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DINER: A Look Inside Chef Makoto Ono’s Stylish ‘PiDGiN’ On The Downtown Eastside

by Andrew Morrison | Pidgin, the highly anticipated first Vancouver restaurant from Canadian Culinary Champion Makoto Ono, opened last night to friends and family at 350 Carrall Street (across the street from Pigeon Park on the DTES). I took a look inside while they were preparing for service and stayed until it started to fill up. “We ended up feeling pretty good,” Ono’s business partner, Brandon Grossutti, told me this morning — so much so that they let the door go and finished the night with two full turns.

Designed by Craig Stanghetta with several installations by local artist Ricky Alvarez (a tandem we also saw to great effect at Revolver), the finished room is startlingly beautiful — the most mature of Stanghetta’s restaurant spaces to date. Alvarez’s works – I spied a collection of suspended scissors, a white forearm with hand brandishing a cleaver, golden thread-suspended blocks of quartz in the washrooms, a goosewing fastened to an orange decahedron, a California quail taxidermist’s triptych set in alcoves above the chef’s table – make for easy conversations, as do the weighty metal menus, the magnetic wall sections (to fasten the menus to, natch), and the service of JoieFarm “Noble Blend” and soju from gleaming taps.

Clearly, a lot of thought went into everything a diner’s eye might set upon, and that includes the wide angle view of the oft-sordid goings on across the street at Pigeon Park. There are at least a dozen seats right in the window, which tells me Grossutti and Ono are not in the least bit embarrassed by their bright projection of style and cuisine in the heart of the Downtown Eastside. And nor should they be. The contrast between inside and out might be massive, very real, and as striking to those who congregate on the northeast corner of East Hastings and Carrall as to the diners themselves, supping foie gras rice bowls and sipping Negronis in heated, cloistered comfort behind an unfrosted window, but that’s the reality of Vancouver, and I dig that they’re framing it instead of running from it. Stanghetta and Alvarez may have outdid themselves, but for the time being this is the talking point that will dominate the rest.

That is, until its Ono’s turn, because the heart of the matter is his French/Japanese/Korean food. I tried just a few of his dishes, definitely not enough of the menu to square and share a judgment with any kind of confidence, but suffice it to say that he’s wicked clever, and that I’d happily eat everything that I tried last night again (especially the squid and the tataki). I will, however, predict that if the service can hold up its end of the bargain (always a tall order when there’s a fierce talent in the kitchen) that Pidgin might just rapidly join the rarified ranks of the most ambitious restaurants in the city. It definitely has the potential to be that good. But make your own call. Pidgin opens tonight (Sunday) for real at 6:30pm. Click here for further intel/context, and browse the fresh shots below…

  • IMG_9903
  • PiDGiN
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  • PiDGiN | Beef Tataki
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  • PiDGiN | Chicken wings
  • PiDGiN
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  • PiDGiN | Shochu on tap
  • PiDGiN | Joie Noble Blend on tap
  • PiDGiN
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  • PiDGiN | Squid, pork
  • PiDGiN | Shochu service
  • PiDGiN | Good negronis
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  • PiDGiN | Chef's Table
  • PiDGiN | Nuts
  • PiDGiN
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  • PiDGiN | Makoto Ono
  • PiDGiN



Andrew Morrison lives and works in Vancouver as editor-in-chief of Scout and Culinary Referee & Judge at the Gold Medal Plates and Canadian Culinary Championships. He also contributes regularly to a wide range of publications, radio programs, and television shows on local food, culture and travel; collects inexpensive things; and enjoys rare birds, skateboards, cocktails, shoes, good pastas, many songs, and the smell of camp fires.

There are 82 comments

  1. Love the interior…will try the food this week.
    P.S. As always, nice photos Mr. Andrew 🙂

  2. Went to check this place out last night and it was wonderful. I feel really happy to live above this place. <3

  3. We went to try out the food and drink on Sunday. Amazing food, and great cocktail menu! Located across the park from Bitter, down the street from Calabash, and a block from l’abattoir, this is a great addition to the area.

