New lounge cozies up to comfort food

Owner Tania Auger at the new Chow Ciao restaurant at 549 Murphy Rd. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

Tania Auger has always embraced change. In fact, she thrives on it.

That’s why she and her staff spent four days in late October completely redecorating her restaurant at 549 Murphy Rd., converting it from a Mexican eatery to a cozy New York-style lounge called Chow Ciao.

“It’s much warmer with a lot of golds, greens, blacks and orange,” Auger enthuses. “It’s cozy with lots of comfort food.”

Variety is Auger’s trademark. She has owned several successful restaurants in Sarnia over the past 15 years or so, including The Smoked Oyster, The Zebra Bar and Red Tango. Each had its own distinct flavour.

She’s also the owner of Lola’s restaurant on Christina Street, a busy bistro that’s been her mainstay for 13 years, even as her other restaurants change up.

The former Zola’s reopened as Chow Ciao with a lunch and dinner menu featuring everything from meatball soup to escargot, calamari and all-you-can-eat spaghetti.

“The spaghetti is my family recipe and the first time I’ve ever put it on a menu,” said Auger, who grew up in Sarnia, left for a few years and returned in 1997 to jump into the local restaurant industry.

Auger is the first to admit she’s not a trained chef. “But I’m a great cook and I created the menu and worked with my chef to train him on how to prepare and present it,” she said.

Tyler Rawcliffe managed the kitchen at 549 Murphy Rd. when it was Zola’s and is still on the job with the rest of the staff at the new Chow Ciao.

Lunch and dinner menus feature different kinds of gnocchi served with various sauces and meats.  For instance, gnocchi with a roasted red pepper sauce and shrimps, scallops and mussels sells for $19 a plate at lunch, $26 at dinner.

Gnocchi with garlic cream sauce and primavera roasted vegetables is $15 at lunch and $22 at dinner.

Auger also has a large array of starters on Chow Ciao’s menu such as Caesar salad for $10 or artichoke fritto with garlic aioli for $13. The all-you-can-eat spaghettini with meat sauce is $12 at lunch and $17 at dinner.

Zola’s had a loyal clientele who liked Mexican cuisine and that hasn’t been forgotten, Auger said. Each week, Chow Ciao offers a Mexican special.

“Saturday night is lounge night with music and martinis,” she said. “We’ve got a nice New York vibe going on, something different for Sarnia.”

Call Chow Ciao at 519-337-7777.

SINGLE SERVE COFFEE POPULAR

A new franchise called Koffee Korner opened at 1362 Lambton Mall Rd. to cater to customers with Keurig K-Cup or Tassimo single serve coffee makers.

“It’s a booming business,” says owner Rino Bourgoin of London. He opened the Sarnia location on Oct. 3 after establishing two Koffee Korner locations in London.

“There are Keurig coffee makers everywhere but few stores are out there with so many flavours like us,” Bourgoin said.

Sarnia’s Koffee Korner has more than 400 varieties, including a new eco-friendly brand.  The store has created two jobs and is open seven days a week.

BUSINESS SALES TAX REVIEW

The Chartered Professional Accountants are holding an information evening about employee taxable benefits and the sales tax obligations of employers. Learn how to comply with GST/HST and QST remittance requirements.  The Nov. 20 event starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Ontario Travel Information Centre on Venetian Boulevard.

Call Laurie Jensen at 519-337-8201 ext. 2271 for details or email ljensen@bluewaterpower.com.

Got an interesting business story? Contact Cathy Dobson at cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca or 226-932-0985.