Looking for a quaint café in downtown Windsor? Look no further than the Squirrel Cage. Located at 1 Maiden Lane, the Squirrel Cage offers a wide array of treats for all five senses. From the decadent decor to the scintillating selection of fresh fruit smoothies, this rustic nest is sure to be a favourite retreat for many.
The Cage’s menu offers enough variety to satisfy anyone’s appetite. Serving up several different hot pressed Panini’s ranging from The Ambassador, a smoked salmon cream cheese and dill delight, to The Windsor’s grilled chicken.
The large bowls of hearty soup and fresh garden salads compliment the sandwiches perfectly. The Squirrel Cage is licensed under LLBO, so if a cold beer or glass of local wine is more to your liking, owners John Ansell and Steven Thompson will be glad to serve you that as well.
The story of how the Squirrel Cage came about is actually quite interesting. The owners are new to our Rose City. Steven, a former stock broker, and John, a former realtor, having met over 4 years ago, tossed around venture ideas and eventually migrated south from the Toronto area to set up shop in Windsor.
Thompson had his first ‘cafe experience’ while living in New York City, working at the trendy Cafe Bari in Soho. Originally from the small town of Sault Ste. Marie, Thompson spent many years in Ansell’s hometown of Toronto before deciding to move closer to his mother, a long time Windsorite.
“With the attractive real estate prices and seeing that we had a buy on this cute little laneway, we decided to give Windsor a go,” Ansell explained.
Initially, they had a solid vision for a location on Ottawa St., but the building was sold before they could get started. Going in with no game plan, the two found their home in the downtown core and have been loving their new spot since July 2012.
“The response has been absolutely incredible. Most people come in and don’t think they are in Windsor anymore. The number of times we have been asked if we have a decorator is flattering because we’ve done this ourselves,” Ansell said.
This friendly atmosphere found its niche with the help of good music, local art and beautifully aged barn wood tables, handcrafted by Thompson’s brother, Dan. Vibrant plush pillows fill the room and art by local photographers and painters scale the walls, keeping your imagination alive.
Thompson and Ansell are looking to expand the Cage, creating an art gallery on the main level and eventually opening up the stage for local musicians to showcase their talents.
Upon entrance into the Cage, you’ll notice the tables which appear to be any squirrels hangout spot. The barn wood used for the tables was bartered for with a bottle of scotch. The two travelled to Orangeville, Ontario to get their hands on this precious wood and picked the barn dry. Thompson’s brother then took his carpentry skills to the next level and crafted works of art that you can eat on.
“Our tables, everybody loves our tables. I bet we could have sold the big one thirty or forty times now,” said Ansell.
That’s not the only piece of art that piques the interest of guests who visit. The walls are covered in local talent. Photographer, Heather Teahan, has sold over 15 pieces while having her work on display at the Cage. Ansell and Thompson take no commission of the art sales, they are just happy to support local creativity.
“We realized quickly that Windsor is a city that supports local and we wanted to take part in that. Especially with the produce, local wineries, and farmers, it would be crazy not to take advantage of it,” said Ansell.
You may be surprised to find out that the name ‘Squirrel Cage’ has nothing to do with the cute furry animal after all. The pair stumbled across this name while looking for light bulbs for a chandelier project. Turns out, these circa 1910 bulbs had been nicknamed ‘Squirrel Cage’ for their circle of vertical carbon filaments.
So this weekend when you and your friends are looking for somewhere new and unique to satisfy your appetite, visit The Squirrel Cage and indulge in the ambience Windsor deserves.
By: Mandala McCarthy