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).
The GOODS from The Parker
Vancouver, BC | The Parker is very excited to be adding full dinner service on Sundays and, of course, Meatless Mondays. Diners can now book their table from their cell phone for what has become the hottest Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten-free dining destination in Vancouver. With the extraordinary value of the $29 five-course Chef’s Choice Dégustation, along with Steve Da Cruz’s ever-changing showcase of wine and cocktails to pair with Chef Curtis Luk’s playful and inventive cuisine, there have never been better reasons to try something different. Any day you like. Read more
PBS just dropped an excellent animated treatment of Jimi Hendrix’s last interview on September 11th, 1970 (a week before he died). Hendrix spent a lot of his childhood in Vancouver, living in Strathcona with his grandmother, Nora, who was a cook at Vie’s Chicken and Steak House. The eatery used to sit near the corner of Prior and Main in what was then known as Hogan’s Alley, Vancouver’s first (and last) black neighbourhood, which was largely destroyed when the City tried to get into the freeway business and failed (as evidenced by the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts). In case you didn’t know, there is a shrine/micro museum dedicated to Hendrix where the eatery used to back onto the alley that now faces the Union Bar.
by Stevie Wilson | The Hastings Dance Studio at 828 East Hastings sits like a bright orange beacon just east of Hawks Avenue in Strathcona. Unless you’re an avid flamenco dancer or table tennis star you might not know much about what goes on inside. For decades, this building has been a community center and hotspot for swing dances, readings, boxing matches, punk rock shows, weddings, and even political rallies. It was constructed with funds collected by the local Veneta society, debuting in 1928 as the Silver Slipper. It was the first Italian Hall in the area, catering to this growing cultural demographic in the area.
Soon after launching, the building’s purpose broadened in scope, blooming brighter as a general community hub. By the 1930s, The Celestial Gents (Canada’s first modern Chinese swing band) were playing here to much fanfare, as were The Pony Pals, an early version of the 1940s BC country band The Rhythm Pals. Various dances and sock-hops geared towards Vancouver’s growing teen population were also a fixture.
Following the Second World War and the forced interment of Japanese-Canadians, the Vancouver Buddist Temple utilized this address as their interim space before moving to their current location a few blocks to the southwest on Jackson Avenue in 1954. By the 1960s, the building had been renamed the Hastings Auditorium and featured a unique neon sign depicting a couple in the midst of a ballroom-dancing. In the 1970s, it continued to operate as a meeting place for a variety of community groups and gatherings, including the Vancouver chapter of the notorious Fair Play for Cuba Committee (made famous by the membership of Lee Harvey Oswald prior to his assassination of JFK).
With the 1980s came another transformation: the venue became well known for alternative music shows. It became a mainstay in the growing Vancouver punk scene alongside other spots such as the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret and the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. The name changed, too: fans of local bands, including the Pointed Sticks, D.O.A., and Young Canadians (formerly The K-Tels) will remember it as Viking Hall.
The hall was also the site of Charles Bukowski’s last poetry reading outside of the United States. It was in 1979, and entrance cost $6. The evening featured Bukowski’s typical boisterous banter with the 650-person crowd in-between a 17-poem set. Video footage of the reading, thought lost for several years, was eventually organized by fan Dennis Del Torre into a documentary film nearly 25 years later, entitled There’s Gonna Be a God Damn Riot in Here. Those in the know might also recognize the venue from Dennis Hopper’s 1980 cult classic Out of the Blue, which features a (half) live scene of the Pointed Sticks playing two of their songs for the crowd.
These days the address still serves as a community space. Known as the Hastings Dance Hall, it’s home to Al Mozaico Flamenco Dance Academy and the Vancouver Table Tennis Club. Much has changed inside, but the exterior – aside from a few coats of bold paint and missing original signage – remains much the same. Enjoy a peek next time you’re in the area, and maybe try out a few moves!
Stevie Wilson is a historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to reveal to readers the many historical things that they walk past every day without noticing.
The GOODS from The Parker
Vancouver, BC | The Parker is proud to deliver Chef Curtis Luk’s new Dégustation Menu as a permanent menu feature. We’re very excited to start 2014 off on the right foot by delivering outstanding value for all our guests with 5 courses shared for 2 or 4 people for only $29 each.
Much has been made over the healthy lifestyle that vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dining can offer, and we’re thrilled to help lessen the wallop on the wallet. Each dinner is unique and designed toward each diner’s specifications. We love wowing our vegan and gluten-free clients with our beautiful plating.
The Parker is also looking forward to introducing some new wines from the old world in 2014 as it continues to discover the best of BC and beyond. Wine lovers can expect small lot selections and unique pairings from Steve Da Cruz as well as an ever-growing prowess on the wood from Nich Box.
The GOODS from Campagnolo & Campagnolo Roma
Vancouver, BC | Main Street’s Campagnolo and Hastings-Sunrise’s Campagnolo ROMA are both serving up family-style feasts on New Year’s Eve. Alla famiglia groups of 4 or more at Campagnolo will receive multiple dishes of antipasti, primi, pizza, secondi and dolci for $48 per person from 5pm until close. To reserve, call 604-484-6018. At ROMA, it’s a chef’s choice feast of antipasti, primi, pizza and dolci priced at $39 per person for parties of 2 or more with bookings from 5pm until close. Call 604-569-0456 to reserve. Note that a credit card number is required at the time of booking at both restaurants and that reservations are only available for the New Year’s Eve menu. Learn more about both restaurants after the jump… Read more
by Andrew Morrison | I looked in on the construction of the upcoming Chinatown location of Matchstick Coffee today with owners Annie and Spencer Viehweger (and wee little Abraham, all of six months old). If you need a refresher, the exact address is 213 East Georgia, which puts it on the same block as Mamie Taylor’s, The Brixton, East Of Main, and Phnom Penh.
