Revelling in the ambiance of the Laughing Buddha patio is like relaxing at your hipster and ultra fashionable friend’s balcony for cocktails.
The lighting, the fire tables and the umbrellas are all tucked away safe from downtown traffic in patio spaces that used to be parking spots. With the tables comes a new heated outdoor stage for live performances.
General Manager Veronica Desjardins said the sprawling expansion of these secret and sidewalk patios off Elgin Street over the years have proven to be a success especially during the pandemic.
“We needed to think forward during COVID-19 with our outdoor spaces in a Sudbury winter,” she said.
“We thought of fires but knew that wouldn’t work. Then we turned our attention to gas-heated fire tables, which started a trend in the city. Next thing you know, we were adding marshmallows and cozy blankets to the mix.”
It’s that kind of forward thinking that Desjardins attributes to the start and continued success of the Laughing Buddha.
The Buddha began in 2005. Veronica’s grandparents owned and operated the Townehouse Tavern for 35 years. Then, when her Aunt Patty and Uncle Bernie took over the iconic bar, they purchased the neighbouring space that was once the Elgin Street Mission and the evolution of the Laughing Buddha began.
“My family added creative foods and vegan options that were not on the scene yet like hummus,” she said. “Who was serving hummus? They exposed people to new kinds of food in a friendly way. There were tree-hugger salads and alfalfa on sandwiches.
“It was your small, next door cafe and turned into something bigger serving craft beers from all over the world.”
Now the Buddha has a full menu of main courses, including pizzas. The Dill Pickle Za is a crowd favourite with its Dijon aioli, garlic butter, salami, bacon and pickles.
Like her dad, Veronica Desjardins is also a vegetarian. She steers towards a vegetarian Buddha Pizza and the Falafel Bowl, which features pickled onions and turnip, along with quinoa, arugula, garlic hummus and a mix of other ingredients and flavours.
Desjardins has always called Sudbury home, but spent many years abroad in East Africa.
There she worked as a project manager with the purpose of turning vulnerable youth into servers, chefs and bartenders.
She said her ability to work with a team, problem solve, cook and conceive creative cocktails made for a natural progression when she returned from her travels to manage the restaurant and move it forward.
“It started as an artsy, cool, hip, comfortable and inclusive space,” she said. “It was the downtown counterculture. Now it is so much more.”
Desjardins said there are plans for menu updates and a larger sidewalk patio. She also has her attention on what happens to the location or relocation of the downtown arena as this will have a major impact on what comes next.
Please visit the Laughing Buddha website for details on the menu, and hours.
Anastasia Rioux is a freelance writer and good food lover in Greater Sudbury. Let’s Eat is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.