by Michelle Sproule | The main objective of this website is to scout out and promote the things that make Vancouver such a sweet place to be. We do this with an emphasis on the city’s independent spirit to foster a sense of connectedness within and between our communities, and to introduce our readers to the people who grow and cook our food, play the raddest tunes in our better venues, create our most interesting art, and design everything from what we wear to the spaces we inhabit. The Scout List is our carefully considered, first rate agenda of super awesome things that we’re either doing, wishing that we could do, or conspiring to do this week. You can also check it out in the Globe & Mail, from our calendar to theirs…and yours!
TASTE | Vancouver’s newest (and possibly coolest) wine event goes down this week. Co-founded by wine consultant Kurtis Kolt and Jeff Curry of The Wine Syndicate, Top Drop “looks to shine a brighter light on wineries who focus on producing wines with minimal intervention, paying particular attention to expressing an honest sense of time and place in the glass, the epitome of the term terroir.” The main event – a walk-around grazing-style tasting of wines from 24 wineries as well as pours from like-minded craft breweries and perfectly paired bites from food purveyors such as Curious Oyster, Les Amis du Fromage, Moccia & Urbani Salumeria, Terra Breads – takes place at Heritage Hall Tuesday night and tickets are going fast. Visit www.topdropvancouver.com for more details, but do it quickly!
Tue, Sept 16 | Heritage Hall (3102 Main St) | $49 | DETAILS
DESIGN | There are scores of design-centric events happening throughout the city this week. From VDW: “Vancouver Design Week will turn the city into a petri dish of design process, practice, and perspectives; through a wide range of independent and collaborative programming.” Expect everything from parties to pop-ups, talks and tours, exhibits and workshops. We’re particularly interested to check out P4A (Party For Architects) at Vancouver Special (3612 Main St) on Tuesday night; “Future Livability: Boast or Bust? Can Metro Vancouver Maintain its ‘Livability Credibility’ for the Next 30 Years?” – a lecture at SFU on Wednesday night; and “Why I Design: 30+ Designers Talk With You About What They Do” at The Museum of Vancouver on Friday night.
Sept. 15 – 28 | Various locations, times and prices | DETAILS
MEDIA ARTS | New Forms Festival is on. This is the 14th year for a media arts festival that explores the convergence of music, media, performance and electronic art. Expect installations, talks and screenings as well as audio-visual performances in the Omnimax Theatre and electronic music artists pretty much everywhere.
Sept. 18-21 | Science World, Western Front, Creekside Park | $35 for 3 days | DETAILS
READ | Outfit yourself with a solid assortment of Autumn reads at the Friends of The Vancouver Public Library book sale this weekend. Thousands of discarded and gently used books go on sale starting Thursday – all of them going for less than $2.50 each. The special thing about this sale is that there will be a over 800 comic books in the mix. Pro tip: Saturday sees all books and comics half price.
Thu, Sept 18 – Sat, Sept 20 | 10am–5pm | VPL | 350 Georgia St | Free | DETAILS
COLOURS OF THE COAST | 30 artists from the IDEA (Illustration and Design) program at Capilano University Capilano University have been busy painting their impressions of Vancouver. The resulting body of work is impressive in style, talent and breadth – but don’t take our word for it, have a gander here. For an even better look at what young talent in the city is producing, head to Harbour Centre on Friday night where all original works will be on display against the 360 degree backdrop of the city in the Vancouver Lookout space. Expect live painting demonstrations, refreshments, art work, and lots of inspiration.
Fri, Sept 19 | 5-9pm | Vancouver Lookout (555 W Hastings) | Free | DETAILS
ARCHITECTURE PORN | The Vancouver Heritage Foundation is holding it’s annual Midcentury Modern Residential House Tour this weekend. Participants get to tour the interiors of 5 ‘significant’ West Coast Regional Style Modernist homes in Vancouver. Architecture wonks will appreciate that this year’s tour includes homes by architects including Ned Pratt and Barry Downs, and a Duncan McNab home with landscaping by Cornelia Hahn Oberlander. There will be a post-tour reception at Vancouver Maritime Museum where participants will be invited to listen to Professor Sherry McKay talk about the history of Modernism in Vancouver over refreshments. A little bit of post-and-beam appreciation, a little bit of wine and cheese – sounds like an exceedingly civilized Saturday!
