Scout focuses on new restaurants so much that it’s easy to forget all the ones that aren’t around anymore; the short-lived flashes in the pan and decades-old icons long retired in success. It takes all kinds to propel our food scene forward. So with the assistance of diners and restaurant industry veterans we offer this growing token of delicious remembrance. They might be gone, but they aren’t forgotten!
Editor’s note: This is an ongoing project that is only just starting; it is woefully incomplete at the time of launch and we need your help. Do you know of a deceased restaurant worthy of respectful internment here that we haven’t yet laid to rest? Let us know in the comments below.
IN MEMORIUM, ALPHABETICALLY
– PHOTOS INCLUDED ON MAP –
In June, 2014, chef Andrey Durbach, Chris Stewart, and Michel Durocher revealed their latest project, a short-lived gastro-tavern called The Abbey. Located in the old 2,500 sqft Wild Rice address at 117 West Pender Street, the 90 seat restaurant would be especially carnivorous, plating the meaty likes of potted oxtail, beef consomme, organic beef patty melts (with Tête de Moine cheese and Berkshire bacon!), lamb shanks, bangers, hanger steaks, and housemade sausage rolls. It also boasted an excellent bar program with good local beer, great cocktails, and a solid wine list. The Abbey would close in 2016, well before its second birthday.
A family-oriented chain of diners that would become locally famous for its “courteous service and quality food, all over town”, as well as its wonderful neon sign (with ‘Risty’ character in top hat and monocle). Its most iconic location was at Granville and Broadway, which closed in 1997.
An excellent wine, cheese and charcuterie bar owned by (and next door to) Les Amis du Fromage in Strathcona. They served up delicious raclette and fondues, not to mention one of the best cheeseburgers Vancouver has even seen. It opened in 2009 and closed in 2013.
One of Vancouver’s first “locavore” restaurants. Chef Jeff Van Geest’s neighbourhood trailblazer included an all-BC wine list designed by wine scribe Kurtis Kolt. Famed for its superb brunches and excellent soundtrack. It closed in 2008. The address is currently home to Wallflower Modern Diner.
Bambudda was a 55-seat nouveau dim sum restaurant located at 99 Powell Street in Gastown. It was launched by front-of-house lifer Ray Loy in 2013 and lasted almost four years. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Strathcona/Chinatown, Loy had worked his way up through the ranks at restaurants such as “C”, Joe Fortes, Bacchus at the Wedgewood and Market in the Shangri-La before striking out on his own with this project. Bambudda was by most accounts a very attractive restaurant (designed by Vanessa Rienau), especially in the bar area with its stools lining up to the lip of the room’s convertible frontage (great in summer). The kitchen was a bit of a revolving door, with chefs Keev Mah (later Pidgin, Sai Woo), Scott Korzack (later Beach Bay Cafe, Crowbar) and Curtis Luk (later Mission) all taking turns on the line. The bar program also saw several hands on the tiller, including the talented likes of Max Borrowman (later Torafuku, Juniper). The 3,000 sqft restaurant was forced to close in early 2017, soon after the landlord informed Loy of the building’s need for extensive renovations that would require his exit (not to mention the actual erasure of the 99 Powell St. address itself). Sadly, Loy decided not to search for a new location to continue the promising concept.
A massively game-changing, trailblazing, award-winning restaurant conceived and originally cheffed by Gord Martin, who helped to pioneer the small plates craze. An entertaining, often wild gathering place for afterwork oenophiles and industry types. Though its heyday was in the years on either side of the turn of the millennium (former staff members tell crazy stories!), “Bin” held on to last a full 20 years (1998-2018).
Opened in the autumn of 2013, chef Brad Miller’s Bistro Wagon Rouge was the beloved follow-up to his wildly successful Red Wagon diner on East Hastings and a breath of fresh air to the 1800 block of Powell Street. Styled as a “blue-collar French bistro”, the transportive, beautifully designed space served up consistently excellent but unfussy bistro classics (pâtés, tartines, cassoulet, steak frites, beef bourguignon, etc.) and affordable wines right up until the day it closed in the late Autumn of 2019. It will be well-remembered for its wonderful service, gorgeous bar and accessible prices.
The beer-focused Bitter Tasting Room was launched on Gastown’s edge in 2011 by the Heather Hospitality Group (see Salt Tasting Room, Irish Heather, etc.). The 100+ seater was located at 16 West Hastings St. — a beautiful heritage space that had been lovingly renovated opposite Pigeon Park.
Dozens of craft brews from home and abroad were served at its unique, semi-circular bar alongside pretzels, sausages, scotch eggs, pork pies and more. Its opening predated the rush of Vancouver’s craft beer renaissance by a year or two, its vision harkening back to the city’s original love affair with beer.
“At Bitter, we want you to join us on a journey to a time when Vancouver had a bustling beer culture. Before Prohibition shut down the taps, the local breweries were countless. Delicious ales, lagers and bitters poured free. A golden era in history, before the rise of the beer monopoly, when brewers made the beer they wanted to make, not the beer they had to make.”
Bitter was purchased by Lightheart Hospitality in 2015 and became Darby’s Gastown later that year.
