by Ken Tsui | For years, the Sunny Spot Cafe on Main Street has been a tiny, unremarkable greasy spoon cafe. But new management is flipping the script, embracing their culinary roots as Shaanxi province natives by introducing northern Chinese flavours to the menu. Originally hailing from a food stall at the Richmond Night Market as “Zhang’s World Famous Xian Burger and Terracotta Noodle”, Sunny Spot Cafe is now their home during the market’s off-season, and they are literally too legit to quit.
The new menu reflects the Shaanxi focus on hand-pulled noodles, breads and soups invigorated by aromatic chili oils and dark, tart vinegars. Get a taste of the region with their signature rou ji mou (house-made flatbread “xianburger” filled with braised beef shank, cilantro and cucumber) or handmade biangbiang noodles. Alternatively, get adventurous with their punchy, hot and sour soup with glass noodles and tripe.
Sunny Spot Cafe feels ad-hoc with a hodge podge of chairs and tablecloths reflecting the restaurant’s unique transition. The hot sauce for the fried eggs are in the same condiment holder as the vinegar for their fresh, house-made dumplings, but so what? As they get settled in, their new direction remains a delicious new option for Mount Pleasant food lovers.
Sunny Spot Cafe | 2543 Main St. | Vancouver, BC | 604-872-1816 | No Website
by Stevie Wilson | With the ink of my recent Ghost Hoods feature on Brewery Creek not yet dry, I took a look inside Mount Pleasant’s Western Front building at 303 East 8th Avenue to learn a little more about the history (as well as the current goings-on) of this neighbourhood landmark. After over 40 years as an artist-run centre and exhibition space, the building is full of distinct history and remains the oldest existing centre of its kind in the country. What’s more, it was once home to the Vancouver chapter of the Knights of Pythias, and they even have a few old ceremonial capes and spears to prove it.
One of the (many) unique features of Western Front is how the building’s original design has been preserved to accommodate and complement the needs of the staff and various exhibitions. Their Development Officer, Kristin Lim, explained how the address has transitioned quite seamlessly from a Pythian headquarters to an internationally renowned artist centre by simply utilizing the space’s existing structure. The various small rooms and cozy layout emphasize the centre’s differences from typical gallery sites.
The building was originally constructed in 1922 as a lodge for the Pythians to conduct, well, whatever it was that they did – secret meetings and such. When they sold the property in the early 1970s, they left behind various paraphernalia including their signature capes, a trophy, club signage, and a portrait of their fraternal leader. During my tour we ran into celebrated Canadian artist and co-founder of Western Front, Eric Metcalfe (formerly known as Dr. Brute, who regaled me with more amazing history and anecdotes than I could possibly fit into a short article. He mentioned that when the space was founded by himself and eight other artists in 1973, the place wasn’t in the most pristine condition, which happened to be ideal for this group of young people engaged in the contemporary Fluxus movement. Of the creativity and freedom of the early years, he observed simply, “It was a party time.”
Over the last several decades the space evolved into the professional, prestigious centre it is today, yet the building has undergone only a handful of minor repairs and changes, the most significant of which was the 2013 renovation of the Luxe Hall to uncover previously sealed windows. The original architecture remains, including the large windows, wooden wainscoting, traditional doorways (complete with Pythian peep-holes), a vintage telephone booth, and the awesome original fixed side seating in the performance hall. “One thing replaced the other,” said Metcalfe of the transition from lodge to artist haven. “The architecture informed our practice.”
For more information on this fantastic piece of Vancouver art history, visit their website, or better yet, pay them a visit! The space is open to the public – just buzz! – and offers plenty of (generally) free events and exhibits involving new music, contemporary art, media, and so much more. Who knows, you just might run into a legendary Canadian artist with a few stories to tell!
