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Let’s Eat: Eating better (8 photos)

A staple at the Thunder Bay Country Market, Northern Unique has expanded its business in Westfort.

Chef Rob Walsh feels strongly about the food scene in Thunder Bay.

Walsh owns Northern Unique Bakery on Frederica street, which has been a vendor at the Thunder Bay Country Market since 2004. The bakery has a large variety of breads and sweet baked goods such as muffins, scones, squares, tarts and cookies, but has also become renowned for its take-and-bake section. 

Walsh has been a chef for over two decades, and he started Northern Unique early on in his career. With the bakery well-established, he decided to add two more businesses to his plate, buying Mama Alfa’s (located next to Northern Unique on Frederica Street) in October 2019 and the Seattle Coffeehouse on Arthur Street in December 2019.

The pandemic has affected all of his businesses, but Walsh took it as an opportunity to change some things up, redoing the dining room at Mama Alfa’s. He is also working on renovating the kitchen there as well, so that they can be better equipped for delivery and takeout, in case there are any more dine-in restrictions in the future.

Since the pandemic started, Northern Unique’s frozen food has been selling better, which he attributes to people being more conscious about what they eat. “People are getting tired of the same things; given an option, they want to try new things. They want to eat better food,” he says.

Chicken pot pies, tourtière and shepherds pie come in both family-sized and individual-sized pies, and the freezer is stocked with a wide variety of frozen soups. The bakery uses Brule Creek flour for their bread and some of the scones, and tries to incorporate local produce when they can.

Westfort is a really good community, the business owner says. “We’re embedded here; we do a lot of local business here. It’s a good residential area, and if people want to order pizza hopefully they’ll order from us. Same with bread and pastries,” he says.

Early on in the pandemic, it was difficult to buy yeast for a while. “Everyone decided they were going to bake bread, so that lasted a little while, but then people realized how much work it actually is to bake bread,” Walsh chuckles.

In the years that Walsh has been a chef, he has seen Thunder Bay consumers become more progressive with their food choices. “Customers try things that, 20 years ago, they weren’t interested in,” he says. “Now people are willing to try new things, and they’re very interested in local ingredients.”

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