Helsinki Eatery Takes The Bullet Holes Out Of Dixie’s On E. Hastings

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Restaurant Porn is a regular column of daydreams presented as a means to introduce Vancouver diners and designers to concepts, looks, and fully-formed ideas that they might draw an inkling of inspiration from. We do our best to pair the foreign rooms with local addresses so as to let everyone in on the daydream.

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by Andrew Morrison | It didn’t take long to find Helsinki’s Ox Restaurant on the internet. I didn’t know it existed until this morning, but I had actually seen it in a vision several days ago.

I’d been at Dixie’s on East Hastings eating fried chicken and pulled pork with one of my sons when he suddenly asked, “Dad, are those bullet holes in the walls?” He pointed to the wall facing the bar, singling out a panel that appeared to be blown to near smithereens with a flurry of slugs and buckshot.

“They sure are, son. When they were building the place last year they took those sheets of corrugated metal out to the bush and shot ’em up good and plenty,” I replied. He ate a tater tot and thought for a while, bewildered. “But what for?” he asked.

“Well, the restaurant has a Texan theme to it, and they like guns in Texas, so…”

This seemed to settle him for a few more bites. I could tell he was stewing though, and the silence didn’t last long. “Is it art?” he finally asked.

Ah. Now we were getting somewhere.

So we talked about art and design as pieces of a whole and how they were not only meant to beautify and add aesthetic substance to a space but also how they were instruments of conveyance, adding attitude and helping to define – for the customer – what the restaurant was all about. He was satisfied with that and left the subject alone (the fried chicken is nothing if not distracting) but in my head I went down a rabbit hole.

The choice of corrugated metal walls was a clever one. It’s uncommon, which is seldom a bad thing, but more importantly it says a lot about the restaurant, especially when it has some patina to it (eg. rust, bullet holes). It says that the restaurant is an irreverent, slapdash affair and if you think you’re going to be fawned over like God’s gift to restaurant customers, well…they shoot things here, so have a drink.

Take a look…

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I mean, as a device, it’s very effective stuff.

But, I thought, was corrugated metal so one dimensional that it could only function as a means of telling guests that they’d just arrived in Hazard County? I kept wondering this at Dixie’s and tried my hardest to remember any previous time I’d eaten in a restaurant walled with the material in its pristine state, all shiny and bereft of ammo and abuse. Cardero’s? No. They have corrugated metal walls, but only (if memory serves) on the outside. Save for some meals half remembered in makeshift shelters and barrel rooms on farms and at wineries, I was drawing a total blank.

And so, as I usually do in defeat, I retreated into make-believe and tried to imagine a more refined eatery that employed the corrugated metal in a less obvious, dog-whistling way. I envisioned the likes of La Quercia, Wildebeest, Cinara (among others) given the treatment, but it was through too much of a fog for me to know if it would work. (You try to imagine Wildebeest with different walls!)

The hazy thoughts and vague visions lingered until this morning when I searched around the internet and found Finland’s good-looking Ox, the interior of which was dreamed up by local designer Joanna Laajisto.

As you can see from the shots above and below, it may be bright, clean and sophisticated with preset stemware and candles, but the walls still instantly convey a casual feel. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it chic, it’s still pretty slick; at the very least proof that corrugated metal interior walls don’t lose their rustic, down-home communicative appeal if they retain their original lustre.

Since the point of this column is to always succumb to fantasy and desire, I’ll gladly take something very similar in looks to Ox here in Vancouver, ideally somewhere with an industrial past (eg. Yaletown, Railtown, Olympic Village). And if the theme was high-falutin’ Kansas City-style BBQ, all the better; I would be first in line to soak up the contrasts (and all that sauce). Take a closer look…

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Photography is by Mikko Ryhänen.

There is 1 comment

  1. I’ll be sure to nail up some LuLus on the wall of the Vancouver-themed restaurant I plan on opening (ya know, because ya’ll like yoga so darn much, get it?!). It, too, will be a misinformed, almost offensive, definitely cringe-inducing parody of itself, that focuses more on the “art” on the walls than on the food it serves up. If it works for Dixie’s, it should work for my place. Lord knows how authentic I found their brisket to be. But who cares about food when it was almost like being home, amongst the bullet-riddled corrugated metal. After all, it is the only material we rednecked, gun-toting, Trump-loving Texans use!

    Thanks for boiling down a culture to a sentence about how the most important thing they value is violent weapons and telling it to a child. That won’t help propagate idiotic stereotypes about other people they’ve never met.

    Oh, Andrew. Bless your heart. If you toss out a sentence like that so offhandedly, I worry about other cultures you’re appraising. I hope you actually had a more enlightened conversation with him that you just didn’t print.

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