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Thursday, February 15, 2007

How sweet it is

Guy Quenneville browses for business news.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 15, 2007 at 2:13 PM

Haligonians looking to try some authentic Jamaican cuisine can now check out Sweet Spice, which opened on February 1 at 2725 Agricola. The restaurant’s co-owner and main chef Lajuane Bruce hails from Jamaica, where he learned to cook from his mother and grandmother. After working a string of odd jobs since 1992, Bruce met Dean Rogers, with whom he opened Sweet Spice. “When you walk in the place, it feels like an island setting—bright colours. Cool, soothing music. We have Bob Marley’s picture on the wall,” he says. As chef, Bruce offers up such Jamaican favorites as jerk chicken, oxtail (beef) and brown stew chicken. The restaurant, which seats about 20 people and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, can be reached by telephone at 431-5500.

Special FX

Fitness FX at 6330 Quinpool, a workout haven for university students, has recently changed hands. The good news: the new owner already has a lot of experience at FX. New owner Sean Alexander has been owner and manager for a week now, having taken over from John Cooke, who ran the gym for 10 years and left to pursue another job. But Alexander has actually worked at the gym for seven years at the sales desk, ever since he was 16 years old. “First job I ever had since I had a paper route!” says Alexander, who also worked on a business degree. “I was a shy guy when I came in, but working with people all the time, I really broke out of my shell.” Alexander has a number of changes that he would like to implement now that he can. “I’m going to put money back into the place and improve it,” he says. “I’m really focused on the cleanliness of the gym. We have a full-time cleaner here for the first time. Even just rearranging the weights…So when people walk in, they’ll really notice a difference. My main focus is first impressions.” The basement space, which was previously off-limits except for the occasional tae kwon do class, will be renovated, expanded and ultimately turned into additional general gym space by the end of the month. “If it’s busy upstairs and you need more room, you’ll be able to go downstairs.” Finally, Alexander wants to combat the perception that FX is an uptight gym. “I find that, a lot of gyms, they have a lot of rules. Like, ‘You can’t walk in wearing a hat.’ We don’t focus on rules. You don’t have to dress to the nines. We don’t want to stress you out. We basically want you to come in, relax.”

Baan there, done that.

The husband and wife team behind Baan Thai, the Thai food restaurant that has been voted “Best International Fare” by Coast readers two years in a row, is eyeing a move to a new location on 5234 Blowers, the street where the business originally began a few years ago. Victor Woo says the restaurant’s current location at 1569 Dresden Row is not feasible for a couple of reasons. Because the restaurant is located on an upper floor of a Dresden Row building, it is inconvenient to lug 20,000 pounds of food shipments up three floors every few months, says Woo. It takes all day. Woo also worries that his restaurant is not visible enough to the public. “You cannot really see the restaurant from the outside, which any business must have. People walking by on the street must be able to clearly see your restaurant.” Woo has only begun the preliminary plans for the new location, and doesn’t expect to actually set up shop on Blowers Street until August. The new location will give Woo a chance to decorate the restaurant more to his liking, adding more floor space to the restaurant. Additional lunch specials will be available at the new location. And, “we’ll be able to accommodate more parties and group dinners.” The Woos will also do something they’ve been meaning to do for a while: take a vacation, which they haven’t had the chance to do in five years. Even the cooks will be taking time off. “We’ll be closed for a month, from the 18th of February to the 15th of March,” says Woo.

Mezz hall

Mezza, a new restaurant at 6386 Quinpool serving authentic Lebanese meals in appetizer size portions, opened its doors to the public on February 2. Paula MacKinnon, co-manager of the restaurant, says that Quinpool Road was finally ready for something of this calibre—a restaurant with a bent towards casual fine dining. “Now you don’t necessarily have to go downtown to enjoy that sort of thing,” she says. The restaurant’s chef is Tony Nahas, a lifelong Lebanese cook who prepares all of the food fresh at the restaurant. The restaurant seats about 150 people, features a bar, and provides customers with an authentic Lebanese dining experience—but with a contemporary edge to it. “A vision of mine growing up was to give back to the city of Halifax—a place where people can come and enjoy the many tastes of Lebanon and spend hours of fun doing it in a pleasurable atmosphere,” states Nahas on the restaurant’s website. Mezza can be reached at 444-3914.

Hooterville

Allnovascotia.com is reporting that Hooters restaurant may be coming to Halifax. A group of experienced Hooters owners from Hamilton, Ontario are interesting in bringing the infamous chain to Halifax and St. John’s, Newfoundland. At the moment, they’re still seeking investors, but it’s possible the restaurant could appear in Halifax as early as this summer. We’ll keep you abreast of the situation.

Bad puns? New stores? Email: shoptalk@thecoast.ca.

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