Harvest Community Foods is part organic grocery, part diner that not only serves the communities of Chinatown and Strathcona, but can thank interested residents for their business model as well. Born from a truly innovative idea, the owners of the commercial unit put the question of what kind of business the space should contain out to the public via their website polls on www.thisspace.ca. Even choices like the name of the business and which design team to use were put in the hands of any who were interested in providing their opinion.
Located on Union Street, Harvest is part of a slew of newer businesses that are both striving to revive the Chinatown area as well as gentrify it. Only a stones throw from Strathcona, the grocery stresses the importance of sustainable, locally sourced and transparently obtained foods.
Greeted warmly by Chef Mina Hideshima (who gained much practical culinary experience at Cibo) and Owner Mike Leung, I was introduced to the simple menu and even cooler business plan that is housed in the space. I commented on how great I thought the community input business model was and Mike let me know that they had sort of stumbled into the idea and that it has taken off quite nicely, even through the rough spots associated with any new plan.
The smallish grocery selection occupies the first wall one sees as they enter. I didn’t spend much time browsing this section as my stomach dictated I satiate my hunger, but everything was neat and the produce looked fresh.
The to-the-point menu doesn’t let on much in the way of details, but Mina was more than happy to explain each of the selections. Going for the Sandwich Combo, I was advised that the best choice was the Carrot and Ginger soup to go with my chicken salad sandwich. I was also told that the steam bun was another favourite, which I can’t wait to try on my next visit.
Asking if I could take some photos, I let my eyes roam over the small details of the establishment. I liked how the cash register was an ipad to save on space and that fresh vegetables accented the main counter. All of the little accents, like the bamboo steamer in the open kitchen and the friendly atmosphere imbued a sense of being at home to the scene.
Served my meal at a seat by the large front window I tucked into the cup of Carrot and Ginger soup first. Properly viscous and smooth, there were strong indications of celery in the soup base, which I quite liked as it seemed to freshen and lighten up each spoonful. The ginger was flavourful but not overpowering and even though the portion was a bit on the small side, I enjoyed it quite thoroughly. I particularly liked the shredded lettuce that was sprinkled over top that added a nice texture.
My Chicken Salad Sandwich, which is part of an ever rotating menu, was served between two slices of thick and hearty bread. There’s nothing quite like having a sandwich served on fresh bread and this was a great example of that.
The sandwich was comprised of a top, thin layer of avocado under which was bedded a substantial portion of buttery (yes buttery textured!) mixed lettuce. Underneath the greens was a layer of thinly sliced pickled red onions and mixed in with the chicken thigh pieces was another pickled element made up of mustard seeds. The protein was tender and moist and took on the mildly tart flavours of the pickled onions and mustard seeds quite nicely. Balanced nicely by the creaminess of the avocado and ultra fresh lettuce, the sandwich was really a joy to eat.
If you’re looking for a smart and tasty meal in a casual and inviting space, I can’t think of any reason why you shouldn’t give Harvest Community Foods a shot. The food is simple in a pleasing way and I really support the owner’s approach to both the inception and continuation of this business.
Harvest Community Foods
243 Union Street