The original Boneta brought together a group of young first time restaurateurs (Mark Brand, Neil Ingram, Andre McGillivray) to a long suffering address in Gastown in the hot summer of 2007. Famed for its excellent cocktails, industry-friendly atmosphere and the hearty but refined French-inspired fare of its first chef, Jeremie Bastien, the restaurant (named after Brand’s mother) moved to a new location in 2011 (see Boneta 2.0). Currently occupied by a modern German restaurant called Bauhaus.
The short-lived (2011-2013) second coming of a Gastown favourite. A concrete and glass box that was exuberantly home to excellent poutine, decadent Daube de Boeuf, an always interesting by-the-glass list, a brass stripper’s aid and a back bar filled with thousands of spent corks.
A place for cheap steaks ($10 sirloins at the time of closing) and no bullshit on the edge of Strathcona; a magnet to posties, longshoremen and neighbourhood families from 1985 to 2012. The decrepit space that housed it later became the first brick and mortar iteration of the Yolks chainlet. Now long vacant and presumed to be awaiting demolition.
Harry Kambolis’ ambitious local seafood restaurant on the False Creek seawall. The game-changing fine dining icon helped define Vancouver’s food scene from 1997 to 2014. Over the years it employed the talented likes of Robert Belcham, Rob Clark, Ted Anderson, Quang Dang, Sean Cousins, JC Poirier, Cate Simpson, Annette Rawlinson, Tom Doughty, Michael Dinn and Leonard Nakonechny. As the founding restaurant partner of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program, its memory echoes in the nightly services of countless Vancouver establishments. Now home to a Peruvian-inspired fine dining restaurant (of comparable deliciousness) called Ancora.
Cafeteria was a short-lived, 30 seat restaurant from serial restaurateurs Chris Stewart and Andrey Durbach (see also “Parkside” and “Etoile” in the Restaurant Graveyard). It lasted two years in the heart of Mt. Pleasant at 2702 Main Street, opening in the summer of 2010 and closing in 2012. Previously, the address was home to a cult-hit looker called Ping’s Cafe. Though definitely expressed with a European accent, Cafeteria’s concept cleaved close to no particular cuisine style. Stewart and Durbach wanted a no-frills, “super casual” eatery with a short and sweet wine list to compliment an ever-changing menu featuring dishes that never exceeded $20. The design, simple but slick, kept customer focus on what was on the plate and in the glass. The opening day menu included the delicious likes of “Nobu-style” tuna and prawn sashimi, chicken schnitzel with spaetzle, Dungeness crab tortelloni, and butterscotch pudding. (I still vividly remember the schnitzel, which was superb.) Stewart and Durbach sold the space to chef Andrea Carlson and her partner, Kevin Bismanis, who would soon thereafter open the award-winning and critically acclaimed Burdock & Co. in its place.
Open from 1937 to 1981, this cavernous night club (complete with fake stalactites) was the first in the city to score a liquor license. This was back in 1954, when Vancouver’s “culture of no” frowned upon the sinful combination of drinking and entertainment.
A short-lived “Modern Latin Cowboy” themed restaurant in the old Lola’s/Ballantyne’s address. It’s certainly not very often that a restaurant with a Che Guevara mural opens in an old Edwardian bank building! Especially one that came pre-loaded with a ridiculous amount of original character (wine-stained marble floors, Italian Skyros marble walls, gorgeous door frames, mirrors, chandeliers, wainscotting, bank vault, etc.), not to mention its very own ghosts (among them a murdered teller, if I recall correctly). It’s still very much there, of course, lying either dormant or beyond my field of vision as a nightclub or private function space. Too bad.
Closed in September of 2017, this Gastown icon enjoyed an 11 year run overlooking the busy confluence of Alexander, Powell, Water and Carrall Streets. Though the food and drink were by no means slouches, the casual eatery’s main draw was always its large, sun-soaked patio – inarguably one of Vancouver’s best. That it so attractively sprawled out into Maple Tree Square not only helped to bring tourists back to the neighbourhood but also signalled Gastown’s viability to young, first-time restaurateurs looking to make their mark at a time when rents hereabouts weren’t so obscene. It is now the home of the second location of Local, a homegrown chainlet allied to the behemoth Joey Restaurant Group, which has 27 locations across North America.
Chow was the short-lived first restaurant from chef JC Poirier (now co-owner of Di Beppe, Pizzeria Farina, Ask For Luigi, St. Lawrence). Though it was celebrated as one of 2007’s Best New Restaurants in Canada by enRoute Magazine (and lauded by most local critics, myself included), it opened just before the global financial crisis hit and suffered its jittery aftermath. Chow ended up closing its doors on May 10th, 2009, not yet two years old.
Located in Yaletown in the voluminous space that now houses Minami, this was a stylish, high-end Italian eatery from legendary restaurateur Umberto Menghi (see Il Giardino). Opened in 2000 and sold to Bud Kanke (The Cannery, Joe Fortes) in 2006, who opened the short-lived Goldfish Pacific Kitchen in its place.
