Major upgrade to Ford City German club January 30 2023

Windsor’s only authentic Germany biergarten and banquet hall is undertaking a big makeover to enhance its curb appeal. The Heimat Windsor Banquet Centre is applying for city grant and tax incentives for the substantial upgrade to its otherwise nondescript two-storey exterior, a 1950s era block building which up to now has had simple window awnings. Instead the makeover provides more Bavarian flourishes with themed signage on the Drouillard Rd. and south facdes – facing its patio – and new lighting above three-dimensional lettering and a board sign. The demolished block windows result in a more open look. And there will be Bavarian themed flower boxes and shutters. Heimat has been a mainstay for Oktobertfest and Carrousel of the Nations Bavarian Village festivities, with a 125-seat patio and 150 seat banquet hall. There’s also a 35 seat Bierkeller for smaller groups to watch sports or for private parties. The club’s name? “’Heimat’ means a place you feel at home,” the business' web site says. “All of our special events are centered around keeping tradition alive and giving the German community a place to enjoy some events like back home.” After the demise of the Teutonia Club in central Windsor several years ago it’s the only remaining German club in the city. The city says the building’s improvements will also continue to enhance the Ford City neighbourhood, and its “vibrant main street” Drouillard Rd. being its commercial spine. City funding comes under the Community Investment Program (CIP), instrumental in helping revive older inner city neighbourhoods. The club would receive just over $31,000 in grants while the owners invest almost $114,000, a grant-to-investment ratio of $3.65.

Photo: City of Windsor

New entrants gear up for major University Ave. redevelopments December 9 2022

The latest in a string of restaurants at two locations – a sort of minor restaurant row – have opened in the 900 block of Wyandotte St. W. Both are run by experienced restaurateurs and have operated or still operate restaurants in the city. And both expect to get in on the ground floor of a couple of major developments slated for the area. One is the complete revamp of the wide-lane and underused University Ave W. with a city plan for beautifying the street. The second is the immense block long property across the street, the former Grace Hospital site, which is to be redeveloped into the Global Village, a 500-student residential complex affiliated with Windsor’s two post-secondary institutions. Mohammed Rayyan is owner of Marina Fish and Chicken, which opened at the long time location of Skippy’s and more recently Rise n’ Shine. Marina was on Wyandotte St. E. for 12 years but Rayyan wanted a higher profile. Since opening in March Rayyan says he’s trying to get the word out the resto has moved. “Not a lot of people know that,” adding he will up his social media profile. Business is stronger for dinner than lunch. The restaurant lauds its grilled chicken and fish with African seasonings from Congo where one of Rayyan’s associates used to live. “No one in Windsor does fish like our fish." It also carries on the tradition of Canadian and now Arab breakfests along with a full menu. Meanwhile, a couple of doors down on the corner, Paratha Junction opened in September. The location has seen a variety of restos but most people will know it as the former Sushi Jade. Co-Owner Saloni Harish also owns the Dhes Swaad restaurant at 21 Chatham, St. E. specializing in Indian “street food.” But the new eatery is “the first paratha place in Windsor." Paratha is different from Naan bread. It’s made with whole wheat flour and grilled and then stuffed with food, unlike Naan, a flatbread eaten alongside food. Harish had been looking for a location for a year until she found this site which she called a “hot spot” because it’s on a student route and because of the upcoming housing complex. “What we want is just people passing by and see the food and they just crave the food.” Meanwhile, in between is long time Shin Shin Chinese restaurant, no doubt patiently waiting for street's next evolution.

Tim Hortons in the UK aims for an "aspirational" experience - yes, really! Nov 25 2022

Tim Hortons is going upscale. Not in Canada but in London England, where one of what will be a number of stores exude an upscale laid back vibe more conducive to the Gen Z laptop and latte set than the chain's Canadian traditional blue collar "double-double" customers. The Toronto Star reports that Tim's UK brand is positioned as an aspirational brand, one that provides "functional and emotional positivity," says Kevin Hydes of Tims UK. Really! Yes, the Great White North does figure into the concept but as "aspirational" as a "place of great natural beauty and vastness." But not just because of fir trees and snow. Many of Gen Z's most appealing characters in popular culture are people like Justin Bieber, Drake, Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds - all Canucks. "Canadians have grown up with Tim Hortons - it's a very everyday occasion," Hydes said. "In the UK, it's much more of a treat for consumers. We're pitching ourselves against brands such as Starbucks in terms of beverage quality and value for money." UK Tims' stores are roomier, have a combination of tables and living room furniture like sofas and cushioned chairs. But you'll also have to pay more. A box of 10 Timbits costs $6.77 vs. $3.38 back home. A medium Ice Capp runs $6.46 vs. $3.72 in Toronto - a 74 per cent increase. And that's done purposely. London is a more expensive city. But those prices are set purposely high. "It's always a lot easier for a new restauarnt coming in," Hydes said. "To start slightly higher and then do special offers." And Johnny and Mary Canuck will have to travel across the pond for these menu items: chocolate hazelnut and Oreo pancakes, cookie doigh doughnut and smoky maple burger.

New Italian bistro-cafe owner hopes to be a part of downtown resto revival Nov 11 2022

A Toronto transplant has taken over a long dormant – but prime - corner downtown and touts a revival of downtown Windsor’s ”glory days.” Jason Serratore, originally from London but who has spent the last decade in the GTA as a manager at the Symposium string of cafes, saw the opportunity downtown to open an authentic light Italian eatery, Serratore Bistro-Café. “I just fell in love with downtown Windsor,” he said. “It’s gorgeous down here and actually has a lot of potential. And I’ve heard a lot of stories about this block around here – Chatham Street with the old Steakhouse, the glory days that everybody keeps talking about - and I think there’s a real opportunity to have that come back.” The cafe at 98 University Ave W. is on the northeast corner of Pelissier that many years ago was Light Bar nightclub. The cuisine is a natural for Serratore. “The concept is something near and dear to my heart,” he said. “It's coffee and espresso and I’m Italian so paninis just kind of went with it.” The 40-seat space (expect a patio next summer) has a casual vibe and the menu breaks down into anti-pasti, panini with nine sandwiches on home-made focaccia. There’s also a range of charcuterie with meats and cheeses directly from Italy. And coffees, cold beverages and pastries – his specialty is the chocolate brioche – makes up the balance. Serratore held his grand opening Thursday but the café opened on the same day as the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF), offering filmgoers a brand new place to eat and hang out, kitty-corner from the Capitol Theatre. “So we had some success with that and I got to know a lot of the WIFF people,” he said.

