The Cook’s Shop Redux

Where in Windsor can you find a restaurant with excellent food and service that’s been around for 40 years? The answer is the new old Cook’s Shop Restaurant. Spencer Dawson, took the reigns when the former owner retired from the business he started in 1980. The cozy dining room and Italian menu remain mostly the same, with a few minor changes to both. The old meat display case is gone but the natural stone walls and romantic setting remains the same.

The new owner introduced himself to Cathryn and I, taking the time to explain how he strived to keep fan-favorites on the menu, and brought in a few new recipes handed down by his grandmother. Her homemade bread was the first thing to knock our socks off – a sliced loaf that was crispy golden on the outside and a cornbread texture on the inside, served with a soft herb butter. The wine list covers all bases and quite reasonably priced.

We talked about Dawson’s idol, Lino, the previous owner, who just happened to grace us with his presence moments later. We were lucky enough to chat with both men and capture a few photos of the two most passionate restaurant owners I’ve ever met. Our Caesar salads were delivered on their departure from our table, the original recipe that Dawson said he had to retain in order to prevent a riot.

I forgot about the Escargot – large and tender snails served on a bed of mushrooms sautéed in garlic butter and served in phyllo pastry. We had time for another slice of bread before the salad. Our waiter, Moe, was Johnny-on-the-spot and never far from our table. I ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara, with double smoked bacon, and asked to have it on the creamy side. Yep, more sauce to soak up with the bread. It was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had.

Cathryn ordered the Rack of Lamb, four thick portions stacked over a pea and mushroom risotto. Sitting on my hands was all I could do to resist snatching some while she was away from the table. It was juicy, tender, and cooked to perfection. Sadly, we couldn’t finish the last two pieces of bread. Our meals were quite generous in size.

Although we were both stuffed, I needed a pieced of cheesecake. They had two and I went for the salted caramel. Not too rich, it had the perfect combination of sweet and saltiness. We both loved every part of our meal and enjoyed the experience of meeting both the old and new regime. Giving the Cook’s Shop a 10 out of 10 was a no-brainer.

Watch for Dawson’s future plans, while he renovates the whole building, possibly adding another restaurant and living quarters above that.

Five Guys Friday

As many of you know, living with my wife, Cathryn, is like living with a personal chef. There’s good and bad that goes along with that. Obviously the good part is that she cooks and serves me gourmet meals almost every night of the week.

The bad part of having a live-in chef is that we don’t go out to restaurants as often as we did when we were dating and sampling food and wine across the county. Add to that our dietary constraints and we rarely get to visit fast food restaurants or eat junk food.

Once a month, I treat myself to a cheat day and basically eat whatever the hell I want. I had been craving a fresh grilled hamburger for quite a while, so yesterday I treated my chef and took her out to Five Guys Burgers and Fries. We now have one in Windsor, just south of the Devonshire Mall.

What a treat! Because of Covid rules we had to eat in the car, but I brought along cloth napkins and plastic lap trays for a touch of parking lot class. We brought our own drinks too so I was a bit surprised by the $26 bill for two cheeseburgers and one order of fries. Granted the burgers were double-deckers and there were enough fries for three people.

Its’ nice to custom order whatever toppings you like, including fried caramelized onions, the bun is steamed soft and the cheese is nice and gooey. The meat is freshly grilled and goes nowhere near a microwave oven. If you haven’t tried a burger from these Five Guys, you don’t know what you’re missing.

The Twisted Apron

14570422_1091268287589115_8873685703102609259_nI’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that dining out anywhere these days (during the pandemic) is a challenge. Obstacles include finding a restaurant that is open for business and one that has a deck or patio, if you hope to eat there and not have to take your meal home with you. In considering our limited options, weather also has to be taken into account.

As far as dining out goes, what I miss the most is my weekly breakfast out. Cathryn and I are both good cooks but it’s still nice to get out once in a while, and sit back while someone else prepares your meal. We lucked out on the weather yesterday and took advantage by looking for a place to have breakfast.

