Restaurant resurgence

Village Diner opens in the West End

Sous chef Kyle Loewen and owner/chef Leighton Fontaine inside at the Village Diner at 510 Sargent Ave.

The Village Diner is part of a “breakfast renaissance” in the West End.

The West End has seen growth on the business front in the past few years, with the introduction of new bars and coffee shops. But for the past few years, the neighbourhood has been missing a breakfast joint. That gap is now filled with The Village Diner at 510 Sargent Ave.

“The West End is a natural fit (for The Village Diner) – vibrant, raw and central,” Leighton Fontaine, owner of The Village Diner, says. “I saw a niche and took a chance. I needed to find a new home for myself and staff.”

Fontaine was owner of the previous Osborne Village Cafe, which made its transition to St. Boniface and adopted the new title, The Nicolett. 

“I love the Nicolett, and always will, but I think that this is one of those situations where all the eggs should go in one basket, and that basket is the new diner on Sargent,” Fontaine says. “This is a brand new space – there are obviously going to be some changes, but the vibe at all of our restaurants, I think, remains the same.”

The diner opened on Oct. 19. Fontaine considers this opening a new endeavour but one that is intertwined with old roots. 

“It’s an everything-made-from-scratch and house-grown diner, like the other two restaurants were. Our goal is to serve home-cooked and grown food at a reasonable price and have a positive impact on this community. The West End has a plethora of great restaurants, and I hope that, in a small way, I can add to that,” Fontaine says.

“I see Winnipeg as one city, but up until the ’70s, it was many smaller ones, and in some ways, it still is. Diners and meeting places like our little restaurant can aid in bridging the gap between communities.”

The Village Diner is also stepping up to fill a gap in breakfast service.

“We’re seeing a breakfast renaissance in the West End,” Joseph Kornelsen, promotion and development coordinator for the West End BIZ says. “After the Black Sheep Diner closed, we didn’t see a new breakfast diner for a couple of years. (Now) we have seen a number of new breakfast places ... open.”

Kornelsen says there are over 1,000 diverse businesses and organizations in the West End. He also says the low lease rates and close proximity to downtown have attracted young  entrepreneurs to develop in the West End, drawing in Winnipeggers from across the city. 

“In the last couple decades, organizations like the Spence Neighbourhood Association, the Daniel McIntyre-St. Matthews Community Association and the Central Neighbourhoods Development Corporation have done a lot to really build strong communities in the West End,” Kornelsen says. 

These organizations have engaged community members of all ages by hosting picnics, craft nights and street parties. Events facilitated by local bars and pubs allow folks to enjoy the West End’s nightlife, while ensuring they are providing a space that is welcome and inclusive.

“Our community is known for its diversity, and we often hear about how welcoming our businesses are. It’s great to see that trend continue with our newest establishments,” Kornelsen says.

Published in Volume 71, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 10, 2016)

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