Monday, October 28, 2013

Just Us! Barrington is closing

The Co-op decides to close its first Halifax cafe

Posted By on Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 12:00 PM


Today Just Us! Coffeehouse, Barrington (1715 Barrington Street) posted a sign in its window alerting java drinkers and passerby that the location would be closed permanently as of October 30. It made the move to its current location, from 1678 Barrington, back in April.

Later today, Just Us! Coffee's Facebook page posted the following:

Dear friends,

Thank you for expressing your concerns about our decision to close the Barrington Street Coffeehouse. This decision was very difficult for the Co-op, and was only taken after many other options had been carefully considered. Barrington was our first café in Halifax and will always hold a special place in our hearts.

As we are sure you can appreciate, the reality of the current retail business world means that sometimes difficult decisions need to be made to ensure the viability of the business as a whole.

We welcome all our loyal Barrington customers to continue to enjoy Just Us! products and services at our other HRM locations, on Spring Garden Road and at King’s Wharf in Dartmouth.

Thank you for your patronage, we look forward to your continued support.

Updated October 28

Days after Spring Garden Road’s Second Cup announced it’d be closing at year end, last Friday Just Us! Coffeehouse (1715 Barrington Street) stunned its downtown devotees with the news that October 30 would be its last. Though the closure might look like a snap decision, Just Us! co-owner Debra Moore says it hasn’t been easy, the location’s been under review since January.

“We have been working really hard for a couple of years now to get the place where it needed to be. We needed it to not be losing money,” says Moore of Halifax’s first Just Us!, which has been on Barrington Street for nearly a decade. “Our most loyal customer base is on Barrington. We talked ourselves into going across the street to see if it'd make the difference,” she says of last April’s move one block north to the roomier former Oddjects location. “All the customers came with us and sales didn't go down, but they didn't go up to where they needed to be.”

"I don't know why, it's hard to know," says Moore of the struggle, adding that the increased number of cafes downtown probably played a part. Just Us! Barrington's three baristas (two full-time and one part-time) were laid off as a result of closure, they were notified last week.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Pumped about pumpkins

La Frasca coming at ya with seasonal specials

Posted By on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 at 3:28 PM

Pumpkins for the win
  • Pumpkins for the win

Sad truth: most of us will never get the chance to experience the Italian fall-time tradition of Sagra Della Zucca e Vini (Pumpkin and Wine Festival) in Italy. (Wait, what?)

Sorry to burst that bubble, but thanks to the tastemakers at La Frasca Cibi & Vini (5650 Spring Garden Road)—who dish out Friulano tradition weekly— we can get as close as possible to the real thing.

The Bertossi Group resto has been its own Pumpkin and Wine Festival with a carefully crafted menu full of pumpkin-inspired eats (like acorn, buttercup and white pumpkin soups, butternut squash risotto, lamb chops crusted with pumpkin seeds, soft pumpkin polenta...I could go on) wine specials, Friulano grappas and a company wide pumpkin carving contest to feast your eyes on.

Get over your pumpkin spice lattes, there are much more creative flavours to be had here. This fest runs through until October 31.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Works closes and re-opens UPDATED x 2

After being closed for just under a week, The Works re-opens

Posted By on Wed, Oct 23, 2013 at 4:27 PM

#burgerweek memories - PHOTO BY RILEY SMITH
  • #burgerweek memories
  • photo by RIley Smith

Despite feeding upwards of 4,000 mouths a month, The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro (5431 Doyle Street) announced yesterday that its grills were off for good.

“We were forced to close due to a lack of support by the brand,” says Alan Garner, who managed first Atlantic Canadian location of the Canadian franchise alongside his wife Jody. “We brought the brand national and they, for the most part, left us alone.”

Garner says he and Jody didn’t receive the assistance they needed from The Works' head office in Ontario when it came to design and construction issues as well as advertising. "The burger is amazing, it's an amazing concept, it's great food that's all fresh...but there was no sense of urgency, no leadership, no marketing," says Garner. He got the final word of his restaurant's fate on Friday. “We offered the company to take over for us and keep the restaurant open, and they said no.”

The Garners gathered their staff together yesterday to break the news, deliver pay cheques and have one last meal together. “The way we exited yesterday was as graceful as we possibly could," says Garner. "It was a hardworking team and we were supported by them. We always said they worked with us, not for us."

The Works first opened on February 22, making yesterday its eight month anniversary.

Updated Friday, October 25

The plot thickened yesterday when The Coast received the following statement from The Works' head office.

The WORKS, the full-service gourmet burger bistro chain, learned at the same time as its guests yesterday of the closing of its franchised-operated location in Halifax.

