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Let’s Eat: A delicious reason to go for a drive

A new eatery impresses diners around Thunder Bay.

Andy Mior was working at a restaurant in town last year when the pandemic started. A resident of Nolalu, he wasn’t sure he wanted to keep on commuting to town, and he also felt job security had become elusive in this new normal.

“I’ve never owned my own business before, so I thought, why not give it a shot in the community I live,” he explains.

Andy’s Eats opened in Hopper’s Variety on Highway 588 on Nov. 12 last year. Although there is a small seating area (currently not in use), Mior planned his new eatery primarily as a takeout place. While a lot of restaurants struggled to pivot from dine-in to takeout, Mior was able to make his business plan based on takeout.

The menu is small but covers a lot of ground, currently offering two kinds of burgers, a fried chicken sandwich, a shrimp po’ boy, pulled pork, and pickerel tacos. “I put together a small menu that everyone can get behind. When you come in and pick something, you almost want to try the other six or seven the next time,” the owner says.

So far, the hot n’ honey crispy chicken sandwich has been popular, selling out several weekends. The “Big Eats” burger and pickerel tacos are also a hit. Mior plans to introduce something new every three or four months.

Mior, whose wife is gluten intolerant, decided to adapt the whole menu so that no gluten touches the deep fryer, griddle, fridge or oven. The sandwiches are served in regular buns, because most people don’t like gluten-free buns, he says, but there are gluten-free buns available upon request.

“I did a bit of research, and there aren’t a lot of people providing 100 per cent gluten-free, especially with the fryer. So I thought, ‘Might as well go for it! It might give me an advantage on the business side,’” explains Mior.

When Andy’s Eats opened last fall, Mior was shocked by how supportive Nolalu was. Despite the lockdowns, local fans kept him busy through the winter, and once spring came around, he started getting more traffic from Thunder Bay. “Every weekend, there’s probably 40 or 50 couples coming out,” he says. “And more people have been commenting how they appreciate the gluten-free availability on different items.”

When Mior made plans for Andy’s Eats, he intended to be an owner-operator; the only one in the kitchen. It has become busy enough that he has hired help. “Six months in, we’ve pretty much hit our cap for how much we can cook in a day,” he says. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. four days a week (Thursday to Sunday) and he intends to keep it that way for the foreseeable future.

“I thought I was just going to be a guy living in the country making sandwiches for the locals,” he says. “But it turned out a bit different. It’s been exciting!”

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