  4. You are obviously oblivious to the impact your establishment will have on the thousands of folks, yes thousands, who live in the DTES and cannot afford the luxury of your stylish cafe. I say no to gentriFUCKation and am in total support of those picketing in front of your establishment Think about what you are doing!

  5. I, for one, applaud Teresa Diewart for the emphatic nature of her stupidity. The picketers outside Pigeon are clueless. I live on the downtown east side and don’t need any more “activists” telling me where to eat or what to believe.

  6. Hilarious. Some “coverage” of the picket line on a DTES NIMBY website:


    They even bashs Scout for good measure:

    “As for the innards of the business, and what goes on behind the glass, it seems best to let a foodie mag that explicitly prides itself on gluttony and vanity [take a look at the online masthead] coo about things like the chef and the decor.”

    I’m with Kim and I think Pidgin will shine.

  7. I’m sorry but I can’t enjoy foie gras while staring out at victims of abuse and residential schools. The disparity is vulgar. I don’t fault the business for this. But I can’t support this kind of in your face “we’re coming to push you out” type of set up.
    Especially because we need to create at least 2000 units of housing to replace decrepit structures and house the homeless in this neighborhood.
    If this business succeeds and attracts more and the forces of gentrification push people back into the margins, people will die, people will be murdered. Pickton was able to get away with his horrific crimes because people were pushed into the margins and not enough people cared. Why would we want to recreate that situation?
    I respect people who love the food and want to see the restaurant succeed. I’ve been a business owner and I know how hard it is. But my sympathies lie with these people who have been abused all their lives, taken from their families by police as childre, sent off to residential schools and abused, abused at other institutions like Woodlands and were then made homeless for years and have only recently seen their lives become more stables. We’ve only recently got the plague of AIDS under control, only recently made measures to protect people from being preyed upon by serial killers, and now you want to open a fine dining restaurant across the street from the only park in the city where they feel like they belong.
    Seems downright inhuman to me.

  8. Any chance the owners could change something to include the locals? A few cheap items a diner could buy to offer the malnourished peeps across the street? I think if the owners could make a few gestures towards helping out the local community, if they made a vocal commitment to support social housing in the neighbourhood or something like that, would go a long way towards overcoming my guilt at the sight of injustice and allow me to feel comfortable patronizing this establishment.
    The food does look good. But human rights are still way more important than any restaurant.

  9. Hey guys just trying to get inside the minds of the picketers that have been in front of this restaurant. If anyone has any answers i would love to know!

    What is the problem with Pidgin in particular? The prices? The customers? The renovation of the building itself?

    Calabash is across the street. Their prices are directly in line with Pidgin’s. Cartems is also across the street, where you can buy the city’s most expensive donuts. I haven’t seen them picketing over there, so that can’t be it… Don’t think they’ve been hanging out at Bitter either.

    It’s not a chain restaurant and hardly seems like a corporate venture. As far as i know they haven’t purchased entire blocks or buildings. The renovation of the building produced some of the lowest priced new real estate in the area. Not cheap enough i guess?

    The customers seem to be the same people that frequent any restaurant in the neighbourhood. Gasp, some of them even live here. Some of them even help operate the large amount of low income housing in the area. So based on the norm, this can’t be it either.

    So is it the optics of having a clean cut modern restaurant across the street from pidgin park? They just don’t like the way it looks? That’s kinda ironic. They seem like smart people, so what’s their alternative? I would really love to hear about it.

  10. The pictures of this restaurant made me feel physically ill. The callousness of serving fois gras while looking through a huge picture window to watch the forced poverty all around. To me the mounted wing on the wall epitomizes an attitude of entitlement and cruelty. Bird wings symbolize flying and freedom, while they have hacked one off and hung it on the wall of their uninspired restaurant.

