While the café built by Howard Lewis in 1963 across from the Sooke Community Hall was first called ‘Joker’s Grill’ it has enjoyed a long history as ‘Mom’s Café.’ A landmark in town today – but when the place was built, this widespread community boasted perhaps a total of 4,000 residents.
The new eatery at the corner of Sheilds and Eustace meant there were now two downtown diners, as the restaurant at the corner of Sooke Road and Townsend had been established at the end of World War II.
Howard Lewis’ wife Jean is seen here in 1949 with baby Lenore, an All Sooke Day baby show winner. When Lenore Lewis entered her teens, she, like most teenagers, looked for a place to hang out, and was excited that her parents were building a restaurant. Also like many teenaged girls, Lenore was crazy about horses and especially her horse called ‘Joker.’
Was it any wonder then, that the café was first given the name Joker’s Grill? Jean Lewis, the original mom’s cook, had some restaurant background, which included working for Madame Marie Lavertu at Sooke Harbour House. One of the specialties that built the restaurant’s reputation was pan-fried oysters. Another has been the legendary mile-high pies. Lenore, now married to Eric Blight and a resident of Vancouver, remembers that meals were sold at an all-inclusive price for dinner, dessert and coffee, and that her mom went to special trouble for kiddies, making ‘baby platters.’
The restaurant has changed hands many times since then. Among succeeding owners were Karl Gage, the Broomfields and of course, Bill and Rikey Wiley, who as Mom’s Café proprietors in more recent decades, became a fixture in themselves.
Since the proprietorship of Tom and Elaine Dee, renovations have taken place once more, but the place still serves as a hangout. Perhaps not so much for teenagers anymore, but as a gathering place to catch up on the news over coffee and for fishermen to swap stories, as it continues to be a hub of the community. There’s always been a ‘mom’ to provide that special care.
Sooke Region Museum