Emily Rack (Twitter) is a 21-year old journalism student, split cross-continentally between Canada (school) and England (family). She loves adventuring around the world, planning unconventional dates, going to music festivals, baking caramel sea salt brownies and dancing the night away.
I must admit, I am a little bit reluctant to share what I am about to share. I would very much like to keep it a secret, but as a local tourist AND food-obsessor, I think it is my solemn duty to spread the word about the complete and utter deliciousness of ART IS IN Bakery.
Now, I don’t want you to get too excited, but I think it may be one of Ottawa’s best foodie establishments. That’s right. Best in the city. Maybe best in the world, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself (although I have been gallivanting around Europe for most of the summer and have yet to discover a better sandwich).You may have heard of it already (in which case, you’re one of the lucky ones), but if you haven’t visited, I figured it was criminal not to tell you.
My first ART IS IN experience was sometime last winter. Housed in a minimalist, almost warehouse-type building at the City Centre, it is not much to look at from the outside and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Let me assure you, the inside is full of magic.
The smell of bread and freshly baked goods hits you from the steps on the way in and the crowd lined up all the way to the door is a surefire sign you are in for a treat. Racks of fresh bread look impossibly delicious lined up alongside the cases of sandwiches and pastries, and the seats inside and outside mean that even on a busy day you can almost always find a spot.
I’ve done my research thoroughly so you wouldn’t be disappointed. I mean, I’ve gone back to this place week after week, testing and tasting and trying to make sure I’ve done a complete and careful evaluation. All that eating: all those sandwiches, the desserts, the pastries … that was all for you. So you’re welcome.
The buttermilk brined chicken caesar sandwich is probably the closest thing I have ever been to perfection. Salty, flavourful and with a bit of a kick (as it’s grilled up on the bakery’s cheddar, chive and jalapeno bread), it’s my first recommendation and a personal favourite. Prepare to become an addict.
The pulled pork sandwich with homemade coleslaw is almost an equal competitor. Tender and full of rich flavours, I would propose snapping one up quickly too. The coleslaw is divine, and the fresh peach slices included in the sandwich add an unexpected yet delightful dimension.
The other sandwiches I’ve tried have all been fabulous as well. The ham and cheese, the prosciutto with ricotta and pesto, the angus striploin … all the ingredients are top-notch. And, of course, the breads are phenomenal.
One I have yet to taste is the crispy cod sandwich (served on Fridays) and it seems to be calling my name. Not to fear, there are vegetarian options as well and I daresay they would be well worth a try.
Desserts and pastries are another forte of owner and passionate baker Kevin Mathelson. The Winnipeg native has trained with top chefs in New York, Switzerland and France, even apprenticing at the world-famous patisserie Laduree, so you can expect the sweet selection is something special.
The chocolatines have a cult following in the city — and although I haven’t tried one yet, I can certainly vouch for the almond croissants and the almond brioche toast. As well as the bready desserts, Art Is In offers a selection of fancier treats. Macarons, cheesecakes, rum baba, beautifully glazed fruit tarts, flourless chocolate walnut cookies … and so on.
For me, it’s all about the bread pudding. Often seen as a soggy, unappealing food, the ART IS IN bread pudding is to die for. Basically, it is pastries and those aforementioned breads chopped up and bubbled down with cream and caramel. Add a drizzle of chocolate and crème anglaise and show me someone who can resist that.
The employees are friendly and knowledgeable, prices are good, the food is out of this world and, apart from the slightly out-of-the-way location, I have absolutely zero qualms. Even better, between 5 pm and 6 pm every day, the bakery offers up their bread at half price.
If that isn’t reason enough to get down there, did I mention they have recently begun making Sunday brunch?
As a general rule, I think the term “hidden gem” is thrown around a lot, but ART IS IN Bakery is indeed a true testament to both of those things. Tucked away in the City Centre near the Bayview O-Train station, it is certainly hidden, especially if you don’t have a car. If you are a student (like me) or an eco-friendly public transit user only, don’t despair. As long as you get to Bayview station, it is a relatively quick walk. Totally worth it.
Honestly, I would walk from Kanata just for the a sandwich. In any case, it is without a doubt, one of the city’s most precious gems.
ART IS IN Bakery is located at 250 City Center Avenue, Bay 114. If you can’t make it to the shopfront location, don’t despair. ART IS IN breads and goodies are sold around the city. The Candy Store, Piggy Market, Ottawa Bagelshop, Nicastro, Serious Cheese and Red Apron are just a few of the locations that carry ART IS IN stock. Visit the website for a full list and more information.
Anyone hungry after that? Sounds like a few trips to ART IS IN are in order! Thanks, Emily.