Andrea Gail, or ‘The Gail,’ is a new laid-back, come-for-a-shot-of-infused vodka, a can of beer, and some tasty snacks kind of place that requires no forethought and no fancy outfits. Just roll up and grab a seat.
The reimagined Powell Street restaurant (formerly Wild Thing) offers an intimate dining experience with just 25 seats in its 715-square-foot space. Located on the same block as Straight & Marrow, The Pie Shoppe, Elephant, and Aleph will be “The Gail,” a community-minded snack bar with spirits, beer and wine.
Behind the project is Todd Graham, a long-time fixture on the Vancouver pop-up scene, well known for his fun and accessible cooking that explores a variety of cuisines and techniques (and usually involves something fermented). Graham had been involved in Wild Thing Snack Bar, but when that project dissolved earlier this year, Graham took on the 1867 Powell Street address for The Gail.
The transformation of the space is dramatic. Wild Thing’s light and airy aesthetic has been replaced with earthy tones and an eclectic assortment of posters, paintings, and curiosities that exude a casual bar-meets-cozy rec room vibe. This more grounded tone is complemented by a similarly down-to-earth service model and menu, which focuses on small plates made from fresh ingredients and strongly emphasizes vegetarian options.
Objects and art at The Gail have been imported from Graham’s personal collection, but he downplays the significance, emphasizing that nothing is meant to carry a heavy message: “The goal was to create an inviting, relaxed atmosphere. Vancouver can be a tough city. People used to find respite by going out, enjoying some drinks, and sharing laughs. That doesn’t feel as easy to do these days. Everything is so serious. I want The Gail to be somewhere that people can take a break. I want it to be an easy place to visit where people feel welcome – not pressured to stay. Just somewhere to drop in and have a snack and a drink among friends.”
The laid-back ethos of the room, food and service carries through to the restaurant’s internal structure. Roles at The Gail are not rigidly defined. While Graham and Cait Richards (neither of whom label themselves as ‘chefs’) will primarily be in the kitchen, they will also be on the floor. Similarly, manager Lanny Wolvansky will be on deck to handle the bulk of front-of-house responsibilities, but she has expressed interest in learning the back-of-house operations as well. Graham elaborated: “I don’t disrespect the system, but I want a different model at The Gail. Our food will be designed for speed, and our cocktail menu will be crafted in such a way that we’ll all be able to handle the bar (long-time collaborator and friend Joel McNichol – Brewer/Distiller at Odd Society – has come on board to develop a tight program of pre-batched barrel-aged spirits). “The idea is that we’ll be able to run the whole thing with fewer people – and we’ll all be able to help each other out because we will each understand the other’s job and be able to pitch in,” says Graham. “Like I said, Vancouver is not a light-hearted city, so if this place could be a reprieve from that – for our guests and us – I’d be happy.
Andrea Gail opens on Thursday, October 12th.