A new restaurant called Graze is slated for the former Fray spot at 3980 Fraser. The 2000 sqft, 75-85 seat eatery will serve entirely plant-based comfort cuisine from chef Karen McAthy (she of Good Girl Bad Girl Preserves, lately of W2 Media Cafe, and caterer for Creative Mornings). The owners are local front of house vet Bridget Burns (Ginger 62, TheVeganProject.com) and “serial entrepreneur” Michael Lyons (not chef Michael Lyon of Kelowna).
Since Fray only announced its closure on March 17th and Graze intends to open in early May, it follows that most of the changes will be cosmetic. I know that the bar/lounge area is being expanded, but beyond painting and lighting (“organic textures and colours”), it sounds like renos will be kept to a minimum. They have access to another 2000 sqft upstairs (private functions, etc.), but that will be a second stage of construction, and well down the road after opening day.
The food concept appears to be closer to the Naam than The Acorn, which is to say a little simpler and more down home. Oh, and if term “plant-based” has you flummoxed, it’s just a less scary way of saying “vegan”. Think gluten-free, roasted yam and eggplant-stuffed perogies lit with garlic, applewood salt and smoked paprika; pickled beet fries; house made tofus; veggie pot pies and the like. There will be no lunch service, only supper and weekend brunch. I’m told that prices will be accessible, with everything on the menu under $20. “No one will leave hungry,” says Lyon.
Though I’ve only met her once (and briefly), McAthy struck me as very down to earth and committed (her kitchen will doing a lot of pickling, preserving, and smoking), and I assume from Burns’ own blog that ownership is invested in ways that transcend the financial.
Overall, though I think folks in the Fraserhood (and beyond) were rightly bummed to see the irrepressibly casual Fray fold, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Graze fill the vacuum with ease. There’s been an increasing demand for quality restaurants hereabouts, and meatless dining is definitely on the up and up. Smart restaurants are usually good restaurants, so I’m looking forward to this one (even if it’s bereft of bacon).