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New owners work to bring back glory days at The 'Port

Famous stuffed pickles, Legendary burger popular menu items

The Airport Hotel is a legendary establishment in South Porcupine, filled with local heritage and memories of good times. Its new owners are striving to bring back the glory days, renewing the legacy of the business.

Judy and Paul Dubeau bought The 'Port — a long-time nickname for The Airport Hotel — in February after moving back from B.C.

“This was a hangout when I was a young adult,” said Judy, who was born and raised in Porcupine. “Both my sons and my granddaughters are here. At this stage in life, both my husband and myself decided we wanted to open a business and get them going with it.

“We’re only the fourth owners. It originated in 1936.

“It’s something that can be left in our legacy.

The family is busy with improvements and vows to maintain the hotel’s heritage. The downstairs bar area is keeping its name, The Shady Lady.

“That’s the original name,” she said. “We kept that up because it is history. We have the bar open. We have pub food open. We have a strategic plan to get everything up and running again.”

The bar food has been a big hit with customers.

“We are famous for our pickles,” Dubeau said. “They are stuffed dill pickles (with bacon and cream cheese) and they are wrapped in an egg roll wrapper. Then we serve that with an in-house made ranch dressing. We can’t keep them. As soon as they are made, they’re sold. I make a hundred of them a day.”

She is busy in the sparkling-clean kitchen many hours before the doors open to the public.

“All of our food is homemade,” she said. “So, it’s fresh-cut fries. We do the Quebec-style poutine. And have very generous portions.

“We have an eight-ounce beef patty. It’s a monster — a half a pound of beef. It’s a different burger. We call it The Legendary. It has a homemade sauce on it, a spread, which is basically a French Onion dip with a little bit of extras in it. The bottom has red onions and pickled beets on it. So, it’s a unique burger. It’s very special.

“We have a menu for pub food. Every day of the week we have a special. Just to see how items are going to take off or if they’re not going to sell.”

There is quite a rush most days for lunch.

“We get a lot (at lunch). We get the hydro crews, nurses and teachers,” Dubeau said. “It’s really taking off. A lot of locals. People driving in from Timmins.”

But the nightlife is picking up again at The Port, and the pub food is a hot ticket.

“The evenings are our busiest times,” she said. “We do get the lunch rush, but our evenings are busy.

“We have had live entertainment back a couple times. In the summer, we’ll have events in the backyard with Molson’s sponsoring them.”

There is a special every day. The Legendary burger, with fries, is one. They have battered wings and fries. One day it is soup and sandwich, which is showing a new generation the joys of hearty soups made from scratch.

‘It’s very interesting. A lot of the younger crowd, they’re not used to the homemade soup,” Dubeau said. “Just like our chili and cheese. We do chili fries with cheese or nachos with cheese. And the cheese sauce is made in house. That’s why I get up so early to prep.”

At the same time, they are working on bringing the rest of the building and business back to life.

“It’s going to be fine dining inside,” she explained. “We have the two dining rooms and a banquet hall.

“We’re going to start doing weddings again in the summer. We’ve had about seven people approach us. This was a place to get married years ago. Now, the generations after want this to be where they got married because their grandparents or parents got married here.”

The hotel, filled with amazing old furniture in good condition, will reopen as well.

“We have 13 rooms upstairs. They’re unique,” she said. “Five of them share a community bathroom — so, it’s a big shower room and bathroom. The other ones are joined by a bathroom so there is a bathroom in between (two rooms).

“Already the mines have reached out to us.”

The building has caught the eye of filmmakers as well.

“A movie was filmed here. It’s called My Animal,” she said. “They’ve done several shots throughout Timmins area, in Schumacher, a house in Timmins and three sets were done here.

“It’s very interesting because film productions are moving to Ontario now.”

She also confirms stories that there are ghosts in the building.

“I call them spirits,” Dubeau said. “They are here. They are friendly and I love them.”

While the business is busy, family and community heritage remain the cornerstone for The 'Port.

“Both my parents are buried across the lake and my grandparents. This is a comfort zone for me,” she said. “We’re getting our sons involved. Hopefully, one day our granddaughters will get involved.

“Even though you move away from here, this is still your home. As much as you may despise the snow and the cold, it’s still your home. It’s near and dear to your heart, with memories from childhood.”

The Airport Hotel is open Sunday from 1-8 p.m., Monday to Wednesday from noon to 8 or 10 p.m. (depending on how busy it is), and Thursday, Friday and Saturday from noon to 1 or 2 a.m.

For more information phone 705-235-3332 or find them on Facebook.