This week’s find:
FIND the warm heart of old Hintonburg
With wood panelled walls, a now-defunct Ladies & Escorts entrance and quart bottles of beer, the Carleton Tavern feels like it belongs to another time. But pull up a chair. You’ll find the grand old place is still buzzing with the lively, creative energy of this amazing neighbourhood.
The Saikaley family – the third owners of the Carleton Tavern, established in 1935 – have been running this cherished Hintonburg establishment for 30 years. Before that, they also owned and operated the Carleton Steak House right next door, which provided food service to the tavern from the early 1970s until 2005. Many remember the hilarity of the Carleton Ugly Club, which saw people – complete with membership cards – lined up out the door to have owner Sam Saikaley insult them as he cooked their meals. Sam has since retired, leaving the tavern in the capable hands of his brothers, Simon, Bill and Rob.
There’s more than beverages and generous portions of good food – including weekly specials – on offer at the Carleton Tavern. There’s a heaping helping of community spirit too. Poetry and painting workshops, theatrical productions, jazz jams, choir sessions and live music all take place within its storied walls. The second floor boasts a large meeting room, free for use and licensed for 95 people, which is home to dart leagues, private parties and more.
Countless fundraisers have taken place at the Carleton Tavern over the years, but the Saikaley family’s generosity is perhaps best exemplified by its annual Christmas dinner, presented for almost 20 years in conjunction with the Hintonburg Economic Development Committee. The tavern, with the help of over 100 volunteers, serves over 600 guests, with hundreds more meals prepared for takeout or delivery to shut ins. Live entertainment and gifts round out the festive, welcoming atmosphere.
“We often get people coming in saying their parents and grandparents frequented the tavern decades ago,” says Sam. “Our staff certainly know the majority of our patrons and they are very well-liked by everyone who visits. I think people really appreciate the laid-back vibe here; it’s kind of like being in your own rec room and it’s fun for us to see lots of fresh faces along with our legions of devoted regulars.”
Simon, who has been working in the family business since he was a young boy, observes that he’s seen some people just about every day for the past forty years. “My family used to live above our restaurant next door so I really grew up in the industry. I love making people feel welcomed and comfortable.”
Keyword tags: WWBIA, Wellington West, Ottawa, bar, tavern, pub, restaurant, food, drink, community, charity, charitable events, Saikaley family, hospitality