“We were extremely surprised to learn about the closing of our Halifax location,” said Andy O'Brien, president and CEO of The WORKS. “We love the Halifax market and wholeheartedly want to continue feeding Haligonians. The decision to close was not ours and we want our guests to know that it’s our intention to reopen for business as soon as possible with our great local Halifax team.”

The WORKS Halifax, located at 5431 Doyle Street, opened earlier this year and had gained popularity, reaching very respectable sales figures and a loyal customer base.

The company is devoting its full attention to this sudden closing.

The Garners were just as surprised to hear of this response from head office, reiterating that the choice to close wasn't rash on their part.

"We had been asking for assistance for months in the form of marketing of the brand and construction repairs to offset the high operating costs. In the last few weeks of operations we advised that our priority was our guests and our employees," said the Garners via email. "The only way they would help was if we signed away our legal recourse to hold them accountable for their construction blunders. We then offered them the store at a price that was over a quarter million less (than our personal investment) if they would keep the store open and rescue our 30 staff/family from unemployment."

After giving the company one week to respond, the Garners say O'Brien called last Friday night too reject the offer.

"Our sales were well below brand average here in Halifax, and there are several other stores WELL below us. The Works reported that average sales are $1,575,000. We were on track to make less than a million," said the Garners. "For months we personally funded the restaurant to keep us afloat....We made the business decision to close as we quite simply couldn't afford to continue to fund a brand that wouldn't help fund itself."

Updated Sunday, October 27

And it looks like The Works' head office has officially re-opened the restaurant. A release states that the restaurant is operating with its existing local staff.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

A look at The Nook

Gottingen Street's newest hangout is coming soon

Posted By on Mon, Oct 21, 2013 at 12:34 PM


A peek behind the papered windows at 2116 Gottingen Street reveals reclaimed wood, walls slathered in clay-based paint, letterpress table tops and curtained-off floor seating with bright jewel-toned cushions. They’re just a few of the details that’ll make the rustic-looking The Nook on Gottingen a cozy place to chill out. Mark Pavlovski and Katie Roux call it their baby, a project they’ve planned for about a year and have been building since the spring. Conveniently, it's a four minute walk from their home.

"It was important for us to build something from scratch, something where you can say every choice was yours," says Pavlovski, PhD student at Dalhousie. Set to open later this fall, The Nook is a cafe with a lounge license, somewhere for friends to share good coffee, to study over a pint of Propeller or to snack on tapas and baked goods. "We're trying to create a place where you can just go and relax. It can be your everyday hangout if you want it to,” says Pavlovski. “We’re just basically creating a place where we could go everyday,” adds Roux, a NSCAD grad who's heart's in the kitchen.

The pair designed the space (formerly the stark-white ECMA home base) themselves, aiming offer a quiet, casual meeting place that’ll serve liquor and quality (fair trade, organic, locally-roasted) coffee, a menu of small foods, and will be open late on the weekends. They also have plans of having a rotating collection of local art on the walls, hosting dance events (Pavlovski's a member of the Dal Swing Dance Society) and eventually, featuring live entertainment. “We really just kind of put everything we like personally together,” says Roux of the design and concept for The Nook. While inspiration stemmed from places they'd visited in Amsterdam, Iceland and Toronto, for these two northenders it was really all about giving their neighbours a place to enjoy.

"We know this neighbourhood, we the people who live here, and we like them," says Pavlovski. "We wanted to contribute."

Follow @thenookhfx for the latest updates.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Open season

The newest arrivals on the food scene

Posted By on Fri, Oct 18, 2013 at 3:24 PM


So many places to go, so many things to eat. A lot's been happening on the restaurant scene this week and last, here's a quick round-up of the new kids on the blocks.

The second iteration of Flipburger (1565 Argyle Street) is now open (late) for business, serving up quality patties and cold beer until 11pm Sunday through Wednesday, and until 4am Thursday through Saturday. Flip's hamming it up in the former home of Opa!/ Ela!, and it's pretty awesome to see that space lit up again.

Just around the corner The Cellar Wine Bar & Grill (5677 Brenton Street) invites you to check out its new location in the former Hideaway Bar & Grille (which is actually the Cellar's former location, it re-opens five years after closing downtown). With a brand new menu in tow, this longtime mainstay is back and warmer than ever.

American chain Woody’s BBQ brings a taste of the south to Bedford this week. It opened its second HRM resto (the first serves as shopping fuel over in Dartmouth Crossing) in the Hemlock Square Plaza (75 Peakview Way) yesterday (October 17).

