Though Liz Cunningham had worked in the television industry for more than three decades, her aspirations lay away from the spotlight. She wanted a slice of delicious quiet—a neighbourhood restaurant where guests could retreat from the busy streets and tuck themselves away in conversation. So she set to work, enlisting friends to help her paint and furnish the space that would become her cozy eatery. Then, with the paint drying, the only thing left was the name. Liz and a friend soon landed on Tess—an homage to her mother, whose photograph hangs above the handmade bar in a framed reproduction of a 1937 newspaper ad wherein she models a fur-trimmed coat on sale for $29.98.
Liz strives to capture the warmth that radiates from that picture, albeit with more eco-conscious methods such as the restaurant's geo-thermal heating-and-cooling system. She also partners with other area businesses to fill her seasonally changing menu with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. All dishes are made-from-scratch, including crepes wrapped around such savoury indulgences as locally smoked Atlantic salmon, slow-roasted chicken, or sweeter brunch ingredients such as Nutella and caramelized apples. Vegetarian items and an option for gluten-free batter, meanwhile, accommodate common dietary restrictions while leaving those who can only eat freeze-dried ice cream to their own devices. During temperate weather, guests can dine beneath canopies on the outdoor patio, which resides on a peaceful stretch of street away from crowds. A newly built, more intimate patio resides in the back of the restaurant, flooding guests with sunlight or moonbeams during private events.