  11. I think the picketers are essentially scared they are going to be displaced. They are fearful that this establishment has the intention of driving them out. The reasons for this are:

    1) The building used to be a low income hotel and people have already been displaced

    2) The design of the structure seems to accentuate the disparity, with people on both sides of the glass in full view. So basically a poor person on the parkbench can see that diners are eating at the window and watching them. This is disturbing, since the average DTES resident who is disabled or on social assistance can only afford to spend around $10/day on food and the people inside spend that on an appetizer. It also seems reminiscent of a zoo, with people on the inside warm and safely watching the unfortunate people outside, who are victims of violence, residential school and institutional abuse.

    3) It has been mentioned by a few observers that the iconography of the restaurant is particularly offensive to First Nations people, specifically the image of a cleaver chopping a buffalo and the artwork inside. To many First Nations the buffalo is a symbol of their people and this is a large aboriginal neighbourhood. Particularly in the context that this is the neighbourhood where the missing women lived, it’s very insensitive. Almost everyone in the DTES has friends who have been murdered, and aboriginal women are still being murdered at an alarming rate. We need to work harder to be sensitive and respectful of this.

    4) The restaurant hasn’t made public their support for the poor, or for social housing in the area. Several of the clients of this establishment have been overheard calling the picketers bums, lazy Indians, and other offensive terms.

    5) Many poor residents in the area fear they are about to be displaced. There is nowhere else for people who are disabled or on social assistance to affordably live. If they are displaced, some will become homeless and some of those homeless will die horribly and if people are pushed back into the margins of society, they will once again be prone to being victimized by violence and even murder.

    What can the restaurant do to change these perceptions?

    1) Talk to people. Meet some locals, don’t be afraid to approach a binner. Learn to set aside your judgement of addicts and engage people. Many people are more reasonable than you would expect. They understand people need to make money. They just don’t want to get pushed out. They want to stay in their neighbourhood and not be made to feel like freaks all the time.

    2) Publicly support protecting social housing in the area. Let your local politicians know you support protecting social housing in the area. It needs to be a real priority. The balance is tipping too far in the direction of the wealthy. If social housing is not protected, the DTES might be destroyed.

    3) Do something nice for your neighbours. Hire locals to clean up outside. Hire people from programs that recruit ex-addicts into service industry jobs. Offer some take out menu items that a diner could purchase and offer to someone outside who is hungry.

    4) Take part in initiatives that protect the low income community. Help facilitate enterprises that service this community. Join the fight to protect what they have and advocate to bring back funding for things like the Rainier Women’s Detox across the street, which just lost their funding.

    5) Create more opportunities for different classes to integrate. Help organize a neighbourhood pow wow, BBQ or celebration. There needs to be more opportunities for the different classes to socialize and mix.

    6.) Encourage anything that creates better housing for people or services they desperately need.

  12. I went in to check it our the other night, and the protesters were chanting “Jiminy Cricket, don’t cross the picket.” Awesome.

    Glad to have Robyn Gray back in the ‘hood – cocktail list looks smokin’. (One of the cocktails actually comes in a cinnamon smoked glass. Hyuk.)

  13. @Jennifer E

    Let me ask you. Before this building was renovated, did it make you sick to your stomach when there were a dozen d-boys in that alley 24hrs a day? Or was it a symbol of freedom.

  14. Gentrification, when it displaces people is a form of genocide. Anyone have any feelings about that? Can we have a community of co-existence or is this the latest foreshadowing that the poor are going to be pushed out (to nowhere, to die in some inhuman way, for there is nowhere else where there’s social housing they can afford).

    Is it necessary that people are made homeless just to have a restaurant? Is it an either/or thing or can there be another way that allows the wealthy to have their eateries without pushing people out?

    Why is it so hard to get the Gastown gentrifying/Scout milieu to support progressive ideas like fighting against racism and poverty and supporting social housing and supports for those in need. I’ve heard some restauranteurs openly advocate an aggressive stance against the poor. Tyson Reimer, for example, in this magazine has made comments desparaging addicts in the past.

    Can we have a frank discussion regarding this bigotry against addicts, the poor, and First Nations?

  15. @Paulo

    Love all the points, great to hear more views on this!

