A two-restaurant hamlet

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

“I got bored,” Charlette Flemming says, in answer to the question why she opened a new restaurant in Smith.

“I love the people of Smith,” she continued. “I love being around them. This is what I do.”

Flemming opened Char’s Railway Cafe on May 1.

It’s been busy since, she says. Especially for breakfast.

Flemming has cooked her whole life and worked in restaurants at various times. She retired from insurance a while ago and worked at the Red Door for a time.

“Cooking since I was about seven, I can remember,” she says. “My mom was an amazing cook.”

The opening of Char’s Railway Cafe means that the hamlet of Smith now has two restaurants. In 2016, according to the census, Smith had a population of 148 people. It is around 70 km south east of Slave Lake and is roughly equal distance between Slave Lake and Athabasca.

The restaurant is located at 452 9th Street Smith, just before the railway tracks if you travel north fron Highway 2 on 2A. Flemming’s daughter Ashley Koochin chose the name because of the proximity to the railway.

The building used to be a bar. Flemming started renovating it in March. She added new windows, a stainless steel kitchen, and pine accents inside.

The homey gingham curtains and table clothes were donated by local seamstresses, she says.

“The community is amazing,” she says. “(They’ve been) excited waiting for me to open.”

The sign out front was made by artists Margaret Vanrompaey and Petra De Vaan.

Flemming has tried to keep the menu affordable. It includes breakfast, soup, wraps, burgers, and dinner specials every evening.

The cafe is open from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday and for brunch on Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Everything is homemade, including the fries and burgers.

“Very famous for my soup,” Flemming says. “(I make) every kind of soup.”
The secret, she says, is she uses real whipping cream.

Owner of Char’s Railway Cafe, Charlette Flemming, second from left, poses with her staff: husband Brian Nielsen on the left, and daughter Ashley Koochin and son Ryan Biggs on the right.

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