If you've been in St. Thomas for any length of time - you've likely heard of Legends. If you've been a part of the community for a while, you have probably made some of your own #LegendaryMemories at the landmark restaurant in the heart of Downtown.
The Legends Tavern family just marked its 25th Anniversary. I sat down with owner Andy Lerikos just ahead of the celebration, and he was all smiles with anticipation for the day - an opportunity to welcome regulars and friends old and new through the doors. What's clear in speaking with Andy is that his passion for the restaurant business is built around the people as much as it's about the food.
Andy has made his life in the restaurant business, learning at his parents' side in their family-style restaurant. It's where Andy learned to cook, gaining satisfaction from knowing how to make food from scratch - a wide variety as the restaurant had an extensive menu and was open for three meals a day.
His parents retired in 1997, and thus began Andy's quest for his own space, bringing him to St. Thomas. Andy was drawn to the things that are still paramount to the personality of this community - its location between London and the Lake, ease of access to the 401, small town feel with big potential, the climate, the people, and a pretty stellar location at the intersection of Downtown and the historic L&PS railway line.
But his initial vision was to build a sports bar that could grow into the kind of place where customers became friends and staff became family. Over the years, that's exactly what Andy has built.
It certainly has had challenges along the way - in the early days, folks considered it more of a bar versus a restaurant - it took time to grow into that reality. It was a difficult time for Andy and his passion for good food and familiarity with a family-style clientele. He learned a lot in the early days. He continues adapting the menu and atmosphere to stay current and relevant to customers' wants while ensuring the fan favourites improve.
With a lifetime of experience in his back pocket, I asked Andy for some insights for others who may have similar dreams of their own establishment - "Be prepared to adapt and be resourceful. It can be uncomfortable sometimes, and you have to be ready for that". But as Andy speaks, it's also evident that finding good people you can count on in a pinch is also so significant. There is a palpable level of mutual respect and appreciation - camaraderie - between Andy and his staff. Another element learned from his parents' example is the value of good people and relationship building.
"Legends is more than just a place to eat. We're part of the fabric of the community that is here. People's livelihoods are being made here. It's an attitude that we instill, to care about the customer's perspective and hope that they have a very good experience - we are a small piece of the bigger community puzzle. Hopefully, we are one of those pieces that counts."
When visiting Legends, you are almost guaranteed to see a familiar face or two; it's part of the draw. But we still need to talk about the food! Legends is well known for its pub-style fare - there is a good array of options, but certainly, some are more Legendary than others. Well known for their wings - Andy's favourite menu item (Legends Mild Sauce, while I am a big fan of the Smokey BBQ), he loves getting inspiration from his customers on the flavours they are looking for or items to workshop in the kitchen. Andy's menu suggestion - try the burgers. They often take a back seat to the wings but should be noticed! Andy laughs and says, "And our fries, people love our fries - If there is a crop issue and we need to temporarily change potatoes, folks notice, and I hear about it! Get me my potato!". I attest to Legends fries being some of the best around - thick cut and perfectly cooked - they hold up well in the loaded fries or poutine options but are equally tasty on their own.
My takeaways from Legends Tavern? It's precisely a piece of the community that counts. I hope you visit in the coming months when the next phase of the Talbot Street construction is at the door. Legends has been where you've celebrated birthdays, gone on first dates, and watched "the game" a few times. You've sat in the sun on the patio with friends, maybe even worked there for a season or two. Over 25 years, Legends has donated to your fundraiser or sponsored your ball team. You've made memories. Why not make some more?
Legends Tavern is located at 600 Talbot St.
After the Interview...
Following the celebration and after this interview took place, Legends Tavern announced a change in ownership. We have recorded their statements here for anyone interested. We are so grateful for Andy and the team, and look forward to what the new owners will bring to the table!
"Legends Tavern is excited to announce that after 25 years, it will be under new ownership starting July 12. We want to assure our valued customers that it will be business as usual, and we have full confidence in the new owners to maintain the high standards and quality you have come to expect.
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has supported us throughout the years and look forward to the next chapter of Legends Tavern."
"To all of our incredible staff members, We want to express our deepest gratitude for your unwavering dedication and hard work throughout the past 25 years.
Your commitment to providing exceptional service and genuine care for our customers has played a vital role in our success. Thank you for being an integral part of our Legends family."
"To all our valued guests in St. Thomas and the surrounding area, Peter and I (Andy) want to extend our heartfelt appreciation for your unwavering support and loyalty over the years. It has been our privilege to serve you and create memorable experiences at Legends.
Thank you for being a part of our Legends community and for allowing us to be a part of your lives."
Written by Sarah from the Elgin/St. Thomas Small Business Enterprise Centre