Carben Food + Drink

Carben Food + Drink


Owner: Kevin Benes & Caroline Ngo
Neighbourhood: Hintonburg
1100 Wellington St W, Ottawa, ON K1Y 2Y7

Interview + Photography: Marianne Rothbauer, Rothbauer Studio



Tell us a bit about yourself. How did the 2 of you meet and get started?

Kevin and I met in Toronto at Claudio Aprile's restaurant, Origin. He was a cook and I was a pastry cook. And from there we travelled around Canada working together and separately. We finally settled in Ottawa, where I grew up, after a year in Vancouver. We worked here in Ottawa while settling down - and then we finally were able to do Carben. Along with having Kai (our now 3 year old son) at the same time!

Opening day, - what was the first item a customer ordered?

I don't think either of us can remember the first dish or order that came through on opening day. It seems like a lifetime ago! It was such a rush of a day - still very surreal thinking about it now.


What made you choose Hintonburg and what businesses/ organizations have helped you along the way?

We chose Hintonburg because Kevin worked at Allium before opening up Carben, and we loved the neighbourhood. We were very lucky that we were able to obtain this space when we did. Everything just lined up perfectly and we love this neighbourhood. We love our fellow neighbouring restaurants and small businesses - and especially our loyal neighbourhood customers. They keep coming back and we are grateful for them.


You change your menu often, what are your favourite versatile food ingredients to work with?

I like working with the changing seasonal fruits. Also, florals are my new favourite. Kevin also gets inspired by the changing seasonal produce. It's fun because sometimes there are some produce that only lasts a couple of weeks - so we have to grab them before they are gone until next year.

What inspires the restaurants menu?

The menu has definitely evolved by influences in the neighbourhood - from the little shops, Chinatown, our neighbours, customers, and our staff.

As restaurant owners, what keeps you up at night?

As restaurant owners and parents of a crazy active toddler, we can barely keep our eyes open at night.


How do you balance your personal/ work life as a husband and wife team?

I definitely strive for a work/life balance. Having a toddler definitely helps. We always want to spend time with him. Also, working together is fun. Reminds us of the good old days when we were younger and worked together. And lastly, we appreciate the quiet time we have as a family just relaxing at home.

Where can we find you unwind after a long week?

After a long week, we are probably cooped up at home off our feet. If it's warm out, we are definitely outside on our deck having a cocktail/beer and working on our vegetable garden.

Mayor Watson walks into your Restaurant, what would you recommend him?

Mayor Watson has been in! :) Our menu changes so often - but we have kept one staple dish, the Wood Ear Mushroom dish.


Blue Peaches Furniture - Jessica

Blue Peaches Furniture - Jessica

Pour Boy - Anthony

Pour Boy - Anthony