We’ve invited Electric Owl on Main St. to join our GOODS section as a recommended local business that is worth checking out. They’re now proud members of Scout, and as such we’ll be posting their news front and center and hosting a page for them on our curated list of independent goodnesses. We’d like to take this chance to thank them for their support of Scout, and for making Vancouver a more delicious place to live!
The People That Make It Happen
Adam Levine – Managing Partner
Alex Russell – Managing Partner
Phong Vo – Chef
Eli Wener – Booking
Jamie Creighton – Manager
About Electric Owl
Food, the other part of a balanced diet | Drink, the most important part of a balanced diet.
Since Asia’s such a big place we figured that no one would mind if we borrowed a few pieces from here and there. Why not eat Japanese style snacks prepared by a Vietnamese chef in an izakaya-inspired room followed by a fortune cookie and a live band? Electric Owl believes that, like great drinks and creative food, good is always better when there’s more.
REVIEWS & ACCOLADES
“fresh-tasting and filling” – The Georgia Straight
“the food was excellent and I will definitely find myself visiting the Electric Owl again” – WANT Magazine
“The ambiance was great. Sexy trendy vibe inside. The staff was fantastic. Very helpful and friendly. The food was out of this world. They have a GREAT menu with a ton of options for everybody.” – Daniel Torres, cast of the WICKED Musical
I checked out The Electric Owl for the first time over the weekend. On nights prior I’d received several drunken texts and emails from several of its first patrons saying misshapen grammatical oddities along the lines of “woah fuck you ben here yet dude shit is Engrish crazy” (direct quote, sic) and so on. One texted photo showed a masked man in the unfinished basement wielding a sledgehammer with ill-intent. Naturally, with that kind of savant magic going on, I had to go a few times to taste such irreverent flavour. It definitely gets pretty wild at night (packed to the gills), but in the day it’s a desert – dead as Dunbar at night. I don’t mind the look of it in the least (great vibe and sound system), though I do think spreading a sweetened excuse for a carbonara sauce over perfectly good pork gyozas is a crime worthy of medieval punishment. Have a look…
I might be writing it up in the paper in the coming weeks, so I’ll have to save my word count for that. You can read my pre-opening thoughts on the 200-seat, Japanese izakaya-themed live music monster here. If you haven’t been yet, it’s definitely worth checking out. I suspect there’s a full spectrum of opinions on the place. What’s yours?
A recent walk-past recce suggested that there was still a hell of a lot of work left to be done at the upcoming, 200+ seat Japanese izakaya-themed Electric Owl in the American Hotel at 928 Main (just a few doors down from Campagnolo). They were hoping for a May 26th opening – perhaps they still are – but the photo above says June or July to me (I don’t know…maybe they’re superhuman). Whatever. We’ve waited years for anything to open at this address, so a little while longer won’t hurt. In the meantime, we can whet our appetites and cool our jets with an advance copy of their menu. Karaage? Check. Gyozas? Check. Ebi Mayo? Check. I’m sure it’s not all set in stone, but here it is nevertheless.
by Andrew Morrison | If you’ve walked down Main between Terminal and Prior in the last five years, you’ve likely got an eyeful of the eyesore that is the skeletal remains of the old American Hotel. It’s now in the latter stages of its renovation, and we have news of its innards to break.
We’ll get to what will be unveiled in a sec, but it should be remembered first that the 928 Main St. address has written quite the saga for itself in recent years, from the controversial eviction of its low income tenants and subsequent boarding up back in 2006 to the very public speculation ever since on its future affordability to those in need of shelter. It’s also something of a local lightning rod whenever talk turns to change on the periphery of the DTES. Some scream “unfair” and lament further gentrification for fear it will raise the cost of living for the low income set, while others call it inevitable, progress, or a hot bubble bath of condo-dwelling, latter-day hipsters more interested in granite counter tops than social welfare.
I’m not interested in having that debate here, aside from saying the hotel, which has been around since 1907, was in dire need of a facelift and that majoring in boutique hotel entertainment while still minoring in Single Room Occupancy is better than being a total dropout (6 of 42 rooms are set aside at $400 a month with more hovering at the $770 mark).
So, if you must, consider that a little prism through which you can view the coming of Electric Owl, the new 8,000 square foot establishment slated for the main floor. It will include a new, 200+ seat restaurant, live music venue, infused sake bar and lounge. The whole operation – bent on a Japanese izakaya theme – is due to open this May.
