Yellowknife restaurant lets guests order meals for families in need

Copperhouse has already prepared 300 meals for its new pay-it-forward program. Photo: Mark Henry

Yellowknife’s Copperhouse restaurant has launched a new program allowing patrons to purchase meals for families in need using its online ordering system.

Copperhouse co-owner Mark Henry said the initiative, dubbed Community Table, is a way to pay forward the kindness the community has shown the restaurant during the pandemic. 

“I think we’re definitely impacted by the Covid situation … but at the same time we were safe, we had food on the table,” Henry said.

“The reality is that there are a lot of people in this town that live on the line.



“A situation like this really kind-of highlights that when you live on the line, sometimes food isn’t in the fridge. Kids go to fridges that are empty.” 

Henry said the program has a three-step process: “purchase, produce, and deliver.” After pay-it-forward meals are ordered online, Copperhouse will prepare them at cost for community organizations to deliver. 

Copperhouse has partnered with the Yellowknife Seniors’ Society and Yellowknives Dene First Nation on the project. Henry said the restaurant is interested in connecting with other organizations, too. 

“It’s an organization close to our heart as a family so we’re really happy that they’re involved,” he said of the seniors’ society, adding the Yellowknives Dene have a Covid-19 food security program. 



“It’s dove-tailing with an existing challenge that they have, so hopefully [it’s] solving or helping solve some of the problems,” he said. 

Henry said the idea for Community Table was inspired by a conversation with Jason Butorac, owner of the city’s Canadian Tire, about a similar pay-it-forward program at a restaurant in New York. Another regular customer also made a donation wanting to help out. 

So far, the program has received $3,000 in donations from regular customers and Canadian Tire. Henry said that means 300 meals have been prepared.

Old idea, new service

Across the street, the Monkey Tree Pub is also getting creative during the pandemic. It’s planning to offer drive-in service.

“I think it’s important to stay connected with the customers that have supported the Monkey Tree,” said co-owner Jennifer Vornbrock. “I think it’s a novelty idea that people are going to want to go and experience.” 

At drive-in restaurants, which were popular in the 1950s and 60s, customers park and are served from and eat in their vehicles. 

Vornbrock explained the pub hopes to designate stalls outside the Monkey Tree where customers can park. They’ll be able to order drinks and food through an app that will let them specify which stall they’re parked at.

“We’re really going to focus on that really classic diner experience you would’ve gotten from A&W and McDonald’s when this was happening,” Vornbrock said. 



That will mean not all of the pub’s regular items will be available, but they will offer new fare like homemade milkshakes. 

Vonbrock said she was trying to “think outside the box” when she came across a photo of a carhop tray attached to a car. She then went on the hunt for the trays online and found a family in Michigan that makes them with a machine that was used to produce them during their heyday.

“They got this machine from Texas, brought it over to Michigan, spent five years fixing it, and apparently it’s the only one in the United States,” Vornbrock said. “Now they’re making these trays like the exact same they used to.” 

With the support of Territorial Beverages, the Monkey Tree has purchased a number of the trays. 

Owners of the pub and Stake Restaurant also launched a meal delivery service in April.