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Music, fun, & food at Raffy’s Café

by Wayne Croning

The author (centre) singing with a few of the regulars at Raffy’s Café
(l-r): Lloyd, Neil, Wayne, Brian, Armando & Raffy

When I first walked into Raffy’s Cafe accompanied by a few work friends, I was greeted by good live music, flashing lights and a unique sense of belonging. Everyone, including the patrons, performers and owners appeared warm and friendly.

The cafe, situated on the corner of Wall Street and Ellice Avenue is a small, single story building. No large neon sign outside advertising the fun to be had inside. The entrance from Wall Street leads into a lounge with about 10 tables. The bar on the right and a partition wall with large windows opening on a second seating area and stage for the drum set, microphones and other musical instruments and equipment.

A Filipino band was performing that night. They sang a few Tagalog songs and then some English songs, rock and roll from the 70s and 80s. There was a lot of clapping after each song. Raffy, the owner came up and introduced himself to us. I never realized how incredibly talented he was until many visits later. He can play several instruments, including electric guitar, keyboards, drums, saxophone, and he is gifted with a great voice. Later that night, he was playing guitar and he needed a drummer.

“We need a drummer! Could we have a volunteer please?” he called over the microphone.

Without thinking, I put up my hand. After introducing myself, I seated myself at the drums, not really knowing much about drums! But I played, tried my best and actually was able to keep up with the rest of the musicians. Raffy, sensing my inexperience, did pick a couple of easy tunes. After two numbers, one of which was a country tune, he turned and thanked me.

“Wayne on drums! Thank you Wayne!”

I stepped off the stage and let someone else take over – someone with more experience.

This was a Sunday night and after a few more performances, some Karaoke, and two or three beers later, it got nearer to closing time (midnight). We promised to return again, but not before my friend Lloyd went up on stage and put on a great guitar performance.

We did return, a few Sundays later, and Lloyd brought along a friend Brian who outdid himself on the drums, hammering out tunes from the 80s and 90s. Raffy got out his sax and played and sang Careless Whisper by George Michael, and I was more than impressed. I sang a karaoke duet with my friend Ernie, a Bee Gees tune, and there was some clapping at the end, if I remember correctly. We did not get booed off the stage in any case.

Raffy Ramiro

After many such visits, I decided (as a struggling but ambitious writer) to do an article on Raffy’s Cafe, so one Saturday afternoon, at around 4:00 p.m., I dropped in and interviewed the man in person.

I was surprised to learn that Raffy’s Café opened not too long ago, October of last year to be exact. The café, basically a bar/restaurant, is essentially an entertainment magnet for musicians, drawing them in to strut their stuff! Raffy invites anyone to come in and perform. Sunday is basically “Open Mic” night. He also teaches drums on Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. (Students must register beforehand).

But getting back to Raffy, the man – He grew up in the Philippines with a natural flair for music. Later in life, he started a band and they performed on a professional level in places like China and Japan also touring North America. In 2014 he eventually settled in Vancouver, starting the first Raffy’s Café there. Eventually he moved to Winnipeg, to be with his present partner Mary, who is also a very talented singer. Mary takes care of running the restaurant and accounts, while Raffy takes care of the entertainment side of things.

Raffy’s wish for the current café is to attract a multicultural clientele, and also to impart his love of music by way of music lessons, which include drums, guitar, piano, bass, and also voice lessons. Nothing happens overnight though, so all this may take a little time.

The restaurant itself serves up a small, but tempting array of food, including some traditional Filipino cuisine. They are also open for breakfast from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. for those just starting their day or coming off the night shift. Patio doors will be opening this summer as well.

For now, his musical menu is as follows,

  • Monday: Jam night
  • Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: Acoustic jam/Open Mic/Chicken Wing special night
  • Thursday: Karaoke night/dancing
  • Friday: Live Music (Bands performing)
  • Saturday: Live Music/Special Events.
  • Sunday: Open Mic night/Karaoke hour

Raffy also plans to open more branches and maybe start a franchise, expanding to other provinces as well.

In a nutshell, I find that Raffy’s Café is a fabulous place to just chill and relax after a hard day or week of work. It is a place where one can enjoy live music, go up on stage and sing or play an instrument (no experience necessary), and generally have a fun time. I thoroughly recommend going there and guarantee you will always go back!

Wayne Croning is an aspiring writer. He has authored one book, co-authored three anthologies, and a few published articles. He occasionally rocks out at his favourite joint, Raffy’s Cafe.