Archival photos courtesy of the Western Front Archives
The GOODS from Much & Little
Vancouver, BC | After 2 1/2 years in business, Much&Little is proud to announce the recent expansion of their location at 2541 Main Street. An intimate shop specializing in timeless, hand-crafted goods and accessories, it is now double the size with half the space dedicated entirely to women’s clothing. Consistent with the store’s original concept to support independent businesses, clothing is also sourced from emerging or indie designers and is mostly North American-made. Many of the labels are not available anywhere else in the city such as art school-influenced Feral Childe, vintage-inspired Lauren Moffatt, and the minimal and edgy Black Crane.
The refurbished section of the shop takes over the former space of Whoa! Nellie Bikes. Although joined, the spaces have a distinct ambience. The original side focuses on home goods, accessories and gifts. The new side, with its cosy cabin feel, showcases clothing. Change rooms and store fixtures are made with reclaimed wood, while the floor and walls are adorned with vintage kilim rugs, most of which are for sale. Read more
The GHOST HOOD series dovetails with the new HOODS section of Scout (launching on Monday)
by Stevie Wilson | In conversations about Mount Pleasant these days, the old “Brewery Creek” moniker is being increasingly employed on account of all the new breweries that have arrived in recent years. But what exactly is the significance of the name? It’s important to note that although it’s generally thought of as synonymous with the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, the “Brewery Creek” distinction refers to a particular stretch of waterway that was integral to the growth and economic development of the area. Long before white settlers arrived, this expansive region was a popular harvesting location for First Nations. It would later become an important economic sector for new businesses thanks to its flowing natural resource.
The patch of land that became known as Mount Pleasant was originally shrouded in dense, dark rainforest. The creek that drained this forest into the salty waters of False Creek sat at the bottom of a large ravine that was open to the sky. It offered an abundance of flowers, berries, and other plants used by First Nations for medicine and food. The (now lost) waterway began near where Mountain View Cemetery is located today. Water flowed downhill just west of modern-day Fraser Street to a marshy, dammed area near 14th Avenue (Tea Swamp Park). From here, the creek flowed down the Mount Pleasant hillside, following a northeastern path alongside a First Nations trail (near where Kingsway cuts across Main Street), and continuing into the eastern waters of False Creek (which have since been filled in) near Terminal Avenue.
In 1867, the creek area in Mount Pleasant became Vancouver’s first piped waterway, delivering water by flume to Gastown – then the center of the city – and the boilers at Captain Edward Stamp’s Mill near the foot of Dunlevy (later known as the Hastings Sawmill).
The Brewery Creek region was defined by its open landscape, its distinct flora and fauna, and the numerous businesses that followed the path of the waterway – including several slaughterhouses, the nearby Vancouver Tannery, and an assortment of local beverage-makers that used the creek to power their water wheels: the San Francisco Brewery (later known as the Red Star Brewery), Mainland Brewery, Landsdowne Brewery, Lion Brewery, and the Thorpe & Co. Soda Water Works. Read more
The GOODS from The Acorn
Vancouver, BC | Chef Brian Skinner has created a new menu to kick off The Acorn’s second Spring season! Starting Thursday, April 10th, The Acorn will be serving sauteed fiddleheads with polenta, artichoke pate, cavatelli pasta with grilled asparagus and fava beans, and more. Slip in before Thursday to enjoy the last days of the Winter menu (cauliflower mac & cheese or ricotta gnocchi with coffee scented celeriac puree). Learn more about the restaurant after the jump… Read more
by Andrew Morrison | I was raised, so to speak, on “Spag Pomo”, the ubiquitous Neapolitan bowl of pasta with tomato sauce. My mom co-founded an Italian delicatessen that made fresh pasta for restaurants (my first job), and in my late teens (and again in my 20′s) I worked in a well known Toronto eatery where the kitchen was run by (now) celebrity chef Massimo Capra – he of the immaculate moustache. Spaghetti Pomodoro wasn’t on the menu, but Massimo would table massive hotel pans of the stuff for our staff meal, which was served alla famiglia at the end of the night. Those late suppers with the staff – one third Bengali, one third Italian, one third “mangiacake” (that’s me) – remain my favourite memories of working in the restaurant business. We’d talk shit/shop about the night’s customers, pool a percentage of our tips to buy/share bottles of wine, and refuel the hell out of our exhausted selves with this very particular pasta. It’s the most nostalgic food I know of.