Photo: Serratore Bistro-Café

How much too much price increase before diners stop eating at restos? October 11 2022

Restaurants are still finding it difficult to crawl out from the debt and increasingly higher costs brought on by Covid and now inflation. But there is a limit to how much more customers will pay when dining-out, adding to their woes. Restaurants Canada’s annual report says that it's been a "long and winding journey" back to pre-Covid conditions and sales remain 11 per cent below 2019. Meanwhile 80 per cent of restaurants took on new debt during Covid with almost half independent restos accruing between $50,000 and $100,000 and more than 30 percent over $100,000. Meanwhile the industry has also been severely impacted by the lack of workers. In June there were more than 170,000 job vacancies. As a result 70 per cent of businesses upped the hours worked by management, 64 per cent reduced operating hours and three-quarters raised wages. To cope with inflation menu prices have gone up more than six per cent. According to a survey by US-based Revenue Management Solutions, there is still some distance to go before consumers will be turned off eating at their favourite chain or mom and pop. “When price increases went beyond 10%-13%, traffic started to severely decline, negating some or all of the net sales benefits,” spokesman Scott Foxworth said. But, says Nation's Restaurant News, the research found that most locations were below the threshold at 9-10%. That accords with a trend that 45% of consumers "are going out to eat less and that when they do more consumers are trading down — ordering less expensive items or going to cheaper restaurants — than they had in the past."

Photo: Nation's Restaurant News

Wasps - the bane of patio diners Sept. 27 2022

Wasps. The bane of restaurant patio diners everywhere. And especially in September when the critters have had a whole summer to build out their nests and proliferate. No sooner do you sit down to your favourite pub food or more expensive dinner, crack open that beer or pour that glass of wine, and the little beasts start to buzz and alight. The good news is there’s a way to control the pests. The bad news is it’s almost impossible to eradicate them. Pest control experts say the best way to limit their presence is through wasp traps and basic sanitation. The traps can be cheaply bought or self-made using a pop bottle and sugary liquid. But they should be placed as far away from diners as possible. “That’s the biggest issue I find with restaurateurs - just putting them right on the patio with the diners,” Tim Crone, Windsor branch manager with Abell Pest Control, says. Ideally, traps should be about 20 ft away – say, on the other side of the restaurant. “Otherwise you’re just attracting them to the dining area.” Crone chuckles when he recalls some of the places he's seen traps placed like at the drive-thru where people are ordering food; they should be strategically placed. He knows of one golf course with a wide open area that properly places about 20 bags around it. “But if you’re in a tight downtown area and you don’t have that much room you’re kind of limited,” he says. Spraying nests is a way to eradicate at source but wasps can fly from quite a distance. “Wasps will fly far away from their colonies to look for food and then bring it back,” says Ben Magri, a partner with Gray Wolf Pest Control. “You can treat the patios, that will reduce the activity absolutely but you can’t ever guarantee 100 per cent.” Magri said it’s a “hard to control” problem. Jen Wright, owner of Ladybug Pest Control, said it really comes down to the basics. “The only prevention - cleanliness and setting outing out the traps.” Spraying helps but she doesn’t think that’s the “real problem” with outdoor patios.

Weekend dining's misses and hits Sept. 13 2022

A rare weekend of restaurant surfing. And the results were, shall we say, mixed. First an evening ‘al fresco’ dining at one of the area’s wineries. The first one we attended, with a spectacular view of Lake Ontario, closed at 5 pm on a Friday. And our memories were that there used to be a patio but now apparently just beach service. A second, also with an amazing view, had quality food but the patio was simply lined with picnic tables. And, again, no evening hours. A third winery also on the lake side of the highway was renowned for its good food but did not offer a cliff view. We knew this but decided to pass because all the tables were under a canopy when we wanted a wide open experience. Picky but there you have it. And, the joke was on us because, ironically, we ended up far away from the shoreline at an inland winery where we had dined just a month earlier. Why? It had an attractive patio. The complaint, here, though, was that its dinner menu was just as skimpy as its lunch. Though the gourmet hamburger was fantastic and the winery has a standout fresh, crisp chardonnay…..On Saturday we dined at one of Amherstburg’s classic pubs. We were pleasantly surprised that it has a patio – in the park across the street - their permanent location otherwise hemmed in by the town's compact downtown. And the serving of cod fish and chips was both massive and superb tasting. It was also great to see so many of the other restaurant and bar patios downtown filled with diners and drinkers as Amherstburg’s great Open Air Weekends (photo), started during Covid, continues…..On Sunday it was time to try a Windsor riverfront resto. But we were put off by one that demanded diners only stay one and a half hours so the staff could frequently turn over tables. The other we dined at had a pleasant atmosphere, but lacking in patrons when a pub a block away was packing them in. The food – a turkey sandwich and artisan pizza, were just 'okay'.….And, in all the outdoor locations, the perennial problem – buzzing wasps! There must be a way to find a permanent solution to this most annoying aspect of fresh air dining. Restaurants, get to work!

Decidedly different ice cream parlour August 30 2022

The Parlour Ice Cream Co. opened deep in the early months of the Covid pandemic in June 2020. And unlike businesses that had been opened in previous years the business on Malden Rd. in the LaSalle Town Centre plaza wasn’t eligible for government Covid funding. Owner Crystal Meloche was undaunted. She created a “unique for the area” ice cream place that has carved out a market serving locally and regionally made products and ice cream that isn’t big market conventional brands. The shop orders its ice cream from Shaw’s in St. Thomas. “We did some taste testing and we just fell in love with Shaw’s,” Meloche says. “Their ice cream is really creamy, it’s just a really great ice cream and they always have lots of stuff inside. Their butter pecan has these massive pieces of pecans inside, their Granny’s Cupboard is vanilla based with peanut butter swirled through it, it’s got massive peanut butter swirl and it has cookie dough pieces and brownie pieces.” Okay – ready to head there now? The business also serves up Windsor’s own What’s Poppin’ Popcorn Factory popcorn, Walker’s toffee chocolate and butterscotch ice cream toppings. It also has 14 Belgian chocolate dips from Irish Cream to Smurf (cotton candy). Realizing that an ice cream shop tends to have more business in the summer Meloche also serves Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes all year round. “We wanted something for the fall and winter months when people weren’t craving ice cream, we wanted another dessert option,” she says. There are 25 – count ‘em 25 – flavours on offer. In fact the restaurant favours indoor dining with 24 seats. Meloche says pandemic or no pandemic, with two years under her belt and the parlour definitely having been discovered, she’s considering a second location. Based on Covid lockdowns “this is our first summer to find what business will actually be like. There’s a couple of (new) spots we’re looking at.”

Notes: service please, and slumming August 16 2022

Ah, a sunny August afternoon with low humidity, perfect for an al fresco lunch in the county. Of course, the venue we choose is one of the wineries off County Rd. 20. It’s a good thing we made reservations. It appears the more than dozen patio tables have been spoken for as the receptionist tells a disappointed last-minute caller. It’s nice to know, in these post-Covid and inflationary times, people are still willing to dine out. But some of the same restaurant problems still persist as in pre-Covid days. Like service. Yes, the waitress pleasantly introduces herself. But the first thing she asks is whether we want a glass of water. Water? This is a winery and we’re dying for wine. Marketing hint: why not immediately ask the diner if they’d like one of the winery’s signature products that, well, could actually make the winery money? We take the bull by the horns and order wine anyway. As mentioned, it’s hot, dry and we’re dying for chilled vino. Minutes go by – five, 10 and finally 15, before the server shows up with the glass of Chardonnay. Is this comment too critical? A friend suggests restaurants are still hampered by post-Covid staff shortages so we should cut a little slack. But we had been asked by the server right away what we wanted; couldn’t the follow up have been quicker?

