As One Door Closes, Another Opens . . .Opportunity Knocks For Area Restaurants

As One Door Closes, Another Opens . . .Opportunity Knocks For Area Restaurants

Photo: At Nola’s, Server Deborah Dunne, Owner Chris Mickle (middle) and Executive Chef Robert Nesbit, welcome guests to experience Cajun/Creole flavours and the southern hospitably of a New Orleans style restaurant. There’s nothing like fried chicken on jalapeno and smoked cheddar corn bread waffles with a maple shallot aioli and a nice cool “Hurricane” drink! You can eat in the renovated dining room or enjoy drinks in the bar area, which are also pictured. Photos by Rod Denis.

As One Door Closes, Another Opens . . .Opportunity Knocks For Area Restaurants

The Windsor area’s restaurant scene is ever-changing with openings, closings and renovations happening on a monthly basis.

There’s more to expect in 2018 with some exciting announcements and openings across the city, encompassing cuisine from around the world.

While Lorelei’s Bistro has closed its doors after a successful run in Olde Walkerville in Windsor, there are new restaurants either already open or on the horizon across the Windsor and Essex County region including: Road Chef, Mare Nostrum Mediterranean Restaurant and Bar, El Guaco Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar, in a former Armando’s on Tecumseh Road East, NOLA’s in Walkerville, and The Grand Cantina in Ford City, as well as a re-imagined Toscana Restaurant and Wine Bar in South Windsor.

In addition, Van Niforos, Owner of The Penalty Box, a long-time fixture on Windsor’s casual dining scene, is seeking investors so he can expand and open a second location.

As well, Bill Kobrosli, Owner of The Factory House, is fresh off a major renovation project and menu update that has already paid dividends.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Reaume, Owner of Toscana, updates everyone on: that his 10 year old restaurant closes for renovations in early January. When it re-opens, Reaume plans to serve breakfast and dinner in a re-imagined space, which will include a small café at the front of the restaurant.

Plus, there is something brewing for beer aficionados as the long-awaited Sandwich Brewing Company in Old Sandwich Town has opened its doors to rave reviews.

NOLA’S: A Taste Of New Orleans

Chris Mickle of Protenders and the Dominion House recently launched NOLA’s, a new Creole/Cajun-style restaurant in the former Lorelei’s Bistro space at 1526 Wyandotte Street East in Windsor.

NOLA’s, a contraction of New Orleans, LA., serves a combination of Creole, deemed Acadian-style cuisine by purists, and Cajun, which is considered a twist on classic French cooking, according to Mickle, its Owner.

I love New Orleans’ food culture and I thought Windsor was ready for some Louisiana-style fine dining,” says Mickle. “We also have a lack of fine seafood offerings across the city and I think we will be able to deliver something truly unique.”

Rob Nisbet, a graduate of the Stratford Chefs School, has joined Mickle from Beach Grove Golf and Country Club.

Mickle and Nisbet spent a week in New Orleans just prior to opening NOLA’s, meeting with chefs and restaurant owners to refine their own new restaurant.

Among the menu selections are: classic jambalaya and gumbo, fried chicken over sweet potato waffles, blackened catfish, oysters and shrimp and crab ravioli.

Mickle plans to offer jazz on weekends along with duelling pianos. More information on NOLA’s can be found on:

Lorelei’s Bistro

Mary Lambros has closed the doors at Lorelei’s Bistro, a popular Walkerville eatery which opened in 2013.

Lambros says she wasn’t actively looking to sell her restaurant but when buyers came along and made a solid offer, she decided to take it and focus on other projects.

The best time to sell any business is when it’s successful,” believes Lambros. “We had a great run at Lorelei’s, but it was time to move on and try something different.”

She adds that NOLA’s, the new restaurant in her old space, “is a great concept and I’m very excited about what they are doing.”

Lambros is currently in the middle of renovating and repurposing the former Monarch Mattress building directly across Wyandotte Street East from Lorelei’s.

It’s going to become a small community theatre space with an artists’ café, retail spaces and artist workshops. (Get more details on page 13 of this issue).

The Penalty Box

With a kitchen bursting at the seams, despite being expanded four times in 20-odd years, The Penalty Box has become so popular that Owner Van Niforos is turning away business.

It’s overwhelming,” Niforos admits. “With the exception of some long-time clients, we are turning away catering opportunities because the kitchen is so busy with eat-in and take-out business.”

Niforos, opened his first restaurant on Dufferin Street in 1992. And since opening his current location at 2151 Walker Road in Windsor (, the business has grown every year.

We’re in a position now where I need some investors to come in and take over the existing location so I can focus on opening a second larger place to accommodate the business we are currently turning away,” comments Niforos.

Featuring its famous Chicken Delight and other casual dining staples, the restaurant remains a popular spot, but has outgrown its surroundings and according to its owner, parking remains an issue.

We are going to keep the same concept and perhaps add a couple of menu items, but it would be ridiculous to make wholesale changes to something which still works and remains very popular,” he states. “But, it’s frustrating to see how much business we turn away.”

Niforos mentions he has a couple of potential new locations in mind and would like to move ahead with plans later this month.

Mare Nostrum

Owners of Mare Nostrum Mediterranean Restaurant and Bar, which opened in 2015 at 401 Sunset Avenue in Windsor, now have a second location at 16 Main Street West in Kingsville.

Mare Nostrum in Latin means our sea.

We’ve been open near the University of Windsor for almost two and a half years,” notes Co-Owner Adam El-Dika. “We’re affiliated with the university grad student society and lease the space from the university, but we operate autonomously. Given our success, we believe the time is right to take on another location.”

The Windsor restaurant is across from the Anthony Toldo Health Education and Learning Centre and it has become a popular spot for students, faculty and the general public. (For more information refer to:

As befitting a location close to a university with a diverse student body, the menu reflects that diversity. El-Dika, who co-owns the restaurant with Ahmad Sanji, says the Kingsville menu will be slightly condensed in the beginning and expand as warranted.

The restaurant’s eclectic menu features such items as hummus, falafel, cheese rolls, poutine, grape leaves, spinach pies, spicy chicken, curry cream chicken, wraps, sandwich, burgers and pasta selections.

The Kingsville restaurant is in a space formerly occupied by Tony’s Panini’s and then Koi Sushi, which recently moved one door down from Mare Nostrum.

Cover story continues on PAGE 18

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Dave hall
Dave Hall is a former reporter for The Windsor Star who contributes monthly features to Biz X magazine. Dave spent almost 40 years at the paper, covering sports, general news, municipal politics and business. Prior to that, Dave worked for The Brampton Times where he covered general news and sports.