Uncovering the hidden gems in Waterloo
A new school year beginning means a new round of first years. Whether you’re new to the area or a local, there’s no denying you’re in for a year of new experiences. Which is why, we at The Cord, have elected ourselves to be your helpful guides and together compiled a list of our favourite spots in Waterloo that may not have caught your eye at first glance. From libraries to card shops, here’s a list of our hidden gems in Kitchener-Waterloo.
1. Waterloo Public Library
Not so much hidden as it is overlooked, the Waterloo Public Library is a haven for book-lovers and the studious alike. It’s completely free to join (you just need a photo ID and proof of your residence in Waterloo) and you’ll get unlimited benefits from your sign-up. The main branch, just a short walk down Albert Street from campus, is one of the most clean, beautiful and modern libraries I’ve ever been to. There’s usually plenty of study space and I guarantee they’ll have a book to help you for every essay, no matter how niche. For you film studies majors out there, they also have tonnes of Criterions and indie movies — when I can’t make the screenings, I take a lot of the DVDs out of the library! Whether you’re looking for the next great novel, a resource on Communist propaganda or a new soundtrack, getting a public library card is completely worth it.
2. Timeless Café
The Timeless Café is a perfect place to grab a delicious meal or a coffee on the go. You can bring your family, bring a date, or book their second-floor space for a private event. It has a warm allure and charming staff. The building itself is an old hen-house, which creates a comforting environment with a unique rustic appeal. Each dish is truly a wonderful masterpiece as the talented chefs strive to use locally-sourced ingredients and make tasteful flavour pairings. Brunch is a fan-favourite with selections such as French toast accompanied by salted walnuts and brie or their “Brunoise Omelette”, Reservations are recommended and the are open 7 days per week for your dining pleasure.
3. J&J Cards and Collectibles
A gem of Waterloo is something that people will come from far and wide to visit. That’s why J&J Cards and Collectibles is probably the most worthwhile store in town. The selection of board games–from Monopoly Jr. to Catan to Twilight Imperium–is incredible. The clientele and the staff are passionate and always ready to ‘talk shop’, and the prices are somehow cheaper than buying on Amazon. Not to mention, it’s only about a ten-minute walk away from the University. Whether you’re looking for Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks or a party game to get drunk to, this is the place to hit up.
4. Kinkaku Izakaya
Kinkaku Izakaya–a contemporary Japanese all you can eat sushi restaurant–is located on Kitchener’s main drag of King St. W, directly across from city hall. The popular lunch and dinner spot is known for its fresh signature rolls as well as original chef suggestions. If you don’t mind long line up’s and wait times ranging from 15- 45 minutes this may be the sushi place for you. If you have a party of 6or more you can make a reservation by calling the restaurant a few hours before your arrival. The dishes served at Kinkaku Izakaya are not your typical California Roll (although they still serve those). If you are an adventurous foodie the Ikayaki and the Okonomiyaki will tickle your taste buds like never before. Kinkaku Izakaya has the same old classics we know and love while offering something exciting if you’re sick of the same salmon roll.
5. Seven Shores Community Cafe
Seven Shores Community Cafe is the perfect location for anyone looking for a cute coffee shop with a warm, positive vibe and healthy, tasty options for food and drink. Seven Shores is located at 10 Regina St. N, unit four. Not only does Seven Shores serve their organic, fair-trade coffee and other drinks in mason jars and cute coffee mugs, the cafe offers a variety of fresh, locally sourced food. The cafe also offers vegan and gluten free options, hoping to attract a wide demographic. The coffee shop has numerous plugs available for anyone wanting to study or work, despite their earlier closing times. In fact, employees of Seven Shores encourage customers to spend time in their shop, in contrast to chain coffee places that may discourage students who spend larger portions of time doing homework. The large tables and warm atmosphere make Seven Shores the ideal study spot for students.
6. Bao Sandwich Bar
Tucked away on Balsam St. in the heart of the university district is this little unturned stone called Bao Sandwich Bar. Let me preface this the only way I know how: since I was introduced to Bao shortly after moving to Waterloo, I have taken several people there to try it out – including my mom and my best friend – and not one of them has been anything short of blown away. If you aren’t familiar, a bao is a Vietnamese sandwich/taco/sub-type fusion, but calling it a sandwich is almost blasphemous because it is like no sandwich you have had before. With options that everyone can get on board with–ranging from fish (“Fried Nemo”) to veggie (“Avocado Banger”) and pretty much everything in between–the menu is as diverse as it is refreshing, surely never to disappoint. But don’t just take my word for it. Take everyone to Bao. Take your lover, your co-worker, your friend, your Tinder date. Take me. Bao is satisfying in a way that doesn’t leave you wanting more, but I guarantee once you try it you will be planning your next visit.
Photos by Madeline McInnis