The former Union Taxi location on Main Street North Bay is undergoing major renovations, as it gets converted into a new downtown restaurant to be called Northern Himalayan Café.
If it sounds familiar, it is because travellers will likely recognize the name from its former location at the Jack Garland Airport.
In 2019 the Café was nominated as one of the top 25 airport restaurants in Canada.
Unfortunately, the pandemic forced the business to close up shop.
“We were doing quite well there, but due to the pandemic, everything shut down and the airport in North Bay was also shut down. So because of that, we had to close down too. So we have been closed since the start of the pandemic,” explained Laxmi Konwar, who hopes to open the restaurant with business partner Sujala Niroula sometime in October.
“Our target is to open in early fall,” said Konwar.
Konwar and Niroula are working hard to see their dream of opening a restaurant in the downtown become a reality.
With a seating capacity of roughly 30 seats, the restaurant will offer sit-down and take-out options.
A native of Nepal, Konwar explained the menu choices will be similar to those served at the airport but with some additions.
“Nepal is a country which is in between India, China, and Tibet, so our food is mostly influenced by all those regions. So we have food that is similar to Indian foods, similar to Chinese foods, and similar to Tibetan foods. We have many different varieties, so on one plate, you’ll see all different tastes of Asia on a Nepali plate. So, that is what our flavour will be.”
The women pride themselves on using fresh food made in-house.
“Our food will be more like fresh, homemade kind of food, more than a restaurant-style,” explained Konwar.
“We cook because we like cooking. That’s why our food would be different from what a restaurant would be serving. So a lot of fresh veggies, a lot of fruits, and mostly chicken, fish, and pork.”
Konwar is excited to relocate to the downtown, having previously worked in the area.
“I was in the downtown before when I was running Pita Pit. So, this is the location where I always wanted to be because the downtown is the heart of the city. And you want to bring the change from where the heart is, so you can connect with more people,” shared Konwar.
“And North Bay’s downtown really needs some good food and good businesses down here. We need to see this downtown more alive so this is an opportunity for us to bring a little bit of a spark to this place.”
Business partner Sujala Niroula, originally born in India, describes herself as Nepali from India.
She too is eager for opening day.
“We were always excited to make it happen. It is taking longer because of COVID and supply issues for sure. But we are excited to be back in town. We are getting phone calls from our customers asking when we are going to reopen, and that is what makes us even more excited,” Niroula beamed.
The plan, for now, is to be open six days a week, but if there is enough demand, it could turn into a seven-day-a-week operation.
People looking for lunch options will be able to order from an express lunch menu.
”Since it is in the downtown, there is a need to be a fast serving food restaurant, especially for the lunch hours. And for dinner people can come, relax, and just chill,” said Niroula
The owners hope to add some character to the downtown.
“We’ll have music. We’ll have a lot of fun. We’ll do a lot of events here so we’ll try to create some noise here,” laughed Konwar.
“It will be a great place and we want to connect with the community here. This is a place where people should feel welcome and want to try the food because we love cooking, we love sharing, we love talking. We want to create that connection with the community. So this is a place where they can come and share and chit chat and dance and sing and have fun.”
“This way we think we can connect to more people and our downtown needs to be more revived so I think this is the best place for us to be,” said Niroula.
The laneway beside the building will offer an elevated outdoor patio space which will allow customers to see the waterfront, with seating for about 10 people.
The laneway will feature interlocking stone, with a vestibule along the side.
An exterior wall will be repainted with some abstract artwork. The hope is that members of the art community will volunteer to create an image sometime over the next few weeks.
The renovation work is being slowed down as vital pieces of equipment are slow to arrive.
“The whole supply chain has been delayed for now and that is affecting us too,” said Konwar who is eager to open the doors to her new venture as quickly as possible.