In the depths of the winter of 2020, any new restaurant that launched anywhere in the country was greeted with a nearly identical reception: Can you believe these guys are opening a new restaurant in the middle of a pandemic?
But as time wore on — and we do mean wore — another consensus emerged. There was, in fact, a business plan that was worse than opening during a pandemic: not opening during a pandemic.
If you’ve got your space and a lease, the kitchen is built and poised to go, key players are signed up, menus are printed and the website is ready, what else are you going to do? Wait at home for better times? Or peddle a little takeout, build the brand and make some friends in the neighbourhood? You can’t pick up emergency loans and grants for small businesses without a business.
So, contrary to all expectations, a raft of promising new restaurants opened over the course of calendar year 2020, the bulk of them planned out long before Covid had entered the general consciousness. All told, our judges across the country singled out some 30 openings as meriting our attention. Twenty of those made The 100 — our 2021 list of culinary initiatives to celebrate. Add the new notable food trucks and pop-ups on the list and the tally rises to 26.
From the posh tasting-menu-focused Aiāna in downtown Ottawa to Bar Gobo, the casual wine bar from Andrea Carlson (Burdock & Co.) in Vancouver, these new businesses came in many stripes. In Calgary, Darren MacLean launched his keenly anticipated tasting room, Eight, along with its more casual sibling, Nupo, and the city also welcomed the impressive Orchard. Montreal got Mastard, Tropikàl and Salle Climatisée, while their favourite Turkish chef, Fisun Ercan, opened her hotly anticipated Bika Farm an hour outside the city. Zach Kolomeir (Dreyfus) brought a finessed take on Montreal-style rotisserie chicken to Toronto’s west end with Taverne Bernhardt’s, while Yorkville got a culinary boost with the arrival of Quinton Bennett and Enigma. The list is long and includes Dova, Greystones, Jin Bar, Caffé La Tana, Oca, Say Mercy, Tinc Set and Urban Tadka.
Rather than single any one of them out for singular plaudits, we want to recognize the whole raft of them and, more particularly, the formidable amount of inventiveness, energy and dedication that they represent — from an industry that’s reeling.
We look forward to better times ahead, when these ambitious new restaurants will be free to function at their best, as they were originally conceived to do. And when that happens, and our vote and list returns, all these 2020 openings will be counted in the mix as new.
Nespresso Professional salutes Canadaʼs Best New Restaurants of 2021
Your ability to deliver a brilliant culinary experience has put you on the map this year. Nespresso Professional knows that a commitment to excellence is essential to the success of your business. And we know that your discerning customers are also coffee connoisseurs. Nespresso Professional provides a superior coffee experience because quality is the driving force behind everything we do. Our restaurant partners know that quality experiences and quality coffee go hand in hand. Find out how the pairing of their know-how with our expert coffee advice has helped them achieve their goals by clicking here.
📷 TOP:Aiāna Restaurant Collective BOTTOM:Mark Shannon (Orchard)