There’s just something so simple and straight-forward about the satisfaction it provides. The balance of sweetness and salt underpinned by licks of spice (chili flakes); the evocative, garden-fresh fragrance of the hand-torn basil; the al dente texture of the noodles; the sharpness of the cheese…I would happily trade a whole lobe of foie gras for one perfect serving of it. And the weird thing is that – despite its seemingly simple assemblage of ingredients – it’s hard to find a good one in Vancouver. A lot of places do a version, but the ones that best approximate the bowls of my dreams are at Lupo in Yaletown and Campagnolo on Main Street.
Chef Julio Gonzalez-Perini and I used to work together many years ago (before he opened Lupo), and he was kind enough to make me Spag Pomo for my staff meals. Unfortunately, you won’t find it on the current menu at Lupo, but sometimes it’s there (if you ask nicely, maybe he’ll make a bowl for you). It’s a guarantee at Campagnolo, where it’s been one of their signature items since they opened back in 2009. Their version is as close to Capra’s (and my own) as I can find. They don’t spice the sauce, but they do provide a little side plate with lines of oregano, dried chili flakes, and parmesan to help yourself with. Use all the cheese, incorporate a pinch of the flakes, and forget the oregano, which would only upset the basil. And buon appetito!
$15 | Campagnolo | 1020 Main St. | 604-484-6018 | CampagnoloRestaurant.ca
The GOODS from Much & Little
Vancouver, BC | We are on the hunt for someone very special to join our team as a part-time salesperson. Please note this post is for a long-term, part-time position, with an immediate start date. We are currently looking for someone with weekend availability and flexibility in the week for a minimum of 2-3 shifts a week. If you’re interested in this opportunity, have the requisite skills and experience, and can commit to a long-term situation, we’d love to meet you to discuss the possibilities. Please drop off your resume with the store Manager in person Monday to Friday, you can also submit your resume via email to jennie [at] muchandlittle.com and include a cover letter/short blurb about why you would like to join our team. We looking forward to welcoming our new team member! Read more
The GOODS from The Biltmore Cabaret
Vancouver, BC | The Biltmore Cabaret’s continued commitment to fostering local talent shines on in our ‘Songs of …’ Series. The ‘Songs of Neil Young’ Tribute Nights on Tuesday, April 22 and Wednesday, April 23 will feature the best of Vancouver’s singing and songwriting talent as they put their personal spin on classic Canadiana. Previous nights have included ‘Songs of Bob Dylan’ and ‘Songs of Bruce Springsteen’. These editions feature eight acts each at an incredible $6 a pop. The line-up includes: Louise Burns, Jordan Klassen, Johnny De Courcy, War Baby, Failing, Dominique Fricot, The Wild North, Altered By Mom, Skye Wallace, Rolla Olak, Lydia Hol, David Newberry, Shuyler Jansem, Redbitd, The Reckoners, and Heard In The Mountains. Learn more about the events after the jump… Read more
Owners Zach Berman and Ryan Slater picked up the 5,000 sqft space (formerly Stanley’s Printing) back in August and have broken it up into three areas: storefront, commissary, and community space. The storefront will function as a 16 seat eatery/retail apothecary, selling juices, supplements, tinctures, teas, puddings and so on, with 3-4 quick and healthy breakfast and lunch items (vegan/gluten-free) from a menu designed by chef David Gunawan of Farmer’s Apprentice. The front doors are inset from the sidewalk, so expect a patio as well. The good folks over at Glasfurd & Walker (responsible for the branding of Meat & Bread, Wildebeest, among others) are doing the interior design.