And, after six months of renos, planning and tastebud teasing, craft-beer-slinging, classy-comfort-food-serving The Stubborn Goat Gastropub (1579 Grafton Street) will officially open to the public, and the public will open its mouths to it, TONIGHT at 6pm. And they'll get right into the swing of things, playing host to the Ladies Beer Leagues' awesome Cask Fest on November 17, you'll hear more from us on that later.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ol' School Donuts revs up

Best news ever: there's a doughnut bus in town

Posted By on Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Noah Connolly, the most awesome high schooler ever
  • Noah Connolly, the most awesome high schooler ever

What started as a bit of a joke in the Connolly family has quickly become the beginnings of a brilliant new business—an honest to goodness family business, at that.

After a 1977 Calgary Stampede tailgate bus they bought in PEI failed them (it looked good, but needed work), eleventh grader Noah Connolly and his dad made a grand road trip to Ontario to retrieve the bus that would eventually become the home base for Ol' School Donuts. Rejoice street-food-following, it’s a doughnut mobile.

“We drove the bus back and had to stop every two hours because of the transmission,” says Noah of the now beautified vehicle. His family hand-painted it an unmissable shade of red with rollers in their driveway in Cole Harbour, borrowing the "Ol' School" name from that first tailgate bus. Still in the planning stages of their doughnut bus, Noah says Ol' School Donuts will likely hit special events mostly (because, he is still a student at Dartmouth High) serving traditional flavours (think sugared and glazed), seasonal specialties and Maritime-inspired options (like Oak Island Treasure and Halifax Explosion, which he’s keeping mysterious for now) made right onboard. The Connollys also hope to link up with local charities eventually, a family full of student athletes Noah says, "We've been asking people for money for years and want to finally give back."

This big (and really great) idea seems like a lot to take on in your spare time but with the help of his siblings Greg, Joseph and Haley, the balancing act of business and study doesn’t phase Noah. “We’re working on the bus on the weekends and I’m taking entrepreneurship classes at school,” he says. “It’s all tied together, really.”

Keep your eyes and watering mouths on @olschooldonuts for updates.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Louisiana Bayou fires up on Salter Street

Reflections' Mike Schmid follows some Cajun inspiration

Posted By on Wed, Oct 2, 2013 at 6:12 PM

Halifax's Little New Orleans, coming soon
  • Halifax's Little New Orleans, coming soon

Cabaret royalty Mike Schmid is venturing into the restaurant biz. The owner of the Halifamous Reflections Cabaret, (5184 Sackville Street) and his partner Kathy Hatfield, are opening Louisiana Bayou Cajun Grill & Little New Orleans Bar at 5171 Salter Street (a location that's seen a long string of openings and closings, most recently Kababji Lebanese Cuisine).The plan, which has been in the works for some time, was inspired by Schmid's Florida vacations, and the good food that goes along with them.

With a French Quarter vibe, Louisiana Creole and Cajun eats—like catfish, gumbo, gator, jambalaya, po' boy sandwiches and more— and live music, Schmid hopes the Bayou will offer a place for both the lunch and later dinner crowds. A Louisiana Music Festival is one of the plans he has in mind for the space.

"I don't want to compete with Reflections for entertainment, but I do want to feed my Reflections crowd," says Schmid, adding that he finds nightlife options for the 30-plus in town are lacking. "I think the space has had its challenges, but I've been in the cabaret business for 15 or 16 years. I think if you manage it well, it can work."

And an October 15 opening date for his latest venture isn't the only news from Schmid. Reflections has just officially been approved to move into the former TAO location, coincidentally across the street from the soon-to-be Bayou at 5187 Salter Street. He says that big switch will likely happen in January.

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Q Smokehouse closes, Onyx moves to Argyle

RCR makes a shuffle in time for Onyx's 10th anniversary

Posted By on Wed, Oct 2, 2013 at 4:19 PM

The soon-to-be home of Onyx
  • The soon-to-be home of Onyx

With the end of barbecue season comes the end of Q Smokehouse & Southern BBQ (1580 Argyle Street) . The Argyle Street restaurant known for its finger-licking menu closed its doors for good on Sunday after just over three years of curing carnivorous cravings for ribs, chicken and brisket.

With Q "under performing" and its much-loved older sibling Onyx (5680 Spring Garden Road) about to turn 10, RCR Hospitality Group's vice president of operations Shannon Bruhm says, "it was more of a timing thing," that nudged along the decision. Come 2014, Onyx will be the newest face on the busy Argyle strip.

"The design will change quite a bit," says Bruhm, though the plan is to salvage the bar Onyx's current location. "Onyx is very near and dear to our hearts, so we're spending a lot of time on it."

Renovations to the former Q space will get underway soon, with an expected move in date in the early new year. Bruhm says the plan is for New Years Eve to be Onyx's last night on Spring Garden Road. We predict many champagne toasts to the next 10 years on Argyle.

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September 19, 2019

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