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The iconic Zak’s Diner opens its fifth location in the trendy  Westboro Village area of Ottawa

    Calvin Borsten, flanked by Nathan Bouchard (left) and Roger McKee (right).

    Readers of my stories on Ottawa will be very familiar with the fact Zak’s Diner has become a true “go-to” stop in the Nation’s capital.

    Established in 1986 by John Borsten and some partners, one of whom had a son named Zak, there are now five separate locations for this ’50s-themed eatery: the happening Byward Market, Elgin Street, Carleton Place, Kanata and now the Westboro Village area at the spot that previously housed the once popular Savoy Brasserie.

    Besides serving breakfast all-day, Zak’s has the perfect comfort food menu with items such as soups, salads, burgers,  wraps, sandwiches, poutine, vegetarian and plant-based alternatives, extraordinary desserts and a variety of shakes from the traditional to lactose-free and even vegan.   At Zak’s, kids eat free from Sunday to Thursday from 4 pm to close for indoor dining (holidays excluded). The way it works is you will get one free kids meal (10 and under) with the purchase of one adult meal and beverage.

    Having previously experienced the Byward Market and Elgin locations for dinner and breakfast respectively, I was invited to join Calvin Borsten for lunch at the new Westboro location. Calvin, presently completing his studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, is the 22-year-old son of John Borsten.  When his dad decided to purchase the Savoy property, he asked if he could become a  managing partner for 20 percent and dug into his own savings to do so.

    “I have been coming to Zak’s all of my life,” Calvin told me. “I started to work at the location in the market at the age of 13 and from that point on it gave me an excellent opportunity to really learn the business. “

    John Borsten owns a number of other successful restaurant properties in Ottawa. His wife Sofia splendidly oversees the marketing end of things, so this is indeed a true family operation.

    Located on the main Westboro drag of Richmond Road, the newest Zak’s can accommodate 100 diners inside,  in addition to a seasonal terrace.  Roger McKee, who has been part of Zak’s team for over a decade, is the manager. Former Savoy servers like Nathan Bouchard have stayed on to maintain continuity.

    There is plenty of on-street parking and this spot is only a 10-minute drive from Parliament Hill. In the summer it is a great street to take a walk.

    Not only is this location within walking distance from the Borsten home, John Borsten actually opened the Savoy back in 2013.

    I enjoyed my smoked meat sandwich on pumpernickel bread with curly fries and the soup of the day, a piping hot Mexicali. For dessert, I cheated on my dietary standards and ordered the decadent rocky road brownie. It came dripping with hot fudge, marshmallows and nuts and is served with vanilla ice cream. I also grabbed a few take-out items: the Lox & Cream cheese, containing smoked salmon, lettuce, tomato, red onion, capers, bagel and cream cheese and a crispy chicken wrap, made with lettuce, tomato, mayo and your choice of BBQ, honey garlic, or hot sauce. I opted for the honey garlic.

    Indeed, I recommend you make a visit to this new spot,  which Calvin notes, “We are still in the process of  Zakifying. Some people have nicknamed it Zavoys.”

    Zak’s Diner in Westboro is open daily from 7 am to 9:30 pm  The address is 334 Richmond Rd., You can call (613) 369-5002 for reservations of groups six and over, e-mail or log on to

    Mike Cohen

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