The commissary component is massive, a high gloss testament to the success of a once fledgling mobile operation that is now looking to expand its reach beyond the Lower Mainland (it’s so great to see them outgrow the space that they shared with so many other food trucks next to Beta 5 on Industrial Ave – makes one wonder who will be next to leave the nest!). It accounts for some 3,500 sqft of pristine work space for juice production and cleanses, and as you can see from the shots above and below, it’s already looking pretty damn spiffy.
Finally, there’s the community space (the pinkish red room in the photographs). While it can and will seat 26 people for pop-up suppers and movie dinners, it will also be used for nutrition and fermenting workshops, yoga classes, kids activities, and more.
Juice production starts in April, and the retail/eatery frontage will open to the public (if all goes according to plan) on May 1st.
The GOODS from The Shameful Tiki Room
Vancouver, BC | The Shameful Tiki Room is blown away to announce that it’s already been one year since opening day! To celebrate our first anniversary, we’re having a weekend blast-off “Hullaballoo”. Expect live music on both nights, “Flor de Cana” doing rum samples on Saturday, anniversary edition Tiki mugs and T-shirts released in very limited quantities each night, food and cocktail specials, and a new menu. Doors open at 6pm each night. Learn more about The Shameful Tiki Room after the jump… Read more
by Grady Mitchell | Alex Nelson and Beau House are Post Projects, a graphic design house with a sun-filled studio at Ontario and 3rd. They’ve crafted the look and feel of some of Vancouver’s most beloved companies, including Brassneck Brewery, Revolver Coffee, Bambudda, and the Western Front artist centre.
The two met in Emily Carr’s design program and graduated in 2008. After a few years of working for other design firms and taking on freelance projects, they hit a crossroads: either leave Vancouver to search for work, or start their own company. Rather than contribute to the city’s brain drain, which has seen many talented designers relocate to hubs like New York, London, and Berlin, they chose to stick around, launching Post Projects in 2010.
Since then their sleek and contemporary aesthetic has attracted both local and international clients. Care, time and detail are the central tenets of their design philosophy. Post handles any visual aspect that a company needs: visual identity and branding, web and app design, print and publication, signage, interactive media, illustration, photography, packaging, and more. While they’re very much of Vancouver, they’re also mindful of the global design discourse, and incorporate those influences into their work. Take a look inside…
The GOODS from 33 Acres Brewing Co.
Vancouver, BC | 33 Acres Brewing Company has officially launched its brewery tour program! Get an insider’s look into how 33 Acres brews their beers with an in-depth tour of the brewing process. Along side beer education and some history, you’ll get to enjoy a long table tasting that over-looks the brewery floor. Expect beer, some food, some more beer, and then maybe some more beer. They only allow 16 people every two weeks so make sure you sign up fast. Tickets are $30 and available on their website. Learn more about 33 Acres Brewing Co. after the jump… Read more
by Andrew Morrison | Rumpus Room co-owner Rachel Zottenberg announced on Facebook today that she and business partner David Duprey had lost a lengthy scrap to keep their Main St. restaurant, which was known for its laid back attitude, 70′s-inspired decor, deep fried pickles, and flamingo-strewn patio. Their staff were told the bad news earlier today.
So I’m writing this with the most heaviest f$%&ing heart in my life. After the most brutal battle, we are being kicked out of the Rumpus Room at the end of the month. Condos.. right.. you’ve heard this all before. Yay for the new Main Street. Good for you. I LOVE THIS PLACE. This, my first restaurant. This, the place I opened with my best friend in the world David Duprey [...] This wonderful wonderful place. I’m going to miss you so much!
The allusion to a future of “condos” at the address – a prime piece of Mount Pleasant real estate – will come, I’m sure, as a surprise to no one. “We occupy a piece of land that is worth a lot more than a little restaurant,” Zottenberg reminded me this afternoon, adding that the eatery will remain open for another month before calling it quits.
UPDATE | It should be noted that it was my understanding that the owners were aware of this eventuality/possibility by way of a “demolition clause” in their lease, so if I’m not mistaken this should not have come as a complete surprise.