What happens to people when they leave Vancouver? Do they wander and wane, wither and perish? Not typically. We don’t want to cause a stampede out of this city few can afford, but it turns out that many who leave it do just fine elsewhere. This series will revisit some who have jumped ship for supposedly greener pastures, not only to register our displeasure at their departure but also to plead for their return.
Like many of us, Evelyn Chick came up through the chain restaurants. She climbed the ranks by making some bold moves, going from late nights on the Granville strip to well established places like Blue Water Cafe and Uva. She always had the sass and the speed, but after managing the bar at Blue Water I think she really came into her own. A touch of refinement came from working in such a polished restaurant; it was the difference maker, signalling when Evelyn started making noise around Vancouver, especially in cocktail competitions.
Too bad she decided to go and test the waters in the Toronto bar scene a couple of years ago. The first bar she tended was the Harbord Room (now closed), then taking on a position at Bar Raval. Evelyn won the global Beefeater cocktail competition shortly thereafter, beating finalists from 31 countries! We all hear about cocktail competitions these days (perhaps a little too much), but to actually go on and win a global competition is a big deal, especially when you’re from a relatively small market like Canada. In any event, we miss her, so we caught up to see how things are going for her in Toronto…
Why the hell would you leave Vancouver for Toronto? Do you like the Raptors that much? Oh, man. The rain; just couldn’t do it anymore! Plus, I go where the hot, bearded, tattooed men go; Toronto just has a higher concentration of such species.
I hear you’ve won a cocktail competition or two since the move. Do tell! Haha. Just the one! I am honoured and fortunate enough to have won the global title for Beefeater Gin MIXLDN cocktail competition in 2016… gin has always been my spirit of choice, so that competition was close to my heart. I’ve spent the last year travelling to various countries with Beefeater Gin talking about the spirit, bartending, hospitality and Canadian cocktail culture. It’s pretty bizarre. Coincidentally, my first ever cocktail competition I had entered in 2010/2011 ( can’t remember exactly) was sponsored by Beefeater Gin, and I was real sh*t back then. Guess everything comes full circle! (Oh, and hard work pays off.)
What do you miss the most about Vancouver? Sushi. And the mountains. And beaches. And the summers. Mom. And my friends. Gosh darn it, Shaun!
What don’t you miss? The rain and the early nights!
How was it working at Bar Raval? An incredible experience. For a restaurant that is open for 18 hours of service a day, it is a beast on its own. I’ve learned so much through working with like-minded people who just crush service day in day out. It’s hard work: smiles, charm, endurance and lots of soigné-ety, if you will. The people both FOH and BOH never cease to inspire and amaze.
Favourite Wu-Tang clan song? Oooh … that’s a tough one. More GZA than anything but it’s gotta be between ‘Liquid Swords’ or ‘Protect Ya Neck’.
You recently opened a new spot called Pretty Ugly. It’s a play on words, I hope. Tell us about it. YES WE DID! Sitting Pretty, Getting Ugly. PrettyUgly is a cocktail bar on Queen West offering carefully curated classics with a focus on Mezcal and low octane house cocktails. To get to the ‘Ugly’ – a raw, rustic, industrial, sexy and rugged looking cocktail bar (not ugly at all) – you have to walk through the ‘Pretty’, which is our tiny Mezcal Bar and tasting room. It is a little oasis of Mezcal, hand woven Oaxaca rugs and trinkets, with a super knowledgable and friendly bartender who will walk you through a few flights and perhaps sway you into having a few or more Mezcal cocktails. Some people don’t even make it past Pretty!
At the back, you can expect an intimate cocktail experience early in the evening, then the room bursts with high volume energy late at night as it fills with industry regulars and good vibes. We have a luminous bulkhead where we we hide all our wild foraged goods macerated in boozy infusions, liqueurs and tinctures. We build, shake and stir with blocked ice, allowing us to keep things simple in terms of recipes, since the texture is already more interesting and complex. I cannot say this enough.. I LOVE THIS FREAKING BAR. I know, it’s my job; it’s my bar to run and I’m here all the time, but I cannot wait to come in to work everyday. There’s really something for everyone, the price point is very reasonable. Also, cheapest pint of Guinness in the entire city: $8 tax in.
Any words of advice for Vancouver bartenders who want to move east? Do your homework. Toronto is an amazing city filled with a lot of incredible people. If you reach out, these people will provide you with the tools you need to grow and succeed. It is also busy and fast, so don’t wait! Catch those opportunities when they come to you or they will slip away. Be open, be nice. Pay your dues and your hard work will get recognized!
The one bite in Vancouver that still haunts you? Blue Water Cafe’s Tsunami, so good it doesn’t even make sense.
Where would you be slinging if you were still in Vancouver? Botanist at Pac Rim, just so I can bar back and help comb Grant Sceney’s hair every half hour.
Do you miss Granville Street? I miss the Roxy Burger.
The big lesson learned behind the bar since being in Toronto? Be nice, be gracious (as you always should be) even with testing guests. If you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask. Most likely your guest knows better than you do.
That ingredient you wish you had from BC in your new bar? Odd Society & Okanagan Spirits — they both do great work!
Favourite other Vancouver expat who deserted us for Toronto? Oooh…..damn. Gotta be David Greig, he’s just so handsome, creepy high school photo attached.
Name three things you LOVE about Toronto. Style. I’m not talking fashion, but just the realness, grittiness of Toronto. The stunning, amazing, driven, successful women in this city! The food & drinks scene. But seriously.
Name three things you HATE about Toronto? The cold. TTC (it’s just sad). Did I mention the cold?
Favourite Toronto neighbourhood? Trinity Bellwoods, Parkdale.
Favourite cocktail at the new digs? Ahh, so many! Most ordered right now though: ‘Whatsup With That?!’ Siete Misters Doba-Yej, Dry Vermouth, Sounds Good (house cucumber pine cordial), Fir Real (house balsam fir liqueur), Lime, Pine Salt.
What do you miss more, good sushi or ramen? Sushi, hands down.
Favourite bar in the world? American Bar at the Savoy, London.
Two Vancouver restaurants you would transport to Toronto? Blue Water Cafe, Vij’s.
Two restaurants Vancouver needs from Toronto? Bar Isabel, Alo.
Blue Jays or Leafs? Green Bay Packers.
Instagram or Twitter? I forgot my twitter password.
Where do you go after work and what you are drinking? If I ever get an early night…Civil Liberties for a Trident. Or LoPan for Rosé and wontons. Never underestimate the power of late night wontons…
Who would you trade in a blockbuster deal that would bolster your team at Pretty Ugly? (Interesting/fantasy trades welcome.) Wouldn’t trade my team for the world. Although, I would trade anyone for Bill Murray.
Can you make us a drink from Pretty Ugly? ‘Lew Drank It All’.
1.25 oz Siete Mistereos Doba Yej
0.75 oz Los Altos Plata
0.75 oz Guerra Dry Vermouth
0.33 oz Pineapple Infused Yellow Chartreuse
4 drops Bittered Sling Grapefruit & Hops bitters
Stir on Bricked ice, Garnish with Grapefruit Twist
Photo of Bar and drink by Rick O’Brien | Photos of Evelyn behind bar by CJ Baek.