Thomas King

Thomas King

LOOKING GOOD: Cafeteria idea transforms into high-end restaurant

NANAIMO – REWsters Restaurant evolved out of Real Estate Webmasters owner Morgan Carey’s notion to create a staff cafeteria.

An idea for a staff cafeteria has added flavour to the downtown cuisine scene.

REWsters Restaurant evolved out of Real Estate Webmasters owner Morgan Carey’s notion to create a staff cafeteria  while renovating the old Daily Free Press building at 223 Commercial St. for his company’s new headquarters.

Creating a workplace offering healthy food prepared by a chef turned out to be the recipe for an upscale downtown public restaurant while retaining the original high-end cafeteria concept for Real Estate Webmasters’ employees.

REWsters has seating for about 140, including the outdoor patio area, in a setting which could be described as elegantly funky.

“We’re waiting for approval now to see if we can expand our patio,” said Courtenay Althouse, restaurant manager. “People love it. We’ve got propane heaters for at night.”

Sunday to Wednesday the restaurant is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. From Thursday to Saturday, REWsters is open until midnight to capture the evening crowd looking for late-night snacks or a drink before going home. The patio is the last thing the restaurant puts away at night.

“We are in the process of seeing if we can get it open a little later until one o’clock for our liquor license,” Althouse said. “Around seven o’clock is when we really pick up a lot. When the shows are out people are coming here for some appies, dinner, having and nice glass of wine.”

Althouse describes the cuisine as classics that have been made classier from a scratch kitchen created by chef Thomas King who takes pride in everything he does, right down to his chipotle ranch dip.

King was Carey’s executive chef, former chef to Simon Holt and the Bayshore in Parksville, but honed his skill over the first 20 years of his career at the Banff Springs Hotel.

“For example, our Philly cheese steak isn’t just a regular, drip-down-your-arm Philly cheese steak,” Althouse said. “Chef takes his bread and does cream cheese, aged cheddar, makes a grilled cheese and then he takes a steak – and it’s real steak, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, grass fed – and he slices it top, drizzles it with an au jus, the mushrooms, the onions and he takes time to really present it. We’re not a quick lunch place. Our stuff takes five minutes longer than everywhere else to cook because of the presentation and the little extras he puts that time into.”

Prices are on par with what you’d find at upscale restaurants.

Drinks are a tad more expensive for a reason.

“We want this to be a really elegant place where girls can have a night,” Althouse said. “Couples can come, they can enjoy wine without it being a rowdy atmosphere. We want people to come in and enjoy intelligent food and enjoy intelligent service.”