One of the reasons I love to visit my hometown of Pembroke, Ontario, is that so much of it remains unchanged since I grew up there back in the 1970s. A few days in the Ottawa Valley are the perfect offset to life in fast-paced Toronto. About 16,000 people call Pembroke home, and it’s surrounded by farms, countryside and small towns until you drive along Highway 417 to Ottawa in one direction or North Bay in the other.

One thing that has changed –for the better — is Pembroke’s restaurant scene. That’s not to say I don’t love the old familiar places – I do! The Bonanza, as an example, has been a downtown fixture for more than 50 years and is still one of my favourite breakfast spots. But it’s a clear sign of a vibrant community to see new restaurants and cafes open up and thrive. One of the notables is Restaurants Canada member The Nook Crêperie.

The Nook, before it expanded into the space next door

My husband and I stopped in for brunch at The Nook on one of our recent visits to the Valley. The crepes were fantastic, the service was excellent and the ambience was perfect for a leisurely Sunday morning. Turns out a lot of people feel the same way. Owner Joanna Els recently expanded the restaurant to the space next door to accommodate growing demand.

Originally from New Brunswick, Joanna moved to the Pembroke area when her husband was posted to nearby Base Petawawa. She purchased The Nook about three years ago from the original owners who founded the restaurant in 2008, and has never looked back. The additional 800-square-foot space, adding another 58 seats, opened last month to rave reviews.

“We were consistently turning away many guests on a regular basis, so we felt that our business could sustain the added space,” says Joanna.  “Secondly, the restaurant was created in 2008 and has stayed relatively similar, so I felt like a facelift was due to breathe some new life into the space.”

Joanna is taking a phased approach to the expansion to ensure service and quality remain high.  The Nook will continue to run the same menu, allowing the kitchen to adjust to the extra order load before adding a new menu to the mix. “We plan to add appetizers to help space the orders out, and will also be changing up our core menu in the coming weeks,” she says.

Next up: a 26-seat patio. Not only is the Nook’s expansion good news for Pembroke’s culinary scene, it’s great for jobs in the area. Joanna has hired eight new staff and she anticipates hiring at least three more students once the patio opens.

“Restaurant ownership and management is not for faint of heart or for those who like to sleep,” she says. “And investing in a good team is invaluable.”

The Nook Creperie – Your little piece of Paris in downtown Pembroke!