Fresh start for Superior Street eatery

The Superior Cafe, a gem of a neighbourhood restaurant, mixed-media art gallery and entertainment hub in a heritage building in James Bay, is closing the curtain tonight after eight years.

But it will open with new owners and a new direction next week.

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Owner Lisa Boehme has sold her share of the 1912 building at 106 Superior St., to her artist father John Boehme and is moving to Wolfville, N.S. He is leasing the 70-seat restaurant to chef Justin Grenda and partners Shawn Moore and Tim Lamb, who will re-open as the Superior Street Bistro on Wednesday.

Grenda, 25, a Victoria native who spent the last two years cooking at a resort in the B.C. Rockies, said the Superior will now be open for lunch, continue a Sunday brunch tradition and offer an “evolving menu” with tastes from around the world. It will also feature live music on Friday and Saturday nights and the new operators will provide catering and host special events, such as weddings.

Grenda added there will be small cosmetic changes to the room. “It’s a great place, a great building and it has a very loyal following in the neighbourhood,” said Grenda. He said the menu will change every two to three weeks and feature lunch and dinner entrees and “small-plate snacking foods.”

“We all like to experiment,” Grenda said of his and his partners’ cooking styles. “And we want people to be part of that. We’ve got ideas from great brunch spots around the world. I cook a very West Coast style, but I went to French-style cooking school. We’d also like to incorporate Italian, Asian, Indian and other styles. It will change a lot. We want to keep evolving.”

Grenda sees the Superior as a “new-age bistro.”

“You can make us your whole night or part of it,” he said. “We see it as a stepping stone where you can come in and have a snack and a drink and then move on to enjoy some of the city’s other great places if you like.”

Grenda has worked at the Chateau Victoria Hotel and spent the last two years at Eagle Ranch in Invermere. He was back in Victoria two months ago and heard the Superior was looking for a chef. The deal unfolded quickly and a partnership was formed with Moore, a sous chef, and Lamb, who has been at the Superior six years.

Lisa Boehme, who had put the property up for sale in 2010 for $3.5 million, said her father will continue to live in the upstairs suite. She and partner Kevin Hernandez will establish their espresso bar and Mortiscycle Donuts business on the East Coast. Mortiscycle opened about three months ago as an outdoor stand at the Superior and drew quite a neighbourhood following with homemade doughnuts and coffee, selling out before 11 a.m. most mornings.

Boehme said she has mixed feelings about leaving the Superior and the people who supported her. “I’d like to thank so many people for their kindness, friendship and support,” she said. “I know many of them personally and have enjoyed my time greeting them at the Superior. Our new business, Mortiscycle, has really burned some rubber and we are excited to build this business into a great new adventure.”

Boehme said Mortiscycle has become a neighbourhood place and was similar to the coffee house roots she laid down with La Boehme and Java at the foot of Johnson Street nearly 25 years ago.

Located across from Fisherman's Wharf, the brick Superior building most recently housed the Unitarian Church but was built early last century as the Seaman’s Institute, a place where merchant sailors could get a bunk and something to eat and drink while awaiting their next vessel.

The Edwardian-style block with a time capsule in its cornerstone was designed by J.C.M. Keith, whose design credits include Christ Church Cathedral, the legislature library and parts of the Royal Jubilee Hospital.

The 8,000-square-foot building also has a secluded patio with 30 seats.

John Boehme bought the property 20 years ago and it took several years and countless meetings in the neighbourhood and at city hall to fight for the right to keep, restore and house the businesses.


> The Superior Street Bistro will be open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. It is open for dinner on Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. and on Sunday for brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call 250-380-9515.

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