OWNER, BARLEY VINE RAIL CO.
RESTAURATEUR, BALLPLAYER, FARMER FAN
Ryan Latorre admits he’s happier as the front-of-the-house man — making sure people are happy and leave happier — than he is in the kitchen of his 1800’s train station turned “Canadian Bistro.” And as it turned out, happiness — or more precisely, comfort — was the theme of our chat. Putting out piles of comfort food, living in comfort-inducing surroundings, and the comfort of knowing that pretty much everything you need to live can be grown or made up here, by hard-working people you’re happy to know.
What the heck is a barley vine?
Well… (laughs) The name was inspired by the location, the style. I wanted something that spoke to our “Canadian Bistro” dream. I wanted beer in the concept, and wine, thus the barley and vine… and rail has two meanings; the train aspect, of course, but also a liquor rail, that’s what they call what a bartender serves from. And BVR sounds like Beaver — again, Canadian…
Never would have thought of that. What’s comfort food, really? If popcorn makes me comfortable…
Comfort food to me has always been hearty. It sticks to your ribs, and makes you feel like you’re at home. The comfort idea here really bleeds into everything. We wanted a place where it’s not a special occasion spot, it’s more, ‘Hey, I’m really hungry.” We make everything from scratch, like you would. And we treat you like you’re one of our own. We want you to enjoy our home.
I’ve discovered that the businesses up here have each other’s backs.
When we started the business, we wanted to be part of the community, not just a restaurant. So we reached out the other restaurants, because we don’t look at them competition, but as drawing people to Orangeville and Broadway Street and giving them a bunch of real quality options, and we wanted to be part of that. So if we’re busy we’ll say, go see Donny at Mill Creek, he’ll get you in. You have to work together. If we only have a few good restaurants, that limits your choices, and people might not stick around or come back.
The little guys have to stick together.
We want the independent businesses, the people who are putting their heart and soul in the business, we want them on the map. We’re fighting for those guys.
So Orangeville’s a restaurant town?
It’s not only the the food that’s cooked, it’s the farms. Reid’s potatoes, I think we sold them out last year! I think we did three metric tons. That’s a bonus of this area. When I was working in Toronto, chefs were getting things from Caledon, Mono, up near Shelburne. This is our backyard. We’re showcasing what the farms are producing and we’re just putting it out there for people to enjoy.
The coolest part about it is that we can produce our own food in this area, along with serving it. That’s kind of a dual purpose. We don’t have a big food truck pulling up to our door. We have a farmer who just got of the farm, with his daughter or his spouse, delivering his food right to you.
And maybe that summer you’ll have a job for his daughter…
That’s the thing. We want to keep the people in the area going. We love the people who are doing these things. Farmers feed families isn’t just an ad slogan. It can be a little more expensive, because they’re not selling it in the bulk. But you can’t fake what they’re doing, bringing in quality product, you can taste it. You can’t fake homemade, like we do with our ketchup. The colour, the taste, it’s all different.
Comfortable seems like a good word for Orangeville in general. At least how you talk about it.
After being here for just one year (from Mississauga) I couldn’t imagine going back. Everything’s 45 minutes away. Everything you could want, great food, nightlife, raising a family you feel safe here… all those things you never thought you’d want, you realize you have them all. Everyone who moves here falls in love with it. They love knowing the store-owners, whether it’s a variety store, a doggy-day car, a farm. They love feeling that I know them, I’ve met them, I know something about them.