Owners Of 72 Year Old Ovaltine Cafe Prep For Renaissance With New Managers


by Andrew Morrison | Back in September of 2014 Scout ran a story about the anxieties surrounding the sale of the old Ovaltine Cafe at 291 East Hastings. The place had been in operation for 72 years, and though it was largely bereft of customers, it’s iconic facade and Rockwellian interior still pulled on the heartstrings of Vancouverites and DTES residents who feared it might be felled by condo hype and the forces of gentrification.


To our great relief, it wouldn’t be going anywhere. Rachel Chen, proprietor of Perks Cafe in Chinatown, had purchased the increasingly run-down business from an old family friend facing retirement, with the plan of turning it around with the help of her locally famous mother, Grace, who for many years was a smiling fixture at the original Save On Meats diner.


They’ve spent the last six months slowly upgrading the menu and getting the ancient space up to their standards, preparing for their next move, which is to expand their operating hours and bring in new management.


To run this new effort, they’ve tapped Theo Lloyd-Kohls of the nearby Dunlevy Snackbar and Corben Winfield of Six Acres and the recently opened Hi-Five grilled cheese window in Gastown (pictured above with Grace). They’ve been charged with improving the menu further, jumpstarting the under-utilized liquor license, giving the entire space a low budget aesthetic upgrade (new interior lights, at least, thank goodness), and moving the Ovaltine into the evening.


As it stands now, the place shuts at 6pm. With Winfield and Lloyd-Kohls at the helm, it will stay open until midnight, seven days a week. The goal is for the changes to all be put in place in the course of one day, so as to ensure no disruption of service between now and then. If all goes according to plan, the new and improved Ovaltine will debut in early March.

PS. They’re looking to hire an experienced cook/kitchen manager. If you think you have the right stuff to dream up menu items and oversee an old school diner, drop them a line at ovaltinecafeyvr [at] gmail.com.

  • Ovaltine. All day breakfast $3.95. Warmth included.
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  • Rachel and Grace Chen in the kitchen at Perks
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  • Ovaltine Cafe Specials
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  • DTES Ovaltine Cafe
  • Ovaltine Cafe Counter Service
  • Ovaltine
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  • Changes afoot at DTES icon The Ovaltine Cafe (details on Scout).
  • Ovaltine Cafe
  • Neon through the late September rain
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  • Summer night on East Hastings
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  • Ovaltine Cafe
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  • DTES Ovaltine


There is 1 comment

  1. I think my favorite Ovaltine story is the one about why they got a liquor license in the first place: all the cops wanted beer at lunch.
    I felt somewhat special when everyone else paid in advance for their liquor and I could run a tab. Or the horrible night I really DID forget my wallet and they were like, “no worries, it’s you. Just get it to us in a few days.” And when the waitress would come over with a menu, see it was me, and just ask what I wanted, knowing I had it memorized. Now I’ll have to actually read it.

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