Restaurant Profile: Obsessively local with Borealis Grille and Bar




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Restaurant Profile: Obsessively local with Borealis Grille and Bar

  • 5 July 2016

Crisp pork belly topped with a fried quail egg to start.

Main course? A juicy Omega-3 enriched pork chop (from just north of Stratford, Ontario) with roasted new potatoes, seasonal veg, and Wellesley apple butter. Accompanied, of course, by a Canadian Maple Bacon Caesar featuring—wait for it—bacon infused vodka and Ontario maple syrup.

Borealis Ceaser and Pork Belly

And if you still have room for dessert, you’ll want the honey vanilla crème brulée with seasonal fruit compote.

Welcome to Borealis Grille and Bar.

Borealis Grille

The Borealis concept

Opening its doors in Guelph in December 2008—with a second Kitchener location in 2011—Borealis is part of the family-owned Neighbourhood Group of Companies, which includes Guelph’s Miijidaa Cafe+Bistro and Woolwich Arrow Pub (a.k.a. The Wooly).

Unlike others jumping aboard the “sourced local” bandwagon marketing machine, the restaurant’s credo “obsessively local” really is the bottom line for Borealis.

“Our vision with the Borealis concept,” says chief operating officer Court Desautels. “Was to develop a restaurant that not only showcases local food and drink, but uses Ontario products for the building supplies, paper goods, uniforms, vehicles, and more.”

Borealis collage

See for yourself:

  • Tables crafted from a local fallen black walnut tree
  • Stone work mined from nearby Milverton
  • Metal-work forged by local artisans
  • Thatcher Farm’s sausage from Rockwood, Ontario
  • Edamame using Norfolk county soybeans
  • 28-day aged Ontario AAA striploin
  • Great Lakes fish and chips

And the list goes on.

“We are able to tell our guests the story of our suppliers and where they can buy the products themselves,” says Desautels. “This kind of transparency really resonates with our guests and it's what keeps them coming back!”

Borealis Bar

A unique business model

All of the Neighbourhood Group of Companies restaurants were recently certified as a B Corporation (B Corp). Although it took four years and quite a bit of effort—to put it mildly—the result is an achievement for any business but almost unheard of in retail circles.

According to Desautels, “There are approximately 1700 B Corps in the world, but only 17 are restaurants… and we are four of them.”

So, what’s a B Corp? Says the non-profit group B Lab: “B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.”

A certification of a company’s entire business, B Corp status means the Neighbourhood Group of Companies is audited every two years.

“Our business model is like no other in the restaurant industry,” says Desautels. “And this has become incredibly successful for us. It has its challenges, but the pros far outweigh the cons.”

Borealis Wine Cellar

Setting them apart

From tables made of a fallen tree to being among only 17 restaurants in the world to earn the B Corp designation, Borealis is an experience unlike other restaurants.

But don’t take our word for it—ask its customers:

“All our meals tasted amazing” … “Always a great place for date night” … “Our favorite local restaurant” … “It is evident that these guys go out of their way to find fresh, local ingredients.”

Because at the end of the day, it’s in comments from guests like these where the “obsessively local” philosophy is truly tested.

Says Desautels: “Buying local is the most important and influential choice anyone can make. Knowing where our products are from, and getting to know the people who produce them, makes all the difference in the world.” 

But whatever you do, start with the pork belly.

Locations: Guelph - 1388 Gordon Street  |  Kitchener - 4336 King Street East

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Ontario Pork represents the 1,192 farmers who market 5.41 million hogs in the province. The organization is engaged in many areas, including research, government representation, environmental issues, consumer education and food quality assurance.

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