Mike and Sue Hallatt plan to open up the new Black M restaurant at the old gas station site on Cowichan Lake Road. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Entrepreneurs adding razorback edge to Lake Cowichan burger joint

Maverick foodie opening Black M doors this summer

Mike Hallatt has some fresh ideas for a new hamburger joint in Lake Cowichan.

Tired of the regular fare that is served in most fast food franchises, which he claims are out of touch with healthy-eating trends that are becoming the new norm among consumers, Hallatt and his sister Sue are in the process of converting the old gas station on Cowichan Lake Road into a unique restaurant that he hopes will appeal to those looking for tasty and healthy hamburgers and meals.

Hallatt said the meat supply for most fast food restaurants is organized and run by big corporations who have subjugated the goal of providing healthy and tasty foods to consumers in favour of profit.

“It has turned into a catastrophe for health, and the working people are stuck eating crap,” he said as he and Sue worked to prepare the building for restaurant use last week.

“So we’re opening an alternative to that and we’re breaking free of that meat supply chain. Our food will provide the fuel people who live busy lives need. Our restaurant will be a place where vegans go to cheat.”

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Hallatt said the best meat is raised in natural settings and he and Sue have set their sights on Russian wild razorback boars that live in the forests of northern Saskatchewan.

“The boars were brought into the country about 30 years ago, but many have escaped and now form a wild population,” he said.

“It’s legendary meat from the ancestors of today’s pigs, but it’s a different kind of meat than pig.”

Hallatt said there is currently no industry to buy the boar meat from, so he has organized the means to transport them live to an abattoir in Courtenay where they will be butchered, with the meat provided to the restaurant as fresh as possible.

He said the intent is to also use as many vegetables that are locally grown as possible for his hamburgers, including a special type of tomato that is grown in the area and is known for its taste.

Hallatt said he hopes to have the restaurant, which will be called Black M, opened by July.

He is no stranger to business, and has operated restaurants in the past.

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“I grew up in Victoria and began Benny’s Bagels with a high-school buddy when I was 22 in 1982 and sold it in 1993 when there were five stores,” Hallatt said.

“I then went to San Fransisco where I got involved in the software industry and then I came back to Canada to be a dad and started Pirate Joes in Vancouver.”

Hallatt became known as the “rebel grocer” while running Pirate Joes, which sold unauthorized Trader Joe’s products that he “smuggled” across the Canadian border from the U.S.

That led to a five-year legal battle with one of the most popular grocery stores in the U.S. which finally ended in an undisclosed settlement in 2017.

“I was used to better groceries when I was living in the U.S., so I started Pirate Joes in an effort to bring some of those groceries into Canadian markets,” he said.

“My 14-year-old daughter wanted to go to a better school, so we moved back to Victoria and then I started looking for a property here to start a restaurant. I was familiar with Lake Cowichan after spending a lot of summers in the Shawnigan Lake area when I was young. We’re really looking forward to opening Black M.”

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robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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