Since London was incorporated as a village in 1840, the district of SoHo has existed within the same confines. Originally named St. David’s Ward, this community is flanked on the north by the CN railroad tracks near York Street, on the east by Adelaide Street, and on the south and west by the Thames River. The SoHo acronym is geographic in origin as most of it is situated south of Horton Street. It makes sense that it is also intended to evoke the vitality of the cultural and restaurant neighbourhoods in Lower Manhattan and London, England’s, West End.
SoHo is in fact a burgeoning restaurant district and home to many interesting dining options and bakeries including Organics Works Café, Razzle Dazzle Cupcakes, Kambie Chinese Restaurant, Enat Ethiopian Restaurant, Hong Ping, El Ranchito, Walker’s Fish and Chips, Family Circle, The Soho Diner and Edgar and Joe’s Café.
Striving to foster an economically vibrant neighbourhood renewal, projects like the 1872 Red Antiquities Building and The Roundhouse, a 19th-century railway roundhouse, are virtuous examples of the balance of heritage preservation and urban renewal created by leveraging historic, cultural and architectural resources to create sustainable, vibrant communities. The Roundhouse, a few blocks east of the Goodwill Social Enterprise Abilities Centre on Horton Street, had sat empty since November 2007, when the Great West Beef, once a popular landmark London steakhouse, closed its doors after 31 years in business. ATMOS Marketing and rTraction (a full service digital agency) will share the refurbished Roundhouse. Peter Cuddy and Kate Gielen’s Organic Works Bakery in the former Ming’s Restaurant on Wellington epitomizes just how outmoded buildings can be retained and brilliantly repurposed with design savvy and intelligence.
Having a long-time presence in the district, Goodwill wanted to invest in delivering more urban character in the evolving SoHo neighbourhood and built the Goodwill Social Enterprise Abilities Centre in 2011. The stylish and minimalist 70-seat Edgar and Joe’s Cafe opened last July in the $12-million Centre. The Centre features a 50-seat town hall, 160-seat community hall and various other gathering spaces. With an excess of 100,000 shoppers visiting the Goodwill Centre annually and a staff of 120, the café quickly garnered great word-of-mouth, becoming a favourite daytime destination with a diverse clientele from all over the city.
Edgar and Joe’s Café offers an affordably-priced menu highlighting nutritious food made from scratch with locally sourced ingredients from purveyors like Las Chicas Del Café and Metzger Meats. Bread and baked goods are freshly-baked daily; condiments, preserves, soups and daily features are made from high quality raw ingredients. The in-house baking, eclectic salads, breakfast features and a variety of exceptional sandwiches have become particular standouts. The all-day breakfast is elevated by homemade jams and breads, and the particularly tasty addition of sweet potato to the hash browns, with the house-made ketchup, is bliss. The classic breakfast special — eggs, toast, hash browns, and your choice of bacon, sausage or ham — is only five dollars. A recent lunch special was charbroiled Ontario lamb with balsamic roasted cipollini onion, tomato and spicy mayo on fresh baked bread with soup and salad, for $6.50.
Le Cordon Bleu-trained Chef Danny Galinou made it clear that the café is about focusing on collaborative principles and goals and that he did not want to be singled out in an article about the café. So I will resist commenting on his exceptional abilities in the kitchen.
Galinou and Neil Burnett, manager of hospitality and food services, lead the staff by overseeing food production and service, culinary and hospitality training, nutrition and food security programs, and catering and community cooking initiatives. The Café’s now up-and-running Hands on Hospitality program is eight weeks in length and provides participants with the skill set required to work in a restaurant, including a two-week co-op with a partner of the program and a closing segment devoted to resume building and interview techniques.
Edgar and Joe’s Cafe offers training and mentorship by giving program participants the skills they need to secure meaningful employment in the hospitality industry. By fostering collaboration and community initiatives that embrace diversity and inclusion, with an emphasis on health and wellbeing, the program allows participants to build confidence and have a vision of their successful futures. The organization aims to educate the larger community about, and help break down the stigma surrounding, mental illness and social disadvantage.
The name Edgar honours social innovator Dr. Edgar J. Helms, a Methodist minister, who founded the Goodwill movement in 1902, with the philosophy of “a hand up, not a hand out.” Goodwill Industries became a registered charity in 1935. The name Joe is a reference to the “average Joe,” who faces challenges such as mental health issues, homelessness, developmental disabilities, or LGBTQ status, when working towards obtaining education and employment.
Edgar and Joe’s brings leadership, social innovation and community collaboration to the forefront in a neighbourhood that prides itself on a vibrant arts and culture scene, heritage preservation and urban renewal.
Edgar & Joe’s Café
255 Horton St. East, London
Saturday & Sunday 9am–3pm
BRYAN LAVERY is eatdrink’s Food Writer at Large and Contributing Editor.