Fans of Hastings-Sunrise’s popular Red Wagon diner will be glad to learn that its chef/proprietor, Brad Miller, is opening a very cozy, casual, cheap and cheerful French bistro tonight, and not all that far away.
Bistro Wagon Rouge, as it’s cleverly called, is located at 1869 Powell Street in the old Dockers Diner spot at the foot of Victoria Drive. Miller took possession of the space at the start of the summer and has since transformed it while maintaining much of the original (chequered floor, banquettes converted from booths, old photographs, et cetera).
He’s added in a lovely zinc bar that runs the length of the space, as well as a great shelving unit, both of which look like they’ve been there since the end of the Third Republic. The look and feel was achieved with the help of restaurateur/friend Stephane Gagnon of Les Faux Bourgeois fame and a UBC architecture student named Pamela Troyer, who also moonlights as a server at Jules Bistro).
As far as food concerned, we can expect a lot of bistro greatest hits out of the gate. “We’re going to start conservatively,” Miller says. “and then get a little more eclectic as we move forward.” As it stands now, the menu sees items like frisee with lardons, french onion soup, escargot, steak tartar, pate plates, beef bourguignon, steak frites, cassoulet, moules, and the like, which is to say that if you don’t have an appetite going in, you can trust that the intoxicating smells of these dishes will sort you out on the double. The drink options are good and French. The wine list is short and sweet, and the cocktails, aperitifs, and beers sing a jazzy version of Le Marseillaise.
It’s easy to forget – what with the success of his casual diner serving reubens and burgers – that Miller worked at Bistro Pastis, Au Petit Chavignol, and West before striking out on his own. He’s been punching well beneath his weight class at The Red Wagon, and while I don’t expect him to get befuddled by cassoulet and terrines, I do imagine that he’s stoked to be back in the very familiar milieu. Such familiarity usually translates well on the plate, and subsequently to the customer, who will no doubt be pleased by the affordable prices (in the $8-$18 range).
Though Miller served a soft opening for friends and family last week, tonight is D-Day for the public. Bistro Wagon Rouge doesn’t accept reservations. The opening hours are 5-10pm, Tuesday through Saturday. Expect lunch service to begin before Christmas.
Update: original story has been edited to correct some atrocious spelling.