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O N T A R I O February 2015 Vol. 30 No. 1
N AT I O N A L
PITA PIT HITS 20 YEARS
C O V E R A G E
By Kristen Smith, Associate Editor
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London restaurateur Mike Smith. Photo by Ansel Edwards.
ing his P.Za.Pie operation into the more than 4,000-square-foot space, LONDON, Ont. — Veteran restaura- which will continue operating as Jim teur Mike Smith is taking his 22-year- Bob Ray’s until the new project opens. old pub and making it appeal to a “We’re going to focus on as many broader client base as a restaurant foods as we can from the 519 area and brewpub with its own craft beer code,” said Smith. It’s not a political statement, nor is Smith trying to save and a focus on local food. APPROVAL REQUIRED Smith plans to open Toboggan the world. He is hoping to promote The enclosed proof is sent for your approval. We will not proceed with the job until the proof is returned. DO NOT GIVE VERBAL INSTRUCTIONS. CHECK CAREFULLY! Brewing Co. early this spring in the local success stories. “We’re just tryBeyond this point we cannot accept responsibility for any errors. Alterations (other than typographical errors) will be charged extra. proof “OK” or “OK with at corrections” may to support local farms and supplispace housing JimMarkBob Ray’s 585as the caseing be, signing your name so we may know that the proof reached the proper authority. Richmond St., in London, Ont. To ers, make your local beer and employ bolsterOFthe new menu, he also is movlocal people,” he said. SIGNATURE APPROVAL DATE
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Not to say Toboggan, named for the beloved Canadian pastime, won’t be getting products from major suppliers too. “We’re not going to be complete purists about it; as somebody pointed out to me, they don’t grow oranges in Ontario.” In the open kitchen, chef Mike Smith (same name, different person) will be cooking up Neapolitan-style pizzas in a wood-fired stone oven and focus on beer fare such as mussels and frites. Plans call for cheese and
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charcuterie plates to change regularly featuring local producers and owner Smith said he expects there to be more vegetarian options than on a typical bar menu. “It’s scary because it’s evolving, you like to have things completely etched in stone so you know what you’re going for, but every day we’re finding a new product that we didn’t know was out there,” he said. “We know what we want our menu to be, but who those suppliers will be on opening day might be different than who we think they’ll be today.” Smith said when buying from local businesses the costs need to be approachable so he can pass on a reasonable price to his customers. In the basement, the microbrewery is being set up and Toboggan has brought on two seasoned brewers as consultants with young brewers training under them. Smith anticipates Toboggan will have two types of customers: those who love craft beer and those who don’t like the distinctive characteristics of hops. Smith said the goal is to have a spectrum of beers that will appeal to different tastes, focusing on two or three for opening. “No beer before its time. We don’t want to do it for the sake of having a big collection, we’d rather get it right,” he said. Plans call for rotating, small-batch brews and Smith said he wants to involve the customers in determining the lineup. “People have preconceived ideas about what the market wants and I want the market to somewhat dictate,” said Smith. “If you don’t like it, tell us. We won’t be insulted.”
Smith also plans to sell the beer on premise for the home consumer and to other local bars and restaurants, as well as stock other craft beers at his establishment. “We’ll also carry some of the big companies, because if that’s what a customer wants, we want to have it for them,” he added. The main area has a capacity of 500 when empty for special events, but day-to-day “it’s going to be more intimate than that” with about 200 seats, said Smith. With the rise of “pre-drinking,” the popular student hangout Jim Bob Ray’s was getting busy later and later. “When the home consumer buys a case of Blue for roughly $30, but a licensed establishment has to pay $45 and when you get through everything from wages to the HST on the selling price, insurance and everything, you can have four of those at home for the price of having one at a licensed establishment,” said Smith. “We’ll have 500 people in there by the end of the night, but at 10 p.m., you can fire a cannon off.” While the craft beer drinker is often found in the 25 to 30-year-old demographic, Smith said it appeals to other ages as well. “We want young people, and it’s a very big market for young people, but we want everything from people bringing their kids in for dinner to senior citizens on a bus tour — everybody from five year olds to 85 year olds,” said Smith. After opening a number of restaurants over the last three decades, Smith knows it never goes exactly as you originally thought. “On this one, I really know that.”
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