Even after a year of operating in downtown Whitehorse, Eddie Rideout, co-owner of Wayfarer Oyster House, stresses that his restaurant does more than just oysters. Some people still associate the 6th Avenue eatery with its pop-up origins, when Rideout and co-owners Brian Ng and Andrew Seymour would show up at different bars around town to shuck platters of oysters under the Wayfarer name.
But he may not have to remind people anymore. Word’s getting around, and not just around Whitehorse, but around Canada. In early October, The Globe and Mail named Ng one of Canada’s top chefs. In late October, Air Canada named Wayfarer the seventh best new restaurant in the country.
“Perfectly shucked oysters are a given—preferably with a 2017 NK’MIP Chardonnay,” read the story in En Route, the airline’s magazine. “The daily menu and chalkboard offerings deliver on dishes of cold smoked bone marrow with a bright vinaigrette-slicked tangle of leeks, parsley and celery; seared scallops and ginger scallion jam; or an elegant tagliatelle dressed with pesto, pistachios and asparagus.”
“It’s very humbling,” said Rideout. “We didn’t get into any of this for the accolades. We got into this because we were passionate about it. (The accolades) are validation because two of the three of us have left pretty lucrative government jobs to do this.”
He said it also feels good to be recognized because Whitehorse is a small town that punches above its weight class. It’s nice to see other people taking notice of that.
“It’s really cool to be recognized because it’s not like we’re a small country. It’s not like you’re driving across Canada in a day.”
Rideout said it’s been a whirlwind year to get to this point. When Wayfarer opened in November of 2018, its owners were hopeful people would embrace the idea, but they weren’t sure how things would shake out. They were astounded, said Rideout, at how well the restaurant was immediately received.
Wayfarer was packed on opening weekend. Diners were elbow-to-elbow as they sampled the menu, which consists of rotating mains, roughly a dozen appetizers including mussels, marrow and roasted cauliflower, and a selection of local beer, cocktails and wines.
It was a surprise, but one that was easier to get used to than the idea that, in order to grow, they would have to let go a bit.
“Before the restaurant, it was just us (Rideout, Ng and Seymour),” he said. “Wherever we went, it was just what we did. But we had to kind of take a step back a bit and ensure that we staffed up and trusted our team to kind of grow this restaurant. We were living it 24/7 as new business owners and eventually we had to kind of get the team trained and trust them.”
Rideout said Wayfarer isn’t doing anything to celebrate its anniversary on November 2 or the national accolades, as excited as they are by the news.
“We’re coming to the holiday season fairly soon so traffic will pick up,” said Rideout. “It’s business as usual. We’ll continue to make great food, to showcase the talent of Brian and his team and offer a different dining experience. Just keep hoping people show up and give us a try.”