‘Creativity, Expression, and Positivity’

Review by Susan Pretty, Photos by Keegan Richard

“How do we make this weird?” That is the number one question bandied about on the daily by Kal and Jana Merkley, the owners of Babylon Quick Fix, and their staff. When it comes to their menu, the whole gang pitches in to devise and develop all of their unique offerings. “There’s no one person,” explains Kal. “It’s a combination of everyone’s input, and one of the foundations of our business model is to create an environment that encourages creativity, expression, and positivity.”

And memorable they are. The pathway into the Merkleys’ resto is otherworldly—one could literally be in any entrance in any world capital. The unique décor and eclectic items to look at make for a tactile experience for the guest that just screams fun. “We love colour here,” says head chef Meagan O’Shea. Satisfying sipping sodas are arranged in chakra colours (spicy boba balls for bravehearts only), and reviewing the colourful menu of Buddha bowls is a unique experience. There’s also the rainbow display of hotdogs, prepared by their “chef de weenie” (all staffers get to pick their title, and yup—the more unusual the better). Want to apply for employment here? Never mind dusting off the resume, instead prepare to make a video, sing, and draw pictures. Personality is key here, and if you’re a little extra, you’ll fit right in.

Babylon Quick Fix is the COVID baby of Babylon Lounge. “The goal is to make food that is not only delicious but that also makes people look twice and question it—and of course, looks good in pictures for sharing with friends,” Kal says. “We’ve also tried to cater to groups that are under-represented by offering plenty of vegan, vegetarian, sugar-free, and gluten-friendly options, which we are still working on. We’re trying to expand our menu to offer even more options. But at the heart of it all, we just want to make people happy and provide something different than what people are accustomed to.”

Don’t want your dog on a pink bun? That’ll be an extra dollar, please, if you don’t want to play along. Offerings such as the Nacho Dog, the Umm What? panini, and Pourquoi Pas dog are just a small sampling of the creative names you’ll find on the menu. There are pogo pops, waffle pops, and—if you’re overwhelmed—just say “Surprise Me!” and they’ll take the guesswork out of the whole thing. The olive tapenade bruschetta is a tangy, umami joy of sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, capers, and parsley, served on grilled pink bread with lemon basil cream cheese (try the cheesecake and crackers for dessert).

It’s not all fun and games, though. Operating a business during a pandemic is just plain tough. “We are far from alone in the number of setbacks and changes we’ve had to endure because of the pandemic. By no means are we envious of the decisions our politicians and community leaders have been faced with throughout this—it must be a very difficult job to decide where to give help—but as a business that was not open prior to the initial lockdown, we have not qualified for any of the federal [or] provincial grants, loans, or subsidies,” Kal says. “All of these things that were put in place only help businesses that were already open and making income before the pandemic hit. They don’t take into account the businesses that had invested time and money into building something that wasn’t open yet.” He adds that they also had to drastically change their business model from a cocktail bar to their current Quick Fix setup because of the difficulties liquor-focused establishments are having obtaining insurance during the pandemic.

There is a bright side when asked about the community response to their business “Overwhelmingly positive,” Kal says. “We love this wonderful and beautiful city, and so far Thunder Bay has shown us so much love and support in return.” If you need a fix, plan wisely: they are open Thursday to Monday and ready to take your order via Skip or by calling them directly.

Babylon Quick Fix is at 234 Red River Road and can be contacted at 620-2539. You can also find them on Facebook, and on Instagram @ _babylon_lounge_.