Some sad news for Vancouver’s restaurant community landed on our desk this week: much-loved neighbourhood restaurant, Dock Lunch, has permanently closed.
For those who have never been, Dock Lunch is/was a small but enchanting neighbourhood cafe, located on 11th Avenue just off of Main Street. Under the direction of owner Elizabeth Grace Bryan, it was famous for their Southern-style brunch, intimate dinners, and a delightful ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants’ charm. As we wrote in an interview with her back in 2016: “Elizabeth has a special way about her. She’s relatable, down-to-earth, and endearingly enthusiastic — plus, there’s something in her smile that makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room. From menu items to decor, her character is imprinted all over Dock Lunch, her tiny, southern-inspired, highly regarded, Mount Pleasant comfort food eatery.”
That Dock’s doors would close is not a complete shock to Elizabeth, but it was always her understanding that the closure would be temporary, while landlords made some scheduled upgrades and renovations. She was looking forward to the break and returning to a fresh space in the spring. Unfortunately, Elizabeth was informed that the planned renovations would render 152 East 11th Ave. (Dock Lunch) ‘incompatible with food service’. It has permanently closed as of January 1st, 2023.
Dock Lunch drew its curtains for the final time on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t know the last service of the year would be the last service ever until just a few hours prior. It was not the ending I planned for Dock; I never got to say goodbye my way, to say goodbye to all of you! But goodbyes are painful, and gods laugh at plans. Anyone who knows anything about Dock knows it was my livelihood, my life and may be worried that without it, I’ll be rudderless. Most also know I light up at workable chaos. I’m looking forward to what is next, inspired by this crazy story we told about a restaurant that wasn’t really. Cooked up by me, the chefs and servers who told their own food stories from our miniature kitchen, the ghosts and the patient, articulate, gracious, weird and beautiful customers who found Dock like moths. Serving up a little slice of real in a sea of glass is a foolish and brave endeavour. I am proud and grateful to be part of a community that will never stop taking it on against impossible odds and who will never stop seeking out its flickering glow.
When I sat down with Elizabeth last night to reflect on her ten years at Dock Lunch, I asked her what she was most proud of. This is what she had to say: “I’m proud of many things, but I’m most proud of the clientele who came along for this ride. I can be chaotic, and this cafe could be chaotic, but they were so flexible. I’ve been in this industry for 35 years, and I’ve had the best customers of my life at Dock – and it’s not because they treat me differently because they know they are talking to the owner. Everyone who has ever worked here says the exact same thing. Dock customers are just the best. It’s because the people who make it through the door of this out-of-the-way address are wide open. They’re looking for something different. So that’s what I’m most proud of: I built something that attracts that kind of person because those are my people. And I’m proud that it was that obvious from the sidewalk that you could walk in and be that kind of person here.”
The news of Dock Lunch’s closure will make a lot of people feel a lot of things, but don’t be angry. If you have dined at Dock Lunch then, like us, you have a fondness for the place that feels closer to love for a friend than a business. Consider making your way to the restaurant this weekend for the Dock Garage Sale, and pick up your own piece of Dock memorabilia. Elizabeth and her team have gathered together all manner of items for sale – from furniture, vintage cups, plates, glasses and bowls to books, cookbooks, art and knick-knacks – and help them raise funds for moving and storage (and eventual rebirth?)
The Dock Garage Sale goes down Saturday, January 7th and Sunday, January 8th, 10am-4pm. We’re betting stuff will go fast, so you’ll want to get in early!
Sincere gratitude to Elizabeth (and Rhiannon, who cooked so beautifully at Dock for the last several years) for bringing Vancouver something we all needed and will desperately miss.