Cork & Fin was a charming, unpretentious, seafood-focused wine bar located in the heart of Gastown at 221 Carrall Street. It was much loved for its seafood boils, freshly-shucked oysters and accessible price points. Launched in 2010 by industry veterans Francis Regio and Chef Elliot Hashimoto (both formerly of Tapastree), the two-level eatery concluded its six year run in 2016, changing gears and rebranding as the short-lived, Hawaiian-Japanese hybrid ONO restaurant.
The name was a bit of a mouthful and their chef (Anthony Sedlak) quit four days before the 2010 opening (which was delayed 8 months), but Corner Suite Bistro De Luxe was refreshingly different with its encyclopedia of cocktails, blue chairs and unrelenting gumption. Too bad it didn’t last a year.
In 2006, after 15 years working in Four Seasons hotels around the world, Chef Wayne Martin decided he wanted to make a change for the casual, striking out on his own to launch an unpretentious 34 seater called Crave on Main at 3941 Main Street (now home to The Arbor). The 1,000 sqft comfort food-focused restaurant featured a hidden backyard patio and a menu of consistently executed American classics like burgers, Cobb Salads and popcorn shrimp sharing pride of place alongside Martin’s more signature items, like tuna tempura rolls and short rib poutine (the latter being ridiculously delicious, as my contemporary notes recall). It was the first of three restaurants that Martin would open in the Lower Mainland; followed by the award-winning Fraiche in West Van and Crave Beachside (both opening in 2008 and closing in 2010). Crave on Main would last until 2013.
It is a cruel facet of the human experience that sometimes young, well-loved restaurants close. It just doesn’t seem fair. But such is life, and such was the fate of Crowbar. Launched at 646 Kingsway by ex-L’Abattoir staffers Jeremy Pigeon and William Johnson on the first day of summer in 2016, the woody 30 seater was for three years a reliable, unfussy place to get an interesting bite (like burgers aged so long they tasted of strong cheese) and a well-made cocktail. Though it endured some ownership and employment standards drama, outwardly it was the very model of a neighbourhood restaurant with reliable deliciousness, confident service and a vibrant atmosphere. Alas, it quietly closed/sold in the Spring of 2019 under the
Sword of Damocles yoke of a landlord wielding a signed lease with a ‘demolition clause’, which is to say Crowbar had only ever existed at the whim and fancy of an outside force that could doom it at any moment. At the time of writing (Winter, 2020), the space is home to Zocalo Modern Cantina, an off-shoot of nearby popular Mexican eatery, Sal y Limon.
The duck confit, “cellar door” Caesar salads, and Syrah-braised beef short ribs at this wine bar are as impossible to forget as its bizarre, blue-lit threshold. It was home to such talents as wine/service guru Mark Taylor and chefs Dana Reinhardt, Alana Peckham and Tim Evans. Cru lasted 9 years, opening in 2003 and closing in 2012.
The West Side’s DB Bistro Moderne was the surprisingly short-lived casual fine dining cousin of the New York original. It saw international superstar chef Daniel Boulud pair up with David and Manjy Sidoo after their falling out with chef Rob Feenie. Some background from designer Janson Goldstein’s website:
“The bar area features herringbone travertine flooring, a zinc bar top and, behind the bar, woven, polished stainless-steel surfaces framed in red eel skin. Custom handcrafted glass pendants, based on a 1960s Italian design, illuminate the space. Beyond a screen of saw-tooth-textured bronze glass, rolled-steel channeled fixtures illuminate the dining room, where custom-designed distressed oak-and-ox blood leather chairs complement banquets in chocolate-brown- and copper-colored woven leather. A private dining-and-wine room presents oil-quenched-steel wine racks and a wall covered in rich red- and brown-leather tiles.”
Located in the old Feenie’s address at 2563 West Broadway, the slick 106 seater launched in the midst of the 2008 global financial crisis; its unfortunate timing was complicated further by the advent of a new tax (HST) and the rollout of stricter drunk driving laws that scared diners. Though it met with some critical success it never really found its footing with Vancouver diners, some of whom loudly sided with Feenie in the and swore to avoid it.
It closed in 2011 to the frustration of many, including Globe & Mail food writer Alexandra Gill, who memorably (and accurately) lamented its demise thusly:
“This is excellent, innovative, labour intensive and lusciously layered food that is in a different – world-class – league from the standard fare at any other French bistro in town. If Vancouver couldn’t recognize that, we don’t deserve it.”
John “Gassy Jack” Deighton’s hotel and saloon on the southwest corner of Carrall St. and Water St. — the hospitality foundation of Gastown. Launched in 1867 and burned down in the Great Fire of 1886. The smoking wreck was immediately removed to make way for the Byrnes Block, which stands to this day (now home to Peckinpah BBQ).
In 2006, long before Vancouver was overrun with taco joints, it welcomed Dona Cata. The small, unassuming, family-run Mexican joint deep in East Van served up $2 tacos alongside free tortilla chips (bonus: extensive salsa bar). Sadly, it closed in 2012.