Speaking of inflation one restaurant chain says people are dining down. More affluent customers are hitting middle of the road restaurants like Applebee’s and IHOP. Dine Brands has noticed that diners making more than $75,000 are increasingly showing up in their strip plaza eateries. “Guests that often dine at more expensive restaurants are finding Applebee’s and IHOP because of their well-known value position,” chief executive John Peyton says. “We perform well during tough times like this.” But those earning less than $50,000 are disappearing, probably for lower price options like fast food or dining at home. “We assume that they’ve left us for lower-cost options,” Peyton said. Overall, the company’s customers are absorbing price increases of between 7% at Applebee’s and 10% at IHOP without cheque averages declining.

Bistro at the River coming into its own Aug 2 2022

It’s taken quite a while but The Bistro at the River finally seems to be coming into its own. Hard to believe this attractive contemporary resto embedded into the riverbank at the foot of Ouellette Ave. took as long as it has to be found. This despite it being the only city riverfront eating locale on the river and being next to a revitalized “active living” waterfront. The Bistro was opened 15 years ago by Naples Pizza chain owner Tony Bahceli, who still owns it. In fact, Bahceli actually closed it for the better part of a year almost a decade ago because of lack of customers. Its almost hidden location (the roof doesn’t rise over Riverside Dr. to protect the public's river view) and lack of signage have been blamed for the restaurant’s lack of visibility and therefore public awareness. And like other local restaurants the Bistro closed for six months over each of the two years when the Covid pandemic was at its peak. It’s been open since May and will revert to its regular January and February closure this winter, general manager Rob Miller says. The location is ideal for a summer lunch or dinner with its extensive 150 seat patio and stunning view of the Detroit River and Detroit skyline. Miller, who’s been GM five years, said business is “the best since I’ve been there.” This could be a result of the boom in pent up demand from people locked-up by pandemic restrictions the past two years. Regardless, Miller says, “it’s pretty busy for lunch and most nights – even on a Monday or Tuesday evening if it’s just for an hour or two it fills up.” There are also 50 seats indoors (and the resto books group events). Management has tweaked the menu this year with items like the Perch Wrap and the Bang Bang Coconut Breaded Shrimp. Individual size pizzas are also new and a hit. And staff are selling “quite a few” of the Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches, says Miller. The relaxed patio feel means a lot of diners are ordering pitchers of margaritas and sangrias as well as appetizers. They're just hanging out and enjoying the scenery…...and warm weather.

Photo: The Bistro at the River

Vito's taking over DT City Grill space July 18 2022

It’s taken a year but ever popular Vito’s Pizzeria in Walkerville is opening a location smack in the heart of downtown in what used to be the high-profile City Grill space. That’s at the corner of Ouellette and Park streets. The new resto will be branded, appropriately enough, Vito’s Pizzeria on Ouellette. Owner Vito Maggio purchased the building from City Grill Holdings Inc. in July 2021 for $1.26 million. The former ownership was a group headed up by Matthew Komsa. The City Grill tried to make a go of it, first as an upscale resto for six years and then in 2017, switching to an exclusive event space serving upscale cuisine in an “elegant or casual” setting but for pre-booked groups like corporate gatherings or weddings parties, not as a general sit down restaurant. Originally The City Grill offered “fine dining” with a combination of steak, seafood and pasta dishes. Komsa denied in the media at the time that the conversion had anything to do with finances but that there was a hole in the market for upscale event locations. Vito’s purchase of the building was welcomed by Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association president Brian Yeomans. “It’s great news, we’re always thrilled to see new investors in the downtown and Vito has done a lot in Walkerville and I’m excited to see he’s seen the potential in downtown,” Yeomans said. Komsa said his ownership group had no comment “other than we have sold the building.” While Maggio purchased the location a year ago setting up the restaurant has been a slow-go. Recently, however, Vito’s insignia and branding have begun appearing on the landmark formerly Birks store building. Attempts to reach Maggio for an interview have been unsuccessful.

To tip or not to tip at take out counters? That is the question July 4 2022

Increasingly more and more eateries that offer take out are requesting tips at the counter, either through tip jars or electronically when you’re about to pay. Should you tip? It depends. Mister Manners in USA Today suggests tipping at takeout made sense during Covid-19 when that was the only way many restaurants made ends meet. “Particularly if you want your favorite restaurant to survive — and during the (current) Great Resignation, to retain a staff that is earning a livable income.” Chicago restaurant owner Lacey Irby says: “Ordering from a restaurant is a luxury. You don’t have to cook; you don’t have to do dishes.” “Queen of modern etiquette” Myka Meier says it generally is “not customary” to tip at take out. “If you think the service was great or the person helping you out was exceptional, then it’s absolutely a nice thing to tip if you wish. But it’s not expected. And if you barely speak to the person taking your order, I would not leave a tip.” But what if you feel awkward not tipping? “If you choose not to tip at a takeout counter, there is no reason to acknowledge it. Likely, the interaction with the person ringing up your order was so fast, they didn’t expect a tip anyway.” The Meunufy blog says that in a sitdown restaurant it takes time to prepare your take out meal and that person should get some compensation. “When the food is ready, a server or a host grabs the food from the kitchen window and packages it, ensuring your order is accurate and adding any extra sauces or sides you may have requested. Depending on the restaurant, bagging a to-go order might include assembling your salad, grabbing sides out of the walk-in cooler, and putting together desserts.” But for eateries that offer only pick up “you can skip the tip” though “most customers” do offer some cash. Toronto-based etiquette specialist Lisa Orr told Chatelaine it “depends on the type of service.” For the coffee shop tip jar the tip is “completely optional.” But Brendan, a Nova Scotia indie coffee shop manager,0 says tipping can “make all the difference” for baristas making the minimum wage.

Oven 360 concept continues rolling with new GTA outlet and fuller downtown Windsor experience June 8 2022

The Oven 360 juggernaut continues, with plans to open the first resto in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) – Burlington – this summer and a whole new experience in downtown Windsor by the end of August. Oven 360 is the highly successful brainchild of four partners – but mainly chef Remo Tortola – who opened their first completely different pizzeria concept just four years ago. Now there are eight locations, six locally and two in Chatham and Sarnia. “We’re trying to open the market in the GTA,” Tortola told Meanwhile, he and partners Lucio Franceschelli, Matthew Duronio and Huy Nguyen have another set of investors who could see the chain expand into the Michigan market. The new downtown Windsor location, at the site of the one-time Ye Olde Steak House, run by legendary Windsor chef Kurt Deeg, on Chatham St. W., will be known as Oven 360 Ristorante, a more formal dining experience with fuller menu but with the same artisanal pizza including choices of more than 50 toppings. “We want to entertain people with a nice selection of wine, alcohol,” Tortola said. “We’ve got the pizza, full kitchen, we’re going to feature meat, fish, pasta – everything in Italian cuisine.” Part of the way Oven 360 broke the pizzeria mold was by allowing customers to partake in the experienced. By allowing them to eyewitness pizzas being made and having them personally choose from a vast array of toppings. As well, Oven 360 rotates the pizza in unique Italian-built wood burning ovens. This, says the resto, guarantees the pizza cooks “thoroughly and evenly.” And in five minutes! The result is true Neapolitan style pizza. Tortola should know. He came from Miranda, Italy between Naples and Rome, 20 years ago. He ran a pizzeria there and then one for almost two decades at the Caboto Club. He found that most customers loved the idea of choosing their ingredients and watching the pizza being made. So, while Windsorites may love their traditional pizza they’ve obviously, though Oven 360, discovered the magic of artisanal Neapolitan style.

