The highly anticipated, 120-seat Alimentaria Mexicana is nearing launch at 1596 Johnson Street – the old Edible Canada space – kitty corner to Granville Island Public Market.
Yesterday afternoon during staff training, I took a look inside the upcoming new project from restaurateur and serial celebrator of all things deliciously Mexican, Ernesto Gomez (see also Chancho, Fayuca). The walkthrough just so happened to take place during one of the hottest hours ever recorded in Vancouver’s history.
Perhaps after a few drinks the palapa-thatched patio umbrellas, bright colours and “Cantina” signage would cause some to imagine the gentle ocean breeze to be coming in from the Sea of Cortez instead of nearby False Creek. It definitely had a cooling effect on at-the-time stone cold sober me. Ice cold beers and cocktails (the latter designed by Chickadee Room bar manager Sabrine Dhaliwal) will doubtlessly go down easily here, especially on similarly ridiculous summer afternoons and evenings. It probably would have felt pretty uncomfortable if the high temperature didn’t entirely suit the concept, which will combine a sit down restaurant and cocktail bar with a retail store and a cute takeout window called “El Caminero”. To expand on a line in the pre-opening press release (see bottom of post), one chef’s affectionate missive to Canada has essentially been replaced by another’s love letter to Mexico.
I was glad to see they were keeping the basic but utilitarian layout of Eric Pateman’s old restaurant. The space remains a raw exploitation of high ceilings with a broad open kitchen and open concept floor fronted by massive windows and a sprawling patio wrap. There’s space for everything that executive chef Martin Vargas, Gomez and his longtime business partner and collaborator, Darragh McFeely, want to do here, including the making of proper corn tortillas. I can’t wait to see it fully formed and fleshed out for service with all the Mexican pottery, textiles, and other craft elements that they have planned.
There’s still a little work to be done (the tortilla machine – larger than the one installed at Chancho – has yet to arrive), so the totality of Alimentaria Mexicana won’t all be revealed when the soft launch kicks off next week. From what I understand, the open concept cantina, patio and takeout window will be good to go after July 5th when we reach Step 3 on our post-pandemic escape ladder. The retail shop and tortilleria will follow later in the summer.
Here’s the full press release:
Mexican-Canadian Chef and Entrepreneur Ernesto Gomez and his team of creative collaborators behind the beloved Chancho Tortilleria, Nuba and former Fayuca will introduce the city to an authentic Mexican cultural and culinary experience unlike any other when they open Alimentaria Mexicana in the heart of Vancouver’s Granville Island this June.
The latest effort in Gomez’s ongoing social mission to showcase, support and celebrate farmers and suppliers from Canada and small south-of-the-border communities across Mexico, Alimentaria Mexicana is a heartfelt love letter to his homeland and unites a lifetime of passion, expertise, dedication and storytelling.
Occupying the former location of Edible Canada, Alimentaria Mexicana will offer an expansive, multifaceted concept featuring a licensed dine-in cantina and patio, take-out window, tortilleria, and educational space as well as a retail shop with high-quality, locally and internationally sourced artisanal products and provisions — in essence, all the necessary elements to showcase an authentic Mexican taste of place.
Alimentaria will highlight Gomez’s skills honed in the kitchens of Michelin-starred European restaurants and his continued quest to incorporate fairly-traded, traceable and nutrient-dense Mexican ingredients in his kitchens. He will be joined by partners Darragh McFeely (Nuba, Chancho Tortilleria, Fayuca), who brings more than 20 years of experience in the industry as a director and partner of numerous brands both in Vancouver and New Zealand, and Executive Chef Martin Vargas, former head chef at Fayuca when it was nominated as one of Canada’s top 30 New Restaurants by enRoute Magazine in 2016.
“Behind every chile, kernel of corn and native grain we source from Mexico are stories with thousands of years of heritage, genetics and biodiversity attached to them,“ says Gomez. “These are stories of hardworking farmers that planted the crops, tended and harvested them with care and are now able to reap the rewards and improve the lives of the people who live and work in those communities.“
I’ll update this post when I see a copy of the finished menu, which I’m really looking forward to checking out. In the meantime, take a closer look…