First Look Inside ‘Bells & Whistles’ – Coming To Fraser St. This Summer

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by Andrew Morrison | In early April I wrote a feature about the new restaurant project from the Wildebeest team in the Fraserhood. Due for a summer opening, it’s located at the foot of the new mid-rise at 3296 Fraser Street (northeast corner with E. 17th Avenue). They referred to it then as “a thinking man’s sports bar”. I pictured a neighbourhood hang-out with higher quality food and drink than we typically get from the beer and burger milieu, and I was stoked for it:

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 at Revolver, the golden scissors and cleavers at Pidgin, the endless neon doorway at Clough Club – all Ricky…

When I last spoke to Josh Pape, James Iranzad and Nick Miller about the project they were calling it Glory Days. That, however, has since changed, so I recently caught up with them to find out more…

So I understand your first name for the project – Glory Days – has been axed. What happened there?

Glory Days is a great name and one of a few working titles we’ve had for this project since it was first born in our minds a couple of years ago. When the last Scout piece on the project came out and mentioned that particular name, we learned that despite clearing the name registry and a trademark search, the name was already being used in Vancouver by some artists and DJ’s for ongoing events.

How much of a pain in the ass was that?

Not too bad, really. It got a bit cynical for a minute when a few people online felt we were trying to ‘steal’ the name and ride on the coattails of these artists and the brand they’ve built over the past few years. But we and the group originally using Glory Days met and quickly realized we shared a ton of friends, guests and staff and we’re all good people trying to do positive things in town. There was no need for acrimony and we certainly weren’t interested in having any sort of negativity or conflict surround a project we’re so excited to create and share, so it was an easy decision to leave that name alone. Fortunately for us, our partner Nick would be a gold medalist at naming restaurants and we had other great names to draw from.

So what are you calling it now?

Bells & Whistles.

Nice. Why did you settle on that?

It’s a simple, fun name that’s in line with the ethos of what we’re creating conceptually, with what we and Ricky are designing, and what aesthetically we envisioned for branding. At the end of the day, we’re serving burgers and beers. As much as we’re putting a crazy amount of effort into this project – effort you’ll see and taste – you just can’t take yourself too seriously. Also, we’re really into idioms.

The concept, as you first explained it to me, was a casual, laid-back restaurant where one could watch a hockey game with a craft beer and some proper chicken wings — “a thinking man’s sports bar.” Has that changed at all?

Not at all. It’s going to be a casual, laid-back restaurant where people can relax with friends, waste away an afternoon on the patio or in the arcade, watch a game at the bar, or hide away in a booth. It’s as easy as it gets to be a guest in there, and it’s big enough to let you write your own different stories with each visit.

What inspired the concept?

As with all of our restaurants, it’s a place that we wanted to go to, not to mention a void that needed to be filled. This neighbourhood could use a spot people can pop into a couple of times a week to eat some very tasty casual food made with the integrity and quality of ingredients we pride ourselves on using, crush a couple of excellent beers or glasses of wine, and maybe trash talk their friends while shooting hoops in the games room.

How many TVs are there going to be?

Two, but they’re really something.

You guys must have a dish or two that you’re especially excited about. What can you tell us about the menu?

Well, many of them are going through development now and we’ll feel comfortable sharing them once they’re perfected, but needless to say some creative and delicious things happen when some seriously pedigreed chefs with great resources get busy making casual food. Obviously everyone loves a good burger and we’ll have a variety for everyone, burgers that strive for greatness. The soft serve machine and recipe should also make for some of the tastiest in town and it’s as rich and silky as we have ever had!

I understand you’re going to have a nice-sized patio on the sidewalk. How many seats is it?

Our exact number hasn’t been determined yet by the various bureaucracies who’ll be weighing in but it’ll be a generous, heated patio flanking both the south and west sides of the restaurant, catching the sun all day long.

What kind of beer can we expect to find pouring from your taps on opening day?

Over the years we’ve built some strong relationships within the local beer community and this project is a really a culmination of what we’ve been doing at Wildebeest for years, albeit on a much larger scale. That being said, when it came time to decide on the number of taps for the new project, we unanimously decided on the less-is-more approach and we’ve capped ourselves at twenty. Of that, you can expect to see around 12-14 beers from local breweries, 4-6 beers from our favourite importers, and 2-3 craft ciders on draught at any given time. Ultimately, we’re trying to offer the best products available and we feel strongly that great beer needs to be consumed while it’s still fresh, and for that there’s nothing quite like a freshly tapped keg. Unlike Wildebeest, we won’t carry an extensive bottle list, but you can probably expect to find a secret bottle or two hidden behind the bar for our more discerning guests – you’ll only have to ask! We’ve also been very fortunate to team up with the good folks over at Four Winds in Delta and we’ll be brewing an exclusive collaboration beer for Bells & Whistles in time for our grand opening this summer.

Can you be more specific as to when you think you’ll serve your first customers?

Ahh…excellent question! Who knows? We’re working hard but too many aspects of constructing a restaurant in a new building are out of our hands for us to offer up a date yet. We’ll see you there this summer.

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