Different menu prices from one outlet to another "common" in the industry May 5 2022

If you buy your meal at one Wendy’s outlet in Windsor you’re likely to pay more than at another of the chain's city outlets. A reader priced combo meals at the two outlets and was shocked by the price differences. “I recently ordered a meal off of the Wendy's Restaurant app,” the Windsor resident said. “While using it, I noticed that the price for the exact same combo at one location was different than another one,” the professional and Wendy’s regular added. “When using the app, I tried different combos to see if it was just the one, but most are different with approximately $1-2 variance.” Sure enough, when did an online price comparison all the combo meals had a price variation with the one Wendy’s always being more expensive than the other. A Dave’s Single Combo was $11.29 at the first store, $9.89 at the second. The Asiago Ranch Chicken Club was $12.69 at one store and $10.99 at the second. A Taco Salad was $9.59 at the first and $9.39 at the second. Even the price of Coke varied: $2.69-$3.29 at the first and $2.49-$3.09 at the second. One item that was priced the same was coffee: $1.79-2.09. Wendy’s media relations responded that price differentials between same chain outlets are not unusual. “Wendy's restaurants in Canada are franchise owned and operated. Franchisees determine menu pricing for their restaurants based on multiple factors which is common in the industry.” Jeff Dover, a Toronto-based restaurant analyst with fsSTRATEGY, said pricing can vary widely. “Some franchisors manage pricing on a regional basis so there is consistency in each region,” he said. “Others allow franchisees full discretion when it comes to pricing.” Dover said pricing is set out in the franchise agreement and “the policy varies from chain to chain depending on the type of products served, supply chain arrangements, the services provided by franchisors and the extent to which pricing is integral to brand management.” Dover said chains operate on small margins with pre-tax profit in Ontario in 2019 (latest data) being 3.5 per cent of sales. He said his firm’s research found that restaurants' food can come from different distribution centres “which can be in the same city.” Dover said most franchisees “are small business owners, not large corporate entities.”

Sexual harassment in restaurants just got worse during pandemic - report April 21 2022

Even before the pandemic the restaurant industry “had the highest rates” of sexual harassment, says a new report. That only increased over the past two years. The study, by the UC Berkeley Food Labor Research Center, surveyed American restaurant workers on their experiences of wages, tips and harassment by supervisors and customers. Seventy-one per cent reported they’d been harassed at least once. And tipped workers experienced it “far higher” than non-tipped ones. And those who reported it had been the “target of significantly and substantially more retaliatory responses than those who did not.” Ninety-eight per cent reported one incident of retaliation, mainly “economic retribution.” The report says Covid “compounded” harassment. “The reduction in customers and tips gave individual customers more power over individual women workers, and also gave more power to supervisors who control which shifts these workers work,” it said. “Since tips vary with shifts, supervisors control workers’ tip income by giving them better or worse shifts.” This was exacerbated by having wait staff enforce Covid rules on “often unwilling” customers, resulting in less tips. And Black workers reported getting even less tips than Whites – 73 to 62 per cent. The type of harassment also changed. Many reported “being regularly asked to remove their masks so that men could judge their looks and their tips on that basis,” creating a health risk. The fact that two-thirds of women are single moms “makes them uniquely vulnerable,” because tips “are the only income” for their household. In the US there are more than 800,000 single mothers in the industry and 425,000 in front-of-house “largely tipped” positions. This makes the industry “the sector with the highest concentration” of single mothers (nine per cent). And single moms are “particularly burdened” because they are less able, due to lack of child care, to work weekend and night shifts “which offer better tips.”

Photo: One Fair Wage report

Resto association blames protesters and authorities for eatery closures February 22 2022

Restaurants Canada blames both protesters and government authorities for not letting restaurants in the nation's capital get back into full business. The reference was to the three weeks of blockades in downtown Ottawa which were cleared on the weekend by combined police forces with hundreds of arrests. While there are no or few restaurants along Wellington St. across from the parliament buildings - the epicenter of the parked truck convoy protest against pandemic mandates - there are a multitude of restaurants on side streets and "down the hill" along Rideau Street and into the Byward Market, the most trendy eating district in the city. The City of Ottawa declared a state of emergency Feb. 6 and closed streets in the downtown core. The closure ironically followed the "green light" given to restaurants by the province to reopen from Covid restrictions Jan. 31. The industry association said the dispute meant "their right to reopen has now been delayed." Restaurateurs "have been instructed to remain closed to avoid threatening behaviour from demonstrators, dashing their hopes of reopening and recovering from the devastating losses they’ve endured over the past month," the association said. While the association says businesses were ordered closed restos in the Byward Market were reported open though reportedly saw a major drop in business as residents shunned the area. The massive Rideau Centre indoor mall closed on its own. The protests only added to "unprecedented challenges of the city’s hardest-hit businesses, depriving restaurants of their freedom to welcome back their customers and adding to the massive debt they’ve been accumulating," Restaurants Canada said. The association called on "protest organizers and public officials "to let food service workers get back to their jobs and allow businesses to begin to recover from this unnecessary attack on their freedoms."

Expect price jumps as restos hit with as much as 19.5% min wage increase January 25 2022

Directly as a result of the pandemic the Ontario government has increased the minimum wage for restaurant staff serving alcohol from 12.55 per hour to a “harmonized” $15 with other minimum wage workers. “Ontario’s workers have been the unsung heroes of this pandemic, as they’ve stocked shelves, kept our supply chain moving and helped so many of us enjoy a meal among family and friends at a local restaurant,” Premier Doug Ford said in November. “When we asked labour leaders what their priorities were, increasing the minimum wage was at the top of the list.” The government admits such an increase is “unprecedented” and as a result liquor servers will be “treated more fairly.” That hasn’t sat well with restaurant owners, who say they weren’t consulted. “There was no consultation whatsoever,” Restaurants Canada Central VP James Rilett (pictured) said. “Back when they were courting the labour vote they decided to do this. And we found out about it at the same time that everybody else did in the press release.” While the government has cited hard times during the pandemic as a reason for the wage increase Rilett said “I don’t think that’s justification – every study I’ve seen has servers, even in family-style restaurants, making $30 to $40 an hour just in tips.” In the overwhelming number of cases those tips are pooled with other restaurant staff. And since the general minimum wage also increased from $14.35 to $15 an hour restaurants “ought to relook at that and say do we need to put more in the back of the house.” Asked the greater implication for restaurants, Rilett said restaurateurs have two choices: lay off staff or increase menu prices “and nobody wants to reduce staff because it hurts production and hospitality so in the end it’s usually menu prices that are affected.” And with restaurants walloped by government Covid restrictions “ restaurants really don’t have the ability to delay menu increases."

