HALIFAX’S CHOICE FOR GREAT FOOD AND MUSIC

29 November, 2013

FOOD AND MUSIC

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HALIFAX’S CHOICE FOR GREAT FOOD AND MUSIC

BY REBECCA SCHNEIDEREIT PHOTOS KAILEY MANDER

Think the waterfront’s too quiet, come wintertime? Stop by Stayner’s Wharf. This dockside favourite — known for its menu and its music — never goes into hibernation, no matter how cold it gets.

Todd Abbass, recognizable by his handlebar moustache and convivial air, cofounded Stayner’s Wharf in 2001. “We envisioned a place that provided fresh, quality food, dynamic service, and local jazz and blues,” he says. The name ‘Stayner’s Wharf,’ adds Abbass, refers to a historical family who conducted business nearby; a photograph of the Stayners hangs among the restaurant’s countless framed prints.

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Abbass’ tendency to call customers “friends” says a lot about his business. “We’ve made great friends over the years by being conscientious,” he says. “We know Sackville residents who get off work, go home, freshen up, and come back to the waterfront to eat at Stayner’s Wharf.” Welcoming visitors’ comments and suggestions is one way Stayner’s Wharf stays on top of its game. “We aren’t perfect, but we strive for perfection. We encourage people to offer us feedback.”

Stayner’s Wharf’s popularity, says Abbass, comes down to “quality, personality, and consistency” — and to unbeatable employees. “It’s a team effort, from the front to the back of the house. Our kitchen’s pushing 80 years of combined employment.” The restaurant is something of a family business, since Abbass’ sons — Jesse, Ben and Sam — number among his staff. “They’ve been a tremendous help and inspiration.”

The menu at Stayner’s Wharf is revised two times yearly: Abbass’ favourite offerings this winter include chicken souvlaki and Mediterranean tacos. Certain items are always available, including a substantial gluten-free selection and customer favourites like Cajun haddock, pan-fried haddock, and seafood chowder. One such specialty — the ‘Louisianan’ — has a history Abbass proudly relates: he invented it for the after-party of playwright Hans Boggild’s Satchmo’ Suite. (The ‘Louisianan’ includes red beans and rice, a favourite of Louis Armstrong, who features in The Satchmo’ Suite).

image1Such grassroots involvement is typical of the restaurant, which has supported causes from Feed Nova Scotia to Blind Date with a Star. Recently, Stayner’s Wharf has become instrumental to the Hughie Douglas Langin Foundation, created in honour of “a dear friend of ours who was a tremendous musical lover,” Abbass says. Through the Foundation, “scholarships will be awarded in four different categories to students, or aspiring musicians. We’ll hand the awards out here every year on Hughie’s birthday.”

image2Sunday’s jazz revue, hosted by Jeff Goodspeed, has “been burning for 10 and a half years,” says Abbass. “Jeff has close ties to the Cuban community. We host Cuban players two or three times a year.” Including, he notes, the acclaimed Augusto Enriquez. In addition, Stayner’s Wharf celebrates artists like Ray Charles through monthly “jazz tribute nights.”

To Todd Abbass, the colder months offer Stayner’s Wharf a chance to prove its mettle. “You have to be the best at what you do in the wintertime. You have to put out a fabulous product every day,” he says. “The locals are very important to us, and we’re here for them year-round.”

imageStayner’s Wharf
5075 George Street, Halifax
902.492.1800
staynerswharf.com

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