It looks like a tiny little spot from the street, but inside it’s a voluminous 2,800 sqft! That’s enough space to accommodate 70 seats, an office, a glassed-in bakery, four communal tables (3 made from the same birch tree, the 4th being maple), and a coffee bar as long as – if not longer than – the original Matchstick at Fraser & Kingsway. It’s big, and I expect it will be beautiful when it’s finished off with its polished concrete floor and reclaimed wood wall panelling.
The real kicker is the bakery. It sounds especially awesome. They’re going to be baking all of their own stuff in house, including rustic country loaves, croissants galore, and maybe even a rye. The oven is an 8 foot high, four deck, steam injection Bassanina beast from Italy that weighs a whopping 20,000 pounds.
Though it looks a bit of a dusty shambles in the shots above and below, they’re on track for a late January or early February opening. We’ll take a look again when the time is ripe.
The GOODS from Mamie Taylor’s
Vancouver, BC | Chinatown’s Mamie Taylor’s is now taking reservations for its all-inclusive New Year’s Eve bash. Expect an endless stream of canapes and hors d’oeuvres, dancing, and plenty of odd entertainments besides (“think along the lines of lumberjacks and ballerinas”). The evening starts at 8:30pm and runs until late. Tickets are $100. To book, please email either simon [at] mamietaylors.ca or ron [at] mamietaylors.ca, phone us at 604-620-8818, or come on down and pick up a ticket in person. Read more
The GOODS from Campagnolo
Vancouver, BC | Campagnolo Restaurant turns 5 years old on Thursday, December 5. To honour the birthday, Campagnolo will be giving away free Crispy Ceci to all tables of 2 or more to complement their order. In 5 years, the Main Street restaurant has sold enough Crispy Ceci to stretch over 40km. That is enough to go around the seawall twice, line the Sun Run 4 times and to reach Crescent Beach from 1020 Main Street. Can’t make it in on Thursday? Don’t worry. You can celebrate at home with our recipe for Crispy Ceci, which you will find after the jump. From our kitchen to yours, grazie… Read more
The GOODS from Mamie Taylor’s
Vancouver, BC | Mamie Taylor’s restaurant has teamed up with not-for-profit Not So Fast to give back to its neighbourhood community this holiday season. A charity that promotes healthy food choices on the Downtown Eastside, Not So Fast has challenged Chef Tobias Grignon to create a signature dish using frugal and heathy ingredients from a very short list of affordable dried goods, high-protein nuts and legumes, and seasonal vegetables.
Rising to the occasion, he’s created Sunchoke and Goat Cheese Pierogies served on Braised Lentils with Roasted Kale and Walnuts ($18). From December 1st to the 14th, every signature Pierogi dish sold will benefit Not So Fast’s “Think Inside The Box” Friday food program at the Strathcona Community Centre. Since the program began last month, more than 150 Downtown Eastside families have been helped with Not So Fast’s “Think Inside The Box” meal starters.
The foundation of a wholesome meal for four, each dry goods starter box contains rice, beans or lentils and a recipe that features low-cost, seasonal produce such as kale and root vegetables. Read more
Annie | Person | Annie (known to some as Bottle Annie) is an elderly Vietnamese bottle collector who frequents the Strathcona neighbourhood. Having built a rapport with many of Maclean Park’s Sunday Soccer players, she’s even been known to make bootleg beer runs on commission to The Astoria using the trademark exclamation, “You buy bee!”
Usage: “Anyone seen Annie? I need a beer. This sports thing is killing me.”
Farina is the closest pizzeria to Scout’s office, so we know it intimately. The room is adorably designed, one of the first ever independent jobs by Craig Stanghetta, who has since done up the looks of several popular establishments around town (eg. Pidgin, Homer St. Cafe, Revolver, Ask For Luigi, etc).
But back to the pizza! The crust is fantastic. Not only does it travel well and maintain core temperature longer than VPN-certified pizzas (at least the few blocks back to our office), it also maintains an ideal thinness. It’s very close to Neapolitan authenticity, even achieving the gently blistered char on the outer edges with their gas-fired oven. Our favourite pizzas here are the quattro formaggi with mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, and ricotta (flecked with basil, natch) and the finocchiona with fennel sausage, provolone, parmesan and peppers. Update: an earlier edit said that PF didn’t have a liquor license. That is, of course, incorrect. Our bad.
915 Main Street | Vancouver, BC | 604-681-9334 | www.pizzeriafarina.com
We’ve been in love with this place since before it was even open. Five years ago, it was just so incredibly exciting to have an Italian restaurant of mentionable calibre open up close to our office on the border of Strathcona (Farina is half a block closer). We were already very familiar with the operators – Tom Doughty, Robert Belcham, Tim Pittman – from their days at Fuel (later Refuel) and well before then at “C” and Nu. We had every reason to be stoked for it…
Like Farina, they make a fennel sausage pizza, but we prefer Campagnolo’s version because it’s simpler, substituting chilies for peppers and therefore not distracting texturally from the sausage. They also do a pie with fresh herbs, ricotta, castelvetrano olives, and basil that knocks our socks off. The oven is gas-fired, but you wouldn’t think it. Bonus: good rear bar area with well-made Italian cocktails and solid but short selection of wines by the glass.
1020 Main Street | Vancouver, BC | 604-484-6018 | www.campagnolorestaurant.ca