Sat, Sept 20 | 1-5pm | Various locations | $85 | DETAILS
SECRET SUPPER | The Swallow Tail Secret Supper Club is holding one of their quick-to-sell-out dinners this weekend. This time around they’re joining forces with Ignacio Arrieta of La Mezcalaria to host a dinner in support of artist Angela Fama. Fama is a local photographer who is raising funds to help her realize a project (“Wabisabi Butterfly/What is Love?“) that will see her take a pop-up Boler photo studio across North America to capture micro-expressions that appear when the subject is asked about the word love. Short story: you buy a seat at a fancy Mexican dinner (in a garden if it’s sunny and in a wine cellar should there be rain) with proceeds going to fund an amazing art project.
Sat, Sept 20 | 5:30pm/8pm seatings | Location revealed @ ticket purchase | $79 | DETAILS
ICONS | Time for some Fall duds! If you’re in the market for something a little less mainstream think about taking a pocket of cash to the magical subterranean caverns of the Biltmore Cabaret this Sunday because the Icons Vintage Market is back! Swoop in and score retro clothing, flea-market finds, fancy antiques, accessories, shoes, jewellery, records, cool household items, cameras, and all manner of other curious trinkets. This is a cabaret, so the bar will be open and you have to be 19+ to enter. Shoppin’, drinkin’, and dancin’ encouraged!
Sun, Sept 21 | 11 am–5 pm | Biltmore Cabaret (2755 Prince Edward) | DETAILS
CREATE | School is still out and weather has been summery, but something in our bones tells us September is a time for settling in to do some good ol’ fashioned learning. If you’ve got that feeling but don’t have the funds or time to enrol in full-on studies, think about taking part in a one day class at Hot Art Wet City gallery. Local artist Rachael Ashe is leading an Altered Book workshop that will school you on how to transform old books into one-of-a-kind pieces of art. Not only will you walk away inspired, but you’ll also leave with one project underway and you’ll be armed with an understanding of techniques and skills necessary to keep on going. There are only ten spots available, so snap one up here mighty fast.
Sat, Sept 20 | 12:30-4:30 pm | Hot Art Wet City Gallery (2206 Main St) | $90 | DETAILS
HIKE | Fall is a perfect time for hiking in Vancouver. Temperatures are accommodating, crowds thin out and the colours, smells and sounds of the changing seasons are captivating. Take the low road out to Lighthouse Park (doable by car, bike or bus) and wander the trails for a few hours. There is nothing quite as restorative and grounding as time out to appreciate nature. Breathe deep, smell the turning leaves, pine needles, and salt air. When you’re done, hit up Savary Island Pie Co. (1533 Marine Dr, West Van) for a piece of pumpkin pie and a latte.
Any time | Free | DETAILS
MODERN DAY NOMADS | Lloyd Khan is an author, photographer and small and hand-built home enthusiast with a passion for unique homes and structures. Khan is in town from Marin County, California next week to promote his latest book Tiny Homes On The Move. He’ll be at the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library on Monday night to present a slideshow of images of people “living and travelling in boats, trailers, pick-up trucks, vans and buses adapted with ingenious and often beautifully designed quarters.” Not only is the topic of creative housing alternative apropos to our city, but Khan strikes us as the kind of guy capable of filling an hour and a half easily. This is guaranteed to be a mind-expanding and inspiring evening, so don’t miss out.
Mon, Sept 22 | 7pm | VPL Central Branch – VPL (350 W. Georgia) | Free | DETAILS
Michelle Sproule grew up in Kitsilano and attended University in Australia and the University of Victoria before receiving her graduate degree in Library Sciences from The University of Toronto. She lives in beautiful Strathcona and enjoys wandering aimlessly through the city’s streets with her best friend – a beat up, sticky, grimy (but faithful) camera.
