After two years of dormancy, the old Say Hey Cafe at 156 E Pender St is finally getting a new lease on life as Chef (and sandwich enthusiast) Lina Caschetto steps up to the plate as the new owner.
Caschetto, who has spent much of the past 10 years of her career as a freelance chef abroad, recently returned home to oversee the development of the menu at Cafe Kitsune in Gastown. As she re-settled in to Vancouver, she connected with old pals and picked up old conversations – including the idea of running a sandwich shop with her friend (then co-owner of Say Hey Cafe), Zachary Zimmerman.
One thing lead to another and, lucky for us, Caschetto decided to put down some roots in Vancouver by taking over the small but mighty Chinatown sandwich shop. With the help of family and friends (and fans), Caschetto has been working on getting the space back into shape and ready to open this spring. I snuck in to have a look at progress late last week.
On the surface, not much has changed. A small raised seating area with six red stools punctuates the entry, followed by three round tables along the east wall, and a service counter, deli fridge and grab-and-go cooler toward the rear of the room. An open kitchen comprises most of the back half of the space, with a slender open hallway lit by a trio of gracefully hung pendulum lights.
Familiar bones aside (and even at this unfinished stage) I can feel that this iteration of Say Hey will be its own thing. Un-hung art leaning against the wall, rolls of cleverly designed stickers waiting to seal take-away wrappers, and Lina’s own buoyant personality are strong indicators of that. In fact, despite tables piled high with boxes and bus pans, the space has the unmistakable aura of being in the home stretch of a process that will leave it re-invigorated with a bright, uplifting, and fun vibe.
Like the room, the menu will reference its past life, while simultaneously starting a new one. If you are an original Say Hey fan, you’ll be glad to know that Caschetto has no plans to drop the meatball sandwich from the menu; but if you’re a vegetarian, you’ll be doubly-glad to know that there will now be a plant-based meatball option. In fact, half of the new menu will be vegetarian. Caschetto will be jumping in with her “seasonal and well-seasoned” approach, to create a menu that sees a more up-to-date balance between meat and veg: classic ‘sub shop’ sandwiches loaded with meat and cheese will have strong representation, but there will also be a fresh line-up of more-dynamic-than-usual plant based options. All sandwiches will be served on signature ‘360 sesame’ buns and will come in two sizes. There will also be also be salads, soups, sides and sweets (think chilled chocolate cake and brown butter cookies – I have it on good authority, that Lina takes cookies very seriously).
Say Hey is aiming to open doors in March. Service will include breakfast and lunch to begin, with the possibility of expanding to evenings in the future. If you are tortured by having to wait for some Say Hey meatballs, consider supporting Caschetto’s efforts to refurbish the cafe’s kitchen by donating to the Kickstarter here. Bringing a kitchen out of a two-year hibernation is no small task, so your help is appreciated (and it comes with some pretty nice perks too).
Stay tuned to Say Hey’s IG feed for news of opening day. In the meantime, take a look inside: