Some familiar faces in the local restaurant industry are back after a lengthy absence.
The Inthavong family – Ping, Sammy and Vicki – have returned to the old Salt & Pepper restaurant location in the Godwin Mall and are putting the finishing touches on renovations that began in early November. They plan on having the grand opening for the brand new Woodland Wok & Grill on Jan. 1.
“The whole time we were gone my parents kept talking about coming back to Hay River,” said Vicki. The family operated the Salt & Pepper’s first incarnation between 2004 to 2007, so this is familiar territory for them.
“The restaurant was always packed and we really liked our customers,” said Ping.
In 2007 they left for Lloydminster, Alta., to be closer to relatives and they operated a small restaurant there until earlier this year.
“As nice as it was, it wasn’t for us and we were constantly talking about Hay River,” said Vicki.
Earlier this year when business at the Salt & Pepper was struggling and it was time for a breath of fresh air, Godwin Mall owner Bernie Langille made a call to the Inthavongs and inquired about a possible return to Hay River.
“This is an old partnership,” Langille said. “We want to keep things fresh and new. A lot of work has been put into this new place.”
The extensive renovations include a fresh coat of paint, new lights, a bevy of new kitchen equipment, new beer coolers, a new floor in the dining room and copious amounts of cleaning.
“The kitchen was really dirty, we had to scrape the grease off the walls and ceiling,” said Quickstad, Vicki’s boyfriend, who has helped out with the renovations.
The new menu will feature a variety of dishes described as a fusion of Asian and western culture, or “east meets west” according to Vicki.
The family has lived all over Canada but they say Hay River is their favourite place.
“I’ve never been to a town with so many friendly people before,” Vicki said.
— Myles Dolphin