Although it's been a few years since he was involved in the restaurant business, Pemberton's Mike Richman hasn't lost a step.
"It definitely feels natural and like I've been behind the kitchen the whole time," said Richman, one of several partners behind the community's newest eatery, Town Square, located on Frontier Street.
Having served as Pemberton's mayor for four years, Richman had been itching to get back into the restaurant business. The former owner of The Pony, which he launched in the mid-'90s "in a house in a field," Richman has teamed up with Snowline Catering's Angela Bradbury and Matt Prescott, longtime Mile One staffer Dan Baird, and Whistler Resort Management's Scott Schober to open in the former location of Centennial Café, which shuttered earlier this year.
The vision for Town Square lies in its name, Richman said.
"We're right in the heart of our little town and Town Square, as a definition, kind of implies a place where people gather," he explained. "That's what we want to be: that place where Pemberton locals feel they can gather and be social."
The restaurant, which is open for lunch and dinner, with brunch service set to launch soon, offers down-home comfort food with a modern flair. Sourcing ingredients from Pemberton and the surrounding area, the lunch menu is designed for the grab-and-go crowd, with a selection of sandwiches, appetizers and healthy options. The dinner menu features everything from fried chicken to short ribs, wild salmon to seared duck breast, and a number of vegetarian options.
A big emphasis will be on shared plates, Richman said.
"Most of our menus are very much based on the shared style of eating, the family style of eating, the social style of eating," he said. "It's not quite tapas, but we have lots of appetizers, salads and shared plates, so people can come in and mix and match their favourite dishes."
The restaurant will also launch a weekly locals' night every Thursday that will include "a Mexican-inspired" menu, Richman said.
Filling in the space formerly occupied by Centennial Café, Pemberton's beloved, long-running Chinese spot, Town Square has a big void to fill in the community.
"We all miss the Centennial and we all miss having our Chinese here. It's too bad it's not still here as well, but I look forward to (the owners) coming up to have a look at the place and see the changes we've made," Richman said. "There's no question that they've left a hole here."
The interior of Centennial Café has been completely gutted in the renovation, Richman said. "We stripped it right back to the bones and cleaned it right out," he added. "People may not recognize the space."
Construction crews have pushed forward one of the restaurant's exterior walls and removed some of the interior walls to make room for three large beams. The interior has been accented with exposed brick and repurposed wood.
"There's a lot of local wood in that room that was lovingly brought back to life," noted Richman. "The bar is made all out of fir that was ground down and burnt. The walls are all old from our local mill that we ground down and whitewashed. We tried to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere. We wanted it to be soft and welcoming."
Town Square is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit townsquarepemberton.com.