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Himalayan Cafe opens doors in former Union Taxi location

We make everything from scratch. We are cooking everything in the old style, which takes time, and it is a lot of work, but we want to bring that flavour to the table.   

Newly opened, Northern Himalayan Café prides itself on making healthy food, fast.

“The food belongs particularly to Nepal and surrounding areas. Like we have some from Tibet, some from India, some from Bhutan, all from the Himalayan region where the mountains are,” explained Laxmi Konwar who together with business partner Sujala Niroula recently opened the restaurant in downtown North Bay.

“We wanted the community to try this type of food.”

Since its Valentine’s Day opening, Konwar says customer response has been extremely favourable.   

“People are really happy with the food. When we were open less than a week, we had customers coming back three times, four times, five times, sometimes ordering the same thing,” laughed Konwar.

“We are also capturing the office workers, people who want to grab their food and go. It is ready in two to five minutes, an express kind of menu I’d say.  Like one kind of protein, either vegan protein, vegetarian protein or meat protein, or rice, or some carb or maybe a soup like a dahl or a salad. You can just grab it and go.”

The food is chock full of authentic flavours, ranging from mild to spicy, whatever your palate prefers.  

“Momo is the most popular food here. We see kids enjoying momos because it is not spicy itself, but when you dip it in the sauce then it comes spicy,” stated Konwar.

“Momo is like dumplings, but it is made very differently.  We prepare the dough, we make everything from scratch here. And the fillings are different, and it is very close to Tibetan and Nepali style of momo.”  

Select the filling you want when ordering your momo. “We have vegan, vegetarian ones with cabbage, carrots, onions, green onions, all those kinds of things and we have chicken also with other veggies and also pork,” explained Konwar.     

The menu offers vegetarian steamed momo, vegetarian Kothey momo (a signature Nepalese dish), vegetarian chilli momo, and vegetarian soup momo.

Variations including chicken and pork are also available.  

Konwar says people are also gravitating towards Nepali style Chow Mein.

“It is also getting very popular.”

The following is an example of a lunch and dinner special;

Nepali style garden salad-good addition to a plate of rice and vegan/meat protein; Nepali style chicken curry; Nepali style black chickpeas curry; combo order sample plate of rice and chicken and Nepali salad.

Konwar describes Himalayan food as both nutritious and hearty.  

“Our cooking is very much homestyle cooking. Usually, the food is nourishing for the body and mind because people who live in the mountain areas, have to be physically strong as well as mentally strong to be able to climb up and down those mountains throughout the day. So those foods are very rich not only in taste but also in nutrients.”  

The food is made fresh daily.

“We make everything from scratch. We are cooking everything in the old style, which takes time, and it is a lot of work, but we want to bring that flavour to the table.”   

Pork thukpa, is a Tibetan noodle soup bulging with flavour.

“It is noodles in a soup base. We cook the soup base for 24 hours and then put in some veggies and different kinds of meat. Pork thukpa is made with red cabbage, noodles, carrots, onions, ginger, garlic, green onion, cilantro and some sesame seeds. It is a meal in itself,” Konwar proudly shared.      

The restaurant co-owner is no stranger to the food industry.

“I used to be a social worker, but I always wanted to work with food, and when I came here I invested in a business called the Pita Pit and I ran it for seven or eight years and I got knowledge on how to run the business, what to do for a food business here in Canada which was a very good stepping stone for me,” explained Konwar.

‘After that, I always wanted to have food that nourishes the body and food that makes people happy.”

Konwar eventually moved on from the Pita Pit in downtown North Bay to the Jack Garland Airport, where in 2019, the Northern Himalayan Café was nominated as one of the top 25 airport restaurants in Canada.    

“It was a good kitchen for us, everything was there, you just had to start cooking. We were thinking of expansion but then COVID came and the airport in North Bay closed down. We waited for a little while, but the airport was not opening, so we thought we would try somewhere else, or maybe not open up at all. There were not many places we could find a space.”

Everything changed when they were approached by two people who enjoyed their food and offered to help.

“We looked at many places in town and eventually we found there was no commercial kitchen available, so we made up our mind that we would have to build our own kitchens and build our own building.”

That is how work transforming the former Union Taxi location on Main Street, North Bay into the Café began.

The opening took longer than expected, but their loyal customers stood by them.

 “We have been getting a lot of customers from the airport. They had been waiting with us, going through the ups and downs with us. We closed in March 2020 and we reopened almost four years later,” said Konwar.

“All those years people have been sending messages. There was a lot of hard work, sometimes frustration because of COVID, supplies were hard to get, lots of delays. Through all of this, we stayed strong. We wanted to make a place where people could have a good dining experience with us, it has been hard all these years, but we pulled through with the support of the customers, and the support of the community of North Bay.”     

It was important to Konwar to return to the downtown.

“Everybody says the downtown has a problem, but we want to be part of the solution. Somebody has to come forward. The downtown is the core of North Bay. Everybody wants to see the downtown when they come to North Bay, so this is where we want to be because every little store can bring the change,” explained Konwar.

“ And we wanted to be part of the change.  Now that people are coming to the Himalayan Café, there might be another store that will open, inspired by us. That is how we build a community; we start where the problem is. I started with the Pita Pit which was downtown and I wanted to be back in the downtown.”  

The restaurant is open Sundays for brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The regular menu is also available during that time.  

“The brunch menu takes its inspiration from delicious breakfast classics enjoyed all over South Asia and the Himalayas.”

It is also a way to introduce different foods not currently on the menu.  

“Trying food from all different parts not only from Nepal but surrounding countries or regions, different cultural foods.”

Regular hours are Mondays-closed, Tuesday to Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“We are trying to capture all different kinds of people who want to come here for a dining experience also,” Konwar pointed out.      

“We have seating for 38 inside, but when we open the patio we’ll have 25 or 30 plus and we have also applied for the liquor license.”

The Café is active on Facebook and Instagram.