‘We’re busy all the time’
Restaurants in Wolfville shift for success
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.
Lindsay Reid of the Rolled Oat Café is serving another 100 customers a day since the eatery expanded.