There are many words that come to mind when thinking about Quehl’s restaurant in Tavistock – home cooking, rich history, a meeting place for friends – but 90 years of comfort is perhaps what stands out most.
Joe’s Place opened back in 1931 and underwent a few name changes and renovations before Bill Quehl used his last name and it has stuck ever since. The current owners, Cindy, and Brian Larsen partnered with Ruth and Steve Cahill in 1993 but the Cahill’s retired in 1996 leaving Cindy and Brian as sole owners.
Cindy says owning the restaurant is like being in a time machine where people are constantly telling their stories from the years of Quehl’s being open. “We both absolutely love it and have from the beginning. There are always people coming through the door and adding to the history by telling us their story.” The restaurant has been on the Ontario history tour twice now, something that has added even more to the storytelling. “People are coming back who haven’t been here for years. It’s important for the town.”
Just like so many other small businesses in Ontario, Quehls’s has been affected by the pandemic and government mandated lockdowns. “We deal with so many seniors, and they are almost afraid to go anywhere where there are other people,” said Cindy. She added that they have changed the way they do business to meet the needs of their customers. “We have been offering curbside pickup and will continue to do so.”
Quehl’s has also introduced what they call their General Store, featuring local products for their patrons to purchase. Items like honey, Wellesley apple butter, and organic items are available. “We brought it in during the first lockdown, but we noticed people were interested in buying even more of these products when the second lockdown was announced,” said Cindy.
While some things have changed at the iconic restaurant, others simply have not. Home cooking is still what brings their customers through the door. “People always ask us if the gravy is real. Yes, we do use the juices right off the meat, and our mashed potatoes are done with lots of butter and lots and lots of milk,” she said. A look at the menu shows old standbys like slow roasted turkey and of course local farmer’s sausage. Despite most of their clientele eating these types of dishes, Cindy said they have made some accommodations for today’s likes. “We have had to add in different things like vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free, so we have changed in that way. But our core is still meat and potatoes.” One of the surprises along the way for the couple has been how what is old becomes new again. “When you read the food service magazines everyone was going on about pigtails and pork hocks. This is the new yuppie food. Talk about what comes around goes around!”
Quehl’s is currently open Wednesday to Sunday for take-out from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then again from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Rural Oxford Economic Development is a proud supporter of Quehl’s- a successful participant of the $1000 Rural Oxford E-Business Grant Program.