It should come as no surprise that someone whose name means “the happy one” is in the business of bringing joy to people via food and drink. PJ L’Heureux, the founder of CRAFT Beer Market, is bringing his innovative concept to Ottawa this spring, making sure to incorporate loads of local touches into his winning formula.
“I was initially attracted to Ottawa for our fourth location because of the vibrant craft beer scene here,” says PJ. “It’s young, kind of like how Vancouver was ten years ago, but there is so much great stuff happening and there’s a real community around craft beer.”
Although a Calgary native, PJ says he feels like an Ottawan now, having spent months getting to know our city and its food and drink scene quite intimately. In the process he found everyone very open and welcoming.
“I know of no other business that goes about things the way we do, in terms of getting to know the local market,” he explains. “Our approach is very organic. We get out there and meet people to find out who we should be working with. It’s important because we make all the food in house and we want the right mix of beer too.”
PJ and his crew started with breweries and their network of local contacts rapidly expanded from there. “The team at Beau’s was just great – it’s one of the best breweries I’ve ever been to. Beau’s Chef Bruce took our chef out and introduced him to a lot of great farmers and food producers which really helped us establish our supplier team. Similarly, Farm Boy was a big connection for us; they led us to who’s doing things right in Ottawa across a wide range of fields.”
These connections will help add a lot of local flavour to CRAFT’s Ottawa menu. While their spacious Lansdowne venue will boast Ontario’s largest selection of draft beer and Ottawa’s most extensive selection of local beer when it opens in May, the food will be front and centre too.
“I like to say that while the dishes will be the same as people have come to love at our western locations, everything will be different because of the local elements,” notes PJ. “We’re going to be sure our poutine is perfect, for example, since that’s a big thing for Ottawa. And you’ll see local products like Seed to Sausage on our charcuterie boards. We’ll name our fantastic suppliers on the menu and our servers will be well versed on all the local components of our dishes.”
Connecting to community also included a recent “name that beer” contest, with the winning entries being Aberdeen Ale and Lansdowne Logger. PJ is looking forward to adding brewmaster’s dinners and community-selected brews to the lineup. In addition, the CRAFT crew will continue its proud tradition of cooking for the families at Ronald McDonald house once per month. “We look forward to becoming as involved in the community as we can,” confirms PJ. “Ottawa is the perfect city for CRAFT and I couldn’t be more excited.”