One of the many things I missed with regrets while on the road last month was the opening of The Black Lodge, a new vegetarian eatery and bar from first timers Matt Krysko and Claire Wyrostok. I finally made it there over the weekend and immediately felt warm and fuzzy about it, not to mention reassured that the continuing diversity of Vancouver’s burgeoning vegetarian restaurant scene was guaranteed. The hook starts with the look. It’s straight up Canadian boy scout cabin kitsch, an early 60’s Algonquin Park fantasy that would make the back of a future note of national currency if the mint ever came curious. Nothing feels false about it, even though it plays the game of pretend with all its chips. I mean, just look at it! It’s a real barn owl hoot.
Located at 630 Kingsway (just off Fraser), The Black Lodge gets its name from the mystical destination in David Lynch’s cult series, Twin Peaks. If you know the show, you’ll recognize the portrait of the doomed Laura Palmer, love the (likely faux) bearskin on one wall, have a giggle when visiting the restroom that is a dead ringer for the dream sequence red room (instead of a dwarf there is a sink), and the general sense that the Log Lady is a permanent fixture at one of the bar stools. Vancouver’s many modern day Agent Coopers are going to really dig it, but it works for the unwashed Bobs of the city as well (minus all of his murder and mayhem). They even have campfire-scented incense going, with the smoke and smell bringing the atmospherics all together. If you’ve never seen the show but remember the film Meatballs and have some imagination, The Black Lodge is probably where Bill Murray’s character would retire to to get liquored and loose after a long day of counselling kids at Camp North Star. And if you haven’t seen Meatballs (you really should), just remember back to those halcyon days when you were a kid staying in someone’s grandpa’s cabin on holiday and it was filled with the many wonderful things that the old man wasn’t allowed to keep in his real house. It’s a pretty convincing set up, down to the vernacular soundtrack (think Otis Redding, The Band, CCR, etc).
I can’t comment that much on the menu save to say that I had no idea that it was a vegetarian menu when I walked in. Nor did have any further clue ten minutes into reading the menu. It’s filled with homemade chili, “smokies” in several varieties, Philly Cheesesteaks and the like. My claws grow and my fangs sharpen involuntarily whenever I read such things, so it all immediately appealed to me (I very often eat animals with little or no delicacy). My jaw dropped when the bartender/server (just one guy) told me the frankfurters, brats, and other sausages were meatless, even the gravy of the Poutine Dog with its squeaky cheese curds. It’s all a gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian picnic, with camp bowls of cheezies and salt-rimmed Margaritas in camp cups and a good (if small) selection of beer.
Krysko says that he and Wyrostok are casual fans of the show, but insist that they aren’t fetishists. “We really just wanted a restaurant with a cabin style,” he explains. “When we were thinking of names we remembered The Black Lodge from Twin Peaks and that was it.” Regular readers will remember that there was a cool as hell “Black Lodge” pop-op in Chinatown last summer, but this is even better. The summer hours are Monday through Sunday from 5:30pm until midnight. They hope to extend their license until 1am, but that’s still a while down the road.