DINER: Taking A Look Inside The Homer St. Cafe & Bar, Opening This June In Yaletown
by Andrew Morrison | It’s hard to imagine an open, 8-10 seat kitchen bar that looks straight into a massive, glass-fronted “Rotisol” rotisserie oven that can hold as many as 36 birds at a time, but that’s just what diners will get when they sit center stage in the heritage section of the soon-to-open Homer St. Cafe & Bar: an eyeful of the lamborghini of rotisseries (the Grande Flamme Olympia edition, complete with fire engine red enamel finish and brass knobs) spinning Fraser Valley chickens marinated in house brine and roasted in signature rubs that change daily (think Ras el hanout, Za’atar, and Herbes de Provence). The birds will be served whole, halved, or in quarters with drippings and typical country vegetables (pototoes, cauliflower, etc).
Ok, so maybe it’s not that difficult to imagine. Perhaps it’s just hard to wait until the end of June, when the restaurant is scheduled to open. We’ve reported on it before, back in February when the name and concept were still secrets. We had the place listed in our Opening Soon section as “Beasley”. The skinny from back then:
Led by principal Lilliana L. De Cotiis, the team behind Coal Harbour’s Tableau Bar Bistro – executive chef Marc-Andre Choquette, chef Tret Jordan, lead bartender J.S. Dupuis and manager Steven Wright – are opening a second restaurant, this time in Yaletown in the ancient Homer Cafe classic diner location (just across the street from Subeez).
When I say “ancient”, I’m talking in Vancouver years. The Homer Building at Smithe & Homer celebrates its 100th birthday in 2013, which is to say that it’s old enough for a history that stretches back beyond the Homer Cafe, with its famous pair of eggs with sausages and toast for $3.95. Prior to the humble Homer, it was the Stratos Cafe, and before that it was Rose’s Coffee Shop. Before that it was Pauline’s Cafe, and before that it was the Smithe Coffee Bar. Peel the layers back past the 1950?s and you’ll find a Japanese candy store, a cleaners, a grocery, a barber shop, and so on. It was always a community hub of some sort. You can see it in its bones.
Fast forward to the Fall of 2008, when The Homer underwent the knife. The major facelift, retrofit and rebrand was completed in the Fall of 2011 (you might remember the aged facade braced in glossy developer wrap marketing the place as “Yaletown’s last opportunity”). It’s now called The Beasley after former city planner Larry Beasley, and exists as the heritage foot forward and namesake of a brand new neighbouring 33 storey condo tower. To my knowledge, the only facet of the new development that has yet to be completed is the restaurant space, which was leased this past Fall.
The truth of it is that only half the restaurant is in the original Homer Cafe spot, with its bird Lamborghini, old bones, and pressed tin ceiling panels reclaimed from an old church in rural Ontario. The other half is in the freshly constructed Beasley (connected by a short staircase). This half will see a 40 seat lounge sporting a good looking bar with wood paneling salvaged from a 1900 butcher shop in the American Midwest. Up a few steps beyond is an elevated private room with beautiful swing out windows sourced from an old mill, circa 1910. From what I’ve been told, the bar will serve 5 craft beers on tap (plenty more in bottles), plus a wine and cocktail program on the same scale as Tableau. The design is a collaborative effort between Linus Lam, Denise Liu and Craig Stanghetta.
I’m looking forward to this one, and not just because I’m a big fan of Tableau and chefs Choquette and Jordan. I dig all the rooms that have so far been designed by Craig Stanghetta (see Pidgin, Revolver, etc) and love what Denise and Linus do for Vancouver with Artsy Dartsy. The good folks at Glasfurd & Walker (see Meat & Bread, Wildebeest, etc) are pretty well known for only ever working with sure things, and I like the location, especially how it will see a 20 seat covered/heated patio away from the madding crowd. It’s not on Yaletown’s main chain restaurant-crowded thoroughfares (Mainland & Hamilton), and with prices in the $10-$25 range, I know I’ll be getting good bang for that buck. If there is any weakness to the Homer St. Cafe & Bar, I think an argument could be made against the name, which exhibits all the imagination of a chair leg. Alas, what’s in a name when there are 36 spinning birds, slowly browning, rubbed with all manner of deliciousness and dripping, dripping, dripping…wait…what was the question again?