The Vancouver Lexicon – our A-Z dictionary of local slang, myths, legends, and such – might appear to be complete, but we mean to keep adding to it every week. Today we aim to highlight six more localisms that everyone in British Columbia should know about. They are Mish, Gene Pool, Puddle Vision, Table 111, Bedroom City, and ScanBC.
by Andrew Morrison | Rachel Chen, who owns the little Perks cafe at 39 East Pender in Chinatown, has agreed to take over the Ovaltine Cafe at 291 East Hastings from the current owner, an old family friend.
The Ovaltine, as you’re very likely aware, is one of the most iconic diners in the city. It has stood as a beacon of continuity on the Downtown Eastside since 1942. Conversations about the eatery these days seldom dwell on its grilled cheese sandwiches and hot coffee, focusing instead on either the lasting beauty of its facade (with its competing horizontal and vertical neon signs) or the likelihood of it being able to stick around much longer in this new age of greed/opportunity on the DTES.
The neighbourhood is for sale, it seems, and as we’ve seen especially of late, preservation is evidently not Vancouver’s official strong suit. Worry that the Ovaltine might be demolished to make way for cheesy condominiums or be replaced with a new restaurant that was somehow inappropriate for the area (say, a foie gras and leather bar) has been in the back and fore of many local heads. In Scout’s irreverent dictionary, the Vancouver Lexicon, the cafe’s own entry offers the following as its usage in speech: “I’m taking bets on how long the Ovaltine will last…”. The angst continued in a recent Vancouver Courier article:
[Local historian John] Atkin worries about the Ovaltine’s chances for survival with scant customers and low-priced fare. Diminished evening hours mean customers no longer see neon reflected down the long counter, but he doesn’t want the cafe “hipsterized” and serving craft beer.
Invoking the dreaded hipster/craft beer nexus is merely another way of employing the G-Word without actually saying it. Gentrification cometh, but in the case of the Ovaltine, it looks like Atkin needn’t worry too much. Rachel and her mother Grace aren’t going to be doing much to the place except give it a good clean, a lick of paint, and a menu makeover that might make it busy again.
It certainly deserves the love. The place has been through the ringer in recent years. And when it hasn’t been serving its regulars – some of whom can measure their patronage in decades – it’s been starring in countless TV shows and even a blockbuster or two. The building itself – a four-storey Edwardian Italian Renaissance Revival pile housing the Afton Hotel – was put together some 102 years ago. The cafe may have given the property a quaint Rockwellian coffee counter, varnished wood panelling, worn cloisters, and smoky mirrors, but the address kept other restaurants before it, not to mention a tailor’s shop, government offices, apartments, even a postal substation. It’s definitely got as much history as it does personality.
And so does Grace, who is something of a legend on the DTES. She used to own the diner at Save On Meats. She took it over in 1999, long before it was reimagined by restaurateur Mark Brand in 2011. Grace gave Rachel her start in the business when she was 11. The youngster would pull shifts after school and on the weekends, both serving and cooking; enduring Welfare Wednesday rushes with her mom and grandmother by the time she was 15.
Needless to say, Rachel and Grace will be drawing on their Save On Meats experiences and repertoire for the Ovaltine Cafe’s new menu, offering up things like root beer pulled pork, fully loaded 1/2 lb bacon cheeseburgers, and fish and chips using the old recipe from The Only Seafood, which still lies beautifully dormant a couple blocks east (the last owner is a friend of the family, too). I asked Rachel what such a burger with all the fixings might cost, and she quoted me $7 with fries, which is about as much a Big Mac meal goes for these days.
