A WORD FROM THE DESIGNER
Salvaging the old World! When we approached John van Leewen about our business venture, Yafa Café on Portage Avenue, as we see much need for the city of Winnipeg for this type of food and needed to start right away. The plan, designed by van Leewen Architecture & Design, was to transform this 1911 building that had been an accounting office for over 20 years, into a café with a handcrafted, been-there-forever, homey feel. Although the building was in a great location and was over 100 years old, there was almost no original character left inside. The variety of finishes and spaces at Yafa Café were created with salvaged materials sourced by the owners. Where we couldn’t use the salvaged materials to create that old-world vibe, the old finishes were matched to blend materials together so that it would look like it had been there for decades.
The owner wanted me to design a restaurant Café which was meant to bring Arabic street food to Manitoba. She has since evolved that concept into its current iteration, with a sense of history in a neighborhood that has little of authentic ethnic food, a place for the community, this was the conundrum faced by Yafa Cafe owner, Rana Abdulla, when she decided to launch her ever popular Arabic Street Food Cafe.. I pictured a place that takes you on a journey through Arabia, highlighting colorful street food rich in texture and flavors with a working team that reminds me of a small town shop where most of the patrons know each other and feel comfortable around each other, served in the most multicultural city in Canada, with flavors that will create some pleasant nostalgia for other Arab immigrants and will impress who simply love healthy Arabic food.
Commercial projects have unique requirements, and a restaurant has added layers of demands that made this project a challenge to meet food safety regulations and to accomplish the desired look in a safe way.
This is a project that is best experienced firsthand, so head to the corner of Portage and Berry in Winnipeg, grab something to eat and check it out. It is a great space and we can’t take all the credit. In addition to management, our architect John van Leewen, our interior designer Rita Talwar, architect Ethem Tar of Dark Horse Architecture Inc. who designed our new kitchen and addressed the functional relationship between different parts of the kitchen, our usual fantastic crew, we couldn’t have pulled this off without Charles Dean Construction and many others who pitched in to make this a special place.