John Van Houten – known to all as ‘Johnnie Bats’ – had been a cook and kitchen mainstay at Fiddlestix Cafe in Cornwall for a decade before it closed in the fall of 2020. A local favourite, Fiddlestix served breakfast- breakfast and lunch since 2004 Rather than let the cafe fade from memory, Johnnie Bats and his wife Samantha Van Houten took a leap of faith and bought Fiddlestix in March, reopening it last May. Now, with Johnnie back behind the grill, customers are once again lining up for signature dishes like breakfast nachos and loaded paninis.
“It’s like I never left,” says Johnnie Bats. “I’ve worked here for a long time, and buying the business seemed like the most rational thing to do. I know the menu like the back of my hand. Inventory and payroll were new territory for Johnnie and Samantha, but they knew how busy the place was and their familiarity with Fiddlestix operations made the transition smooth. He has rehired some staff favourites, including butler Ian, whose signature smile greets new and long-time customers alike.
A large blackboard describes the dish of the day and the names of the dishes are as creative as the food itself. The Lost in NY Benny is a twist on Eggs Benedict, but with pastrami, sauerkraut, tomatoes, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese and Dijon hollandaise ($14). The Ol’ Yule Log is another variation of Eggs Benedict with sausage, asparagus, spinach, goat cheese, the aforementioned onions, and cream of parmesan cheese instead of hollandaise ($14).
The most popular breakfast dish is Fiddlestix’s Chicken and Waffles, served with Maple Dijon ($11.50), while lunchtime diners run to the BBQ Pit: a pulled chicken panini with bacon and cheddar ($11.75).
A quick glance at Fiddlestix’s Instagram page not only whets the appetite, but a testament to the coffee’s popularity. “My dad ate The Ol’ Yule Log this morning. I asked him if he was sure he didn’t want to lick the plate when he was done,” wrote one customer. Fiddlestix’s merchandise options – eponymous t-shirts, hoodies and tumblers – bear an emblem that sums up the offerings here: #foodporn.
One of the benefits of Johnnie Bats’ long tenure at Fiddlestix is that loyal customers can always count on familiar sandwiches, burgers and salads. But the owners keep the menu fresh with a rotating series of delicious new recipes. “At first, we stuck to the menu because we knew the fan favorites,” says Johnnie Bats. “Now the sky is the limit, and we are pushing the limits. Every week we try to outdo ourselves.
In the future, Johnnie Bats and Van Houten say they might consider applying for a beer and wine license. For now, they are content to reinvent breakfast and lunch for their long lines of hungry customers. “Every day is an open canvas for us, and we couldn’t be happier,” says Johnnie Bats.
Fiddlestix is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and weekends from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
319 Main Street, Cornwall