The culinary team at Cambridge’s Little Mushroom Dining Lounge is prepping for the city’s first-ever foodie event.
The eatery is one of eight local restaurants signed on to participate in Cambridgelicious, a two-week-long food fest offering diners opportunities to try three-course lunches or dinners at a fixed price.
The event, to be held from Oct. 13 to 22, was announced by the city last summer to mark Cambridge’s 50th anniversary, and offer a much-needed economic boost for restaurateurs.
The event is a perfect way for local restaurants to raise their profiles while giving diners a chance to explore memorable menus, according to Jason Waterfall of Little Mushroom Dining Lounge.
“We are excited about Cambridglicious because it's highlighting independently-owned restaurants, and those who are outside of the downtown cores,” he said. “It gives a chance to let Cambridge residents know that there is more out there for them than what they may be already aware of.”
The Sheldon Drive restaurant, described as an intimate industrial lounge, focuses on Ontario-based wines, craft beer and spirits. It will also highlight local producers for its Cambridgelicious menu, including 3Gen Organics from Wallenstein, Oakridge Acres in Ayr, Gunn's Hill in Oxford County and Jensen's in Norfolk.
The event also provides a much-needed nudge for residents to get out and experience the world again, especially following the pandemic, noted Waterfall.
“Even in the reality of tight financial times for many of us, being out is a little escape to enjoy what others – the local restaurants – have to offer.”
Cambridgelicious will offer diners a chance to savour a three-course lunch or dinner menu at a fixed price, ranging from $25 to $65 per person. Participating venues offer a variety of Mexican, Canadian, French and Italian cuisines.
In addition to Little Mushroom Dining Lounge, seven other restaurants have signed up, including:
The city has posted a list of participating restaurants, locations and menu details in an interactive online map.
The event was inspired by Toronto’s Summerlicious and Winterlicious events, which have been successful in giving restaurants a lift by piquing interest and palates.
Organizers are elated at the number of businesses throwing their chef’s hats into the ring for the inaugural event.
“We are pleased with the restaurants who applied to be part of the first Cambridgelicous event,” said Laura Pearce, senior economic development officer with the city. “In speaking with other cities who have done these events, including Toronto, we were prepared for modest numbers.”
She noted that Toronto, with a population of two million, launched its first event with about 20 participating restaurants.
Instead the focus this year is on recognizing the city’s 50th anniversary.
“We are thrilled to embark on this first event of its kind in Cambridge and look forward to the community helping to celebrate Cambridge’s 50th birthday and enjoying a wonderful, local culinary experience.”
Promotional drives to support businesses in the food sector couldn’t come at a better time. Canada’s food service industry is struggling industry-wide, according to Restaurants Canada, a national not-for-profit association that works to advocate for its members.
In fact, the association maintains in a recent report the industry is facing financial challenges that are just as serious as those endured during 2020.
“Restaurants are resilient, but the threats they face are severe,” reads the report. “Half of restaurants and food service companies report operating at a loss or just breaking-even as food costs continue to grow. Urgent changes are needed to help restaurant businesses survive and thrive over the months ahead.”
According to the same report, 33 per cent of the food service industry is operating at a loss, compared to only seven per cent prior to the pandemic.
“One-third of restaurants in Canada are operating at a loss due to the high costs of food, a lack of available labour, and new rules are making it harder every day to eke out a profit,” according to Kelly Higginson, president of Restaurants Canada.
According to data published by Open Table, which tracks diner behaviour via online, phone and walk-in reservations for restaurants, found the number of people dining out was down 10 per cent in September compared to the same time last year.