I waited a long time–months, in fact–to finally write about my visit to the Bookshelf, Guelph’s own restaurant-meets-bookstore-meets-bar-meets-movie theatre, as part of my continuing food tourism staycation. It sounds like a mishmash of unrelated things, but this quaint establishment represents the essence of Guelph perfectly. It’s artsy but not pretentious, unique but not the least bit tacky and has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to pick up the latest tome by your favourite author, grab a martini with a friend or enjoy a dinner and a movie date with your significant other, the Bookshelf is the place to be.
The layout of the place is a bit of a stacked maze. The ground floor features a surprisingly large bookstore packed with works by local authors and best-sellers along with niche and mainstream magazines and newspapers. Hike up a couple of sets of stairs and you’ll find yourself at the entrance of a one-room, traditional style movie theatre complete with a tiny but well-stocked concession stand. Continue straight down the long, dusty green hallway and you’ll arrive in the dining room of the Greenroom, an open concept restaurant serving up casual, inventive eats like organic quinoa salad, tofu wraps, vegetarian sushi and grilled pizzas.
If you continue across the dining room and head through the set of doors, you’ll arrive in Ebar, a bustling bar complete with dance floor, live DJ and, sometimes, live music. The vibe is fun and relaxed yet not overly swanky or club-like (i.e., it’s the ideal hang-out for the 25-plus set…perfect).
I’ve been to the Bookshelf many times before but never for the dinner and a movie deal. For a very reasonable price, you get your choice of entrée along with tickets to that night’s feature film. We enjoyed a leisurely dinner (I had the sweet potato, goat cheese and cilantro quesadilla; he opted for the gazpacho and the Thai red chicken curry) before heading back toward the theatre to see Tree of Life. The restaurant was quiet on that particular late summer evening, but we didn’t mind at all. Our food was flavourful and bright, particularly the sunny gazpacho. Even something as simple as my quesadilla was cooked perfectly, with a pleasing balance between the tangy goat cheese, caramelized sweet potato and herbal kick of vibrant cilantro. My boyfriend would’ve liked his curry with a little more sauce on it, but the spicy, coconutty goodness was spot-on.
All in all, I’d highly recommend the Bookshelf/Greenroom/Ebar to anyone who happens to be in Guelph for a visit, especially the dinner and a movie deal (can’t beat $19.99!). It is unique, interesting places like this that make me love the arts, culture and cuisine of my city. Cheers to the Royal City!