Get Stuffed - Side Orders 

Riverside Junction Café fills the hole and hits the spot

Café owner keeps it simple — good location, good food, and prices that keep the locals coming

For the past six and a half years, the Junction Café in Function Junction has been catering to a mostly local crowd from a little storefront at the south end of Millar Creek Road. With about 1,800 resort employees working in and out of Function on any given day, business has been excellent.

The combination of low prices, the laid back atmosphere, and the distinctly local feel have kept the same customers coming back day after day – and judging by the number of locals who make the trip to Function to eat at the Café, the food’s not too bad either.

Now, with the opening of the Riverside Junction Café at the Riverside Campground and R.V. Park, Junction Café owner Colin Pitt-Taylor will be serving a slightly different crowd.

"I think it’s in a good place for both locals and visitors to the resort," says Pitt-Taylor. "We’re close to locals in Spruce Grove, White Gold, Alpine, and Tapley’s Farm, and Sabre (Rentals) and the municipal works is right there, but there’s also the lodge at Riverside, the campground, and the R.V. Park.

"It’s a great location as far as we’re concerned, and it’s currently underserved."

When the Junction Café opened, Pitt-Taylor says he had his doubts about the location, but in a town where the ambition of most businesses is to cater to resort visitors, he has become convinced that local is the right way to go.

"November, which is probably the slowest month for the resort, is probably my fourth busiest month," says Pitt-Taylor. "You’re definitely not as affected by the seasonal ups and downs."

Pitt-Taylor also likes the social side of running a business for locals, and even went to the wedding of Paradata President Shannon Byrne in Digby, Nova Scotia last summer. "I helped her find the space a few years ago, and we’ve become friends with her and all the other Paradata people," says Pitt-Taylor.

The main lodge at the campground currently houses 20 resort employees, two from the Riverside Campground, and 18 from the Chateau Whistler. There are 14 cabins for rent at the site, and about 20 R.V.s parked permanently in the 95 fully-serviced lots. During the summer, the campground is home to up to 60 R.V.s each weekend.

Due to zoning restrictions, the Riverside Junction Café only has 16 seats, but the number of customers will grow in the summer as people discover the location and the south-facing porch. They also weren’t allowed to put in a deep fryer, but that’s not what Pitt-Taylor had in mind for the place anyway.

The Riverside location will have a similar menu to the Junction Café, with stir-fries, pastas, Mexican food, and because it’s open later, a hot special every night. Pitt-Taylor plans to open the location for breakfast, lunch and dinner, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. He has also applied for a liquor license, "and they’ll let me know when they get around to it – hopefully we’ll be licensed by the summer."

A soft opening of the Riverside Junction Café will be on March 2 – March 1 if Pitt-Taylor can get everything ready on time. Officially the café will open once the lodge is completed in the next few weeks.

For the past month he has been working on the restaurant, and the space is almost ready. "As ready as can be in a month," he says. The finishing touches are on the way.

Unlike the Junction Café, which is a kind of shrine to World Cup racers and Pitt-Taylor’s own history as a World Cup Weasel Worker, the walls at the Riverside Junction Café will celebrate a different kind of Whistler glory. For the past few months, Pitt-Taylor has been seeking out classic photos from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, capturing such moments as the 1972 Easter Parade – when Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau served as parade marshal in a cavalcade of about five cars.

While takeout is a large part of both of his businesses, Pitt-Taylor is concerned about the amount of waste going to the dump. For that reason, takeout visitors to the Riverside that bring their own plates or containers will receive a 10 per cent discount on food orders.

"We try to look after the environment wherever we can," he says. "Right now there is a big debate over which is better, cardboard or styrofoam – we went with styrofoam, but we’d like to use a lot less of it."

Jay Pittard, a longtime employee at the Junction Café will manage the Riverside location while Pitt-Taylor goes between his two restaurants to make sure everything is running smoothly. "I had to get a cell phone for the first time in my life," says Pitt-Taylor. "I guess that’s a sign of progress."

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