Opened in 2002 as the main floor dining room of the brand new boutique Opus Hotel, Elixir Bistro was celebrated as a chic, forward-thinking French bistro for the first half of its eight-year run. It was conscientiously cheffed by Don Letendre, who, to his credit (and despite a largely food-indifferent clientele), ensured the restaurant was a founding member of both the Green Table network and the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program. Beyond the steak frites, beautiful horseshoe-shaped bar and reliably good service under pressure, Elixir was also known for its bizarre washrooms. These featured TV screens above the urinals, providing those with penis-in-hand a live feed of what was happening back at their tables. (After sixteen years and a long overdue privacy complaint, the hotel smartly/finally swapped the feed to CNN in 2018.) Elixir closed in 2010 and was replaced by a series of regrettable pop-up establishments, the first of which was called One Hundred Days (described at the time as “remarkably accurate exhibition of everything currently wrong with Yaletown”). Since 2012, the address has been home to an Italian-themed restaurant called La Pentola, which was originally opened by chefs Adam Pegg (La Quercia) and Lucais Syme (Austostrada).
To the surprise of no one, the controversial Escobar restaurant closed on June 10th, 2019 after a 14-month run at 4245 Fraser Street. The otherwise ambitious and smartly designed Latin-themed restaurant was named in exceptionally poor taste after the murderous Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar. The name choice was hated so much that owners Ari Demosten and Alex Kyriazis were faced with sign-carrying protestors picketing their front door, tons of negative media attention and no small amount of online fury. The owners refused to change the name, essentially mooting the quality of a dining experience that was never able to step beyond the shadow of the restaurant’s original (and entirely avoidable) sin. It is therefore interred here as a cautionary tale rather an institution of conspicuous consequence.
The first restaurant by Andrey Durbach. The little thing didn’t last long (1996-1999) but it was popular with the early foodie set and a foreshadow of delicious things to come (Parkside, Pied-a-Terre, La Buca, Sardine Can, Cafeteria). It was followed by the even more short-lived Bis Moreno, and later by chef Brian Fowke’s Rare.
It’s always especially unfortunate whenever a space that used to be a food-service spot is converted to another use that has nothing at all to do with food and drink. Such was the eventual fate of serial restaurateur Sean Heather’s Everything Cafe, a small coffee and sandwich shop that offered a limited menu designed by chef Lee Humphries, who would later go on to run the kitchen at “C” before taking his talent and hard work ethic to the Okanagan. Heather operated the cafe – with its long, buttoned down banquette and rear gangster table – at 75 East Pender St. in Chinatown from 2010 to 2013, not far from his Gastown empire that included The Irish Heather and Salt Tasting Room (among others). Soon after it shuttered, the space became home to the second iteration of Musette Cafe, and later the short-lived Message Cafe. All trace of its former stock-in-trade have since been removed with the address now (tragically) functioning as an office meeting room.
Owned by Ed Perrow, Georgia Goritsas and chef Neil Taylor, this modern British pub in Coal Harbour/West End was launched in the old Le Gavroche house at 1616 Alberni Street in the summer of 2014. It was well known for its friendly pints, scotch eggs, fish and chips, rarebits and miniature Yorkshire puddings topped with roast beef, gravy and horseradish creme fraiche. It shuttered after a 2.5 year year run.
The people behind the Campagnolo restaurants opened this Asian-meets-American BBQ joint in 2011. It served up fat-slicked noodles, chicken-fried oysters, crab fried rice, Korean BBQ pork and many other delicious things besides. It closed in 2012, lasting a mere nine months. It later became the Groundswell Cafe and is now an awesome homestyle Japanese spot called Dosanko.
Owned and operated by Sean Sherwood (see also Lucy Mae Brown and Century), this was a fun, boisterous, casual fine dining restaurant on the West Side that launched in 1999 and closed in 2007. The location has seen several restaurants come and go since, most notably The New Bohemian.
This two-storey amalgam of Foo’s and Ho Ho (1998-2015) has been closed for a few years now but there’s talk of the old Cantonese restaurant making a glorious comeback before the end of the decade. Cross your fingers!
Named one of Canada’s Top Ten Best New Restaurants of 2008 by enRoute magazine, West Vancouver’s fine dining Fraiche was a breath of fresh, mountain air for the North Shore, hosting a series of sunset dinners, winemaker feasts, benefit lunches, firework viewing parties and more. Owned by nearby residents and serial diners Barbara Inglis and Paul Chalmers, the modern room was cheffed over its five-year run by the talented likes of Carol Chow, Jefferson Alvarez, Dino Renaerts, Wayne Martin and Nicholas Lim. It shuttered for good at the close of its New Year’s Eve dinner service in December, 2013.
Launched as “Fuel” in 2006 by first-timers Robert Belcham and Tom Doughty, the fine dining restaurant would morph into the more accessible (but no less refined) comfort food spot “Refuel” in 2009 (great fried chicken). It closed in 2012. Now Trevor Bird’s “Fable”.
The short-lived, multiple award-winning first restaurant effort from chef Angus An, who would later open the wildly successful Maenam in its place (also Sen Pad Thai, Freebird, Longtail Kitchen, Fat Mao and Popina). The concept was modern French meets West Coast. Sadly, Gastropod – designed and financially supported by local artist Ken Lum – was a victim of the recession, lasting just two years (2007-2009).
