Gastown, so named after one of its unofficial founders, “Gassy Jack” Deighton, occupies the western stretch of the Downtown Eastside. According to our read of the landscape, its the area between Columbia (east), Cambie/Homer (West), Hastings (North), and Water (South), save for the 300 block Carrall and the blocks of Hastings east of Abbott, which we classify as being part of the Downtown Eastside’s core. It has come a long way since its day as the Township of Granville and the great conflagration of 1886 (which burned most of it to the ground), ebbing and flowing over the decades as a hard-edged entertainment nexus where much of the rest of Vancouver feared to tread.
Over the last ten years, however, Gastown’s slice of the city’s zeitgeist was fattened by a large number of interesting, independent, and cocktail-forward eateries launched by a new generation of young restaurateurs. It also saw a new wave of higher end retail shops and fashionable boutiques open during this same time frame, not to mention the arrival of new lofts, condominiums, and the new Woodwards building. All of these new developments have transformed/gentrified the neighbourhood, some argue for the better and others for the worse. Doubtless it’s become something of an “it” destination, similar to Yaletown in the early 2000′s, which is to say it’s quite possibly cursed with a future full of stretched SUV limousines, shitty chain restaurants, and people who want to fight for no good reason at all.
History and angst aside, it’s no longer easy to get a table as a walk-in on a Friday night, so if you’re headed this way (and you really should), be sure to make at least the roughest of game plans.
Standard post-1886 fire brick red/brown; stained copper green barrel base of the Gassy Jack statue; soft, spherical yellow streetlights at night; Blood Alley beer piss; broken fake cobblestone grey; ubiquitous Corbel Commercial Real Estate “For Lease” sign blue; Juice Truck pink; Guinness brown; green summer leaves of Maple Tree Square; the new “W” sign atop the Woodwards development; Meat & Bread house mustard yellow; cigarette filter brown.
GOOD GRAFFITI AND WHEAT PASTE/STENCIL ART
FOOTBALL MIKE KEEPING THINGS IN ORDER
THE OLD FIREPLACES OF “THE NEW FRISCO HOTEL”
A RESTAURATEUR HAPPY HE NEVER JOINED THE FRENCH FOREIGN LEGION
ALEX “RHEK” USOW CREATING INTERESTING THINGS
AN ANCIENT, UNUSED BAR HIDDEN IN A HOTEL BASEMENT
OLD SCHOOL POWELL PERALTA SKATE SHIRTS
DESIGN MASTERPIECES AT INFORM INTERIORS
THE STENCH OF STALE URINE AT THE EASTERN ENTRANCE OF BLOOD ALLEY
A PARADISE FOR SHOE FETISHISTS
SOME VERY PRETTY AXES
THE FULL BRUNCH SPREAD AT WILDEBEEST
MAPLE BACON CHOCOLATE BAR AT MEAT & BREAD
BRUSSELS SPROUTS & PORK BELLY AT POURHOUSE
SUMMERTIME PATIO PINTS AT CHILL WINSTON
A MINT JULEP AT THE DIAMOND
THE FONDANT POTATOES AND AN AVIATION COCKTAIL AT L’ABATTOIR
A CUP OF COFFEE AT REVOLVER
PIZZA AT NICLI
BEEF & PORK ALBONDIGAS AT THE SARDINE CAN
FRESHLY MADE CHOCOLATE AT EAST VAN ROASTERS
GARLIC BUTTER & PARMESAN POPCORN AT SIX ACRES
WILD SOCKEYE NIGIRI AT SEA MONSTR SUSHI
AN H-MADE COCKTAIL AT NOTTURNO
A PINT OF THE DARK AT THE IRISH HEATHER
- The triangular Hotel Europe on Powell Street was Vancouver’s first reinforced concrete structure and the first fireproof hotel in Western Canada.
- In 1971, police arrested 79 people in Maple Tree Square after a protest against drug laws and raids escalated into a bloody brawl between protestors and armed police. This is known as the Gastown Riot.
- Blood Alley’s nomenclature is not so spooky: the alley is actually named Trounce Alley, and the connected “Blood Alley Square” was named by a city planner in the 1970s as part of a project to revitalize and draw attention to the area.
- In 1869, Vancouver’s first jail was built in the Township of Granville (informally known as Gastown). It consisted of two cells constructed of logs, and later was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1886.
- The Boulder Hotel at 1 West Cordova (the original Boneta location, RIP) was once the central point of the Granville Township in the 1890′s, and features stones mined from Queen Elizabeth Park.
