The cold November days made me want something warm and plentiful. I have found both in abundance in my selection of sandwiches and soups at Java Garden, a cafe and restaurant in Waterloo.
Fresh focaccia bread from a local bakery served as the base for my melted tuna sandwich ($ 7.75) topped with a mix of seasoned tuna and topped with a blanket of gooey processed cheese. I could still feel the heat of the oven as I dig into my open-faced sandwich, grateful for the knife and fork that accompanied my meal.
I quickly devoured the vibrant Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup Bowl ($ 4.75), reveling in its smooth yet slightly chunky finish, which I believe is the hallmark of a good soup. . From the first spoonful to the last, I could understand why the featured soup has been a customer favorite since The Java Garden opened its first location in Cambridge in 2010.
Owner Dan Dudack said he had no experience in the restaurant business when he first opened, remembering he must have been figuring out how to make a latte when someone ordered it for the first time. He quickly learned his way, gaining attention along the way, and moved The Java Garden to St. Jacobs in 2014 when he took over a Danish cafe.
Previous owners Jenny and Sandor Dosman taught her how to cook the crowd’s favorite soup. He’s keeping his mouth shut on the soup recipe and fans as far away as Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor brought home soup in a jar that can be brought back and refilled. âWe sold 168,000 bowls of soup,â Dudack said.
My husband also enjoyed the signature soup he paired with a tomato, spinach, and mozzarella panini ($ 9.25 for a soup and panini combo). The combo version of the panini is half size, and my husband was initially concerned about the smaller size, but his worries were gone by the end of the meal as he left quite full but still able to return to work.
I was feeling celebratory and topped my lunch with a glass of dry white wine ($ 7.70), while my more sensible spouse consumed a bottle of orange juice ($ 2.50).
There were few other customers in the restaurant, and others had stopped at the counter to order take out food.
When I spoke with Dudack a few days later, his eyes lit up as he spoke at length about his clients. He is grateful to the loyal customers who followed him when he moved the restaurant from St. Jacobs to Waterloo again in 2017 and is deeply grateful for the support the neighborhood has provided him during the pandemic. âThe community is so good to me,â he said with a smile. “I haven’t closed a single day.”
Perhaps it is his experience with the pandemic that allows him to hold a special place in his heart for high school students across the street. In fine weather, its terrace served this year as a pseudo-cafeteria for those who do not want to eat in their courtyards or in the square. He is worried about where these students will go in the winter, however, but says they are welcome in his cafe.
Before the pandemic, the cafe hosted events such as musical evenings every second Friday and semi-annual Danish parties (a five-course meal including open sandwiches) which sold out within hours. With the lifting of capacity measures, the Java Garden is slowly starting to regain its pre-pandemic vibrancy with various community groups (trekking groups, mom groups and a noisy widows / widowers group of which it makes special mention) returning at the restaurant for their gatherings.
As soon as you walk into the restaurant, you can tell why the cafe has become a neighborhood gathering place for so many people. The feeling of warmth and comfort provided by the lush green plants and rustic furniture creates a welcoming feeling that makes you want to linger for a while. “We just want people to feel comfortable.”
600 Laurelwood Drive, Waterloo
Hours: Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Menu: CafÃ© offering breakfast, soups, salads, sandwiches, pastries, hot drinks.
Payment: Cash, debit, Mastercard, Visa
How to get your food: Dinner on site, delivery, walk-in or take-out (proof of vaccination required to dine at the restaurant)
Delivery: Door dash, skip the dishes, Uber Eats
Accessibility: The entrance to the restaurant is at the sidewalk, but the door does not have an automatic door opener. The staff will help you get in. The washrooms have grab bars and the inside tables are wheelchair accessible. Free parking available on the square.
The law project: $ 36.11 (taxes included but not tip) for a full sandwich, half a panini, two soups, a glass of wine and a bottle of orange juice.
Ordering food at the time of the coronavirus: As restaurants make day-to-day decisions, check their social networks or call them for updates. Lists of restaurants open while dining halls are closed can be found at bit.ly/3d2JV74 and wilmotstrongertogether.ca; a crowdsourced list is on Facebook’s Food In The Waterloo Region at bit.ly/3d1cKAX.