We’ve both been to the Twisted Apron on Wyandotte Street in Walkerville, but current world events kept us away for months. On arrival, we were immediately seated at a table in the morning shade, on the patio out front. Their menu isn’t as expansive as it normally is, but we were able to order our own versions of Eggs Benedict.

101037693_2893417674040825_423327361266614272_nThe tables around us quickly filled up and I noticed new arrivals disappeared around the corner of the building. I asked our server if they had another patio in the alley but she said the overflow was using picnic tables in the parkette next door. It’s a great idea that shows how inventive our city’s eateries can be in trying times.

To take advantage of their underused kitchen, the Apron has opened a Pop-up Bakery. We couldn’t leave until scoring a freshly-baked loaf of sourdough bread and an ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookie. Both were awesome. It was a card day.

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Our service and food was great, as usual, and I couldn’t help but smile upon leaving – seeing people enjoying their breakfast in the park. In that moment it looked like the world was almost normal.

India 47 Restaurant & Bar

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Are you looking for something different to tingle and tantalize your taste buds, exotic and spicy foods that scream flavour? You have to check out the new India 47 Restaurant & Bar at Lesperance and E.C. Row, in the former Webb’s or Rygate. I don’t know a heck of a lot about authentic Indian food, only having been to a couple other restaurants serving that particular country’s fare, but this new venture caught my attention.

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Etta’s Greekish Eatery

78424932_2513138285597021_5714507940707172352_oIt will be no surprise to some of our friends who already dine at Etta’s Greekish Eatery, that it’s become our favorite breakfast place. We’d heard it was going to change hands, with a new non-Greek owner taking over, and we were a bit concerned they’d change things and ruin a great restaurant. Don’t worry, that’s not the case.

I’d just been talking Windsor Pizza with some buddies, who’ve all noticed how great Italian Pizza places have all but vanished – with other ethnicities taking them over and ruining a good thing. Etta’s seems to be an exception so far, they’re still serving the same great food and they’ve kept the same staff. They can make all the difference, as we learned from the Country Diner on Manning after the old cook retired.

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Rants, Raves & Reviews – Capone’s Grill & Pasta Shop

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Cathryn and I don’t get out for dinner much these days, mostly because many restaurants aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Who wants to pay forty bucks for a steak that’s not cooked to your liking or eat frozen veggies. Maybe it helps in our case that we both like to cook, and cook the way we like.

Not to say there aren’t any great restaurants in Windsor. Take the little Italian grill and pasta shop called, Capone’s on Wyandotte Street, in old Riverside. Owner John Fuerth is the restaurant’s first reason for success. He openly admits that he mimicked his favorite Italian restaurant, the Cook Shop, when he created Capone’s.

dinnerCathryn and I have eaten in both places and John hasn’t missed a beat. We were able to get a table on Friday night without reservations and were welcomed as if we were extended family. We started with the scallop appetizer special. They were plump, seared to perfection and served with a tasty reduction and veggie slivers.

Cathryn had the Chateau Briand and I ordered the carbonara with pancetta, asking for it to be on the creamy side. The wait wasn’t long and our meals were served piping hot from the kitchen that was only a few feet away (a very cozy place for the cooking staff). C’s filet was cooked exactly how she asked. I received a damn good sized bowl of pasta – easily the best carbonara I’ve had in many years.

desertFor dessert we had cheesecake that was made inhouse. It was not your normal triangle slab cut from a pie tin. It resembled a large scoop of ice cream, light and creamy, with no gram crust, and topped with blueberry sauce. OMG good.

Even with a decent bottle of  wine, our bill barely broke a hundred dollars. The same meal would have cost us almost double at the Cook Shop. John told us Lino recently retired and sold the downtown landmark. Not a problem for us since we’ve found our new favorite Italian eatery. Both C and I give Capone’s a 10 out of 10, and I think that’s the first time ever.