It’s 3:07 and the last bell of the day rings through Weston CI’s hallways, only to be quickly drowned out by a mixture of chairs scraping against the linoleum floors and relieved sighs from both students and teachers. The blue-painted doors open and students flood onto Pine Street, travelling in one, slow-moving homogeneous mass. They slug down Lawrence Avenue West, past the jelly-donut-scented cloud of Annettes to the 2011 Plaza where an array of fast food, sugar, and caffeine extend their greasy hands, beckoning the drained students into their delicious abodes.
But they walk past the conjoined-Wendy’s-and-Timmies’ joint to the corner store with tinted windows and tables out front. Inside, there’s a smell of poutine and ketchup, a deep fryer is sizzling somewhere in the background, and a cluster of high school students are hovering over the billiards table in complete silence as their friend lines up for the winning free shot. Two well-dressed adults sit beside the jukebox, talking heatedly in a language you don’t understand, and sip on glasses of wine. A soccer game is playing on the TV. Suddenly, you have the urge to buy a beer and sit down.
Lawrence Park Restaurant & Bar, is one of the many hot spots to both Weston CI and CR Marchant students, and to a plethora of the community’s members as well. Specializing in primarily Italian dishes, the restaurant is student-famous for its poutine, fries, and chicken wings.
Additionally, Lawrence Park is family-owned and many current juniors and seniors at Weston are very familiar with the family members, particularly the family’s two twin sons.
The man behind the boxes of fries we have all come to love is Kumar – or more respectively, Chef Kumar. Working single handedly, he cooks and serves around the clock while his wife comes in to help man the lunch hours. Chef Kumar definitely has a knack for running his business – he previously ran another restaurant, called Weston Sports Bar (Weston and 401), for six years before moving to Lawrence Avenue West and opening Lawrence Park ten years ago.
The restaurant is often packed during lunch with students wrestling to get their share of poutine. During the evening, the late-crowd of high school pool players congregate for a dollar a game, and leave after snacking on fries and wings. Most of the time, Lawrence Park caters to Italian families and parties alike, as many enjoy the various catering options. Adults come for a drink to watch games or chat with Chef Kumar. Many regulars are indeed fond of him; a friendly shout of “Kumar!” will have him emerging behind the counter with a smile.
“Talking to the people, having fun with the people [that come here] – that’s my enjoyment,” Chef Kumar says, “I like what I do.”
When asked why he opened the business, Chef Kumar replies coolly with a knowing smirk. “To make money,” he says. Yet despite being a man of few words, once asking of his sons, his eyes light up and he gives a lengthy reply. His twin sons, only distinguishable by shoelace colour (one wears red and the other wears blue), drop in occasionally to help the restaurant, only if their busy new university schedules allow.
“Working here is like traveling the world,” one of the twins, Janeepan says. “Everyday, new people come in and bring a part of their lives with them that I get to learn about.”
Chef Kumar’s next plans for Lawrence Park involve expanding the scene and opening a restaurant elsewhere. But, doesn’t working nearly singlehandedly ever get hard? He gives me relevant and straight-forward advice:
“Just learn how to cook, how to manage the source, and then you can open a [restaurant],” he comments on starting a business. “If you know what you’re doing, it’s easy to manage. If you don’t know what you’re doing, then it’s hard.”
Support your local Weston restaurants and businesses. Maybe take a meal or two out from Lawrence Park, drop by to chat about the weather, or watch a soccer game. Chef Kumar and his family would love it.
This post is brought to you by: The Weston Village BIA.