Zak’s Diner opens in Westboro

The outside of Zak’s Diner in Westboro.
Zak’s Diner has opened their fifth location in Westboro. Photo by Charlie Senack.

By Charlie Senack

A well-known Ottawa eatery has set up shop in Westboro. Zak’s Diner opened its fifth location at 334 Richmond Rd., in the former Savoy Brasserie space.

“Westboro needs a Zak’s Diner. I live down here and there aren’t many places to go to eat for breakfast. It’s the right concept for the right location,” said owner John Borsten.

Living just blocks away from his new restaurant, Borsten said Zak’s is hoping to make it a family affair and has brought his 22-year-old son Calvin on as a business partner. 

For 37 years Zak’s Diner has been serving up comfort food to generations of customers. It opened its first location on Elgin Street in 1986. Since then it has set up shop in Kanata, the ByWard Market, and Carleton Place. 

Zak’s serves three meals a day along with dessert and coffee. They are known for their “world famous” premium ice cream milkshakes with 24 flavors to choose from. 

“You can get all day breakfast, sandwiches, hamburgers, soups and sandwiches,” said Borsten. “We have vegan options and vegetarian options so we can appeal to a lot of groups. It’s a fun and lovely kind of place.”

John Borsten poses for a photograph at the bar inside Westboro’s Zak’s Diner.
Zak’s Diner owner John Borsten said the Westboro community lacked breakfast joints. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Zak’s chosen location meant an end to the Savoy Brasserie which opened in 2013. Before that, it  was home to Moe’s World Famous Newport Restaurant, which has since moved to Churchill Ave, N. 

It was a quick transition with the Savoy closing in the middle of January and Zak’s opening Feb. 8. Borsten said the interior and furniture didn’t have to change. The walls were painted and the restaurant was “Zakatized.”

“We cleaned it up a lot and we had to replace some equipment. We also had to equip the space with milkshake and ice cream freezers,” he said. “We needed more grills as opposed to burners in the back because we do a lot of flapjacks.”

Many of the Savoy’s former staff were rehired at the new restaurant, noted Borsten. 

The Westboro Business Improvement Association (BIA) said it was happy to see another Ottawa chain move into the restaurant space, a location to build community.  

“We are thrilled that Zak’s Diner is opening and the location will continue as a locally owned restaurant,” said Judy Lincoln, the BIA’s executive director. “So many people have memories of going to The Newport and The Savoy and can now continue to build memories at Zak’s.”

It’s a pivotal time for a restaurant industry rebounding after COVID-19. Borsten said Zak’s sales are likely performing better than before the pandemic, but rising costs of fuel, labor and supplies is the new concern. 

The Westboro location is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. If business continues to thrive, their hours and services might expand. 

“If we can do 24 hours one day we will. The market location runs all day on weekends,” said Borsten. “If there is a demand for that we will do it here as well.”

Bacon, eggs, assuage, toast, home fries, and other food sits on two plates.
Zak’s Diner has been feeding families in Ottawa for 37 years. Photo by Charlie Senack.

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