Something fishy is going down at The Garden.

Yellowknife’s newest restaurant launched on Canada Day and drew about 30 people one hour after its noon opening.

Located in the sprawling backyard behind the former Dancing Moose Cafe, The Garden is accessible by foot from McDonald Drive or by boat at its dock that faces Yellowknife Bay.

Head chef Niki Mckenzie readies some fish wings and polenta chips. Blair McBride/NNSL photo

“People held off a bit because of the (wet) weather but people are cruising in now,” said owner Jared Bihun. “The weekend should be pretty bouncing.”

Bihun and business partner John St. Louis purchased the building that contained the Dancing Moose Cafe and Bayside Bed and Breakfast, as well as the property in the spring from former owners Debbie and John Doody. The pair sold the whole deal for almost $1.5 million after operating the venture for 14 years.

RELATED REPORTING: Bayside Bed and Breakfast, Dancing Moose Cafe sale nears closure

“We only had a month to get it ready and we’re not even completely done the kitchen inside yet — still have to do renovations. We wanted to open the outside and inside at the same time but could only open the outside now with the time and logistics limits we have,” Bihun said.

His liquor licence allows for outdoor occupancy of 200 people, though there is enough seating for 250.

Local food by local people

Five staff were on hand July 1, preparing drinks and snacks for customers who lounged in the chairs under the sun.

Half of the items on the menu are fish based and all sourced from Great Slave Lake.

Head chef Niki Mckenzie makes her own crab-apple hot sauce that is fermented to give it a “more complex” flavour, said Bihun. It is served with The Garden’s fish wings, which are actually made from the belly of inconnu that is deep fried.

“The wings are a good way to use the belly, which is usually removed when filleting,” he said.

Their trout chicharron is a fishy version of the Spanish pork dish. Mckenzie takes trout skin that is dehydrated and deep fries it, which makes it pop open.

“I think it’s a fantastic space that’s been missing in Yellowknife,” said Laura Malone, who was sipping sangria with her friend Rhiana Bams after they ate fish wings and fish sausage. “It needs more places where you can bring your dog and hang out and have delicious snacks.”

Growing The Garden

It is early days for The Garden, but Bihun has big plans for the business in the coming months.

Bean bag chairs that he ordered from Europe were recently shipped and he plans to set them up so customers have more relaxed options for sitting outside.

“We still want to keep people to keep in their social groups because we haven’t beat COVID-19 yet,” he said.

Once he completes the paperwork with the fire marshal, Bihun wants to turn a fire pit near the dock into a open grill capable of barbecuing large amounts of fish and meat.

As the weather cools down, he hopes that by September the indoor restaurant will be ready for customers, a dining experience that he said will be “fine but not pretentious.”

He wants to eventually make the shed adjoining the outdoor kitchen into a fish shack where filleting can be done year-round. He has applied to the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency for funding to get that project underway.

Since The Garden is a side project of his main fish products business Fishy People, he also plans to build a fish butchery inside where all the Fishy People items will be processed.

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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