have a great lunch, grab something quick to go or do some work on your laptop while eating some GYR treats!

PT: Tell us the GYR story. How did you get started? What motivated you?  How has GYR evolved?

MB: I made a decision a long time ago that I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing something I was truly passionate about. Believe it or not I use to be a Train Conductor for Canadian Pacific Railway – the idea all started one night when I was in my hotel waiting to go home from a trip. I sent a text to my mom “ What do you think of me starting a Farmers Market stand with my Vegan treats?” And so it began!

My husband built me a wicked Farmers Market stand, I purchased my business license, practiced my cooking, perfected my vegan doughnuts and within months I started selling at the Carp Famers Market. I was overwhelmed by how successful it was and how much people were loving everything. Eventually I had people asking me about Catering, which I was thrilled about, and I also started selling things like my burgers and desserts to local restaurants.

Having such cool, friendly customers week after week is definitely a big motivator. It was really just a push in the right direction to get to the point I am now.

When I first started GYR I knew it would be based on the same reasons why I went vegan. For the animals, the planet and for peoples’ health.  So that’s really been my motivation to keep going. I’d love to see a community built around GYR and those three fundamentals. I think making something bigger than what your eyes see (the food, coffee, desserts), is what really gets people excited and wanting to do more regarding the grand scheme of things.

PT: What have been the challenges with taking this from a farmer’s market stall to a restaurant?

MB:  This past year has certainly been very challenging and testing. To be honest, I think the hardest part has been having to convince people that as a 25-year-old, yes I am serious, yes I know what I’m doing and yes, I’m determined! I have very high expectations of myself and what I want my business to become, so sometimes I need to step back and tell myself to slow down and start with the basics. I’d definitely say that having such an amazing support system from my husband, my family and close friends has been everything I needed through this journey. I have a lot of friends within the industry too who have helped me out so much with advice from everything to suppliers, financials and so on.

PT: What is special/unique about GYR? What are its specialities?  How will it complement the existing vegan offerings in Ottawa?

MB: Before I went vegan I wasn’t really much of a cook, so I basically started from scratch when I started teaching myself how to cook and bake vegan. I really love taking the classic favourites and ‘veganizing’ them. I want the menu to look familiar, but with a twist. Things like Fruit & Granola parfaits, but with house made cultured coconut yoghurt and granola that’s loaded with nutrition. I spent a little while perfecting my Tofu Egg Salad sandwiches too, getting tons of approval from vegans and many non vegans. So again, a classic Café staple, but vegan. There’s definitely going to be lots of healthy options on the menu, but it wouldn’t be Grow Your Roots if I didn’t throw in some comforting indulgences in there too….so yes, the Beer Battered Avocados with Cilantro Lime dip will most definitely be on the menu!

Melanie from Grow Your Roots.
Melanie from Grow Your Roots.

I’m also excited to bring some really unique, fun doughnut flavors to the dessert case too, alongside cookies, squares, cakes and more. I’ve tried my best to accommodate people with allergies and sensitivities from the beginning of the business, so there will be plenty of gluten free options as well as soy-free and low oil. I want to make sure there is something for everyone to enjoy.

To compliment lunch and breakfast, I’m bringing in some really great locally pressed fresh juices, locally roasted coffee that’s fair trade and solar powered, and a big selection of amazing loose leaf teas that will be available by the cup and to take home as well!

Catering has gone really well for the past year, so I’m looking forward to building that up and starting new relationships with new customers. I’ve been catering for my business and other business for quite a few years now, so I think I carry with me a lot of experience and knowledge in that department. It’s very different than serving customers from a sit down Café, but it’s something I really love.

There’s definitely some exceptional vegan spots in Ottawa, it’s cool that everyone brings something different to the table for different occasions. I think I specialize in simple, classic items so I feel that GYR will fill that gap in Ottawa. I also want to provide a small selection for take home things like my pot pies, burgers, sausages and such so people can keep them in the freezer for easy at home cooking!

PT: Tell us about your new location.  What can people expect?  When are you opening?

MB: The Café will be located at 474 Hazeldean Road. I’ve had many people doubt my choice to open in the west end, saying I should aim for more trendy areas like Hintonburg, etc., but I come from Perth, so for all the people living just on the outside of Ottawa, or in the west end areas like Kanata and Barhaven, I know what it’s like to have few options for vegan meals and desserts. It’s been really important to me while searching for a space this past year to make sure I was bringing vegan options closer to those who don’t currently have anything. Hopefully too, it will lay down a foundation and encourage other west end restaurants to add more plant-based options to their menus (other than boring salads!) and build more of a small business community providing more places to go other than just franchise spots.

We’re hoping to fit in 20-25 seats, a substantial coffee bar and a great little take-out area too. I really enjoy creating breakfast, lunch and snack options so that’s exactly what it will be! We’ll be open typical Café hours, in the morning around 7:30 am and closed around 5:30 pm. In the future I’d like to extend the hours into the evening a couple of nights a week, once we’re all settled in. I picture doing fun classes for cooking, personal health, and more in the future too.

I’m going to have a wicked Sunday Brunch menu available, so that will be really exciting to launch – expect a delicious Faux Eggs Benny!

We’re starting out with a completely empty, open space right now, so we’ve got a lot of renovations to do. Once we get further into the renos I will have an exact opening date, but for now everyone can expect a late Spring opening. In the meantime, I will be taking orders/Catering until the beginning of May and will then continue again once we are open after a couple of weeks.

gyr wraps

PT: Tell us about you!

MB: I really enjoy living outside of the city, it’s where I grew up. To me the best down time spent outside of the kitchen is by the lake, or going for a walk in the bush with my dog Nola. I’m really close with my family and my husband’s family, so we spend a lot of time getting together for dinners, hanging out & having parties together… I’m well known for a good jig in the middle of the living room! Aside from my dreams of opening the café, I also exercise my attempted dreams of having a farm. Somehow I’ve convinced my husband to let me bring home two rescued cats and a pot bellied pig so far, although I sense we’re at a cap for now-hah!

I love meeting new people and creating relationships with the customers too, so it will be fun to be able to do that at the Café as we grow our roots!

PT: Anything else?

MB: I’ve been creating the menu and showing it off to close friends these past two years; but I love hearing back from customers. So if there’s anything that anyone who is reading this would love to see on the menu – please shoot me a message on the Grow Your Roots Facebook page and let me know!!

Interested in vegan cooking classes? Check out Eat Your Veggies Institute for the spring class schedule.



6 thoughts on “Ottawa’s long-suffering West Enders finally get a vegan restaurant

  1. Hi Melanie

    I hope that your future ventures are a huge success and remember to keep dreaming.
    By the way you look just like your mother. She is my cousin.


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