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New teaching cafe opens in The 519

Name is meaningless, the purpose is not

The staff inside Fabarnak, the new café in The 519. Credit: Andrea Houston

Although the name of the new café inside the 519 Church Street Community Centre is meaningless, the purpose is not.

Fabarnak, now open for business, will celebrate its official grand opening in November, says Matthew Cutler, manager of resource and development at The 519. Oct 14 was the eatery’s “soft opening.”

Cutler, munching on a brownie and sipping coffee, says he loves the openness of the café and the connection with Church St through the expansive front windows. “I really feel part of the neighbourhood when I sit here having coffee,” he says. “I can look out the windows and see cars rushing by and people walking their dogs.”

The café, which has been in development for about a year, will serve as a training ground for people with employment challenges, a key element in the community centre’s expansion, he says.

To start things off, there are three people training in the kitchen. Eventually, Cutler says, the kitchen will host cooking workshops and demonstrations, such as canning and preparing holiday dinners.

“These are people with barrier to employment for whatever reason,” he says.

The café was built using a $30,000 start-up grant from the Toronto Enterprise Fund, Cutler says.

The 519 doesn’t anticipate a profit from sales at Fabarnak, at least in the short term. “Perhaps in the long term. Breaking even is our strategy,” he says. “For us, it’s a way to build community.”

The name, Fabarnak, was chosen after a community consultation was held to decide on a name. While the name was not the result of the consultation, Fabarnak was picked simply because it doesn’t mean anything at all, Cutler says.

“There have been lots of labels and names given to our community, labels that have been imposed on us, many with predetermined meanings,” he says. “So this is a label we can attach our own meaning to.

“It’s a word that’s fun to say and sounds exciting. It’s a word that has energy and personality, but means nothing, so we can make it whatever we want.”

All the meals prepared in the café will use locally sourced, sustainable food, he says. Fabarnak even makes its own ketchup. “We took things one step forward by saying that all the food prepared here must be healthy and sustainable,” he says. “It goes along with our holistic approach at The 519.”

Fabarnak’s menu features salads, sandwiches and soups, ranging in price from $7 to $10, and main dishes from $11 to $14.