Today we can finally talk about Como Taperia, the new concept from industry veterans Shaun Layton, Frankie Harrington and Justin Witcher. Opening at 209 East 7th Avenue (off Main Street at the top of The Hill) in Mount Pleasant, the Spanish restaurant and bar has been in the works for well over a year. Expect it to launch this Fall.
I first spoke to Layton about Como (from the Spanish: “Come again?”) in early 2017. He and Harrington didn’t have a location locked in at that point and were holding out hope that something good would come up somewhere on or around Main Street. We met up again in October (at Bells and Whistles on its first day of business) after they had secured the address and just as they were planning one of several research trips to Spain. (This was in the midst of Catalonia’s most recent secessionist spasms in the wake of the region’s independence referendum. They had an eye-opening time, as you can probably well imagine.)
Como is a passion project for Harrington, who has – as the co-founder of Meat & Bread – already been down the restaurateur road. Layton, one of Vancouver’s most respected and celebrated bartenders (and, full disclosure, a longtime Scout contributor), is equally passionate about the many degrees of Spanish deliciousness (witness the elaborate Gin and Tonic program he built for Chinatown’s Juniper, not to mention his Field Trip stories and gin pieces for Scout), but this is his first foray into ownership. It’s an overdue big deal for the 2010 Bartender of the Year. I’ll be shocked if he ever calls in sick. I didn’t know of Witcher’s involvement at the time, as he was still salaried elsewhere (as noted below).
Como will occupy some 1,549 sqft and include some 60 seats under 16-18 ft. ceilings. The space is located on the ground floor of the new, still-unfinished Ellsworth Building, which contains 89 strata units that probably sold out in three seconds. That puts it right next to the Mount Pleasant Community Centre at 7th and Main, or kitty corner to the old Foundation (now the recently opened Rumpus Room).
I can’t think of a location better suited to the concept and the people behind it. As mentioned up top, Layton and Harrington had been looking around the neighbourhood for a very long time; this just goes to show that good things happen to those who wait. (Speaking of good things and waiting, they’re aiming to add a sidewalk patio by Spring, 2019.)
They expect to get the keys at the end of the month, at which point the interior job by Ste. Marie Art + Design will begin. The branding/identity pros at Glasfurd & Walker are already deep into the work, producing images that have already been given nods of assent by ownership (and they look cool AF — see above and below).
The two design firms are often hand in glove, having collaborated on many restaurant projects over the years, like St. Lawrence, Kissa Tanto, Pidgin and Savio Volpe (to name just a few), so I don’t think it’s unfair to assume it will look and feel pretty damn good.
Since Layton is doing the bar program, it would also be fair to anticipate a superb drinks list, with Spanish beverages leading the way; everything from G/Ts and cava to sherry, Basque cider and Tempranillo. And given Como’s Brewery Creek location (it’s a mere stumble from both Brassneck and Main Street Brewing), I trust we’ll see some local beers being pulled, too.
Chef Justin Witcher is back in Vancouver after a turn at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, where he launched the Bedwell Bistro. Previously, he cut his teeth in Australia at The Richardson in Perth before laddering up to chef de cuisine for the Atlantic Group in Melbourne. If I’m not mistaken, the last time he worked the line herabouts was as the senior chef de partie at the Wedgewood. He was introduced to Harrington and Layton by a mutual friend who knew of Witcher’s love of Spain and Spanish cuisine. This is also his first time with skin in the game.
Here’s an excerpt from the first round of PR that should be going out at some point this week:
The space, designed by Craig Stanghetta of Ste. Marie Art + Design—who downed many a croquetta and glass of sherry with us in Barcelona—finds its heart in an elongated bar featuring custom-made tapas cases direct from Spain filled with baquerones, gildas, stuffed olives, Russian salad, conservas, and more. Glasfurd & Walker rounds out the team having jumped on board to translate our vision into our branding. Early menu teasers include tortilla espanola made to
Early menu teasers include tortilla espanola made to order, bikini sandwiches, hearty chickpea stews, hamburguesas, and Galician style octopus. These dishes take their time-honoured place on our menu, alongside a surprise here and there that dances a cheeky line between traditional and modern. We fully believe in paying homage to the classics, but, come on…who doesn’t love a sense of playfulness?
Witcher joined Harrington and Layton on their most recent R&D trip, which put them in Madrid for the most part. Previously, they’d eaten their way around Catalonia (with Ste. Marie principal Craig Stanghetta), and from what I understand the food at Como will draw inspiration from both Madrid and Barcelona. They’ve already imported tapas display cases from Spain (currently installed in Harrington’s garage), and are designing their open kitchen to suit Witcher’s vision for the menus, which will run from 4pm until late (with a Happy Hour) seven days a week.
Naturally, we’ll have a lot more on Como as the project develops over time.