    However, nearly everything you listed are assumptions and/or have nothing to do with the running of this restaurant. You apparently, can read peoples minds. And while that’s an incredible skill, have you verified the restaurants intentions in the neighbourhood?

    Maybe they’re terrible people, i have no idea… But seriously. Time to breathe some reality into this GENTRIFICATION ZONE.

  16. It’s really upsetting that some believe that a RESTAURANT OPENING is somehow tantamount to genocide. That is a shameful and stupid thing to say. I have lived on the DTES for over 25 years. People who say such things are embarrassing the community that they are trying to represent. Spouting such unfounded, indefensible garbage does nobody any favours, but I guess that’s to be expected from people who believe that buffalo once roamed Coast Salish territory. It’s really no wonder that 99.9% of people roll their eyes at these picketers. It’s not incumbent upon small business owners to right society’s wrongs. Target developers or politicians, but not a small business. We’ll have that “frank” discussion when you grow up a little.

  17. A restaurant opening is not tantamount to genocide. That’s not what I said. I said economic displacement of this vulnerable population is a form of genocide. It’s not the fault of the restaurant but the building, as part of the trend of converting old low income housing into market housing, is part of the problem. The success of many of these unaffordable establishments, by increasing the appeal and marketing it, the lure of flipping an “undervalued” area by moving poor people out, these factors are all putting people’s community and housing at risk, and therefore their ability to survive.

    Perhaps it is more appropriate to target the developers, the city, etc. In any case, make your arguments but don’t resort to name-calling cause I never called you any. (And actually, it’s the person who resorts to name-calling that’s the ‘childish’ one).

    In any case belittling the issue won’t make it go away. We have a housing crisis, a homelessness crisis, and this business, as well as others, do represent a threat in the minds of many low income folks who fear displacement. It’s a completely legitimate discussion to have. These are real human beings who could lose what little they already have. They see this restaurant and for all the various reasons mentioned find it threatening.

    Gentrification is not something to be mocked. Seriously people, displacement will cause some people to die. We need to talk about this.

  18. hey Paulo-

    “Several of the clients of this establishment have been overheard calling the picketers bums, lazy Indians, and other offensive terms.”

    you have any actual evidence of this?

  19. No I do not. In fairness I never observed anything like that. In fact most people coming in and out seem like perfectly decent people. What Im trying to describe is I’ve spoken with 20 or 30 longtime DTES residents who’ve expressed various anxieties about these upscale places coming in. In all fairness I cannot say that this restaurant did anything to harm anyone and I am aware that on their website they mention a commitment to fundraising to help the community. Maybe these guys have the best of intentions and picketers are overreacting. In any case, it doesn’t change certain facts such as the gradual loss of affordable rooms and a dread about what the future holds.

    Maybe I should give these restauranteurs the benefit of the doubt. I’m not sure. I’m kind of on the fence as to whether I should join the picket myself. My initial impressions at the stark disparity were very negative but I’m trying to as honestly as possible affect some positive outcome in provoking this discussion. Fact is, part of me is really curious to try the food. It really does look and some phenomenal. There is obviously some amazing talent in this kitchen. But ever since places opened up in Blood Alley I’ve been having these hang ups. I just feel a lot of compassion for this community, I’ve worked here for years and known a lot of people. I’m just very concerned about these people and the visual chasm stirred quite an emotional response in me.

  20. @ Paulo

    There’s some real shit. No sensationalism. I share the same concern about the transitions that will inevitability have to happen for many low income residents. Gastown/Chinatown/Railtown/Strathcona are all going to be significantly different in five years, everyone knows this. Hell, the speed at which things have changed in the past year has really surprised me.

    But here’s the thing, the only way more social housing gets built is if there’s enough new business in the area to facilitate it. And i’m pretty sure anyone would prefer to be in Woodward’s over The Empress. Things just can’t stay the same, it’s bad for the people, it’s bad for the city. Rejuvenation is the only option, but unfortunately there’s a group of middlemen that have it all twisted. It’s these business’s job to get their message across that no, they don’t want to see anyone evicted. They actually want to see their living conditions improved for the betterment of the entire neighbourhood. As far as resources for low income residents. I’m sure most would agree we could use a No Frills!

