This is one of a series of bi-weekly articles, as part of a feature called "Let's Eat" that looks at the local dining scene.
This time around we check in with Opera Bakery Cafe at 164 Main Street West, which has successfully switched up its playlist to focus on takeout and delivery.
Michelle Trudeau has been a North Bay Entrepreneur for many years with Michele's Framemaker & Gallery, but in the fall of 2019, she took a bite out of a different kind of business.
"I have always loved the downtown, and I'd heard that the (former owners) of Opera were looking to move on. The cafe is located right next door to my longtime Framemaker business. One day, it was literally a chat while I was sweeping the sidewalk in front of my business, that we started talking," she explains.
She says she's always loved cooking, baking, and is a lover of good coffee. Still, she was aware she didn't have the knowledge of what it takes to run a food business.
"I made an offer and they accepted. Part of the offer was that they stay around for six months to work for me, to work with me, and to train me to learn a crash course in running a food-based business."
Opera has been a downtown mainstay for seven years and was well known as an elegant bakery, and a popular lunch destination for professionals in the downtown, city hall staff, seniors from the two neighbouring retirement residences, and more.
But the tune changed when the COVID-19 pandemic took a swipe at entrepreneurs.
"Under Premier Ford's mandate, for the safety of us all, it meant we lost our dining room. To survive, we had to adapt, there was no other choice," adds Trudeau.
They're doing curbside pick-up service and have added delivery to their repertoire, saying "If you want a sandwich, we deliver it. If you want our famous bread we deliver it. If you want one of our signature soups or cakes, we'll deliver it."
"We quickly learned the best ways to make our foods take-out ready and delivery ready. The packaging is different but we've mastered it. We don't have the advantage of a drive-through but we've been extremely fortunate to leverage the power of social media which has been huge for us," she says.
Trudeau is proud to say everything is homemade and fresh made at the cafe. That includes the wraps and soups, and the breads that are hugely popular. They use the bread for their sandwiches, but also have many loyal fans who come by daily for their loaves of fresh white bread, multi-grain bread, and their two gluten-free options - a gluten-free multi-grain and a seed bread.
"I never like to brag but I can honestly say we've been told we have some of the best gluten-free loaves of bread in the entire city," says Trudeau.
Other big selling items include:
-the Opera Chicken Wrap
-the Bravado Wrap
-A coconut chic pea and curry soup
-Their popular Friday soup which is tomato parmesan
On the bakery side of things, they have many tasty treats like tarts and cupcakes, but it's their signature cakes they may be best known for.
"There are six varieties. Our most popular is our triple chocolate. We also have carrot cake, lemon cake, red velvet, a "very vanilla" cake, and the confetti version of the vanilla classic. They come in three sizes - 6", 8", and 10", and because they are artisan-style, you order 24 to 48 hours in advance because there's a very special icing process that only we do," she adds.
Trudeau says you can connect with them 10 am to 4 pm Tuesday through Saturday by calling 705-472-9888, emailing her at [email protected] or through their Facebook and Instagram pages which they monitor closely.
And you just might get a musical treat if you stop by for curbside pick-up.
"One of the things the previous owners told us was that cooking can be a musical thing. They said we should sing to the food. So you'll often hear us singing away while we're cooking and baking. It sounds corny as hell, but we love it!"