Kitchener-Waterloo

Andrew Coppolino takes a look at the state of restaurant closures and openings in Waterloo region

In recent months, the food and beverage landscape has changed — with some restaurant closures, but many new businesses have opened even with COVID-19 still lurking.

Waterloo region has experienced closures, but many new restaurants have also popped up

The region has had a lot of movement at its restaurants over the pandemic. Long-time Cambridge restaurateur-cook Pirooz Jafari is moving from beautiful old Galt to Belmont Village. Jafari draws on his Iranian background as he cooks classic bistro dishes such as coq au vin. (Andrew Coppolino/CBC)

In recent months, the food and beverage landscape has changed — with some restaurant closures, but many new businesses have opened even with COVID-19 still lurking.

Waterloo Region has experienced closures — not all due to the pandemic — including some popular long-standing venues like Marbles, Angie's and Stoyle's Fish and Chips in Cambridge.

A recent arrival to the scene, Breakfast, Blues and BBQs, on Victoria Street South near Oak Street, has closed and their food truck has been put up on blocks as well.

Bricks and Mortar General Store and Restaurant in Cambridge has closed as well, though their social-media postings say COVID was not a factor.

Not a closure, per se, but the Cerny Group has sold the Cambridge Blackshop!, where the business started decades ago by the late Alec and John Cerny's parents. John is now focusing on Sole Waterloo and Melville Cafe Cambridge.

Open for business

Happily, there are lots of openings that outnumber closures. Here is a selection.

In Cambridge, indoor dining re-opens at Little Mushroom Dining Lounge. Little Mushroom has also taken over food operations at Descendants Beer and Beverage Co. in Kitchener and Bitte Schon brewery in New Hamburg.

A fire at The Rich Uncle in August has meant renovations, but the pandemic has made finding drywallers difficult. Look for them to re-open at the end of month.

With grocery stores needed — to add to Full Circle Grocery & Bulk — Marche Leo's has opened at the corner of King and Water in downtown Kitchener. They offer groceries as well as quick take-away meals.

Damera East Mediterranean Restaurant and Bar has opened at 179 King Street. It's one of the many new restaurant openings in Waterloo region recently. (Andrew Coppolino/CBC)

Nearby, Damera East Mediterranean Restaurant and Bar has opened at 179 King Street, and a couple blocks away is Wineology Bar and Restaurant.

Around the corner, along Queen Street, there's a unique "natural wine bar" and retail store that just opened by Lindsay Cameron called Goldie's Convenience. Cameron says she features by-the-glass natural and low-intervention wines, and lots from Ontario. It opens this week.

In a time of restricted seating, it's great to see a small venue, Pho Vietnam K & W, expand and assume next-door space at its location at King and Cedar streets.

Popular cook Terry Salmond, formerly of Charcoal Group, is preparing to open Lighthouse Cafe and Bistro in the former Cafe Pyrus space on Charles Street — now that Pyrus has hopped over to King Street at Water Street. Salmond calls it "regional Canadian" and for now the opening date is unknown.

"It's just me and my partner working on it. No general contractor, no big budget. Just a couple of guys pouring their hearts into it," Salmond said.

Outside the core, Madhu's Roti and Doubles recently had a grand opening on Fischer-Hallman Road. While Desi Bites Indian appears to be opening on Kingsway Drive at Wilson Avenue — it will include some Hakka Chinese-Indian dishes.

Popular U.S. chain Chick-fil-A opened on Fairway Road in early August, but amidst controversy over the ownership's polarizing social views. It's said to be great chicken, but I will probably stick with the local home-grown versions.

Madhu's Roti and Doubles recently had a grand opening on Fischer-Hallman Road. (Andrew Coppolino/CBC)

Now open in Waterloo

In Waterloo, Patent Social, once the Horseshoe Restaurant, has closed, but the space is re-opening as Le Shin Swah — a brand that owner Ryan Good has re-purposed from Chainsaw.

"We're hoping for a rather unique concept," Good said. The small window to the side remains Scoop du Jour take-away ice cream.

Babylon Sisters has opened at 23 King Street North in Waterloo. It features non-LCBO labels and wines by female producers. Food is by S & V Uptown a few doors down, which moved from their Lancaster Street location in late summer.

Babylon Sisters has opened at 23 King Street North in Waterloo. It features non-LCBO labels and wines by female producers. (Andrew Coppolino/CBC)

Across the street is Streetlights, a late-night bar with bottle service, palm trees and SoBe sand for the university crowd. They have a Cuban-style sandwich I wouldn't mind trying.

Heading to Belmont Village, long-time Cambridge restaurateur-cook Pirooz Jafari is moving from beautiful old Galt to the former Wilhelm's spot. Jafari draws on his Iranian background as he cooks classic bistro dishes such as coq au vin.

Go where the cooks go

Speaking of moving, cooks move around — at the best of times it can be a mobile and transient work force.

Rich Hodge and Tara Robinson have left Grand Trunk Saloon. The former is at Laurier's student union as kitchen manager-chef. The latter is at Laurier's Veritas Cafe. Assuming cooking duties at GTS is Maria Sherwood, formerly of Public, and Jared Penner, who came from Toronto.

Just around the corner at TWH Social in the Walper Hotel, Abbey Rush has moved from Proof to become restaurant manager. She's a cocktail maven who will be creating new fall beverages, which will include the first honey from the roof-top Walper hive.

This summer Jenn Angus-Parkin became head chef at Red House, while Red House alum and cook Spencer Vella returns to the region from Stratford to assume butcher duties at Stone Crock.

In a Waterloo Region-Perth County swap, heading to Stratford and the HUB is Jaret Flannigan, formerly of S & V Uptown and Imperial Market New Hamburg.

While former S & V's chef Denis Hernandez takes over the kitchen in Stratford's Windsor Hotel.

In other news, Taylor Jones has created a film series on businesses surviving the pandemic, including some food businesses. Check the Princess Cinema for details.

Crafty Ramen is looking for more production space so it can open its dining room again, according to owner Jared Ferrall.

He adds that the restaurant will be catering an event for the Toronto Film Festival as it screens a Japanese movie about a ramen shop called Come Back Anytime.

A Wellesley business is about to launch Nithwood Reserve, a barrel-aged maple syrup.

Langdon Hall chef Jason Bangerter will launch a cookbook this fall, which was delayed by COVID-19. It will be published by Penguin Random House.

While the final damage from the pandemic is still likely to be tallied, and instability will continue as patios close for the winter, subsidies subside and post-holiday doldrums kick in, these openings augur well.

The agglomeration of food businesses in many parts of the region — enhanced by more walkable urban neighbourhoods — creates small food hubs that are attractive to diners and customers. If one business does well, a nearby business has a chance too: the rising tide lifts all boats.

We hope.

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