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The Block Public House gets warm reception in downtown North Bay

Our goal here is to make sure that we serve great food, in a great atmosphere, with great service while bringing something new to the downtown.

The Block Public House is breathing new life into North Bay’s downtown.

The city’s newest restaurant is situated in the same building that has graced Main Street North Bay for over 100 years.      

“The building is named after the Cochrane Block from Cochrane-Dunlop Hardware. So we called it The Block Public House,” explained general manager Shayla Valois.

The restaurant’s website outlines the building’s rich history.

“The “Cochrane-Dunlop Block was one of the earliest buildings constructed on Main Street in 1911. Cochrane-Dunlop Hardware operated on the premises for 70 years until 1981.”

Most recently residents will remember the Main Street side of the building as the location for Lefebvre’s Source for Sports, with the Vested Interest Trading Company located behind it on the McIntyre Street side, before fire destroyed both businesses in January 2012. 

The building has just recently undergone major renovations, meticulously in keeping with the character of the building.    

“The history is here. This building is 112 years old and it is evident in the walls and the structure. It was exciting to bring it all back to life,” Valois shared.  

“The tapestries, the big large photos, the graphics that you see spread throughout the restaurant are photos of downtown from years ago. So we really did try to incorporate its history within our building, within our identity and just shining a light on what the downtown used to be like and bringing that history back. The buildings here are gorgeous and historical and they deserve to be brought back.”

The Block House opened its doors on March 4,  2023.    

“The support from the community has been overwhelming, especially in our first few weeks. We’re just thrilled to be downtown. Just the support alone from the downtown community both at lunchtime and at dinner from other business owners has been incredible,” said Valois who went on to describe the menu.

“We’re an elevated gastropub. So, we focus primarily on comfort pub food, so things like burgers, fish and chips, the braised pork belly, beef wellington, things that you would find at a traditional English pub, with more of the trendy flares,” explained the general manager.

A children’s menu is also available for young families.

The naming of some menu items reflects the historical reference to the Cochrane Block.

“We came up with menu items like the Cochrane Caesar, the Block Caesar, the Cochrane burger, and the Block burger.”

Located at the end of the restaurant past the bar is a large private space named The Barrel Room, with wine barrels lining the walls.

Depending on how the two large tables are arranged, the room can seat up to 28 people for special events with a $2-thousand minimum spend.

And there is still work being done behind the scenes.  

“Blind Alley Brewing located at the back of the building is coming soon. We don’t have a concrete date yet but we will be brewing our own craft beer,” shared Valois.

”Obviously named after the alleyway that is right next to it. So maybe a craft brewery that probably specializes a little bit more in IPA’s. We’re also still going to be supporting all the local breweries around us, but we’re going to have some of our own beverages.”

Guests are coming back for signature dishes which include its Barrelhouse salad featured on its lunch menu, mushroom gnocchi listed on the dinner menu, and its braised pork belly  

The mushroom gnocchi dish features Ugly Barn Farms black oyster-chestnut-shiitake-lions mane mushrooms, house potato gnocchi, herbs, goat cheese garlic cream sauce, and fried rosemary.

The kitchen partners with local farms whenever feasible.

“The gnocchi is a signature dish because we make it in-house and it also features the Ugly Barn Farm mushrooms which is a farm in Markstay and that is something we do quite often in most of our dishes, partner with farms in the area.”

The braised pork belly is served with creamy butternut squash polenta, Field Good Farms roasted beets, garlic, thyme, wilted kale, and caramelized apple gastrique.

The Barrelhouse salad is a play on a Cobb salad.

The salad features Gareau Family Farms mixed lettuce, heirloom cherry tomatoes, smoked bacon, roasted corn, cucumber, hard-boiled egg, Canadian blue cheese, and house buttermilk ranch dressing, made in-house.

“We don’t have a single convenience product in our kitchen, so everything from dressings to the ketchup on your burger is made in-house.”

A large fridge located at the entry to the restaurant contains preserves, ketchup, mustard, relishes, chutneys, and BBQ sauces “all from our kitchen” available to customers.

“Our goal here is to make sure that we serve great food, have a great atmosphere, with great service, while bringing something new to the downtown. Our responsibility to North Bay and downtown North Bay is to see if we can hopefully bring back some life into some of these beautiful old buildings.”

The Block Public House wants to be your gathering place.

“A place where people can come meet with their friends, their colleagues, and their family, where they can enjoy the downtown core, go see a show at the Capitol Centre, enjoy the Farmers’ Market in the summer. It is in close proximity to the beach. If you’re a business person, there’s a responsibility to get involved. In this case, it was to open a restaurant, and hopefully bring people to the downtown.”

“We had a firefighter in here a couple of weeks ago and he walked in here and was just amazed by how we brought this back to life. The last time he had been in here was during the fire. We like to hear that. Those are the stories that make you excited to be a part of keeping this history going,” said Valois.

Restaurant owner Shawn Carr brings with him years of experience and success from 1886 Lake House Bistro in Callander.  

The concept to bring a new brand to the downtown landmark for people to enjoy started four years ago.  

“The downtown is beautiful. It just needs some attention.”