A fabled underground restaurant in Chinatown that served cheap and cheerful Chinese food for over 60 years (1930s-1990s). It was accessible via – ahem – a green door in the alleyway behind 111 East Pender Street. The building – now home to Fuling Gifts & Housewares – used to house a gambling establishment and a trading store. During the counter-culture era of the 60s and 70s it proved magnetic to non-Chinese, particularly students and bohemian types (who would largely abandon it when the alleyway, once commonly known as Market Alley, started to draw hard drug users in the 80s and 90s). The door itself has long since been painted other colours; for a while it was blue and now (at the time of writing) it is red. Note: There were a few other “Door” restaurants in Chinatown (eg. Red Door, Orange Door), but the Green Door lasted the longest and served the best food.
Once upon a time (in the 2000s), this was the go-to place for restaurant industry workers looking for a delicious, cheap and cheerful food experience with beer after work. The boisterous, late night eatery closed in the autumn of 2017 after 24 years in operation.
Habit Lounge at 2610 Main St. was the second restaurant from the group that has since given us the likes of The Cascade Room, The Union, El Camino’s and Main Street Brewing Company (their first was a much-loved breakfast joined in Kits called Tangerine). The restaurant had two lives. The first – born in 2005 – was a very bright, modern, minimalist 70 seater that was well-known in the neighbourhood for its delicious brunches. Sadly, it was snuffed out in a kitchen fire in the wee hours of December 8th, 2008. Nine months later, the second iteration of Habit Lounge came into being. I remember it as a dark and sexy space intentionally modelled after a 1970s Canadian home recreation room (complete with shag carpet walls and funk soundtrack). Nick Devine, one of Vancouver’s top bartenders, was in charge of the cocktail program, so the drinks – all reimagined kitschy classics – were well-executed, beautifully presented and in conceptual lock-step with the transportive look and feel of the space. Habit Lounge was closed in 2013 to make way for Charlie’s Little Italian (same owners). The address is now home to the Cuban-themed Tocador.
Opened in Blood Alley in the Spring of 2010, this tiny, Spanish-inspired restaurant/wine bar came to us from Sean Heather and Scott Hawthorn, co-owners of Salt Tasting Room (also in Blood Alley). It was cheffed for a time by Lee Humphries. The 21 seat hole-in-the-wall featured a striking mural by local artist Robert Chaplin that spelled out the unlikely tale of a goat that led countless unwitting animals to the slaughter until one day it suffered a nervous breakdown and decided to open and operate a wine bar instead. The name wasn’t a Chaplin fantasy, however. “Judas” goats are real, as Heather explained to me long before the artist got to work on the embellishment:
“When animals are trucked to a slaughterhouse they are often reluctant to get off the truck…..go figure! Most abattoirs have a resident older goat living on the property. The goat is trained to make nice with the animals, and then lead them off the truck to the obvious conclusion. Because of the goat’s treachery, and abuse of his position of trust, he is nicknamed the ‘Judas Goat’. The tragedy of it all is that the goat is ignorant of what is happening around him and his role in it. He is just being friendly. […] The Judas Goat in Blood Alley — for numerous reasons, we couldn’t resist.”
Judas Goat closed in September of 2013. The space would become the irreverent Gringo shortly thereafter.
Kozmas was a leafy, sunny, multi-level Greek restaurant located at 801 Pacific St. from 1974 to 1982. It had a beautiful courtyard, a long bar, a fireplace, white-washed walls and lots of terracotta tile — squint at it after a drink or two and you could have been in the Aegean. It was owned by Kosta Syskakis, Larry Syskakis, Sophie Dikeakos (of Sophie’s Cosmic Cafe fame), and the artist Christos Dikeakos, who assisted Jim McGregor with the décor and interior design. The restaurant was a game-changer in Vancouver, setting a standard for Mediterranean fine dining that would be emulated by many. “At the time,” Christos remembers, “Greek restaurants were the most exotic form of dining experience in frontier fine dining of Vancouver.”
I remember it well. Kozmas was the first restaurant that ever genuinely charmed me. I was still just a baby in 1974 when it opened, but my mother was good friends with the owners and we would go in often. It was there – at four or five years old – that I witnessed a bellydancer – Christos’ sister, Alexandra – in action for the first time, and I was enthralled in the way that only very young and impressionable children can be. I will never forget it (and still blush a little whenever I see her).
A photo of Kozmas (click on “MAP” to see) was featured in the Dream On, Vancouver feature story found in the April, 1978 issue of National Geographic magazine (Vol. 154, No. 4).
A long-running Spanish tapas restaurant that provided lively, affordable nights out from 1971 to 2014. Spread out on two-levels, the place was old school; darkly stained wood beams and brick walls, red and white chequered table cloths and a kitschy bullfighting motif repeated throughout. The godfather of Spanish-themed “Bodega” on Main Street.
Located just around the corner from its critically acclaimed parent eatery, La Quercia, this daytime-only Italian deli plated freshly made pastas (oh, that Orrechiette Bolognese!) and fantastic sandwiches but was fated to close in 2013. Address now occupied by Yuji’s.