That’s pretty darn shortly, but considering it’s been seven years since someone sat down for a paid pint in there (not a legal drop since 2004), even a glass of water would probably be worth the wait. In the schematics above you can trace a front door on Main leading to the lounge and bar area (with off-sales, woot!) opening up to a booth-lined dance floor and a medium stage. At the rear and facing still-sketchy Station St. will be the central bar and restaurant spilling out to a 34 seat patio. They’re aiming for long hours for alcohol service, from 9am until 2am.
So what to think?
An izakaya – in essence a casual Japanese drinking hole with inventive snacks for casual types who tolerate irreverence – may prove a tricky thing to pull off if it’s just a conceptual lark not born out of any interest in or fealty to authenticity. I don’t know if that will be the case. I hope it’s not.
There are many good izakayas in Vancouver – the Guus, Kingyo, Motomachi Shokudo, the four Hapas, etc. – and a distilled version is not something that people interested in food would be all that keen on if it was the least bit lame. A lip-synched phoney would suck for a reason: because our city is awash in superb Japanese food of many stripes, and it would just pale in competitive comparison. Why spend a dime for the Disney version when the real deal is seventeen times more exciting, and cheaper, too?
The owner of the building – Steven Lippman (a partner in “928 Main Holdings Ltd.”) – also counts plenty of other spaces around town in his stable, including Save On Meats (tour it here). He’s likely no dummy. If the newly refurbished London Hotel down the street can brush aside concerns over its authenticity (and be full), then you’d think the American Hotel could, too. But British pub grub and environment is a lot easier to fake than the food and feel of a really good izakaya, so I have my doubts.
As for the owners of Electric Owl, I’m pretty much in the dark there, too. I know only of Adam Levine, who made his money starting and navigating successful turns in the biofuel trade beginning in the early Naughties. Guu might be his favourite restaurant, but how much does he know about owning something like it? I take comfort in the hope that someone suitably capable is doing the soon-to-be-nicknamed “Owl” food and that it won’t be just a loose stab at irony in place of substance (no geishas, naked sushi models or hibachi dudes spinning their blunt blades). Again, I just don’t know, and a hope is just a hope. From someone who lives just blocks away and already has enough silly in his eating life, perhaps it’s a fool’s hope.
Will it end up being a wonderfully staged stroke of genius striking the perfect balance with the neighbourhood a la punk rock shows and kickass karaage or an abject disaster that stinks of invasive Earlism and the end of culture as we know it? I fear the latter, but only out of ignorance. I expect the middle, speculatively.
Handling the entertainment side of things will be Dani Vachon, formerly of Gastown’s Guilt & Company. According to an early copy of press materials that have landed my way, Vachon will “curate everything from emerging artists and renowned music acts to sumo wrestling and Japanese fan dancing.” Do I hear an Etsy-inspired, homemade Samurai fashion show with board games, too?
Prediction: a curious, hopefully not all-that-garish conundrum to people who live in the area and the coolest thing since the last coolest thing that every Skytrainer worth his/her weight in Costco gyozas will celebrate before seeking out a $2,500 per month shoebox nearby (includes small dog). Cue the Starbucks, et cetera.
But would I go check it out? You bet. What about you?
A new liquor primary establishment called Guilt & Co. has opened in the refinished dungeon underneath Chill Winston on Gassy Jack Square. It’s basically an 89 seat extension of Chill Winston with the same owners and operators, a low ceilinged haunt for several strata of scenester. There’s a cold side and hot place kitchen plating what appears to be at the very least an amusing menu (those $5 pepperoni sticks better be good), a stage for live shows, and a cave that will play host to either private functions or little deuces upon which guests can request to play games like Boggle, Scrabble, and Cranium. Word is they’ll soon have two ancient Nintendo sets going as well, so we can shoot ducks while nursing Tsing Tao. GM Dani Vachon tells me that there will be unorthodox comedic improv on Wednesdays from 9pm until 11pm, and then live sets of genre-bending jams Thursday through Saturday from 10pm until midnight (on weekends they’re staying open until 2am). The space has got some vivid character and there plenty of things to look at in the interactive sense, like one of a kind menu covers and little “icebreakers” coasters (basically just pieces of paper with arbitrary questions like “Where is the next place that you will go traveling?”). The drinks list looks alright, too. They have plenty of beer, and very little of it is boring. The bar is the centerpiece, and tender Jonathan James (who helped to launch Mis Trucos) is at the wood in what I heard was a mandatory uniform of hat and suspenders. The name reminds me mightily of New York’s Death & Co., but what beats being an accessory to theft in the pursuit of a good time? It looks worth peeking your head in for sure, if only for a pint and some Scattergories. Your move.