Photo: Restaurants Canada

The Twisted Apron moving up and across the street in Olde Walkerville January 6 2022

The Twisted Apron, an 11-year-old popular mainstay in Walkerville, is moving up and across the street to spiffy new premises remodeled by Windsor’s Rosati Group. (See also REAL ESTATE). The move into the 1907 Albert Kahn designed two storey building at Wyandotte St. E. and Devonshire Rd. will see the resto occupy most of the first floor with full street frontage. There will also be a side patio accommodating at least 30. Owner Kate Robinson said the location will be slightly smaller than her current 5000 sq. ft. but there will be more seating and a bigger kitchen. Rosati has gutted the entire building to make way for more than 11,000 sq. ft. of commercial space over two floors as the developer continues to make inroads into the Olde Walkerville community, reconditioning historic older buildings. Robinson said her rent remains the same. “Less square footage but a better design,” she says, noting the new interior look (by Windsor’s Architecturra) will soon be revealed. “It’s a surprise but it’s going to be something very different from where we are right now." The floor can accommodate 90 diners though Robinson says seating will likely max out at 70 for ease of movement. Robinson is changing locations partly because her current building has a small kitchen. “I feel like honestly in the long run it’s going to be cheaper to be there because the building that we’re in right now is extremely old,” she says. “We do a lot of repairs each month that are very costly.” The Twisted Apron has a breakfast and lunch menu and is licensed. Its cuisine puts a “twist” on comfort food. Chicken and waffles is a big seller. “Smashed toast”, a spin on avocado toast with crispy poached egg with mushrooms and chili sauce, is another. “Definitely our mac and cheese is a good seller and our eggs benedict is probably our best-selling item,” she says. Look for an expanded menu at the new locale. Making the move is taking longer than expected because of supply chain delays but Robinson is looking at a late Spring opening.

Photo: Rosati Group

One of a kind website promotes Kingsville's unique culinary scene December 21 2021

Eat, Drink, Dine, Kingsville is a unique website promoting arguably the most vibrant dining scene of any small town in southwestern Ontario. The almost decade old organization represents restaurants, breweries, a butcher and produce markets, drawing dues from members and receiving no government funding. Heather Brown, VP and co-owner of the Main Grill and Ale House, says the group - she says there is no other of its kind in southwestern Ontario or perhaps the province - started when three local restaurateurs were asked to provide hot chocolate for a Christmas celebration. Now the organization is a showcase for the town’s very diverse dining scene, from long time comfort food mainstays to cutting edge gourmet dining. Brown said the group stays viable because those in it are largely of the same point of view. “We’re a group of people that are very like-minded and we see the better good in making Kingsville a destination,” she said. Membership requires businesses to be local. “We don’t do franchise,” she says. Among members are Koi Sushi, Colasantis, Banded Goose Brewing, The Butcher of Kingsville, Kingsville Brewing Co. Taphouse, Green Heart Lunch Club, Jack’s Gastropub, Mettawas Station and Lee & Maria’s. Brown attributes the town’s dining array to its location along Lake Erie’s north shore, in the middle of the county’s wine region. A website video is worth watching simply because it shows the wonderful cuisine available in this pretty town by the lake, which has in recent years also become a retirement community. The organization doesn’t have money to advertise but does team with the municipality and local and southwestern Ontario tourism authorities. And Eat, Drink, Dine Kingsville returns the flavour. For the last five years it has supported area schools by donating almost $100,000, almost $26,000 this year. “Those are feel good stories,” Brown says.

Artisan Grill opens at Devonshire Mall Nov 15 2021

The Artisan Grill has upped its game in a big way, opening in the former Moxie’s location (closed last year) at Devonshire Mall. For almost two decades the resto, probably Amherstburg’s only fine dining eatery was one of the first businesses to revive an historic but moribund Dalhousie Street, an effort now gaining traction. Owner and chef Matthew Johnson has overseen the venture all these years. The resto’s emphasis has always been on fresh ingredients and an upscale menu that combines newer cuisine and traditional in a casual dining atmosphere. “Our menu offers unique dishes that will satisfy all palates. Outstanding service, a warm ambience, and an extensive wine menu all add to your dining experience at both of our locations,” the restaurant says on its website. The Amherstburg location continues to operate along with the new Devonshire site. The mall site has a stylish exterior by the south side patio and an extensive menu is encased in glass outside the eatery in the mall's hall itself. Among the menu’s standouts: handmade artisan bread, mini stuffed Yorkshire puddings with shaved Angus beef, wine demi-glaze and horse radish aioli and baked brie and tuna tartare with mango and avocado. You’ll also find a variety of sandwiches including a surf and turf burger and roasted chicken and wild mushroom panini. There are also cooked bowl dishes such as Asian stir fry, mushroom ravioli and pollo alfredo (sauteed chicken breast with garlic, cream and Parmigiano-Reggiano sauce tossed with handmade fresh Pappardelle noodles). The restaurant specializes in a variety of steaks and meats including 16 oz. Porterhouse and New Zealand spring lamb. And it has always taken pride in its wine selection including those from numerous local producers.

Comment: Ontario's war on restos October 13, 2021

The Ford government has much explaining to do. That’s in light of its Covid announcement last Friday allowing full capacity at theatres and stadiums for the fully vaxxed. But there was no mention of easing restrictions on restaurants, the hardest hit sector during the entire pandemic. That restriction is two metres physical distancing from other tables. Adding insult to injury no government ministers were on a conference call yesterday organized by the province to discuss the changes. The industry thought Minister Lisa MacLeod would be on the call. (Her office organized it.) Even worse, a government official, Carlo Oliviero, asked those participating not to speak to the media. Fat chance. The restaurant industry has been extremely patient throughout the pandemic with government policies, even though there is little evidence to show that Covid spreads in the restaurant and retail sectors (certainly not among big boxes which were open throughout). Many have gone out of business or have been hanging by the skin of their teeth. And overwhelmingly they have complied with every government restriction. Industry organization Restaurants Canada issued a tepid response to last week’s announcement, saying it was “extremely disappointed.” It says it has never received data showing why restaurants are harmful. “It is beyond comprehension that 20,000 people can cram into an arena, scream, and closely congregate without masks, while restaurants must adhere to strict distancing regulations which severely restrict the number of customers that can be served,” it said. One wonders why the industry hasn’t been more vociferous or launched lawsuits. But now, if the government doesn’t act quickly to amend last week’s decision, some restaurateurs are talking civil disobedience. Just what is it that the Ford government has against the restaurant sector?

