by Andrew Morrison | Josh Pape and James Iranzad – the duo behind Bufala, Wildebeest and Lucky Taco – are working on a new restaurant together, this time with long-time operations manager Nick Miller. They’ve just taken possession of the main floor of a brand new building in the Fraserhood – a modern mid-rise still under construction at 3296 Fraser Street (northeast corner with E. 17th Avenue). They’ve been developing the casual concept for well over a year now, toying with an idea that should midwife a rare bird of sorts: a thinking person’s sports bar.
To understand what that is it’s likely easiest to first understand what it is not. There will be no framed jerseys on the walls. Budweiser lights won’t go nuts every time someone scores a goal. Flat screen televisions won’t be numbered in the dozens. Shitty beer won’t rule the taps. The food won’t border on the amusingly bad. And the design won’t suffer the tediously typical social kitchen restobar affronts Vancouverites have come to expect from the milieu. I see it as the contrarian, soft-spoken twin of every sports bar I’ve ever been in.
I see it thus because I know James and Josh (above) as the unrepentant sports fans they truly are. Whether they admit it or not, this project isn’t about anybody other than themselves and what they want while watching sports. It is the most transparently selfish act of restaurateuring I’ve seen since Uwe Boll announced plans for Bauhaus because nobody made the German food he liked. I know this because I’ve watched them log the hours over the years, really putting in the time enduring everything from wild Canucks playoff runs to World Cup nail-biters.
Glory Days – as the upcoming new restaurant is called – is a fine idea, and not just because most people enjoy sports more than German food. It’s something the neighbourhood could really use. There are bakeries, pho shops, ice cream parlours, jerky joints, vegetarian restaurants, pizzerias, taquerias, slick cafes, even a highbrow award-winner or two, but no place (that I can think of) to drink craft beer, eat good food and kick back to watch the big game on the big screen in a big room full of the equally riveted.
Wildebeest executive chef Alessandro Vianello is designing the menu. I won’t detail the draft I’ve seen except to say that everything on it will be analyzed through the lenses of Josh and James’ personal prisms of past sports bar experiences. And that’s a good thing. As I’ve indicated above, they’re doing this for themselves more than they’re doing it for anyone else. They don’t just want a good burger. They want a great burger. Likewise chicken wings, garlic fries, hot dogs, soft serve ice cream, and so on.
It’s a nice-sized space at 2,888 sqft, and the design aims to get 122 seats out of it. A 28 seat patio will wrap around the corner sidewalk and the frontage is all floor to ceiling windows, so expect light and sun. The interior build is being done by Milltown Contracting, with aesthetics up to Ricky Alvarez of Tinto Creative. Ricky is a long-time muse of award-winning restaurant designer Craig Stanghetta. The world maps (in nails) at Revolver, the golden scissors and cleavers at Pidgin, the endless neon doorway at Clough Club – all Ricky. I’m excited to see what he comes up with for Glory Days. I trust it’ll be different, and therefore cool.
“We want it to be a casual, comfortable, come-as-you-are, neighbourhood sort of place,” Josh explained to me earlier this week (between college basketball quarters). “We care a lot about sports but we’re not going to beat you over the head with it.” To wit, their plan is for two really big TVs anchored by a 16 seat, horseshoe-shaped bar serving beer from 16 taps (plus 3 cocktails on tap). To amp up the fun-factor the room will also offer guests the opportunity to play free-throw basketball, skeeball and foosball. It sounds like it’ll be a good time even in the dog days when there are no big games on.
Nick Miller is doing the branding, just as he did at Lucky Taco. I’m not sure if the script stuff I’ve seen (example above) is locked or not, but it gives you an idea of the attitude they’re striking. If everything goes according to plan they expect doors to open this summer. Service will kick off at lunch and they’ll run the same menu until late. We’ll have more on the project as it develops.