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In July 2022, dozens of people filled the Victoria Square Shopping Centre’s food court in Regina to honour one woman: Gladys Toebs.

The longtime proprietor of Kraut Haven – a mainstay of the east end mall since it opened in 1983 – was being forced to close after she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

“It was such a delight coming here on the Saturday of her last day,” recalls Jordan Myers, Victoria Square’s marketing co-ordinator. “There wasn’t an empty seat in the food court. People were bringing her flowers – longtime customers. Seeing that, it really establishes the community connection that this food court has with its patrons. You’re not just a patron – you’re a friend.”

Toebs passed away the following month, but the community spirit on display at her farewell party continues at Victoria Square food court.

A man fills a takeout container with a variety of dishes for a customer at a food court.
All of the eateries in the Victoria Square food court are locally-owned. (Dwight Lugay)

The mall is just off the Trans-Canada Highway, in a major commercial hub with residential neighbourhoods and seniors’ homes within walking distance.

What is most striking about this food court is the diversity of its cuisine: popular Chinese food restaurant, Supreme China Bistro; well-known local chain, Trifon’s Pizza; Laghos African Kitchenette serving up Nigerian grub; and the newest addition, a Vietnamese restaurant called Hanoi Kebab. 

All are locally-owned operations – and unlike any other Regina mall food court, there isn’t a single nationwide chain vendor.

A large metal and glass structure forms the entrance of the mall.
Victoria Square Shopping Centre is located in the east end of Regina. (Dwight Lugay)

“In the glory days of the ’80s, malls were filled with neon lights and any store you could think of,” says Myers. “Now in the era of Amazon and Costco strip malls, traditional malls have had to come up with creative community efforts, like the vaccine labs we saw during COVID.”

He says Victoria Square is focused on what they’re calling “shoppertainment,” with offerings like mini golf, an arcade and a soon-to-be indoor playground. 

“We want to turn malls back to the date night fun they used to have – and a great food court contributes to that, too.”

Hanoi Kebab

Hanoi Kebab is 24-year-old Justin Nguyen’s first restaurant. He opened it in July 2023. He chose Victoria Square Shopping Centre because it’s in a busy commercial area and he lives nearby.

A young man prepares rice paper for a wrap in a commercial kitchen.
Justin Nguyen, 24, went to cooking school in Vietnam before moving to Canada and opening Hanoi Kebab. (Dwight Lugay)

“Vietnamese cuisine has many dishes, so I want to introduce these dishes to people all over the world, including here in Canada,” says Nguyen, who hails from Hanoi himself. 

He went to cooking school in Vietnam before moving to Canada and working for a year at his uncle’s restaurant in Assiniboia, Sask. 

“I really admire him because he works really hard in his business,” Nguyen says.

A takeout container filled with chicken, noodles, veggies and a chopped up spring roll.
The rice vermicelli bowl with barbecue chicken and spring roll is Hanoi Kebab’s most popular dish. (Dwight Lugay)

Now Nguyen is working hard to make Hanoi Kebab a success.  He cooks the pork he serves in his banh mi sandwiches on a rotating kebab grill, almost like Turkish-Vietnamese fusion. 

Laghos African Kitchenette

Originally from the Nigerian state of Ekiti, Adebanke Disu-Adebara moved with her family to Saskatoon in 2011. They relocated to Regina in 2012.

A woman in bright yellow stands behind a food counter, holding a takeout container filled with food open for display.
Adebanke Disu-Adebara moved to Canada from Nigeria 12 years ago. (Dwight Lugay)

Laghos African Kitchenette began as a takeout business based in a commercial kitchen on Victoria Avenue. When owner Disu-Adebara was looking to upgrade, she moved into the Victoria Square food court.  

“I love this location because it helps to open up your business to different people,” says Disu-Adebara. “Many people come up and say, ‘I’ve never tried African food.’ It broadened my business to different ethnic backgrounds.”

A takeout container filled with two types of rice, fried plantain, and meat in a deep red sauce.
Regina doesn’t have many places where you can find African dishes. Laghos African Kitchenette features Nigerian food. (Dwight Lugay)

For those familiar with Nigerian swallow, which is a large, starchy, dough-like side dish, Disu-Adebara offers pounded yam, garri (made of dried, grated and fermented cassava) and amala (made from yam flour). 

Rice is their most popular side dish, though, followed by fried plantains. Laghos’s jollof rice is seasoned with tomato paste, sweet pepper, garlic, ginger and onion. 

“It’s kind of a party dish,” says Disu-Adebara. “My jollof rice is smoky and not spicy.” 

Supreme China Bistro

The restaurant business is in Emily Liang’s blood. She worked at her sister’s China Liang Buffet nearby for five years before she bought the family’s Victoria Square location. She rebranded it as Supreme China Bistro in 2017.

A woman in a red apron fills a takeout container from behind a food counter.
Emily Liang took over the family business in Victoria Square mall and rebranded it as Supreme China Bistro. (Dwight Lugay)

The Liang family is from the Guangdong province of China, although the dishes they serve are not traditionally Cantonese; it’s Canadian Chinese food. Ginger beef, sweet and sour pork, chicken balls and spring rolls are some of their most popular items.

Sandra Cozma has been eating at Supreme China Bistro for years, even though she lives across town. 

“It’s amazing food, amazing service and a generous quantity, too,” she says. 

She knows she’s not the only one popping in when they’re doing errands in the east end.

“It’s never not busy. Always lined up. Doesn’t matter when we come,” she says.

A red cardboard box with Chinese characters sits next to containers filled with dishes at a takeout food counter.
With relatively low prices, Supreme China Bistro is regularly lined up throughout the day. (Dwight Lugay)

Liang says operating a food court stall is more manageable than a large buffet restaurant.

And she is thankful to her many regular customers, even though she confesses to remembering them more by face than by name. 

“I really like it here,” she says of Victoria Square. “I think I’ll stay here until I retire.”

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By admin