    But i really do wonder why all the social housing needs to be so concentrated.

  21. I think the thing about concentration is its necessary in order to access services. I’m specifically thinking of those with chronic illness and disability who need to access a variety of services within walking distance. Also the fact a lot of businesses elsewhere have traditionally discriminated against these low income groups and the businesses and social enterprises that have sprung up in the DTES to address this need. For example, many banks won’t take on clients on welfare and disability and have come to rely on Pidgeon Park Savings. The Carnegie Centre as well is a huge resource serving people in a number of ways that don’t exist elsewhere. Plus you have all these pharmacists, clinics and health labs, clothing programs, cheap & free food programs etc. Plus there’s Insite, Vancouver Detox, etc.
    It actually makes a lot of economic and social policy sense to have a concentration of social housing.

  22. “It actually makes a lot of economic and social policy sense to have a concentration of social housing.”


    My proof = The Downtown Eastside.

  23. @ Donald.
    The DTES is not the result of the failure of networks of social housing. The DTES is the result of a failure in civil society, of our social safety net, to protect people at risk.
    Read the Missing Women Report.

  24. Ok, I wasn’t going to burst Paulo’s bubble because he was doing a great job at showing how little knowledge and a laptop is a dangerous thing but WOW! Celebrating ghettoisasion of a neighborhood by promoting the concentration of poor, drug addicted and impoverished peoples into a small urban area!? Did you pull that out of Mein Kampf?? Have you ever spoken to any of the recovering addicts in the area? DTES is the LAST place they want to be do to the inability to get away from the dealers and users. Your “Keep them all in the same area” attitude is the last thing this neighborhood needs.
    Also, it’s against the law for a bank to deny anyone a bank account unless they have commited fraud. You seem to want to create this narative about ohhh soooo many things that clearly, you know nothing about. Even me.

  25. I’ve worked with recovering addicts and active drug users for over 10 years so I am familiar for the need to get people housed away from the DTES once in active recovery. I’m not talking about them. But not everybody wants that. Some people want recovery in their community, for example the Rainier Women’s Detox (same was doing a great job but they just lost their funding).

    As far as banking goes, I can tell you many stories of people suffering from financial exclusion usually because of the way they look, often involving security guards barring them from entry simply because they look like street people, or in some cases subtle forms of discrimination to discourage a visibly identifiable welfare recipient from accessing banking. This is why many poor folks started using check cashing places that charge crazy fees. 4 Corners bank was created by Jim Green to deal with this, and today its successor is Pigeon Park Savings. As a lifelong Vancouverite who grew up in Strathcona and East Vancouver I’m intimately familiar with the DTES.

    And addicts need a place to live, too. Just because they are sick doesn’t mean we should demean their humanity through comments such as:
    “You must have some serious guilt issues if you actually give a fuck about the opinion of the junky who just broke into your car to steal a loonie and then left a shit with a used syringe stuck in it.” – (http://urbandiner.ca/2010/03/14/judas-goat-taberna-is-now-open/)

    Where some people see a bum, an addict, a junkie, a meth-head, a worthless piece of scum, I see a person, someone’s daughter, mother, a residential school survivor, a survivor of mental institutions, a lost soul who deserves dignity whether they use drugs or not, whether they are sick or not.

    Read the Missing Women Report

  26. And this is where people get caught in the vortex of details, instead of talking big picture.

    I have a difficult time accepting concentrated social housing as the correct approach. To me it screams enablement and creates an endless cycle of new at risk residents that end up here from across the country. That being said, you can’t discount Paulo’s points here, i can absolutely believe there are resources some may need to be close to. But i’d sure love to see a more methodical approach to how we’re assess mental illness…

    As this thread heads off the cliff, i hope any potential picketers realize this restaurant has nothing to do with the problems we see and if anything will help low income residents in the long run. New business = new housing. Which is allot better for the community than endless rundown hotels managed by slumlords.

