Situated on the crest of Lake Superior in Northwestern Ontario,Thunder Bay is known for its historic role in the Canadian fur trade, plummeting winter temperatures, and miles of lovingly-groomed Nordic ski trails. What few people realize – with the exception of city residents, of course – is that Thunder Bay is also home to the highest population of Finnish Canadians per capita in Canada. For locals this means that Suomi, or Finnish culture, is easily at hand in the city’s thriving Bay Algoma business district. Also known affectionately as the “Pancake District,” visitors will find places to purchase Scandinavian and Nordic products, gifts, and, most importantly, food.
The Hoito Restaurant has been serving up delicious, authentic Finland cuisine since it was established in 1918. Finnish for “care,” The Hoito is one of Canada’s oldest cooperatively owned and operated restaurants in Canada. While the restaurant boasts a complete menu of all-day diner favourites, its their traditional Finnish pancake breakfasts that have patrons lined up down the block on busy weekend mornings.
Those seeking a hearty serving of Finnish fare will be satiated by a bowl of Mojakka (fish soup) or Soulakala (salt cured salmon on rye). Lovers of rice pudding should try the Piirakka, which is a rye pastry based rice pudding that is sure to please any palate.
Fans of renowned Helsinki design house Marimekko will discover the vibrant patterned products, including their flagship red poppy prints, at Finnport – a Thunder Bay shopping destination for gifts and specialty items imported from Finland and surrounding Scandinavian countries. The highly collectible Iittala glassware brand can also be found here alongside dinnerware, art, outdoor gifts, and sauna necessities.
One of Finland’s most beloved exports is the traditional steamy sauna and its sweat inducing, spruce and cedar-scented heat. Keeping up with this revered Finnish practice can provide therapeutic benefits both physical and emotional. Fortunately, Finnport carries the thermometers, buckets, rocks and robes required by local sauna aficionados.
Books And A Nook
Individuals looking to take their foray into the high-heat hobby can purchase the required reading for sauna building, upkeep, and more at The Finnish Bookstore. Although something of a misnomer, The Finnish Bookstore and it’s attached store, The Kitchen Nook, carry an array of Suomi products, extending far beyond their shelves of books both from and about Finland, including a number of Finnish-language works. Visitors can be pleasantly surprised by the unexpected culture of Helsinki in Thunder Bay – and none who’ve acquired a taste for lingonberry jam find they’re able to stay away for long.