Downtown Kitchener treats: Loyal customers embrace special offers from Eby Street Bodega and Lucero Canteen

I’m in a situation where I can’t win with this week’s reviews. Nice people who introduced me to Eby Street Bodega and Lucero Canteen in downtown Kitchener will be angry if I criticize or flagged if a positive post causes a longer wait for service. Every business that is easy to walk in reflects an owner-oriented aura and products they are personally passionate about.

Sometimes something we eat settles in our souls, not our ribs. Hosted by my number 1 for a bite on Eby, full disclosure here, was doing some design work, I was impressed with the special sandwich. Befitting a Parisian bakery, Golden Hearth Bakery bread was carefully carved inside to make more room for delicious, fresh fillings.

I had also visited Eby before, joining friends for a long al fresco autumn feast that was part of a popular dinner club they run. Owners Dino Trtovac and Anna Staszewska offered many treats, including local food, specialties imported by Anna, and dishes mostly prepared by her.

Eby has a small counter, shelves full of interesting foods: canned fish, spice mixes, pastas, olive oil, cookbooks, and a few coolers with cheese and drinks. When I stopped by for a review lunch with my wife a few weeks ago, a steady stream of customers received sandwiches and homemade soup.

Trtovac was alone and a little behind schedule as he had to get his car out of its frozen crate after an icy night. No matter, sitting in the small dining room there were reading materials to peruse while we waited for our chosen items.

Fortunately – I think – the turnip soup was the soup du jour of the previous day. A potato-vegetable soup with some chili oil ($8.99) took its place as a warming counterpoint to the cold weather. It came with a few herb croutons, which were also in the box, a good example of the mix of home cooking enriched with premium produce on Eby’s shelves.

Dino suggested we try an Italian hoagie ($13.99), made in collaboration with Palmer’s Baked Goods, a new baker in town, and taken daily by Dino. Stuffed with deli meats and jardini√®re was fine, but at heart I’m a baguette kid. Dino used an oversized knife to cut through the signature hot variety Barese, which is heavily garnished with green olives and herbed, fried cherry tomatoes ($7.49).

To wrap it up, my wife enjoyed a gorgeous chocolate chip cookie topped with dates and some salt ($3.50), while I took half of my Basque cheesecake ($6.99) home for later consumption.

Bodega is both an ongoing and generous concern that deserves every success.

The galley green headquarters on Ontario Street of the Kitchener charter enforcement division is where confused souls pay the price for their indiscretion. This likely includes a fair share of customers who “drop in for a moment” at one of the businesses across the street and exceed a meager 30 minutes of parking. These establishments include the bright, shiny Lucero Canteen, the newest darling of local coffee connoisseurs.

Ownership and knowledgeable operation is essentially the same as Show and Tell Coffee, one door up. The space is certainly more inviting and comfortable, but it’s unclear whether the name change was a marketing ploy or a harbinger of other developments.

Lucero is a busy venue for arrivals, and the wait to be served can be interpreted as a reflection of the care and attention to detail in preparing everyone’s orders. It’s also a reminder of the slowdown: A cheeky sign on the counter bans laptops, states that Wi-Fi is unavailable, and warns customers to “just talk to each other.”

I find coffee shop selections limited, preferring decaf coffee. Still, the heady, chocolate flavor of my Americano filled the car as I drove home with on-site baked fudge. Even my gluttonous side knew not to be consumed while driving.

Over several visits, I’ve had fat scones filled with top-notch explosive gushing plum jam, perfectly crunchy, and a chocolate-filled Berliner like I’ve never seen before. A fresh, inedible feast evoked childhood memories, occasionally being allowed to eat something larger than one’s head.

EU

Food columns focus on food available for pickup, takeout, and delivery in the Waterloo Area, as well as meals enjoyed on terraces and restaurants. It is based on unannounced orders from organizations or visits to organizations. Restaurants do not pay for any portion of the reviewer’s meal. Alex Bielak can be reached via Facebook.com/Food4ThoughtArchives or twitter and Instagram (@alexbielak).

Eby Street Bodega

16 Eby St. N. (opposite Kitchener Market and next to Yeti Café)

ebybodega.ca

Instagram: @ebystreetbodega

548-994-5072

Hour: Wednesday and Thursday, 11:00 – 18:00; Friday, 11:00 – 21:00; Saturday, 8:30 – 15:00

Invoice: One soup, sandwich, apple pie, one soda, two desserts and one glass of wine for $61.26 (tax included). As for paying the bill, I was very surprised to learn that Eby has adopted the enlightened European model where tips are not accepted.

Getting your food: Eat in or take out. All forms of payment accepted.

Accessibility: Wooden stairs lead to the cafe/grocery and the property is not wheelchair accessible.

notes: Eby hosts a variety of events, including a mostly monthly dinner club, Friday after-work practices and wine drop-off, and a regular wine, cheese and wine tasting program. Check their social media and website for details. Soon to St. Watch it at Jacobs market too. Wine will be sold by the glass or by the bottle for takeaway with food purchases, including a wine enthusiastically recommended by Dino. The slightly effervescent white ($10 for a small glass) came from an Italian winery they had visited with Anna.

Lucero Canteen

22 Ontario St. N., Kitchener (a spot next to Legacy Greens grocery store and from where its predecessor Show and Tell Coffee was located.)

Instagram: @lucero.canteen

Hour: Every day, from 8 am to 4 pm

Invoice: An Americano, a soda and two pastries are $16:60 including tax. The tip remains an integral part of Lucero’s culture.

Getting your food: Eat in or take out. All forms of payment accepted.

Accessibility: A step leading to an oddly placed door would likely render the building largely inaccessible.

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