  27. New business has not equalled new housing so far. So far more housing has been lost than replaced. And there’s a bunch of aging structures which will need to be replaced and no plan by the governments to plan for it.
    If we don’t protect the stock of low income housing that is left in the DTES there may be no where left to house the poor, who currently make up more than half of the DTES (including Gastown). Where will they go?

  28. “Where will they go?”
    Anywhere else in the world is better than the DTES. Mental health, addiction treatment and progressive health care can be delivered anywhere. If getting the addicted, mentally ill and the chronically poor out of their respective cycles is the goal, why does it have to take place in one single community?

    In the meantime, can’t wait to try Pidgin.

  29. @ Paulo

    Incorrect. Here’s one for example, this is being voted on this month and will pass. http://changingcitybook.com/2012/11/12/41-east-hastings-street/

    That is not a small project. And the residential units are 100% social housing.

    Tell me how this gets built without the recent rejuvenation of the area, aka all the new business that has come back to the area in the past three years.

  30. Sad to see that among some of the local restaurant owners we have people like Mr. Reimer who demonize poor people and addicts instead of showing compassion and understanding that addiction is a disease, and that the harshest forms of street entrenched addiction are almost always the result of sexual and physical abuse and institutionalized violence.
    Sad that among the milieu of Gastown’s restaurant-owning community it is socially acceptable to spew bigotry and epithets about the most vulnerable people in our society.
    Once again I point to this. Read the comments. Someone pointed out being uncomfortable dining at an eatery directly adjacent to The Stanley Hotel, and Tyson Reimer responded by demonizing all poor as addicts, all addicts as thieves, instead of the more accurate reality, that they are victims of systemic bias.
    If you read the Missing Women Report you’ll note that this kind of bigotry throughout the system has been shown to contribute directly to their murders.
    How many other restaurant owners share Mr Reimer’s open and antagonistic bigotry behind closed doors I wonder?
    Since he already brought up Mein Kampf maybe he should familiarize himself with the concept of ubermench and liebensraum.

    Once again, read the comments here:

    Why is bigotry of poor people and addicts acceptable to you guys?

  31. @ Paulo

    You’ve lost us. How are you helping anybody by letting your personal feelings get in the way of real ideas and solutions.

    And that’s really the conclusion to this whole Pidgin picketing thing. A bunch of people putting their personal feelings on display without any consideration for what’s really best for the hood. What a fucking embarrassment. Too much irony for me i’m afraid…

  32. Preventing displacement is obviously best. In my opinion Sequel 138 should be all social housing and 21 doors should be more like sequel 138. It’s about creating a sustainable balance not pushing people out of their homes.

  33. Not that I want to keep this silly thread but thanks for linking that. You obviously know nothing about blood alley because anyone who lived in the neighbor hood knows it used to be where the dealers and other assholes hung out. Still is but it’s more of a pass through now. So yah, I still say fuck them.
    Now it seems the only one trying to group the above mentioned into a big ol’group would be Paulo. I’m pretty sure most of the DTES residence would be very insulted to hear Paulo thinks dealers and criminal addicts and other preditors are representative of the entire comunity and any attack on their character is an attack on ALL people who struggle in the area.
    You also seem to have no problem lumping all business owners together. Putting everyone in there stereotypical box seems to be your thing. So have at amigo! There’s more then enough room for you on the sidelines to sit there and shake you fist and think up these grand cut and dry naratives of “Good vs. Evil” and “David vs. Golaith”. You keep on building walls and the rest of us will continue on helping the neighborhood through employment, charity and good old fashion hospitality.

