mi-ns-dinner-food

Customers munch at the new Terre Rouge Bistro Marche in Charlottetown. (CBC)

With a growing population and increasing gentrification in Charlottetown, a slew of new and expanding restaurants are hoping to cash in on a piece of the pie.

As the tourist season ramps down across the Island, the owner of the Orange Lunchbox is ramping up.

"Just like in the field of dreams — if you build it, they will come. So if you make it, they will eat it," said James Oja.

He operated out of a trailer all summer, but now Oja is aiming to open the Orange Lunchbox's permanent home on University Avenue on Monday.

"People love my food, there's a lot of demand for us to have an indoor seating space. We had a lot of people from downtown asking us to come downtown all summer, so now we're here and we're going to see what happens," he said.

The Orange Lunchbox is just one of the many restaurants that are opening or expanding in the downtown core. Leonhard's Cafe and Restaurant is expanding into the vacant space next door and a high end-burger joint is moving in on University Avenue.

Young Folk and the Kettle Black has opened a coffee shop on Victoria Row and around the corner the new Terre Rouge Bistro Marche is bustling.

"We are full within 15 minutes of opening our doors, which is more than anybody can ask for really," said John Pritchard, co-owner of the Terre Rouge.

Pritchard said he knows there are only so many customers, but he said Charlottetown is growing.

"We have a lot of people from the immediate area coming in.  There's been a lot of expansion you know. There's roughly 60 apartment units across the street that have gone in and it seems there's a lot of gentrification happening in old Charlottetown now. I think that's really kind of opened up a market," he said.

The city said they expect Charlottetown's population to grow 2.5 per cent by 2017.

"I think it is growing, but I don't think we can help but sort of like borrow from each other's pieces every now and then, depending upon what the customers are looking for at the time," said Pritchard.

"We're going be completely different from everybody else. Our new concept only has one competitor on this island so we're not too worried," said Oja.

As winter approaches and the tourist season ends, these new and expanded restaurants will face the true test of the downtown market.