From vitriol to happy diners, restos greet first day of vax passport regime Sept. 22 2021

From vitriolic threats to smooth sailing, local restaurants on the first day of Ontario’s new vax passport regime had different customer reactions. One owner said she had received calls calling her a “bootlicking Nazi” and a “commie bitch.” She said a lot of callers have been asking if her restaurant will enforce the passport, ordered by the provincial government. “It hasn’t been fun,” she said. The owner, who spoke anonymously, said staff have been stressed and she even considered “closing down during the passport time.” But having opened, business so far has been great. “I will tell you today, the customers were amazing, nobody had a problem, people were happy.” She said there have even been waits. “I do feel like a lot of customers let us know they were nervous to go out, they’ve haven’t been out in a year but they’re out today.” The one hiccup? Some patrons thought the passport phone app was up and running. That only begins Oct. 22. Vax certificates and personal IDs are currently required. Filip Rocca, co-owner of Mezzo, said he’d had “no problems at all.” He said he’s getting a “tonne of reservations” for the weekend though admitted business is down overall. By how much? “We just don’t know at the moment.” Rocca said he’s heard other restaurants are getting hate calls. Uzair Sharif, owner of Smokies BBQ, said he has not received any negative feedback but “we’ve told our employees to be careful.” A supervisor of an east side Asian restaurant said he’s received some negative responses and had to turn one man away. “They just don’t like it and it’s sometimes hard for us, especially explaining it to them." Trevor Loop, owner of the Banded Goose Brewing Co. and Jack’s Gastropub, said with almost 80 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, “I think our customers understand the situation and certainly understand these aren’t our rules.” He said staff have been designated to ask customers proof of vaccination but this isn’t much different from how the restos have been operating throughout the pandemic. “We have to seat all guests because guests aren’t allowed into any facility and certainly can’t take their masks off without having a chair, without being seated at a table,” Loop said. “So really, it’s going to be the same as it has been. The only thing is we have to require proof of double vaccination upon entering. Those who don’t have it obviously we’re welcoming to our patio area weather-permitting.”

Local Brian Bates is Mcdonald's 2021 Outstanding Manager of the Year Sept. 8 2021

Mcdonald’s Canada’s 2021 Outstanding Manager of the Year goes to Windsor’s Brian Bates, who runs the chain’s Walker Road location. The award recognizes top performing managers and like many others in this elite category, Bates started off as a regular crew member, first on the drive-thru line in 2011. He’s since worked at seven locations. "Brian has excelled in delivering great quality service and cleanliness to our guests at our Walker Road location while also having a strong focus on taking care of our people,” Jason Trussell, the outlet’s Windsor franchise owner-operator says in a news release. "Brian's passion and commitment shine through every day and I am extremely proud to see Brian receive this award for his outstanding results." Bates himself tipped his hat to his fellow colleagues. “This award is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of my outstanding crew and I am grateful to work with and lead each and every day," he said. Every year the chain looks for managers whose dedication and hard work embody Mcdonald's desire for top service. According to the chain, Bates’s “passionate management style” also saw his outlet get through some of the restaurant’s “most challenging times” due to the Covid pandemic. Bates has aspirations to become a Mcdonald’s Operations Consultant and wants to get more involved in training and development. He’s already received “top marks” for training classes but this is his first recognition as Manager of the Year. Not incidentally Bates has finally defined what Mickie D’s portly purple mascot Grimace is all about. According to the Toronto Sun by way of CBC News, Bates says Grimace may be a fun and pal to Ronald Mcdonald but is a “tastebud nonetheless.” He says Grimace's purpose in life is to demonstrate that the fast-food restaurant chain’s food is tasty indeed. (see also NOTED & FILED).

More Taters Please aims for 95 stores August 16 2021

More Taters Pleas is expanding with a second store, taking over the former KFC location on Tecumseh Rd. E. at Bernard Rd. This is just the first of what owner Chris Bernauer projects will be 95 stores, the vast majority franchises, as he expands through southern Ontario and perhaps beyond. Why 95? That’s the year his daughter, Emily, was born. Emily died in a car accident in Amherstburg in 2014. She died driving home after staffing the Sobeys booth at the now defunct Shores of Erie International Wine Festival. Everything about More Taters Please is a tribute to Emily. The store name reflects her last text to Chris: “Taters?” There are 18 sauces because she was 18 at time of her death. Bernauer created the restaurant to turn her death ”into life basically.” Bernauer had no background in restaurants when he created the concept in 2017, opening in the Ferrari Plaza on Walker Rd. The store name reflects lots of menu items with imaginative variations of potatoes - from Loaded Taters like Nacho Fries and Triple Cheesy Bacon Fries to six different types of baked potatoes. For example, the Steak'n Bake has baked potato, gravy, cheddar cheese, steak, honey mustard sauce, fried onions, mixed peppers, "delight sauce" and scallions. About half the store’s menu are potato dishes. The other half are a myriad poutines, wraps, chicken, wings and salad bowls. Bernauer said the menu reflects today’s family tastes. “Twenty-five years go everyone wanted a burger and fries, today everybody wants something different.” For now, the family will manage the first five stores alone, ensuring they’re successful before selling them off. Bernauer says he already has had at least 50 inquiries from people asking to be franchisees. “They love the concept,” he said. “It’s not like a complicated operation, it’s very quick simple and great food.”

Photo: More Taters Please

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Restaurants get one year reprieve on single-use plastics

Restaurants still have until the end of the year to stop serving food in single use plastics. That’s despite the Canadian government’s official ban on the products Dec. 20. Ottawa “is giving businesses time to deplete their existing stock of these items,” Restaurants Canada says. The industry says the ban poses a “unique challenge” especially since more and more of its transactions are customer delivery and take out. “Off-premise dining still accounts for most foodservice sales nationwide and is growing,” it says. Starbucks and Tim Hortons introduced “strawless lids” (photo), which are also fully recyclable, back in 2019. – 30/1/23

DT gem Toasty's closed as sisters sought new pursuits

Toasty's, an innovative downtown gem, closed because the amicable sisters who ran the small but pleasant eatery left for new pursuits. Twins Stephanie and Vanessa Clark has been running the quick-serve but original food space at 357 Ouellette Ave. since 2013. In early July they apologized on Facebook for their “abrupt” announcement but said “we have been ready for some time to make a change.” But the Clarks added it may “not be the last time you see us operating a business.” Toasty’s served up more than a couple dozen imaginatively made grilled cheese sandwiches along with salads. Debi Croucher, executive director of the downtown BIA, said “the business closed as a result of one of the partners getting a job opportunity that was too good to pass up.” – 12/2/22

Rexall site spawns three fast food restos

For months it was a mystery as to just what was being constructed in the 1700 block on the east side of Huron Church Rd. bordered by Prince St. (to the west) and Totten St. E. (on the east). That used to be the site of a Rexall drug store, itself a relatively new building until it closed in recent years. Now, the third-of-three fast food restos has opened up there – Guac Mexi Grill, a Canadian-based chain, as well as Firehouse Subs and A & W. Over months of construction the developer never responded to requests for comment. But finally we know. – 12/8/22

Photo: Google Street View

South and East African restaurants dazzle

You’ve eaten flame-grilled burgers. Why not flamed-grilled chicken? That’s what South African chain Nando’s has been cooking up as a whole new fast food treat. It’s called Peri Peri based on the chili sauce that coats the meat. The closest restaurant to Windsor is in Brampton. A spokeswoman said Windsor isn’t on the radar yet for an outlet. But we all know that if we wait loooong enough - right? - an outlet might eventually appear at the proverbial end of Hwy. 401. Meanwhile one of the hottest restaurants in Detroit these days is Baobab Fare, which has garnered wide publicity and praise as a pioneer gentrifing Detroit’s once forbidding New Center district. And of course bringing a whole new taste treat. This East African cuisine won top new restaurant by the Free Press. Owners Nadia Nijimbere and Hamissi Mamba are refugees from Burundi. The resto even has its own line of products in Detroit area supermarkets. – 11/22/22

