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The Robie Corner Saga

The arrival of Robie St. Station and the legacy of an intersection

(Photo by Jasspreet Sahib)
(Photo by Jasspreet Sahib)

Long gone are the days of the black and red that once graced the corner of Cunard and Robie. A fixture of the Halifax North End restaurant community from 2003 until 2012, Jane’s on the Common was a landmark to many Halifax residents. Now, almost two years since the place became vacant, a new breakfast/lunch diner has moved into the building, making a unique and colourful splash.

Before Jane’s closed its doors in 2012, there were murmurs about Jane moving to Gottingen St. where her daughter’s restaurant Edna now sits. Jane herself had purchased the building a few years previously and turned the basement into an industrial-type kitchen space. She began catering for businesses and sourcing food for the new Discovery Centre Store on Barrington Street.

When the Discovery Store location closed less than a year later, Jane followed suit and moved to the common’s location. It was rumoured that the rent was continually being raised since Jane’s was doing so well, but it also seemed that Jane was willing to go in a new direction. She closed the restaurant’s doors in 2012 and moved her take-out store to a little spot next to Edna’s, leaving the original space empty for almost two years.

Enter the Robie Street Station Diner.

Originally from Toronto, owners Kayleigh Burns and Herman Lee came to Halifax after falling in love with Nova Scotia. They originally came to New Glasglow four years ago to help a friend open a restaurant there. After touring a bit of Nova Scotia, they were smitten. Going back to Toronto, they considered opening their own restaurant, but the Atlantic hospitality and atmosphere of Halifax’s young entrepreneur community called to them.

After two days of looking they came upon Jane’s vacant location and things began to click. They saw it as the perfect spot for a little new-age diner. They only had an inkling of the history of the spot, having heard “it had been a hot little spot” by their realtor.

With such an influx and outflux of restaurants in Halifax over the years, this comment didn’t initially have a lot of weight to it. It was only when Burns began building the restaurant that it dawned on her what she was stepping into.

When the renovations began, people stopped by excitedly asking if this meant Jane’s was coming back. When she gave directions to her restaurant, she often had to say, “where Jane’s used to be” before people would realize where she was located.

Burns understands this will impact the start-up of her restaurant. She says “people have good memories of the space and they’re excited to be back in this space, it’s half the battle.”

But Burns has been in this business for ten years, and while her partner handles the unseen side of things, Burns control the front-of-house. She loves the ability to build relationships with her customers.

Rather than seeing the restaurant business as an automated system, she favours the concept of dining for an experience as well as a meal. While she knows the impact of opening in a spot pre-loved by Haligonians, along with being close to quite a few other good breakfast spots, she is keen to become part of the Halifax community.

Burns isn’t hesitant about sending people over to the Costal Café if they’re after good huevos rancheros – it’s something she can’t offer – and already has a regular taking up a table every morning.

With a delicious and simple Asian-inspired lunch and brunch menu, a spacious store next door with lots of goodies and yummy coffee, and a hospitable front-of-house staff, it’s hard to see how the Robie Street Station Diner won’t do anything but flourish.

So go on, check out the funky retro-style diner and be a part of the corner’s continuing legacy.

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