Dishcrawl returned to Ottawa this year with East Meets West, a collaborative culinary taste of Little Italy and Chinatown’s best kept secrets.
A Dishcrawl resembles a pub crawl, but instead of bars, patrons move from restaurant to restaurant. This is the first Dishcrawl to bring together the two neighbourhoods, says Dishcrawl ambassador Mat Wong, and the response indicates it might not be the last.
For many people, going out to eat means visiting the same old restaurants and ordering the same old food. This is something Dishcrawl strives to bring to an end. Originally based in San Francisco, Dishcrawl first came to Ottawa in June 2011 with a tour of the Byward Market.
It returned Feb. 5 and 6 with an excursion around Little Italy and Chinatown. Four restaurants within two of Ottawa’s most popular ethnic neighbourhoods hosted a tour of food lovers both days. Each location was kept a secret until arrival. Customers were engaged in a meet and greet with the skilled chefs and a plated sample of their work.
Chinatown and Little Italy are two culturally rich neighbourhoods, conveniently placed near one another. Wong explains that these locations, despite holding years of traditional immigrant culture, can be overlooked at times.
“I feel like these two districts are seen as historical but not necessarily ‘trendy and hip’ like other neighbourhoods such as the Glebe,” Wong says, “Little Italy and Chinatown have numerous great restaurants. They may not look as fancy as some of the offerings in the Glebe, but quality-wise, the food can definitely give Glebe restaurants a run for their money.”
Ottawa Food bloggers Don and Jen Chow of foodiePrints were scheduled to make an appearance. Don Chow had attended the Byward market Dishcrawl in 2010, and believes the event could prove beneficial to this year’s neighbourhoods. Tour-based food tours, such as C’est Bon’s Walking Tours, help familiarize visitors with an area they might have otherwise considered foreign, according to Don.
“Dishcrawl and walking tours of Preston by C’est Bon Cooking break these stereotypes by making the neighbourhoods accessible,” he says.
“Getting these two neighbourhoods to market themselves collectively would be more a function of getting the neighbourhood associations to collaborate. Dishcrawl is more of a one-off.”
While Centretown’s Preston Street and Chinatown’s Somerset Street attract attention in their own right, Dishcrawl brings the two together in a unique collaborative event. Whether there might be more joint marketing ventures between Little Italy and Chinatown in the future, the Preston BIA had no comment.
“Chinatown and Preston BIA have been supporting and working with each other in many areas, and I am sure that we will be continuing to do so,” says Grace Xin, executive director of the Chinatown BIA.
Though Xin did not provide any past examples or future plans, there may soon be a growing demand for increased collaborations between Little Italy and Chinatown.
“I think Dishcrawl brings so much to Chinatown and Little Italy,” Simply Fresh blogger Jodi Lariviére says, “They have both been areas that I wished I spent more time in. I think Dishcrawl is such a unique and wonderful way to get to know these neighbourhoods better.”
Lariviére took full advantage of the Dishcrawl to satisfy her “foodie” nature, a term used for avid food lovers. “There is nothing better than finding a new favourite spot to eat,” Lariviére says.