- The massive 1972 street “renovation” of Gastown was noted as being the first time in North America that perfectly good roads were torn up to be rebuilt in the old style.
- The “historic” steam clock, an iconic Gastown landmark, was actually built in 1977 and features three electric motors.
- Chef/Restaurateur John Bishop got his start cooking in Gastown in the 1970′s.
- The NABOB Coffee Company was founded in Gastown in 1896, in what is now The Landing (home to the Steamworks Brewing Company).
I was having a drink at the bar in L’Abattoir in Gastown last night and noticed a huge chandelier of wrapped presents cascading down from the ceiling in the shape of an inverted Christmas tree. The owner, Paul Grunberg, told me it was the work of Chad Falkenberg and Kelly Reynolds, two local designers who donated their time to Yule up a few businesses around Maple Tree Square. See also their white-lit arch of plum trees at the entrance to Roden Gray, the Christmas wreath of shiny Sapporo beer cans at Sea Monstr Sushi, and the cellophane-wrapped bikes at Strada Cycles. Take a look:
Wild sockeye salmon nigiri at Sea Monstr Sushi | 55 Powell St. | $2.50 per piece.
Around Christmas I posted a video that was shot at an American sporting event and showed a beer dispensing machine that blew my mind. Why? Because it poured from the bottom to the top instead of the other way around. Unbeknown to me at the time, Mark Brand and Alex Usow at Gastown’s Sea Monstr Sushi had one of the BottomsUp machines on order. With Sea Monstr’s liquor license about to finally drop tomorrow, Brand broke out the machine for an ice cold Sapporo test run this afternoon…
by Andrew Morrison | The much-anticipated Sea Monstr Sushi opens tonight at 6pm in Gastown (55 Powell). The 16 seater from Sharks + Hammers duo Alex Usow and Mark Brand (co-owner of Boneta, The Diamond, Save-On-Meats) will serve sushi by chef Keith Allison – formerly a fixture at Dan on West Broadway (interview). We poked our heads in for their friends and family dry run, and feasted big. The dynamite rolls were the best, made better with a lick of the house blend of hot sauce and a cold brace of Steam Whistle beers. A cool little space. Check it out the photos… Read more
Mark Brand, co-owner of Boneta, The Diamond, Sea Monstr Sushi and Shark + Hammers, has secured a lease on the building that has housed the iconic Save On Meats at 43 West Hastings for over half a century. Possession comes in July. Brand has food related plans for every floor, as well as a restaurant at street level. Will the glorious, towering neon sign stay with its smiling pigs and dollar signs? About 2 million people hope so…
Sea Monstr Sushi co-owner Mark Brand introduced the upcoming Gastown restaurant’s newly appointed chef to me the other day in Scout’s office. In quite the coup, he’s hired on Keith Allison, formerly of Ken Oda’s superlative Dan on West Broadway. What is Sea Monstr Sushi? Read more
Boneta/Diamond co-owner and his business partner Alex Usow (in the Powell St. clothing store Sharks + Hammers) are opening a new sushi restaurant at 55 Powell in Gastown. It’ll be called Sea Monstr Sushi, a name (that I love) conjured by his wife Nicole.
The new and very narrow 585 sqft space will hold 30 seats, including a 12 seat bar. No cocktails, I’m afraid, just 10-15 rolls sushi (the only booze on hand will be Sapporo beer on tap). The front will be all glass to expose the rolling station. Take-away traffic and lunch will presumably be huge, as the neighbourhood is starved for sushi. The duo’s shop – rebranded as the “Sharks + Hammers General Store” – will be installed in the Alexander St. side of the new (but ancient) building with a glass wall rising up from the restaurant’s rear banquette, thus separating the two businesses. The original Sharks + Hammers location will be turned into a gallery. Read more
Owners: Mark Brand & Alex Usow
WERD (Head of Welcome To East Van division)
About The Business
Welcome to Sharks & Hammers.
We sell a little bit of this and a little bit of that because, why not, and because we can. We sell items that we think you’ll enjoy because we know we enjoy them. Some of the clothing and goods that we sell are products that we make, or that our friends make. We evolve and grow and so does our stock.
So drop in on us, crack some jokes, share stories, listen to music, overhear weird conversations, see employees stare at computers, have some candy, cut through to get to our restaurant (Sea Monstr Sushi) and peruse the variety of wares that we have for sale.
We’ll be happy to see you.