Mazaar closes popular downtown location

Its website might still say it has two locations but Mazaar Lebanese Cuisine, a mainstay of downtown for many years, has closed that location and consolidated into its south Windsor resto on Cabana Rd. Mazaar was always one of downtown’s more popular go to restaurants bridging a casual and formal atmosphere. But, said a restaurant employee, the location closed because of the dining restrictions during Covid as well as the fact a new owner of the Canada Building, where it was located on Ouellette near Wyandotte St. E., was doing extensive renovations that would have lasted a year and a half. - 20/10/22

Chick-fil-A drops, at least on one measure

Intouch Insight's annual study of fast food service found service is getting, well, faster. The average time spent in the drive-thru dropped 10 seconds to 6 minutes and 13 seconds. But that’s still 45 seconds slower than the 2019 average. When it comes to fastest total time, meaning time spent in the drive-thru from start to finish, KFC came out number one, dethroning last year’s champ, Chick-fil-A. Nevertheless, Chick-fil-A was still fastest at getting orders out based on the number of cars in line, followed by McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Dunkin’, and Arby’s. - 6/10/22

Maple and spice and all fall things nice

Tim Hortons has added a Maple Bacon Breakfast Sandwich to its morning lineup. The meal has naturally smoked bacon topped with a sweet and savoury glaze and “the right hint” of spice, the company says. It’s the “perfect balance” between savoury and sweet, says Tims’ Tallis Voakes, who oversees menu innovation. But there’s more. Customers can also add the new maple-flavoured bacon to any sandwich or wrap, for lunch or for dinner. The meal comes as the coffee chain ramps up new fall offerings including its Maple Collection with 100 per cent Canadian syrup, maple butter and soft maple candies. And of course there’s the seasonal pumpkin spice line for foods and beverages. – 9/22/22

Photo: Tim Hortons

Will that be a little facial recognition with your hamburger?

Coming perhaps to a restaurant near you – facial recognition technology. This might sound intrusive but is described as a win-win for customers and eateries. The kiosks can pull up customers’ profiles complete with past order history, even health info. They can be “especially helpful for allergies since they are able to identify a conflict with a dish even if the customer had not mentioned an allergy during the ordering interaction,” says Nation’s Restaurant News. Also, especially for fast food restos, these kiosks “can maintain the attention to detail that’s essential for excellent hospitality service, even when a restaurant is understaffed” in the post-Covid era. – 9/7/22

Photo: Nation’s Restaurant News

Tim's pizza panned

Tim Hortons' test pizzas aren’t getting good customer reviews. The chain rolled out three types of pizzas in a pilot in select Toronto outlets. “The reaction online to Tim Hortons pizza was swift and merciless,” Toronto Sun reports. The flatbeds come in plain cheese, pepperoni and chicken parmesan. Most of the online jibes were that TH was branching out too much and not preserving its traditional products. “How do these a**holes not have room to bring back the walnut crunch?” said one. “Remember when Tim Hortons announced its ‘Back to Basics’ plan focusing on coffee, doughnuts and breakfasts? Only two years ago? And now they’re trying out pizza? Can’t wait for sushi next year.” – 8/25/22

Photo: Tim Hortons

Chick-fil-A is No. 1

Protesters may still not like it but the public sure does. So much so that Chick-fil-A is America’s favorite fast-food chain for the eighth year in a row. (Hmm, wonder if those protests have ginned up the numbers.) The American Customer Satisfaction Index says the ranking is “a national indicator of the quality of economic output for goods and services as experienced by consumers.” Benchmarks include accuracy of food order, quality of the mobile app, courtesy and helpfulness of staff, restaurant cleanliness and layout and food quality – taste, temperature, freshness. What chain ranked lowest? McDonald’s. Chick-fil-A still attracts protesters - including when the Windsor outlet opened last fall – apparently because of its Christian values – outlets don’t open Sundays - and the fact the company formerly donated to anti-gay causes. It no longer does this; seems protesters never got the memo.– 8/10/22

Freshii outsources "virtual cashiers" to Third World staff

Freshii is responding to the post-Covid labour shortage by sourcing out its cashiers to Third World countries at a fraction of the labour cost. The fast-food operator began using “virtual cashiers” last spring. Ontario’s minimum wage is $15 an hour but workers in countries like Central America and Pakistan are paid as little as $3.75 US. Freshii rep Angela Argo said the mass labour shortage has simply forced the chain to go remote: “the pandemic created this mass exodus of workers in the restaurant industry.” – 7/28/22

Cashless, slimmer profile fast-food restaurants on the way

Get ready for slimmer paired-down fast-food joints. The US National Restaurant Association’s 2022 State of the Industry report found that chains are slimming their fast food outlet profiles in response to rapidly changing consumer trends, especially post-Covid. This includes the elimination of in-store dining and cashless windows, meaning consumers have already paid online. Surveys show adults want quicker pick-up and delivery options. Fifty-four percent said purchasing takeout or delivery is essential to their way of life, including 72 percent of millennials and 66 percent Gen Z. – 7/14/22

Restaurants condemn decision to eliminate single-use plastics

Restaurants will suffer a 125 per cent increase in costs associated with the government’s order to eliminate single use plastics, which will take effect this December. The organization representing the country’s eateries says this doesn’t take into account increased costs for soaring demand for alternatives to single-use, without sufficient “replacement options in place.” Restaurants Canada also says the government should have introduced a “gradual, phased-in approach to new plastics regulations, to give restaurant operators time to source safe and cost-effective packaging alternatives, and give manufacturers time to produce them.” – 6/29/22

Twisted Apron alley dining one step closer

The Twisted Apron is closer to having a unique outdoor alley patio off Wyandotte St. E. for its eventual new location. The restaurant plans to move from its current digs on the south side of Wyandotte St. to the north side and the historical Strathcona Building, being redeveloped by the Rosati Group. The alley is between the Strathcona and the equally venerable Imperial Building to the west. “The yard is envisioned to be a unique multi-purpose space, offering outdoor dining and walk-up windows for the proposed restaurant ‘Twisted Apron’ in the Strathcona Building, and an area for hosting various seasonal community events,” a city report says. The popular resto’s current location is across and down the street at 1883 Wyandotte E. The alley closing went before the city’s development committee this week. A restaurant server said they hope to move as soon as possible, perhaps this summer. “God willing but we don’t exactly know.” – 6/7/22

Two local restaurants make top brunch list

Two Windsor area restaurants made the cut for this year’s top brunch restaurants in Canada list. They're Harbour House Waterfront Eatery in Windsor The Sandbar Waterfront Grill in Tecumseh. Harbour House is the former Lily Kazzilly’s, which re-opened under new ownership a year ago. OpenTable, which describes itself as a leading provider of online restaurant reservations, issued the list of the top 100 best places for brunch. “The list reflects the combined opinions of more than 820,963 restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners in Canada,” the company says. – 5/4/22