Open from September, 2015 to February, 2017, the 800 sqft Latab restaurant was a short-lived gift to local foodies from chef Kris Barnholden and wine pro Eryn Dorman. Located at 983 Helmcken Street (tucked behind the Wall Centre), it never got the attention it deserved despite plenty of praise from critics and industry types for its adherence to locavore principles and purposeful focus on natural, biodynamic and limited production wines. The bright, few-frills 25 seater was a real focal point of West Coast creativity and a source of inspiration to up-and-coming Vancouver cooks who appreciated the ingredient-driven, farm-to-table approach of the tiny kitchen. Latab (Chinook jargon for “The Table”) was also crazy affordable with tasting menus – aka “the whole shebang” – going for just $49. That it didn’t live to see its second birthday is a real shame.
A long-running (35 years) French restaurant in the West End that was famous for the depth and breadth of its Old World wine list (at 35,000 bottles, it was possibly Vancouver’s most extensive for a time). Owner Manny Ferreira opened Miradoro in the Okanagan in 2011.
Kids were encouraged to run guiltlessly, joyously amok at Little Nest, a memorable (if often outrageously loud) counter-service cafe off The Drive. Opened in 2007, the sprawling gift to parents run ragged was owned and operated by Mary MacIntyre, a former Lumiere pastry chef who actually gave a damn about the food Vancouver restaurants were feeding little ones. Unfortunately, Mary’s landlord was of the especially greedy sort, reportedly increasing her rent by 100% over the course of the restaurant’s six year run and ultimately forcing its closure in 2013 by demanding a further 50% increase. Though other kid-friendly establishments have opened in Vancouver since, none have captured Little Nest’s one-of-a-kind neighbourhood den mother vibe.
Opened in 2005, this immediately popular Mexican-inspired eatery featured a great cocktail list, plenty of tequila and lots of delicious share plates. Before it closed in the Spring of 2017, Lolita’s nurtured several influential talents, including chef Shelome Bouvette of Mt. Pleasant’s Chicha.
Cheffed by ex-Aurora Bistro sous Dan Tigchelaar with a front of house crew that included (if memory serves) Mark Brand and Jay Jones, this Sean Heather-owned bit of weirdness in Yaletown dished up bacon-wrapped meatloaf and mixed bourbon milkshakes but somehow never made it to see its first birthday. Tragic.
This restaurant (complete with downstairs “Opium Den”) exploded on the scene in 2001 not only as a den of total debauchery but also as a springboard of sorts for the careers of several of the city’s young serial restaurateurs. Its heyday gnaws indulgently on our memories. The building that once housed it was demolished in 2016.
The wildly creative and successful Rob Feenie era at Lumiere (1995-2011) had a unique magic to it that just couldn’t be fully reconciled with the Iron Chef out of the picture (he left after a very public spat with his partners in 2007). Home to some of the best dining experiences we’ve ever had and the breeding ground for great staff who would go on to become some of Vancouver’s most respected chefs and restaurateurs.
A classic Chinese-Canadian diner run by an adorable couple in their 80s. Tony Fung (server) and his wife May (cook) took over the small Hastings-Sunrise restaurant in 1993 and ran it until 2014. Well known in the neighbourhood for its crotchety regulars and its dirt cheap food. The address is currently occupied by What’s Up Hot Dog.
Brian Fowke and Tim Keller’s sprawling, 150-seat Metro restaurant boasted a great design by EVOKE ID (see also Fable Diner, The Union, El Camino’s), a solid concept (Modern Canadian) and a tourist-magnet location in Coal Harbour, but it barely lasted a year after its 2007 launch. The address would later be home to a slick Hapa Izakaya off-shoot called Hapa Umi, then a Hapa Izakaya proper, then a reincarnated version of Don Francesco’s.
A good looking, wine-savvy pan-Asian fusion restaurant in the heart of Mt. Pleasant that opened in 1998 to critical acclaim. Maker of dreamy hoisin duck pancakes with scallions that still haunts our dreams. Closed in 2007 to make way for Caffe Barney.
A beautiful dessert and champagne-focused stunner short-lived at 32 Water St. in the heart of Gastown. Designed by Craig Stanghetta and Kate Snyder of local firm Ste Marie (see also Kissa Tanto, Savio Volpe, Di Beppe, etc.), the romantic 40 seater was opened by first time owner/operators Alice Wu and Johan Friedrich on Valentine’s Day in 2015. Its staff ranks saw the talented likes of chefs Jefferson Alvarez and Dominic Fortin, not to mention the cocktail stylings of Olivia Povarchook. It quietly closed in August, 2018.
An institution on The Drive for over 62 years, the unpretentious Italian-Canadian restaurant was long famous for its meatballs and classic red sauce joint decor. It closed just before Christmas in 2017. Taking its place in the summer of 2018 was the similarly themed Pepino’s Spaghetti House.
A bold concept from Harry Kambolis (see also “C” and Raincity Grill) that was a little ahead of its time in that it focused on small share plates. The design was one of a kind with a spinning wine rack and butt-hugging bucket chairs. Great staff line-up that included Andy Crimp, Jay Jones and Rob Clark. Opened in 2005 to rave reviews but faded fast in the recession. Rebranded in 2010 to Nu Aegean Cuisine to little fanfare. Shuttered in 2012.