Oh, and did you know that the Ovaltine Cafe was sitting on a full liquor license? True story. And Rachel aims to take advantage of it. Will we see them selling local craft beer? Most probably. Will there be hipsters in attendance? It’s guaranteed. But neither of those apparent detriments should prove obstacles enough to dampen what Atkin was hoping for in the broader scheme of things. From the same Courier piece:
Atkin hopes the Downtown Eastside will morph into a neighbourhood that includes healthy businesses, old and new, alongside affordable housing, service organizations, artists and cultural venues. “If this neighbourhood continues to evolve and returns to what it was in 1978, that’s the perfect balance because you had the hotels serving a certain type of clientele — now you’ve got a ton of social housing here — but you had vibrant and viable retail and you had a slight edge to the neighbourhood,” he said.
I’m glad to see that The Ovaltine will remain, craft beer or no craft beer, and regardless of the maintenance of the neighbourhood’s “slight edge”. That it will continue on much as it had before with new, proven owners (who are very familiar with what area residents view as value for dollar) is a great development.
As far as a timeline is concerned, the Chens take possession of the space early next week. The current cooking regime will be maintained as things get organised, adjusted, and primed (a few days), and then they will briefly shut it down for cleaning, painting, and reopening. The plan is to launch before September is through – same decor, same signage, same name – refreshed and ready, one hopes, for another 72 years. Long live the Ovaltine!
by Stevie Wilson | The story of Vancouver is one of continuous development, and despite our city’s relatively short history it nonetheless features more than few unusual, unexpected, and straight-up odd chapters.
One fascinating example of what could have been is Project 200, an ominous-sounding urban plan from the 1960s that sought to wipe out much of the waterfront in present-day Gastown to make way for a re-imagined pedestrian plaza and, of course, a massive freeway.
Following WWII, many cities across the world began planning their reconstruction and rehabilitation with an optimistic eye towards the future. Despite not having endured the catastrophic physical destruction that took place in most European cities, Vancouver (and indeed Canada as a whole) was still very much in the throes of post-war redevelopment thought.
The aforementioned eight-lane freeway was one of numerous infrastructure proposals in the late 1950s intended to stimulate business and expedite traffic through the downtown area via large Autobahn-like trenches. The Georgia Viaduct – through the destruction of Hogan’s Alley – was built as part of this larger vision.
Freeway planning in Vancouver was nothing new; the 1928 Bartholomew Plan had also envisioned widening and expanding vehicle access to the downtown core. Project 200 – named for its initial $200-million price tag – was to span from the CPR Pier (near present-day Canada Place), across the waterfront to approximately Abbott St. and up towards Dunsmuir. The introduction to the proposal eloquently explains:
The citizens of Vancouver have long had a great love for their harbour and a desire to be at the water’s edge and part of the busy scene. The realization of this desire and at the same time the redevelopment and revitalization of the downtown business and retail centres is the challenge of Project 200.
Canadian Pacific Railway, department store giants Woodward’s and Simpsons-Sears, Marathon Realty, and Grosvenor-Laing Investments all championed the large blueprint, which was estimated to encompass around 8-million square feet. Big money, no doubt, but the project was ultimately tossed aside when financing became contentious and plans for the freeway were abandoned.
However, perhaps the most interesting bit about Project 200 is that a few of the proposed structures were actually built. Circa 1969, architect Francis Donaldson designed the Canadian Pacific Telecommunications Building at 175 West Cordova, a monolithic example of bold New Formalist architecture. And in 1973, Donaldson completed a second building proposed by Project 200: the nearby Granville Square at 200 Granville (home of The Vancouver Sun and The Province newspapers).
This towering concrete building was the tallest reinforced structure in the country at the time of its completion, and is the only skyscraper to have been realized from the plans. The large open design of the plaza demonstrates the post-war emphasis on accessible pedestrian/gathering spaces, while traffic was to be segregated to higher-volume thoroughfares out to the suburbs via the freeway(s). It planned to include “a large shopping centre […] parking for 7,000 auto-mobiles, and a residential high-rise and townhouse complex”. One could almost confuse it with a contemporary development proposal…
The Project 200 concept reveals much about the mid-century fascination with vehicles, efficiency, and the desire to connect, but it’s probably for the best that the plans never fully came to fruition. Take note of these neat structures on your next trip down to Gastown and around the waterfront, and try to imagine how different it all might have looked.
