It’s time to go exploring beyond the corridors of Kingsway, Lasalle, Notre Dame, Paris and Regent. We really should get to know the other towns, communities, crossroads and corners across the vast geography that is Sudbury.
We can learn about the extent and diversity of Greater Sudbury and maybe discover a handful of gems, unique finds and special places.
While Greater Sudbury is now in the Grey-Lockdown zone, which prohibits in-restaurant dining, perhaps you can add this - and the next few reviews - to a wish list. Take-out remains a choice at most restaurants.
Four-year-old Station 18 Fire House Bar & Grill is one of those places you have to go to, see and experience for yourself. “Spike and Rail” celebrating Capreol’s historic railway connection existed on this same site long ago, and there have been others in between.
Station 18, though, has a certain feel of permanence.
Whatever got Justin Seguin into the restaurant world?
“I grew up in the restaurant business! My grandparents owned a small restaurant in their hometown of Alban. Even though I lived in Sudbury, I spent every weekend, every holiday, and every summer out there helping my grandparents out. I guess when it becomes natural when your childhood memories are as such.
“I am a people person and when we first opened, I worked front of house seven days a week. After some time, I became the back of house guy … seven days a week! It's a restaurant. When you first start out, you need to be front and back and centre.”
Right now to preserve staff employment, Seguin has taken his activity and salary out of the equation by returning to heavy equipment training.
Very much a community hub, the restaurant on Dennie Street is at the intersection of the two parts of Capreol.
“We are walkable for most residents here in town. No need to drive, and last summer we did have a patio that was very successful.”
Much of the menu — like the décor — is firefighter inspired. The Fireman Poutine includes breaded deep-fried St. Albert cheese curds. Seriously, it sounds like something that everyone would go gaga over.
There is a fittingly named 911 Burger topped with hot peppers, and the firehouse mayo.
“I’m not going to share the secret of the 18 spices that make our mayo special,” winks Seguin. “Our burgers are the No. 1 thing people come for. The Fire House Burger is eight ounces of sirloin made in-house with bacon, pulled pork, and caramelized onions plus tomato, cheddar and more mayo.”
Fire House also – in pre-COVID times – was a home for music, and has a stage that hosted local artists.
“We used to have a Sunday open-mic that was hugely popular.”
Seguin reminisces that there once was karaoke, too. Check out the Tik Tok Seguin created earlier this year as we were emerging from the holiday lockdown. He’s ready to do a musical.
What does Seguin not do?
“We don’t do breakfast. You know if it wasn’t for take-out … well, it has been keeping us above water.”
Seguin hints that this spring there will be a new menu and he is considering some new items. “Don’t worry, most of the favourites will stick around. There will be some new items. We are still in discussion with our staff.”
There are murmurs of a Rueben being added. Smoked meat would go with the theme here also.
It is surprising Seguin’s concept hasn’t been rolled out other places. I ask, “Has anyone said ‘Boy, I wish we had a place like this where I come from?’ ”
I can see he is bubbling to answer.
“Yes, numerous times. The atmosphere is welcoming and so is our staff. Especially first responders appreciate our application and monument to what they do, and for people to see it gives a sense of appreciation. Of course, we offer a discount to all first responders and military personnel.”
Every evening there is a special. Tuesday’s is “Buck-a-wing night.” The Five Alarm sauce and firehouse rub might be too hot to handle for some people. Put out the flames with pitchers of their draft.
Friday Date night has one-pound of wings, perogies and a Caesar salad on offer. Sharing? “Baked roasted garlic and spinach dip is classic, and snowmobilers love to order five pounds of wings. The trail for sledding is right up to our backyard.”
Seguin knows I am going to ask about the current situation. “You’ve been down this road before Justin. Are you better prepared now for the further restrictions?”
“To be honest Hugh, you can never be prepared," he said. "This has been a game of yoyo unfortunately. We’re going on to year #5 with the Fire House, and never in a million years did we think we could be in this situation.
“I think I speak for all small business owners. We took a hit during the Christmas shutdown, and then we opened once again giving us hope.”
Now, going into lockdown again, you know Justin will feel it. “Honestly we don't know what to do differently or what to expect other than another unfortunate financial hit.”
Well, we can continue to order take-out when we can, Justin, and we can throw support behind local businesses. We can dream of the days when we can once again go for the Wednesday Burger Night special at The Station 18 Fire House.
Hugh Kruzel is a committed foodie and a freelance writer in Greater Sudbury. Let’s Eat is made possible by our Community Leaders Program. Are you an advertiser? Learn more about our Community Leaders Program here.
***An earlier draft of this story (written when Greater Sudbury was still in the Red-Control zone) was run in error earlier today. This has been corrected, and has been replaced by the most recent version of the story.