Thunder Bay·Audio

These international students hope to be more than Outsiders with new Thunder Bay eatery

Three friends who came to Thunder Bay, Ont., as international students started The Outsiders in November, and business has been booming ever since.

Abu Hena Mostofa Kamal, 21, Souvik Mukherjee, 24, Mohammad Faisal, 22, started business in November

Mohammad Faisal, Souvik Mukherjee and Abu Hena Mostofa Kamal, left to right, started The Outsiders near the end of 2021. (Matt Fratpietro/CBC)

If you've ever been hit by a case of the midnight munchies, you know food options in Thunder Bay at that time can be limited.

A trio of relatively new arrivals to the northwestern Ontario city are working to change that, as three friends who are international students are now serving up cuisine to local night-owls.

Abu Hena Mostofa Kamal, 21, Souvik Mukherjee, 24, and Mohammad Faisal, 22, started The Outsiders in November, and business has been booming ever since. 

"Oh, crazy weekends," Kamal said. "Oh, it's like 35, 40 orders. The good thing is it's growing. Unbelievable." 

LISTEN | The group behind The Outsiders discuss their new business:

The takeout-only restaurant specializes in American-fusion cuisine. Its menu includes butter chicken poutine, chicken sandwiches, and Juicy Lucy burgers, a local favourite south of the border in Minneapolis but something not entirely common in Thunder Bay.

They're committed to using fresh, local ingredients, and sourcing meat and produce from George's Market and buns from Roma Bakery.

Kamal said a love of food brought them together, but the pandemic provided a spark. 

'We slept 2 or 3 hours'

The three young restaurateurs have adopted an outside-the-box model that allows them to keep their overhead low. 

Their home base is another local restaurant — Apple Chipotle's on Court Street — where they take over the kitchen late on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, often working as late as 4 a.m.

"[The owners of Apple Chipotle's] supported us with that and they have been with us since the very inception," Mukherjee said. "So they have been the torchbearer to whatever we are doing".

Opening a business is no easy task, but Kamal, Mukherjee and Faisal said they're committed to see their dream become a reality, and they're willing to put in the work.

Sharing that smile

For the three international students, being a part of the Thunder Bay community is as important as operating a thriving business.

Mukherjee and Faisal are students at Lakehead University, while Kamal attends Confederation College.

Over the Christmas holidays, they closed early to deliver hot meals to transit operators as temperatures dipped and snow piled up.

"Many city [buses could have closed down," Mukherjee said. "They kept on running and they kept on serving the crowd of Thunder Bay. So we thought of serving them in turn. It's not about the food, it's about sharing that smile."

They also found time to pass out holiday cards to residents at a local retirement home.

Mukherjee said the The Outsiders is about passion — for food, family and Thunder Bay.

"I'm from India, they're from Bangladesh. We are two separate nations, but we brought it together through friendship. Now we want to bring the whole world together through food, so let's see where we end up. That's the long term goal."