Food & Diversity in the Railway City
My young & free press colleague Andrew Gunn and I have been exploring local restaurants for the past six months. In St. Thomas, we have tried places like Bella Jack’s, Café Siam, Braxton’s, and Asuka Japanese Cuisine. We have really enjoyed all the food and flavours.
As great as our choices are already, we noticed that our community is lacking an abundance of international or unique food options. Recently I have visited other communities in our region with more developed scenes. Stratford attracts a lot of visitors because of the Festival, and there are a lot of restaurants as a result (when we visited recently, we liked the authentic feel of Pazzo, the landmark Italian eatery downtown). In London, there are many options for Mediterranean, Eastern European and Asian food, and we keep discovering more interesting spots. These are only a couple of examples of cities nearby that have cultivated international culture through food and drink. We can do more in St. Thomas, but we need to be innovative.
There are many benefits to having a variety of food options. Significantly, we can help make people from different cultures and backgrounds feel comfortable in our community by celebrating food. For people who do not have the opportunity to visit different cities or countries on a regular basis, there is the benefit of being able to experience new things right at home. I think that a diversity of cultures and food experiences help to make our city more exciting and attractive, and this matters for economic and cultural development.
So, back to being innovative in St. Thomas … we market the community as ‘The Railway City’, and sometimes we struggle to define what that name means now. While it is cool to see the renovation of the CASO Station and improvements at the Elgin County Railway Museum, as well as the development of the St. Thomas Elevated Park, what if we added to the culture further by transforming old rail cars into facades for food trucks as part of a new ‘Railway City Food Plaza’? This could be an awesome part of the park-space that has been designed and proposed for the railway lands owned by the Railway Museum and connected to the parkland and trails owned by the City of St. Thomas (see the concept plan below).
Imagine a gathering place for locals and tourists that really celebrates our railway history, while at the same time provides the setting for a diverse group of food entrepreneurs to set up in the heart of the city! The time has come in St. Thomas to add some green-space and more cultural amenities. Why not focus on food, diversity, and our history?