Restaurant Round-Up: Beyond KFC

The Brew Pub early last month, when its main gear had arrived

In our latest roundup: We’re staying patient at the Brew Pub, wondering what’s up with the Wildcat, checking in with the Kilt & Castle, trying something new at the Summer Café, still talking about patios, and planning our Folk on the Rocks meal plans.

But first, in truly epochal Yellowknife food news: as the town well knows by now, KFC is closing after a 48-year run. By the end of August, we’ll have to find another source for a bucket of fried chicken and neon-green coleslaw. It’s not all bad news, though. The franchise owners are dropping some exciting hints about their next venture in the space: Lenny Burger, named for that burger you used to be able to get over the counter at the local franchise up until a few years ago, when the national KFC franchiser found out and quashed it.

Owner Matthew Jason is talking big about a nostalgic return to his family’s roots as an old-school hamburger joint. Walking away from a solid franchise like KFC to start up an independent operation is risky, if precedented, but we’re excited to see what the Jasons come up with, and happy that those waves of deep-fried chicken exhaust that occasionally engulfed the neighbourhood will soon be a vague memory. The question remains: what’s going to happen to that giant Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket?

The Wildcat Cafe

Speaking of patios and nostalgia, let’s talk about the Wildcat for a minute. We really want to love it, but we’ve been feeling a bit iffy on it lately, and we are not alone.

Service is as exceptional as ever, and management is consistently present and attentive this year, showing great care. You’ll feel welcomed and cared for when you share a table or a pitcher of sangria with friends and strangers on their gorgeous patio or in the cozy interior.

The collective instinct is to give the Wildcat an automatic thumbs up. It’s The Wildcat Café, after all. It’s an institution. There is so much going in its favour every year, and it’s always going to be a place for tourists to visit and for Yellowknifers to reminisce about.

This year, however, we’re hearing more and more visitors reminiscing about the golden days of the Wildcat, when rumour has it that you could get a hearty bowl of bison stew for five dollars among other locally accessible fare. This year, feedback is saying that Yellowknifers are less excited to pay a big premium for food that’s mediocre, no matter the history of the location.

Portion sizes are one of the top complaints — and we’d like to take a moment here and offer some blunt advice: remove the fish cake appetizer from the menu, guys. Offering something that tiny for that price point is not winning you any friends. Even in Yellowknife and even for an institution like the Wildcat, competition crops up all the time, and restaurants need to give a reason for customers to return. A great patio, a great location, and a legacy is not always going to be enough.

The Brew Pub

It’s getting closer and closer. While there’s still no official opening date set yet, the as-yet-not-publically-named brew pub has finally secured all licenses necessary to serve liquor as well as manufacture beer. This has been one of the longest parts of the process, so this is a big step.

According to Miranda Stevens, the plan is to have at least two soft openings (with possibly a week of half day openings) “to iron out all the kinks and get staff comfortable with their positions” before the inevitable crowd rush. Although they’ve already got a good stack of resumes, they’ll be putting out an ad for positions they still need to fill.

So what are we still waiting for? They’re still working on completing the interior finishing and equipment installation, and then the brewery equipment will need an intense cleaning before any beer can be brewed. After that, it’s all about setting up the restaurant to operate smoothly and efficiently right from the get-go. Patience is a virtue, and they want to do this well, so hold on to your growlers. “We BETTER be open by the end of August!” they recently noted on their Facebook page.

By the way, if you happen to have one of those growler bottles they were selling this winter, you’ll be getting an exclusive opportunity to have it filled as soon as the pub has brewed their first batch. Stay tuned to their social media pages in the coming weeks for more info on your first refill.

Southern Comfort Summer Café

We’ve got a newcomer opening soon at the Abe Miller Centre. Janet Dean is featuring comfort food from the southern USA and Central and Southern America at her Southern Comfort Summer Café starting next week. You may remember Dean from the Days Inn’s ill-fated Trek Restaurant. This time she’s doing something new, bringing different street-food vibe to us, serving empanadas, seco de pollo (Chilean stew), arepas (venezuelan sandwich) and peixe com laranja (Brazilian wrap) as well as some expert desserts.

The Kilt & Castle

The Kilt and Castle should be opening by the end of the month or so says, restaurateur Bob Stewart, who says it took a while to solidify the lease at the old Sunny’s Bistro location, but all the paperwork is now lined up. They’ve just got the big renovations to go, and Stewart will be putting up ads for positions soon (including a fine-dining chef).

As mentioned in our previous round-up, The Kilt & Castle will be two parts on two floors: the main floor will be The Kilt, a traditional Irish pub, while upstairs’ The Castle offers fine dining. Stewart is passionate about the Kilt being a home away from home. He says it’ll be focused on community building, especially for musicians. They’ll have a Musicians Corner and incentives for local talent while building loyalty with a base of regulars.

Unnamed Korean Restaurant

Coun. Phil Moon-Son’s Mom-and-Son Korean Restaurant is still on schedule to open in the next month or two. Despite our best efforts, we don’t know anything about location or possible menu items, and Moon-Son says he has nothing new to report just yet, but we do know: they’re on schedule.

The Patio at The Black Knight Pub

Big patio plans are still on the go for the Black Knight Pub. Word is that they have sketches drawn up for some street-level outdoor space that will incorporate the sidewalk out front (meaning that taxi parking will have to be negotiated) and a portion of the side parking lot.

The paperwork is just getting finished though so don’t expect anything until the start of next season.

Folk on the Rocks

Folk on the Rocks is coming up fast. It’s going to be a weekend of dancing in the sun and sand, so for those times when you need to refuel, the Food Alley will be set up in the same spot as last year.

This year, you’ll find:

  • Murray’s Curbside Treats will be serving smoked meat sandwiches, fish tacos, chicken wraps, poutine, fries, and onion rings.
  • One of a Thai will be serving curries, pad thai, papaya & mango salad, and stir-fry.
  • Saffron will be serving butter chicken, beef and vegetable curries, spring rolls and pakoras.
  • R & R Concessions will have tacos and grilled cheese sandwiches.
  • The Smoke Shack will have Bacon-Cheese burgers, jumbo dogs and poutine.
  • The Wildcat Café is planning on vegetable and beef samosas as well as chicken pitas.
  • The Fresh Squeeze serve up juices, lettuce wraps, ceviche, bean sliders and quinoa salad.

If you’re looking for something a little sweeter, go for:

  • Murray’s second Curbside Treat will have ice cream cones and ice cream treats.
  • The Gourmet Cup will be there to provide for your caffeine needs.
  • R & R Concessions and their Sweet Shop has popcorn, sno-cones, cotton candy, lollipops and candy.
  • Do yourself a favour and maybe drop into the Fresh Squeeze again for some more juices to help you rehydrate during a day in the sun.

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