Future uncertain for Three Fires restaurant

It was supposed to be the only Indigenous run restaurant of its kind in North America. Leamington’s longtime Happy Snapper on the harbour was being converted into the Three Fires resto featuring renowned Indigenous chef Bill Alexander, whose resume came with entries for some of the top restos in the world. The aim was to create a fusion cuisine with an emphasis on unique Aboriginal dishes, with an emphasis on traditional ingredients and cooking methods. Three Fires was supposed to have opened in Spring of last year. That hasn’t happened. The Caldwell First Nation oversaw the project on its land and was creating the resto with funds from an historic land settlement. Its economic development department sought to have the venue become a destination attraction for diners far and wide. has sought comment from band officials but has not heard back. The Three Fires’ name derives from the Three Fires Confederacy represented by Caldwell. - 4/29/22

Image: Caldwell First Nation

Mystery is over - Harvey's replacing A'burg's Maria's

The mystery is over. The Harvey’s hamburger chain is coming to Amherstburg. It’s not official yet but The Soltani Group, which has several Harvey’s franchises in SW Ontario including three of five in Windsor, purchased the former Maria’s property and is planning a Harvey’s plus one or two other units for a small plaza stretching back from Sandwich Street. The venerable Maria’s was recently demolished (see story below). Soltani’s VP Operations Gord Purchase said the building was torn down “just purely because of the age.” He said Soltani is still negotiating with Harvey’s brand owner Recipe and awaiting town approval before construction. – 4/14/22

A'burg institution now a hole in the ground

Maria’s, for decades and generations an Amherstburg eating institution, has now met the proverbial wrecking ball. All that remains of the Sandwich St. restaurant, across from General Amherst HS, is a hole in the ground and mounds of rubble. It’s the biggest question in town as to why the demolition and what will go up in its place if anything. But there are no signs around the fence indicating who did the demo and what might be built in future. twice in the past has contacted the former owners who always declined comment. The restaurant closed in the wake of Covid-19, which vanquished hundreds of eateries coast to coast as restos suffered perhaps most as an industry sector under Covid restrictions and lockdowns. There’s no proof, of course, that that’s what caused the ever-popular Maria’s demise, but it's likely top of people’s minds. – 4/12/22

No verdict in Chez Cora kidnapping trial

A Montreal jury couldn’t come to a verdict in the kidnapping trial of the son of the founder of the Chez Cora restaurant chain, which has one outlet in Windsor. The jury deliberated six days in the trial of Paul Zaidan, who was charged with kidnapping Nicholas Tsouflidis, Chez Cora’s president. The incident occurred in March 2017. Zaidan was also charged with trying to extort $11 million from Tsouflidis’s mother, Cora Tsouflidis, who founded the chain in Montreal in 1987 with the first outlet a suburban snack bar. - 2/11/22

Locals restos team in music, food series

Seven local restaurants are teaming with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra in a digital concert series exploring food from around the world. “The Music. The Story. The Food” features Nico Taverna, Thyme Kitchen, Lagos Grill, Caffeine and Company, Thanasi’s Greek Restaurant, Windsor Cake Emporium and The Cheese Bar. WSO’s Maestro Robert Franz and U Windsor’s Rob Nelson, historian and cook, set the stage – and menu – to show how food is connected to music. Why is tomato sauce on pizza and where does hot chocolate come from? Subscribers get recipes or can order dishes from the participating restaurants. – 1/19/2022

A'burg first Indian resto's twist on wraps

Amherstburg has its first Indian restaurant. Toronto-based franchiser Butter Chicken Roti opened at the 1812 Poutinerie location last May and franchisee Nav Neet is operating both at 42 Sandwich St. S. The A’burg spot opened after Neet’s first store at 104 Chatham St. W. in downtown Windsor opened in March 2020. It fills the small spot formerly of Micanto Pizzeria, known for its pizza slices. Both locations offer dine-in (currently Covid restricted) and take out service. The chain makes a wrap out of roti, an Indian flatbread, stuffed with traditional Indian curries. Curry and roti can also be ordered separately. – 1/10/22

New ethnic restos a part of mall food court

The Devonshire Mall food court has been overhauled with a much wider variety of general offerings and ethnic cuisines. There’s A & W, Cinnabon, KFC, New York Fries, Taco Bell, Yogen Fruz and Feta & Olives Mediterranean Grill. But also Cultures, Hurry Curry, Koryo Korean BBQ, Manchu Wok, Mucho Burrito, Niko Sushi, Pepitos Grilled Subs and Thai Express. The wider offerings coincide with a $70 million vast mall overhaul, the first in the 50 year old mall’s history. – 12/16/21

Photo: Koryo Korean BBQ

Iconic sub chain coming to Windsor

Firehouse Subs is finally entering the Windsor market. This after the famous chain started by a couple of Florida firemen brothers created a business that has carved a dominating niche in the submarine fast food business. There are more than three dozen stores in Ontario and the Windsor location in the Roundhouse Centre annex is “coming soon,” according to the chain’s website (no one returned comment requests to “Growing up in a family that is both entrepreneurial and built on decades of fire and police service, it seems we were destined to start Firehouse Subs,” the owners have said. The resto puts a huge emphasis on firehouse gear and trappings with a unique mural to reflect local fire and police services. “Firehouse Subs is currently ranked America's No. 1 Favorite Fast-Casual Chain, No. 1 Favorite Sandwich Chain, and No. 4 Favorite Chain overall,” according to Restaurant Business magazine. – 11/15/21

Man jailed for online hate against Lebanese resto chain owner

Paramount Fine Foods owner Mohamad Fakih has won a defamation suit after a man accused the chain owner of supporting terrorism. The defendant, Kevin Johnston, had published a series of videos and online posts denouncing Fakih, who brought one of his restaurants to Windsor’s Gateway Plaza a few years ago. In the ruling, the judge called Johnston’s behaviour “a loathsome example of hate speech at its worst, targeting people solely because of their religion.” Johnston was initially ordered to pay $2.5 million in damages and refrain from making further defamatory statements. Yet, according to Postmedia, in October he was sentenced to 18 months in jail for continuing to defame the owner. Paramount specializes in fresh Lebanese cuisine and Fakih has been a restaurant innovator including creating a hi tech accelerator. He also helped pay funeral costs for Canadian victims of an air flight shot down by Iranian forces in January 2020. – 11/8/21

Windsor Chick-fil-A close to opening

The new Chick-fil-A in Windsor across from the Devonshire Mall is getting its finishing touches with a still undisclosed opening date. The hugely popular chain, which has also generated a large amount of controversy, will open its first local store. Construction started earlier this year. The chain has been the subject of protests by groups which say it's anti-gay. There’s a private Windsor facebook page called ‘Keep Chick-fil-A Out of Windsor’. It calls the chain “notoriously bigoted and homophobic.” Yet the company in 2019 said it will no longer donate to anti-LGBTQ organizations like the Salvation Army. That doesn’t seem to have assuaged anti-restaurant activists. – 10/13/21