What’s New Is Old

By John Swartz

If you’ve lived in Orillia long enough and go out to eat occasionally, you’ve probably been to Era 67 on Mississaga Street. It’s also quite likely it’s been a while since you have been there.

It was opened by Ian Thompson and Sarah Valiquette-Thompson who sold it to Brian and Pam Patterson and Devon Spence, Recently, the Pattersons gained full control; and hired a new general manager, Kira Patterson (no relation), who spoke with SUNonline/Orillia last week about what the plan is for the restaurant.

“We’re rebuilding and we want to get it back to what it once was,” said Kira Patterson . Perhaps refocusing is a better term. Era 67 is still where you want to go for special occasions, but there is no doubt three years ago when the Thompsons owned the restaurant the name was not far from people’s lips, mostly because of Sarah Valiquette-Thompson’s almost tireless promotion.

“I think any time you kind of change any kind of ownership, when management switches over, things start to maybe fall off a little bit. With myself and Brian and Pam taking full ownership and having a new kitchen staff,” that will change said Patterson. “I think there’s always that struggle, in this industry it’s like a rollercoaster ride.”

Patterson should be familiar to restaurant goers. She’s been at Era 67 for three years after being at Brewery Bay Food Company for 4 years, serving tables in both cases. There was a 3 year break in the middle working out of town too.

“I worked at this place called Ship and Anchor, Red Mile on 17th Ave (Calgary); busy, busy pub, probably the busiest I’ve ever seen. Line ups out the door every day, two patios, great tips, it was a great place to work.“ People in the restaurant business know each other and use those connections.

“Cory Kingshot has worked here for years and years and I’ve known Cory for years, so I reached out about coming here (Era 67), being somebody who didn’t want to be at work until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning anymore with a little girl. I wanted to do something that was a little better time wise.”

For those wondering if Kingshot figures into the new plan, Patterson said, “Cory is still here. He’s not allowed to leave. We’re keeping him forever.”

Some people go to school to learn how to work in restaurants. Patterson went to school, but not to learn how to serve a steak.

“All on the job training,” is how she got her knowledge. “I went to school for social service work and criminology (Georgian College and Lakehead University), completely different than the restaurant industry. The restaurant industry was something I did while I was in college and university.”

Often when a restaurant changes hands, there’s a temptation to change too much. Remember when Weber’s was sold and the new owner totally replaced the menu? It didn’t work out so well. Patterson is planning some changes, but not radical ones. Mostly it’s returning to what many people used to get at Era 67 and have been wanting.

“We may be looking into doing a wild game night again,” she said; “the big things that a lot of people over the last 6 months or so have been asking us why we no longer carry it on our menu.” One of this writer’s favourites was bison.

“Bison? That’s something we’re looking into doing,” she said. There will be other unusual things served on occasion which aren’t regular restaurant items. “Maybe some more wild game as features, not something we’ll put directly on the menu.” There are some different dishes Era 67 was known for that are coming back. “We’re bringing lamb back, we’re bringing duck back, short ribs back, classic steaks. With wild game it’s hard to carry it on your menu on a constant, regular basis. In the summer, sometimes I find you get a little bit more of that appeal because you’re getting a lot of tourists coming in, so there’s a little more pull for that, people are willing to try those things,”

Era 67 Chef Nick Myre

In order to do that, you need someone who knows how to cook it.

”We’ve just hired a new chef (Nick Myre). He just started with us this week. We just changed our menu, we just launched it last night. We’re slowly making more changes,” and there will be a Meet the Chef Night event in mid-September Patterson said.

Era 67 was the place to take unsuspecting friends, relatives or others to impress them with your own sense of good taste.

“We definitely want to bring that back where this is the place where you are going to take clients for lunch to impress them, or you are going to take a date to impress them. This is where you are going to come and you’re going to have good food, you’re going to have good service, you’re going to have good wine,” and beer?

“A nice cold beer, absolutely,” she said. But that’s not all she is aiming to make Era 67.

“We don’t want to be the place where you just bring somebody on an anniversary or a birthday, but a place where you can come on a casual Tuesday or Wednesday night as well.”

Menu prices are comparable to previous menus Era 67 has had. For lunch they’ll be on par with other restaurants in Orillia and they aren’t changing anything about the raw materials either.

“Our lunch menu is really well priced. Everything here is fresh. We make everything fresh. We don’t have a microwave, we have a tiny little freezer, everything is made from scratch and we’re very comparative to a lot of other places in town on our lunch menu.”

At the moment Ear 67 participates in a partnership with the Opera House and the Stone Gate Inn for an evening dinner/show for visitors. There will be other tie-ins for tourists, and something to benefit the community.

“We partnered with WLTH financial. We do a specialized dinner as well as a lunch item with them and $2 from us as well as $2 from them, we match, will go to the Sharing Place Food Bank. The duck will be featured. That should be launching next week.”

The desert menu at Era 67 will continue to be interesting.

“We do different deserts on a regular basis. We always have Crème Brûlée, you can’t go wrong with a great Crème Brûlée. We are in talks with Sweet Time bakery,” said Patterson. “We’ve been talking about her doing a nice desert for us.”

The final words Patterson has for those who haven’t been to Era 67 in a while about why they should come back?

“I think it’s a combination of the amazing back of house (kitchen) that we are now creating and is doing an amazing job with this brand new menu. Last night was the first night we launched and everybody across the board was very happy with it, which was great to see; and having a really good front of house staff, servers that really have that knowledge and know how to treat you. When you come into a place like this you are expecting a certain type of service and that’s what you are going to get.”

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)


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