The Project 200 brochure and photos for this piece came courtesy of Tom Carter and Jason Vanderhill. You can view the rest of the document here.
by Michelle Sproule | Have you ever had one of those experiences when you start thinking about how good an Earnest Ice Cream sundae is and you get so besotted with the memory of it that you get in your car and drive half way across town fully prepared to wait in a ridiculously long line up just to taste it only to realize that it’s Monday night and you have to wait all the way until Thursday before the tiny storefront opens it’s doors for service? Yeah, me too.
It’s not that they’re trying to torture us ice cream fiends. They have, it should be noted, distributed jars of their ice cream to numerous locations throughout the city where you can purchase it on any day of the week to pacify your cravings. The limited hours in the Fraserhood are out of necessity. They use that rest of the time (and all the space) to make the ice cream that will meet demand through the rest of the week.
Their smashing success has made the maintenance of the status quo impossible, so owners Ben Ernst and Erica Bernardi have decided to expand. They’ve just taken possession of the old Organic Lives space at 1829 Quebec Street on the corner of 2nd Avenue, where Mount Pleasant meets Olympic Village. When it comes on line this winter, this will be their main production space, though it will have a small retail component as well, which is to say we can walk in off the street and score ice cream by the scoop. The expansion also means that both locations will eventually be open for at least 6 days a week.
Right now, plans have been submitted to the city and they are just waiting for their permits. Though significantly larger, the new design will be similar to the Fraserhood location in layout and aesthetic (white walls, wood beams, brick — an uncomplicated, product-focused environment), plus there will be windows allowing customers to look into the production facility, which will take up the majority of the floor space.
The best case scenario for their opening date would be some point in December, but early 2015 is probably more realistic. Take a look inside…
by Andrew Morrison | The new Chambar opened this morning, right next door from the original. Scout broke the news of the award-winning Belgian-Moroccan restaurant’s expansion plans after the location was secured a year ago. We’ve been tracking its construction ever since.
Today was opening day, and the first time the previously evenings-only restaurant had ever served breakfast and lunch. Many of the dishes on offer this morning had transitioned into the new Chambar line-up from a menu made famous at the original location of Cafe Medina (eg. the short rib fricassee, Belgian waffles, etc.) before it moved to its new location on Richards Street last week. The old Medina, you’ll recall, used to be next door to the old Chambar.
Confused? It’s actually not as complicated as it seems.
The short story is that the owners of Chambar (Karri & Nico Schuermans) launched Cafe Medina with a business partner (Robbie Kane) seven years ago. When Chambar announced its plans last year to expand next door with a brunch/lunch service featuring chef Nico’s original dishes designed for Cafe Medina, a future with the two eateries existing side by side and competing against one another with the same dishes was plainly undesirable. The solution was a cordial split between the partners and several city blocks of distance between their respective new restaurants.
The new Chambar, as you can see from the shots above and below, has clearly maintained the soothing, casual aesthetic of the original, and yet is has grown considerably in size, both in seating and production capacities (the new kitchen is massive). It has also gained a patio, which will no doubt be considered one of the better ones in the city before summer’s end.
The quality of the food and drink, in my mind at least, is something of a given. I have no doubts about the kitchen or bar staff. The big question for most people will be this: “Does it feel like the original?” And it’s a fair question to ask, because in addition to the great drinks and delicious food, Chambar tabled a tangible soul — which is a rare thing in the restaurant business. The spirit of the eatery was one of the original location’s best qualities, not to mention a probable cause of the storied Chambar Effect. To date, I’ve only broken bread once at the new address, but I think the answer to that question is a big yes. Chambar remains Chambar, all day and well into the night.
by Nic Bragg | From Kitsilano’s Zulu Records, we once again present our monthly Scout feature, the Zulu Report. Within, you’ll find The Track – the song on heavy rotation in the shop this week; The Playlist – our selection of videos; The Gig – the “must-see show”; and The Glance – which details the best gigs on the immediate horizon. From our ears to yours, enjoy… Read more