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Patios are springing up in Waterloo Region

Patios are springing up in Waterloo RegionPatios are springing up in Waterloo Region

The patio at Wildcraft Grill & Long Bar, part of the Charcoal Group of Restaurants

by Andrew Coppolino

The patios in the Charcoal Group of Restaurants have been open since February 25, according to managing partner Jody Palubiski.

“On February 26, a Friday, it was 1C. outside and customers brought their own blankets. Across our brands, we did roughly 200 tables,” says Palubiski. “Opening the patios was aspirational and created demand for an experience that people have missed.”

The move created some social media buzz and a bit of fun for hearty, outdoorsy Canadians at the same time more patio tables available equates to more full-time work for staff. More than ever during the pandemic, patios have become a critical part of a restaurant’s business model where it’s possible for them to set up for their customers as space and permits allow.

For their part, customers – perhaps not wishing to eat indoors just yet – eagerly look forward to getting outside to sip a beverage and enjoy a bite to eat al fresco in some spring sunshine. It’s a rite of passage as we look forward to summer – and one loaded with a sense of freedom and “normal” such that we have never experienced.

Here is a selection of restaurants and cafés that have expressed a desire to create patio space for their guests in Waterloo Region. These, too, are aspirational – something to look forward to!

[Please note: plans for some patios are in progress: equipment and furniture, and permission and licensing are pending while municipal administration deal with a backlog of requests.]

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The Local Option in Cambridge (Galt) is anticipating a busy patio season – they have a few seats for outside enjoyment of their menu of hearty bowls, soups and sandwiches and weekend waffles.

“We are anticipating the arrival of a pizza oven in the summer, too, so that’s something else to look forward to,” according to Aga Boekdrukker of The Local Option.

 

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Also in Cambridge, but in Preston Towne Centre, La Lola Catering and their store is working through the administrative hoops and barrels in order to present a touch of Spain to the vibe in Preston’s core on King Street East.

“Ideally, we are planning for a front-facing patio that turns into the side alley,” according to La Lola co-owner Vanessa Stankiewicz. “It will of course be Spanish-themed with six to eight two-top tables.”

They anticipate being fully licensed and were working through those steps at the time of writing. Otherwise, Stankiewicz is excited about the possibility. “We want music and Edison lighting for an for evening ambiance that will give the neighbourhood a little taste of Spain, a country where dining outside is just lovely,” she says.

 

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If you are looking for a quiet, somewhat private spot, MeMe’s Café in New Hamburg does the trick for grabbing a coffee and a sandwich. Owner Meredith Hagen describes the patio as cozy.

“We will have a couple of bistro tables on the sidewalk,” she says. “It will be a quaint and quiet little patio for four people.”

 

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Having moved a few blocks from their original Charles Street location across from the GRT bus terminal, Café Pyrus is now situated quite nicely within a diverse “food hub” at 305 King Street West (at Water Street): Underground Flavour Group, Slices, Crafty Ramen and La Cucina are just a few steps away in the city’s Innovation District.

Owner Tyzun James says Pyrus, with the assistance of Downtown Kitchener BIA programming, is currently getting things in place.

“We’re getting lights, outdoor speakers and new tables,” he says. “It’s coming together – and there will be an Explore Waterloo Region art fresco table passport.”

Artist Wilma Vanderleeuw working on her multi-coloured Art Fresco picnic table inside Lot 42 in Kitchener: the table would find a home at Cafe Pyrus

Artist Wilma Vanderleeuw working on her Art Fresco table that found a home at Cafe Pyrus

Across town to the west, in the dynamic Belmont Village, the small, unassuming food purveyor The Munch Box is only in its first several months open but anticipating the nearby communal Belmont Village patio, says the business’s owner.

“It will be a cozy nook with patio lights and picnic tables,” he says adding that live music will boost ambiance too. “We can book Covid-accepted entertainment.” The Munch Box doesn’t expect it will seek a license for beverage alcohol.

picnic tables and table umbrellas lined up along the public patio area which includes astro turf and decorative planters in Belmont Village in Kitchener

Last summer’s communal patio area in Belmont Village

Tucked in just beyond “The Silos” in St. Jacobs, Those Pizza Guys crank out Neapolitan wood-fired pizza and sandwiches, among other morsels. The patio will be a welcome addition to their small inside space.

“We were really hoping to expand the patio this season but for now we will have our existing patio set up,” co-owner Pete Tessaro says.

The covered portion is two high-top standing bars with stools for six to eight people socially distanced, while the bottom area is three picnic-style tables for four, socially distanced, he says.

“We’re getting speakers to have music playing, setting up string lights and hopefully be able to have live music, depending on regulations, when the time is right. The idea is still being played with so we may hopefully apply for more space once we figure out what we’re capable of applying for.”

 

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Located beside (and sort of within) the popular Princess Cinemas in Uptown Waterloo, Sidewalk Beer Shop is perhaps one of the region’s most interesting stroll-up food-and-beverage windows through which you will be passed a unique range of craft beers from southwestern Ontario – and at times beyond: there are some amazing selections curated by owner and beer aficionado Marc Lecompte.

After receiving your brew through the window, you can promptly turn around and head to their adjacent patio and bask in the sun from the west.

“When we fire it up, the Sidewalk Beer Shop patio will have 16 seats and should be fully licensed for guests to enjoy beer and some sandwiches,” Lecompte says. “There’s some nice sun and you can sit and watch all the action on King Street.”

 

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Andrew Coppolino is a writer-broadcaster, and is a food columnist with CBC Radio in Waterloo Region. Following a stint as a cook at a restaurant in Kitchener, Andrew chose to work with food from the other side of the kitchen pass. As a food writer, he is dedicated to promoting and nurturing culinary businesses and advocating for local chefs and restaurants. Andrew’s work has been published in newspapers and magazines across Canada, the United States and England. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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