‘We’re busy all the time’

Restau­rants in Wolfville shift for suc­cess

Annapolis Valley Register - - COMMUNITY - BY WENDY EL­LIOTT

No won­der there’s a culi­nary spot­light on the Town of Wolfville – a com­mu­nity that has 20 eater­ies.

In re­cent months, there’s been a shift in the geog­ra­phy and two restau­rants moved into more spa­cious quar­ters. The Naked Crepe mi­grated into the empty Privet House set­ting and has been busy every since.

Their clien­tele still gets to watch staff make crepes. The menu has crepes rang­ing from break­fast style to dessert, and if you don’t like crepes they also have a va­ri­ety of pizza.

In Septem­ber, the Rolled Oat re­set­tled just down east on Main Street at the for­mer Naked Crepe lo­ca­tion. Lind­say Reid says they’ve served an­other 100 cus­tomers a day since ex­pand­ing.

“It was needed,” she said. “We’re lov­ing it. We needed more room and we’re busy all the time.”

The café, which spe­cial­izes in ve­gan and gluten free food, used to have 15 seats at four ta­bles, now has 44 spots for the break­fast and lun­cheon crowd.

Reid says the cook­ing staff em­pha­sizes lo­cal pro­duce and “ev­ery­thing as hand­made as pos­si­ble. Healthy com­fort food.”

With more space, the Rolled Oat is try­ing to ac­quire a liquor li­cense and Reid hopes to start of­fer­ing mu­sic and stay­ing open on Fri­day evenings.

Jun Li, who owns and op­er­ates Li’s Wok and Grill, just cel­e­brated his first an­niver­sary. This spring he re­branded the Front Street Café with his own vi­sion forged while work­ing in restau­rants in Van­cou­ver and New Glas­gow.

“I like my own busi­ness. It’s OK be­cause you’re the cook. That’s what I want.”

Jun Li says his cus­tomers love good food, in­clud­ing home­made plum sauce, and good ser­vice.

He says his menu is about half Chi­nese and half North Amer­i­can and the all-day break­fast is pop­u­lar.

Switch­ing com­pletely over a Chi­nese menu isn’t on his agenda any­time soon be­cause change comes slowly, he says.

Among the most pop­u­lar dishes at Li’s are Gen­eral Tso’s Chicken, Gin­ger Beef and Beef with Broc­coli, along with the vege­tar­ian item ti­tled Three De­lights from the Earth.

Jun Li is from the north­east­ern prov­ince of Liaon­ing, which bor­ders on North Korea and the Yel­low Sea. His pas­sion started with food prepa­ra­tion at home and then he went to cook­ing school in the town of Shenyang.

Eth­nic food is cer­tainly a high­light in Wolfville. Sunny Mun of Danji Korean Restau­rant started out at the Wolfville Farm­ers’ Mar­ket. When she knew Val­ley res­i­dents were open to the dishes of Korea, Mun opened her café on Elm Av­enue.

She has dis­cov­ered area res­i­dents en­joy Korean meals, but Mun counts on the pho­tos adorn­ing her menu to al­low most Nova Sco­tians to make their se­lec­tions.

“Ev­ery­body knows, even Kore­ans in Hal­i­fax. I am very happy that peo­ple like my food,” she says with a broad smile.

Cer­tainly in­ter­na­tional stu­dents at Aca­dia Univer­sity ap­pre­ci­ate her lo­ca­tion just off the clock Park.

“I like this lo­ca­tion,” Mun says. “I was glad to fi­nally find a place and I’m busy.”

Right next door and equally busy is the Troy Restau­rant, which was started by two chefs from Turkey. They’ve moved on, but cur­rent coowner Wil Lang says he and his part­ner in­her­ited an eatery that con­tin­ues to flour­ish.

Hav­ing started in the food busi­ness with eight years at a Greek restau­rant in Banff, Lang finds Troy, with its open grill, a good fit af­ter three years. He rec­om­mends week­end reser­va­tions.

He ex­plains the chefs butcher an­i­mals like lamb and oc­to­pus on site “and they use ev­ery­thing. We re­duce the bones to make a demi glass. It’s back to ba­sics. Here we kind of en­shrine real food.”

This kind of grasp on food qual­ity, Lang notes, al­lows for the kind of full di­etary con­trol that can cater to cus­tomers with di­etary con­cerns. He very much ap­pre­ci­ates the daily de­liv­er­ies by lo­cal farm­ers and winer­ies.

Chef Michael How­ell, who is ac­tively putting the fi­nal touches on De­vour! The Food & Film Fest, views the lo­cal restau­rant scene as in­dica­tive of a na­tional trend against fine din­ing.

“”There’s a malaise across the coun­try,” he says. “Fine din­ing is fad­ing off the books, but there are still tem­ples of gas­tron­omy.”

How­ell says the cur­rent per­cep­tion is that fine din­ing is over­priced for what you get. He notes Cana­di­ans ap­pear to want to spend less, but eat out more of­ten.

Younger Cana­di­ans might dine out three to five times a week and they like ca­sual eater­ies while want­ing their money to go far­ther, he be­lieves.

“That’s a sad state­ment,” he adds for one of the main pro­po­nents of the Slow Food move­ment in Canada.

Some­times, the Wolfville res­i­dent says, there’s a per­cep­tion of value sim­ply when the por­tions are large.

While set­ting up for the up­com­ing De­vour!, How­ell says he was “very cog­nizant of all price points.”

He knows the food truck night at­tracts more than a 1,000 peo­ple for a rea­son, but at the same time for seven celebrity chefs are also why peo­ple are will­ing to spend $150 on a meal.

There are day passes, How­ell adds, and rush tick­ets to pull in a wide di­ver­sity of peo­ple.

Wolfville Food Tours presents

A new food ex­cur­sion, or­ga­nized by Jeremy No­vak, which is called Taste of Wolfville takes cus­tomers out on a three-hour walk­ing food tour.

He says guests visit up to eight dif­fer­ent es­tab­lish­ments for food sam­ples in the down­town core of Wolfville. Tours are lined up to Oct. 30.

“Our lo­cal guides will charm you with their take on liv­ing in this in­cred­i­ble town. They’ll all agree, the abun­dance of good food in Wolfville is a de­li­cious as­set.”

When pos­si­ble, the es­tab­lish­ments will pro­vide a rep­re­sen­ta­tive to speak about the food and share a few ‘be­hind the scenes’ sto­ries and laughs.

No­vak says, “try truf­fles, munch meze, slurp soup, cher­ish crepes, sip cider, eat Le­banese, cel­e­brate Chi­nese, pair a beer, rel­ish an oat. It’s a pretty di­verse culi­nary lineup.”

Cost is $55 for adults and $45 for chil­dren 12 and younger. Tick­ets are avail­able on­line via the Wolfville Food Tours Face­book page through Tick­et­pro.

Part of the pro­ceeds will go to the Wolville Food Bank.

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Lind­say Reid of the Rolled Oat Café is serv­ing an­other 100 cus­tomers a day since the eatery ex­panded.

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