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Collective Growers is located at 312 Somerset St E. Photo: Hailey Otten/Fulcrum
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Three new Sandy Hill businesses that have opened their doors despite the pandemic

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions, and countless lockdowns, many businesses in Sandy Hill have blossomed in the past few years. Here is a look into three new businesses in Sandy Hill, offering everything from snacks to cannabis.

No Forks Given

No Forks Given has quite the unique story behind it to match its unique name. In the midst of the pandemic, when the food industry was struggling, Camille Pilon worked hard to continue pursuing her passion for the food industry.

While No Forks Given is currently located at 191 Somerset St E, where an old campus classic, La Maison, once resided, it was not always a physical restaurant. Before No Forks Given, Pilon and her boyfriend started out manufacturing a new treat that they called “Popcurds.” From there, they got a food truck and began making appearances at special events like the University of Ottawa’s Poutine-fest. 

By September 2020, Ottawa was in lockdown and no events were happening, so Pilon turned to a three-year-old file on her computer that contained all the ideas for a restaurant she would call “No Forks Given.” 

“Thanks to social media and the word of mouth, within three months we were extremely busy, it was incredible. We were very happy with the response,” said Pilon in an interview.

Pilon and her partner started out in their food truck with the No Forks Given menu, and a few months later, and they were ready to move into a physical location — that’s how they found their home on Somerset. 

Just steps from campus, No Forks Given is a go-to spot for students. As a former U of O student herself, Pilon enjoys the atmosphere of being so close to the campus.

“It’s amazing. I used to study here, so it feels good to do a full circle and come back to my roots and reconnect with people that are kind of like me, anxious to get going in life, and find their way, and kind of develop their capabilities and knowledge and strengths. It feels good to be around a similar energy,” said Pilon.

When you inevitably hit up No Forks Given, Pilon recommends that you try the classic fried chicken. However, her new favourite has been their newest creation: the chipotle chicken burger, which contains havarti cheese, pickles and chipotle aioli. As for drinks, her favourite is the “Time for Grapefruit” drink. 

Fun fact: No Forks Given hand-presses grapefruits every morning for their “Time for Grapefruit” drink, and uses a homemade thyme simple syrup to make the “not too sweet” beverage… For something a little bit snazzier, Pilon recommends the “It’s Whitney Bitch”. 

“The Pink Whitney cocktail with edible pink glitter makes you feel fancy and is super fun,” Pilon explained.

Collective Growers 

Collective Growers is a locally owned and operated marijuana dispensary. They broke out into the Ottawa cannabis market with a location in Vanier at 534 Montréal Rd. This past December they opened their location in Sandy Hill at 312 Somerset St E.

Collectie Growers’ co-founder, Karen Nguyen, explained that getting staff and finishing contracts for renovations was one of the largest challenges. Additionally, the governmental application process for a cannabis store was challenging, as this is still a new industry. She spoke about what this new location means for their business, but also for the community.

“Being in Sandy Hill comes with the University of Ottawa, but it also comes with the local residents as well. It’s nice that we are accessible now to everyone in the neighbourhood and that they don’t depend on going to the market,” said Nguyen.

She says that since they are small and independently owned, their competitive prices and wide variety makes them a good choice for consumers in the area.

Collective Growers carries “everything cannabis-related.” They sell flowers, vapes, pre-rolls, topical oil, drinks, capsules, edibles, concentrates, and cannabis accessories, including pipes, rolling paper, etc. They also sell cannabis-related books like cookbooks. All of this information is well detailed and laid out on their website, along with a blog section. 

The New Safi Fine Foods

The story of Safi Fine Foods is quite inspiring and truly what makes it so beloved by the Sandy Hill community. In an interview with the Ottawa Business Journal, the owner, Mohamed Ali Abdo explained that they originally opened as an online halal meat shop. 

In the summer of 2021, Abdo and his friend Ali Zeddou moved Safi Fine Foods to 296 Somerset St E.

The new location is modernly renovated and many University of Ottawa students can go there for study sessions while enjoying the cafe and lunch menu, once restrictions are lifted, of course. The diverse menu allows students to enjoy South Asian, Lebanese, and Ethiopian cuisines. Additionally, Safi Fine Foods offers pastries from the Moulin de Provence in the Byward Market and French Canadian classics like poutine. It’s also a great place to pick up last-minute cooking essentials such as milk and eggs, as well as a few produce and pantry items.

I personally enjoy going to Safi’s to study or write Fulcrum articles and enjoy their chai lattes. The staff at Safi’s is so friendly and welcoming — they will often ask your name and chat with you about your studies. I have been dying to try one of their bowls, like the Chicken Tandori Bowl or the Steak Bowl. As soon as indoor dining is back, catch me there typing away while stuffing my face.