A once-upon-a-time diner of legend. Opened in 1917, the eatery – with its beautiful neon seahorse signage and horseshoe lunch counter making it especially iconic – had its heyday in the middle part of the 20th century. The facade remained a draw even after the Downtown Eastside institution was closed for good in 2009 (following a police raid that turned up a lot of cocaine and heroin on the premises), but since the sign was removed in 2015 the exterior no longer hints at the location’s storied past.
The Parker was a small, 500 sqft., 20 seat vegetarian restaurant opened by Steve Da Cruz and Martin Warren in late September, 2012 on the well-travelled Chinatown/Strathcona block of Union Street. A third partner, Tiffany Easton, came on later. Despite its tight quarters, The Parkside felt a little bigger than it actually was. This was no doubt the result of the wall of mirrors that rose above the wooden banquette seating, but it also had plenty to do with the restaurant’s lofty ambitions. It tried to play as many angles as it could, hosting wine- and sake-pairing dinners, serving up lengthy dégustation menus and happy hour prix fixes, even weekend brunch. Over the course of its three-year run, The Parkside featured the inventive, always interesting cooking of three different executive chefs: Jason Leizert, Curtis Luk and Felix Zhou (in order of appearance). The menus changed often and were complimented by a short wine list and an extensive cocktail card.
Despite its best efforts, the little spot never really took off. The Parker closed in the summer of 2015, the owners rebranding the place into a new concept called Big Trouble (a particularly apt name considering it took just four months for it to shutter as well). Though the kitchen space was extremely limited, chef Felix Zhou’s menu for the place read beautifully (eg. “Peking quail over golden beet purée with puffed wild rice”), which is to say it’s a shame it didn’t get time to settle and shine. The address is now home to The Tuck Shoppe, a casual sandwich spot.
Launched by frontman Chris Stewart and chef Andrey Durbach in 2003, this West End oasis of rich food, bold flavours, great wine, excellent service and arguably the finest patio in Vancouver fell victim to the recession, closing its doors in 2009 to become the more casual L’Altro Buca, followed by Adesso Bistro.
An unassuming, entirely average little Vietnamese pho restaurant on Kingsway at Victoria that gained notoriety on account of a phonetic (English) misrepresentation of its name. The gawking ceased when the eatery closed in 2005, but the memory endures.
Opened at the height of the 2008 financial crisis by Josh Olson and his aunt, Hiroko Yamamoto, the strikingly stylish Ping’s Cafe served up Japanese yoshoku-style comfort foods like tonkatsu and “hambagoo” steaks in the heart of Mt. Pleasant. Named after one of the building’s previous tenants from the 1980s (the faded signage of which still hung above the awning frame), the restaurant was not a little misunderstood and lasted less than a year. The address – 2702 Main Street (currently Burdock & Co.) – would later become home to chef Andrey Durbach and Chris Stewart’s short-lived Cafeteria.
Another Harry Kambolis restaurant (1992-2014), and thus an impactful facet of Vancouver’s restaurant evolution. It following the mantra of local, seasonal, organic and sustainable, fostering lots of talent in both the front and back of house. Outstanding patio on English Bay. Now the Beach Bay Cafe.
An odd, strikingly idiosyncratic fine dining restaurant (with Versace plates) that was likely just a little ahead of its time and in a not-so-great location at the south end of the Granville St. Bridge. It opened in 2006 and lasted a little over two years.
We were stoked for Sea Monstr Sushi’s arrival in 2010. The Gastown sushi counter from Alex Usow and Mark Brand was like the cherry on top after a whirlwind of new restaurant openings brought a dozen or so exciting options to the neighbourhood. Sadly it didn’t last, closing in 2014.
Opened in the old Coco Pazzo location (1864 West 57th Ave.) to critical acclaim in 2005 by celebrated restaurateur Manuel Ferreira (see also Le Gavroche), Kerrisdale’s Senova focused on the food and drink of the Iberian peninsula (or as the restaurant called it, the “cuisine of the sun”). Ferreira would sell the eatery four years later in 2009 and move to the Okanagan Valley, where he would launch the award-winning Miradoro restaurant at Tinhorn Creek. The new owners would keep the Senova name (Ferreira’s hometown in Portugal) but switch the concept to Italian with a focus on pastas. Though the food and service continued to be of mentionable calibre, there were always whispers of turmoil behind the scenes. Several complaints to the Employment Standards Branch were filed by staff over the next decade, with disputes over missing paycheques and ownership infighting even making the news. The restaurant – which regulars will remember for its transportive dining room, its crescent bar and its aromatic open kitchen – would unceremoniously shutter in early September, 2019.
A glorious (and hidden) whiskey lover’s dream that was once located in the No. 1 Gaoler’s Mews space behind what would later become L’Abattoir in Gastown. It’s important to note that The Shebeen is still going strong in the back of the Irish Heather today, which moved across the street to its current address at 210 Carrall St. in 2010. There was just something especially charming about the original, and we can’t help but miss it a little!
