Don't call it a renovation.
After serving steaks and burgers to the residents of Streetsville for nearly 40 years, the owners of Cagney's restaurant decided it was time to change. Everything.
This wouldn't be a slap-on-two coats-of-paint-and-call-it-a-day remodel. Everything needed to go. In January 2014, following a six month renovation, a brand-new Cagneys emerged.
“We decided to bring a little bit of the city to the village,” says owner and operator Alex Lassos.
Now, instead of the family-style, casual restaurant of decades past, Cagneys is a whole new experience: A premium, upscale wine bar with big black booths, soft accent lighting and an eye-melting 30-foot-long quartz bar top.
No matter what brings guests in the door, Cagneys has always remained a family restaurant says Lassos. In fact, it was Lassos' father Gus who opened Cagneys in the very same location back in 1974.
Of course restaurants need to change. For Lassos, that meant keeping the name his father built over the course of four decades, but completely changing the look, taste, feel, focus and logo of what Cagneys previously represented.
Forget family-friendly, this is wine country.
“Wine is the main focus,” says manager Niki Nocera, who is Lassos' sister. “That's why we put the wine room in the middle. We kind of built around it.”
It would be hard not to. Standing 10-feet high with a capacity of approximately 500-bottles, Cagney's wine room is a glass-walled jewel case chock full of wines from around the world. According to Lassos, stock is primarily drawn from Italy and California and nearly all the wines are hard-to-find, consignment bottles created in small batches not bound for LCBO shelves.
Prefer a planned pairing to a lone glass? Every main course is specifically paired with wine to match. Guests craving a certified Black Angus rib steak ($38) with demi glaze, smashed potatoes, and sautéed wild mushrooms are recommended a Zellerbach Cabernet Sauvignon while those who opt for a Veal Chop ($32) with crispy sage and scalloped potatoes are suggested a Luiano Chianti Classico.
Wannabe wine aficionados can also try the restaurants' wine-tasting dinner, a four-course meal complete with multiple pairings and a chance to chat with the wine maker ($100).
Look beyond the wine cellar and it is abundantly clear not a shred of old Cagney's exists: A dazzling chandelier laden with Swarovski crystals dominates the dining room while modern touches like USB ports and power outlets beneath the bar allow guests to recharge devices on the fly.
Stare skyward and purple accent light invisibly emanates from recessed squares in the ceiling.
But the overhaul did not stop inside. Drivers heading down Queen Street South will also notice a new, high-contrast black-on-white sign, redesigned to attract more attention from the road. The restaurant, situated in a plaza between Streetsville Bowl and the LCBO, also looks to grab the attention of those on foot with a new swipe-and-tap electronic menu (similar to a giant iPad).
Reopened for only four months the new 200-seat Cagney's restaurant is still in its infancy but Lassos already has plans to add a brunch menu in the very near future.
Lassos says he is already seeing signs of success and has been reintroduced to guests he had not seen for years. Will it last another 40 years? Only passing years will tell. According to Lassos, the secret to success has always been a family recipe, “It's always been us,” he says. “This is what we do.”
Just don't call it a renovation.