The Farmhouse: The original comfort zone

Bruce Cameron

By Bruce Cameron

The Farmhouse Restaurant: Serving farm fresh comfort food at 268 Bradford Street, Barrie.

The Farmhouse Restaurant: Serving farm fresh comfort food at 268 Bradford Street, Barrie.

For several years as owners of Oscars on Bayfield Street, Randy Feltis and Sarah Jackson provided the élan of fine dining.

As residents of Barrie, they couldn’t help but notice that large, charming century building where Lakeshore Drive meets up with Essa Road and Bradford Street. Then, in 2013, an opportunity presented itself.

“We’d always loved the design of the building, and then found out the lease for it was available,” said Jackson. “At the same time, our lease for Oscars was ending. It was perfect timing, especially since we’d outgrown fine dining and were thinking about creating comfort food.”

One Farmhouse born, close to the shores of the Bay.

Although, as Jackson tells it, starting a restaurant in a heritage-steeped structure, even though lovingly restored, wasn’t easy.

“There are lots of staircases, nooks, crannies, and lots of rooms here to deal with, and we had to figure out the best way to cook and serve our meals,” she said. “It took a while but we did come up with the right format.”

Another issue was that this address had been, at one time, a fine dining establishment. So when the Farmhouse opened, those previous fans of fine dining had to, said Jackson, “forget about the ball gowns and tuxedos.”

For Feltis and Jackson, the move was an astute one. The Farmhouse does advertise and promote itself but as with any venture -- especially restaurants -- it’s word of mouth that’s most powerful when attracting new patrons. As fans of the Farmhouse will tell you, there are myriad reasons to sing its praises.

Starting, naturally, with a menu built around the idea of comfort food. It has to be simple, fresh, and delicious.

It helps that Feltis grew up on a farm near Lake Dalrymple –- still run by his dad and a handy, constant source for the vegetables, spices, herbs and maple syrup that find their way into the Farmhouse kitchen.

Popular Farmhouse staples such as farm fresh daily soups; maple syrup smoked trout; Mac ‘n cheese; roasted chicken; tantalizing steaks; and a variety of burgers (yes, veggie too), confirm that “comfort food” theme. The most popular choice? “That’s easy,” said Jackson. “The maple syrup smoked trout.”

For its first few years the Farmhouse provided a weekend breakfast menu covering everything from quick, simple, eggs and bacon, through to choices guaranteed to meet major appetites including pulled pork and bacon Benedict, or bacon and eggs benedict. (Those two, by the way, are both created with the Farmhouse’s made-from-scratch hollandaise sauce.)

Due to persistent requests from regulars, the Farmhouse last Mother’s Day began offering breakfast seven days a week. “We went ahead with it, and it’s really worked out,” said Jackson.

Just ask a few fresh brides and grooms who’ve put an enjoyable spin on the traditional wedding ceremony and celebration. “Yes, I’m a provincially licensed marriage officiant,” said Jackson, “and we’ve had many wedding celebrations of various sizes right here at the Farmhouse. The wedding breakfast is a recent trend. It’s great for the newlyweds to be married earlier in the day. Sometimes they stay, sometimes they leave and get into their new life together.”

Those who stick around -– especially on a perfect summer day –- will surely find their way to one of two spacious patios. One is at ground level and the other, just off the second floor, is a grand, white-painted perch perfect for long, lazy vistas of the bay: just the kind of thing you’d notice when driving by, dreaming of new possibilities.

The Farmhouse Restaurant: Serving farm fresh comfort food at 268 Bradford Street, Barrie. And yes, you can wear those old, favourite jeans of yours. Call (705) 737-0522.