For a few decades before the advent of ruinous Prohibition, the bar at Vancouver’s long gone Strand Hotel was – since its launch in 1889 – a magnet to the emerging city’s well-heeled ship owners and brokers. It was the place to see and be seen, to be well-served and thus transported back to the posh clubs and cafes of London. According to Michael Kluckner’s Vancouver, The Way it Was (1984, Whitecap), The Strand’s head barman, Doc, “had the suave manners of a diplomat” and the lunch counter was tended by a Maori import named John Bluntish, who treated his guests like children. The establishment went out in a “blaze of glory” on the night before Prohibition began. Kluckner writes:
In the dying wet hours, there was no way to get close to the bar. The supply of beer ran out, and the bartenders served only straight drinks “and had no time for the usual persiflage.” The Strand set an all-time record for bar receipts, even though some patrons, as closing time approached, wasted precious moments singing ‘Sweet Adeline’.
The hotel and the remnants of its famous bar would be remodelled in 1939 and ultimately demolished in 1951 for the Canadian Bank of Commerce’s regional office building expansion.
Supermarine didn’t last as nearly as long as many wished it would, shuttering in the summer of 2016 just one year (almost to the day) after it opened at 1685 Yew St. just up from Kits Beach. Owned by James Iranzad and Josh Pape, the casual 36-seater was the conceptual, seafood-focused cousin of their meaty, award-winning Wildebeest restaurant (which remains a popular draw in Gastown to this day). From my notes at the time:
“Exemplar dishes include bone-roasted skate wing with white polenta and field mushroom marmalade; tempura-battered snow crab with pomme puree, bok choy, and fresh crab salad; lobster bao buns with pickled cucumber and spiced black garlic bisque; and house spaghetti vongole with spicy bread crumbs. It’s a deep menu, and a salivating delight to read.”
Pape and Iranzad closed it to test-fly another concept – Lucky Taco – in the same address. They did so under the auspices of their umbrella company, Gooseneck Hospitality, which also operates Bells & Whistles and Bufala (in addition to Wildebeest). Prior to Supermarine, the location was for many years home to a much-loved late-night hangout called Abigail’s Party.
The Spanish-themed Tempranillo wine and food bar (named after the Spanish noble grape varietal) was located in a tiny Gastown address that had room for just 26 diners. It was owned and cheffed by Bill Robitaille, who had previously opened and closed two other eateries – first the Italian ‘Notturno’ and then the Japanese ‘Kozakura’ – in the same location (280 Carrall St.). The front of house and Spanish sherry/cider-heavy drinks program were overseen by award-winning barman Ben de Champlain (formerly of Boneta and Cinara). Though small, unpretentious wine bars are a rarity in Vancouver, Tempranillo was not as successful as it could/should have been. It closed in the Spring of 2018, hardly a year after opening.
A legendary restaurant in Hogan’s Alley (the black community that was essentially erased by the City to make way for the viaducts in 1970). Vie’s was in operation for 26 years starting in 1950, with hours that rolled from 5pm to 5am. Very popular with visiting entertainers. The staff were all women, and it’s well known that Jimi Hendrix’s grandmother used to work there as a cook.
For much of West Restaurant’s nearly 20 year run, it stood astride Vancouver’s hospitality scene like a colossus, winning innumerable accolades for excellence and attracting many of the city’s top culinary and front of house talents to its iconic South Granville door. (David Hawksworth, Mark Perrier, Thierry Busset, Rhonda Viani, Brian Hopkins, Giovanni Giardino, David Wolowidnyk and Owen Knowlton – to name just a handful of rockstar mentionables – all clocked in here at one time or another.)
Together with restaurants like the still thriving Bishop’s and long gone Lumiere, West (originally ‘Ouest’) was hugely instrumental in establishing Vancouver’s culinary identity on the high end, wowing local and visiting diners with a hybrid of classically French and new-fangled techniques applied to seasonal ingredients sourced right from our own waters, farms and forests. Though the Werner Forster-designed room’s influence would wane in the wake of the 2008/2009 Financial Crisis (and the general dumbing down of the city’s gastronomic aspirations that resulted), it remained a reliable bastion of fine dining through its second decade. Rather than eat a new and likely ridiculous lease, parent company Toptable Group made the decision to close West with much ado at the end of 2019.
Wild Rice was a trailblazing restaurant that took on the food concept of socially and environmentally conscious “Modern Chinese” cuisine at 117 West Pender Street, just outside the gates of Chinatown. It launched in 2001, with chef Stuart Irving (now owner of Cuchillo) plating ethically sourced food informed by co-owner Andrew Wong’s heritage and pairing it with local wines and original cocktails. The beautifully designed (by Terri Storey), multi-level, 88 seat eatery was, for a time, one of Vancouver’s most interesting and exciting establishments, winning several accolades and drawing a diverse crowd to its strikingly underlit ice blue resin bar. After its closure in early 2014, the spirit of the Wild Rice (a founding member of Ocean Wise and Green Table) lived on at its second location in New Westminster’s River Market. Sadly, its closure has been announced for the last day of 2018.