Hearing the beloved Osborne Village Motor Inn was closing was a bit of a shock for some.
The business, with its hotel, bar and restaurant, has been in the neighbourhood since the 1960s.
Thankfully, for fans of its food, the Osborne Village Café has opened a second location at 632 rue LaFleche in St. Boniface.
Let us introduce the sister restaurant: Nicolett Café.
Leighton Fontaine was the head chef at the Osborne Village Café for three years and is now the head chef at Nicolett. He says the menus are similar, so no need to panic – the beet latkes will be bountiful.
“We’re going to bring the latkes and some of the healthier stuff over from Osborne,” Fontaine says. “I started out with a pretty blue collar, meat-heavy menu, but that’s because of the clientele I felt I was dealing with. I’ve noticed there have been a lot more health conscious people out there than I thought.”
The café resides in the Nicolett Inn and seats 20 people with overflow seating available at the hotel’s bar. According to Fontaine, the building is full of character.
“The building is very, very old,” Fontaine says. “I think part of it was a monastery and it’s definitely from the 1800s. So, going into something like that, just bringing it up to date was an experience.”
The Nicolett Café aims to keep the good eats going and to bring revitalization to new areas of the city.
“I love St. Boniface and I find that this half of St. Boniface has kind of always been forgotten. It’s a really nice area,” Fontaine says. “I don’t expect the same kind of foot traffic, obviously. It will be people who travel from around the city to eat our food.”
And to keep up with demand, Fontaine is even thinking of opening a third location later on.
“I plan on opening a new location in the spring, if all goes well,” Fontaine says. “We’ll have a newer, bigger location hopefully within a walk from the U of W or the Portage, kind of downtown area.”
As far as the story goes, after Nov. 1, the Osborne Village Motor Inn will be no more, says Fontaine.
“Part of what we’ve seen with the Village in the last few years is out with the old, in with the new,” Fontaine says. “Now there’s an argument to be made as to whether or not it’s the right move, but I think what they want to do is attract a completely different clientele than what we attract.”
“Hopefully they try to retain what I’ve done, but I think it will just be entirely different.”
Published in Volume 70, Number 4 of The Uniter (October 1, 2015)