Gingerbread House Family Cafe
According to their menu/info pamphlet, the Gingerbread House Family Café will never turn away a business meeting. But they're "primarily a place where moms and dads can enjoy the company of others while not being worried that their children are interrupting an important negotiation." I'm certain I don't have any negotiations to go over with Alyssa but still, I'm worried we'll appear to be discussing important business and I don't want any moms or dads to get more stressed out than they already are. So we find a kid to come along with us - Rory - hoping she'll help us blend in. The almost-four-year-old meets us at the brand new Junction café for lunch. It's her mom's, Kristy's, day off. So she comes along as well.
When we arrive, Rory is drinking an organic grape beverage. (It's carbonated, so it's kind of like pop!) There are tons of babies inside the café. They're all fat and happy and eating sweet potato fries. A barefoot child approaches me and the surprised/scared face she looks up at me with suggests that she thought I was her mom for a second. She scampers off onto the big, colourful play mat where most of the children are congregating. Moms hang out with coffee at cafeteria-style tables and chairs. It's a bit chaotic, at least for those of us not even used to being around even one kid. Evidence of the inclusive/organic/local food "movement" is scattered throughout. I notice an offering of gluten free cookies, organic apple pastries and vegan burgers. All of the take out gear is Greenshift, the milk is Harmony and the coffee is Reunion Island.
The menu is out of control. It's huge! Among tons of items, one may order breakfast, seafood salad, chicken burgers and couscous - wide range. With a menu like this, I tend to stick to the simplest of options. I order bacon and eggs ($7.95). "We've changed the bacon and eggs," says my server. "Now, it also comes with sausage. Is that alright?" Ha. Of course it is. Alyssa and Rory decide to share chicken nuggets ($7.95) and a grilled cheese sandwich ($2.50). The nuggets come with fries. There is the sweet potato option but Rory finds the idea of orange fries unappealing (and confusing) so they go for straight up crinkle cut. Kristy opts for a chicken salad sandwich (broiled chicken with tarragon).
The grilled cheese is a bit soggy and goes mostly untouched, while the nuggets go like crazy. They've a hearty batter that Alyssa swears includes oats. Rory declares she wants more before they're even gone. My breakfast is nothing special (eggs, bacon, sausage, toast and sweet potato fries) but I'm satisfied afterwards. All of the food arrives at our table at different times because they're short staffed. Our server explains to us that the place is still getting on its feet, not busy enough to hire a lot of people. She tells us the plan: get as much local and organic food on the menu as possible. I suspect that as the place grows into itself, the extensive menu will be downsized (you can't keep frozen cod cakes on hand forever).
Kristy shares a satisfied yet underwhelmed sentiment about her sandwich, but expresses her appreciation for a place like this in the Junction. "It's a lonely time," she says, looking around at the young mothers, some of whom are talking to each other while their kids play. We get free blueberry Danishes with our coffees and Rory chooses a gingerbread man, definitely the weirdest looking one entitled "cloud clown." It's prepackaged, not made on the premises, but Rory is psyched anyways and eats it headfirst.
Our table agrees that the food is nothing special, probably resembling something you would make at home for yourself. But for busy parents, socially (and literally) starved, having someone else cook you a meal is probably a nice break. And Rory said the whole lunch "was great." She has spent the latter half of the meal playing happily on the colourful play mat. "I'm not used to this," says Kristy. "Usually I can't have an adult conversation." This is the appeal of the Gingerbread House. It's a nice place for moms and dads from the Junction to come and enjoy an organic coffee and maybe a Danish.
Or a weird-looking gingerbread man.
Photos by Alyssa Bistonath