In dire need for some comfort food, where does one go in Thunder Bay? Young and old, students and professionals alike find themselves gathered at the Finlandia Club and cozy restaurant known as “The Hoito.” Serving residents since 1918, this landmark breakfast, lunch and supper hangout for traditional Finnish fare became my meeting place with friends. Given its popularity, waiting in line is to be expected. But, as tables clear up, don’t hesitate to seat yourself – “first come, first serve!”
Once you find and keep your destined eating spot, friendly staff are quick to greet you and as upbeat to take note of your order. What is Finnish cuisine like? Not formerly acquainted, myself, the answer soon becomes as clear as a summer’s day, in T.Bay. Lo and behold, right before your very eyes, the paper place mat/menu. Find traditional specialities like ‘Karjalan Piirakka’ (filled pasty) or stick to familiar club sandwich or hamburger choices.
Specializing in all-day breakfast items, the omelette and egg options are as extensive as is the side serving of toast – white, whole-wheat or rye. In keeping with momentum, once you describe how you like your eggs – sunny-side, over-easy, scrambled or fried – order’s up! Coffee cup refilled, and served side-to-side plate coverage of a piping hot meal, don’t fret if your plate appears M.I.A. It’s there, just covert – under food.
Adding to great company and conversation is Hoito’s relaxed atmosphere, and humbly-priced offerings to soothe your soul. While you won’t find Aunt Jemima-style fluffy and cakey pancakes, Finnish ‘pannukakku,’ is a staple, and to be tried. Despite the absence of a leavening agent, such as baking soda or baking powder, this batter – made from scratch – produces flat, dense and highly fulfilling griddled full moons – certainly a crowd pleaser. Fresh off the flat top, I was presented with multiple layers of my own thinly crisp-edged hotcakes. Topped with a couple of eggs, I sweetened the deal with a drizzle of maple syrup – my preference – though fruit preserve is available. Looking for variety or your other missed favourites, the Hoito also caters to French toast and Canadian bacon loyalists. Early bird or night owl, days are made nicer with a trip to the Hoito. As they say in Finnish, ‘kiitos’ (thank you) for a taste of home, away from home.
Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.