  34. Tyson, I used to work at that Hotel, I knew those people in Blood Alley and they weren’t all dealers and scumbags. There was a group of predatory pushers who were running a stolen bike ring there but they weren’t displaced by any business it was the hotels working with the police actually. All the other people in Blood Alley, the average street person there, the majority of the ones you used to see all the time, they weren’t assholes. They were poor, some were mentally ill, some were binners, carvers, a few were kids who got messed on crystal, some of them got housed, some got displaced. I know at least two who passed away. I went to the service for one of them and met her family. She wasn’t an asshole, just messed up. Prejudice can make people perceive certain groups as more threatening than they really are but this girl was about 23, tiny, not a dealer, just an addict who needed to be protected by her friends constantly so she wouldn’t be coerced into the sex trade. When you get to know these people’s parents and siblings you realize that they weren’t assholes just that it makes it easier to ignore them, despise them and not feel guilty if you can make yourself think they’re assholes.

    Not all business owners are bad. Even no individual is pure evil or good. It wasn’t fair of me to pick on anyone of you. But collectively, it seems to a lot of people in the community, who I can’t speak for, but I know literally a few hundred people in the community, and I’ve spoken to a few dozen and heard frequent expressions of anxiety regarding this much pricier element moving in and in some cases, displacing. They feel threatened by gentrification. I’m not making this up, you can go to meetings at the Carnegie and see for yourself, people are literally scared to lose their community.

    I’m just trying to keep the issue alive that people that are displaced are vulnerable and we have a moral obligation to protect them, even if they are sick and not always pretty to look at and even if it’s somewhat acceptable to accept discrimination against them. These are our most vulnerable citizens and condos and restaurants that displace them should mitigate the damage, and pressure the government and stakeholders to address these unmet human needs.

  35. The picketers will cause:

    More people going to the restaurant to support it in an act of sympathy for the completely unjust and uncivil act of attempted destruction.

    The picketers may cause:

    Some of the employees to be laid off, and these will be the people with the least number of hours and the lowest wages.

    This picket is a goofy, fringe act which no legitimate agency in DTES is supporting, because they know that in the eyes of the City, and the 2.3 million people of this region, this would further marginalize their cause. It will end, and be forgotten, but the damage to their cause will linger.

  36. Mark Brand was supposedly scheduled last month to speak at the BC Labour convention but this was a huge outrage (a gentrifier in our midst). But what is wrong with having a debate? Are the young people in the audience so stupid that they can’t listen to someone speak and form their own opinion?

    He’s officially the boogeyman.

    “Harsha Walia, coordinator of the DTES Power of Women group, responded. She wrote to the federation, contacted other speakers invited to the convention and prominent unionists, and made a pitch for Brand’s invitation to be withdrawn. The result? Some major unions threatened to walk out if Brand took the stage and the other keynote speaker, Bridgette DePape, the page who famously held up the “Stop Harper” sign in parliament, refused to share a stage with Brand.”


    On a lighter note, PETA is offended that DTES protestors are offended at people eating foie gras in front of DTES residents in Piegeon Park but are not disgusted at the inhumane treatment of geese to get said liver.

    And protestors in front of Pidgin discovered that pigeons aren’t native to North America; being brought to North America by white Europeans settlers in the 1600s. New protest begins across the street to rename Pigeon Park.

  37. What a polarized situation we have here. I think people like Tyson Reimer, David Traleston and Teodore need to seriously look at themselves in the mirror and ask why they hate poor people so much. It’s amazing how many defenders of this business have expressed vile hateful bigotry, even hate speech.
    It makes me want to join that picket even more. I was hoping to encourage a discussion and maybe see something done that would help the locals and avoid these ugly conflicts. But no, people like Tyson and David have exposed themselves as bigots. And this Teodore guy sounds like a total Nazi.
    Have you people no shame? You sound proud of your hatred. Don’t you care about people who had none of your privileges or opportunities? Don’t you care about people who have been done wrong all their lives?
    These aren’t animals like you say. These are human brings: someone’s daughter, brother or father. They deserve our compassion and help not your hate speech and displacement.
    If you don’t think so you’re an asshole and your business deserves to fail.

  38. Paolo, did you try to leave a series of comments on the Pidgin stories under the name of “Theodor” this morning? The comments were the rants of an atypical insensitive racist advocating for the destruction of the DTES because its people are scum. They were disgusting and deeply offensive. It’s OK if you want to remain anonymous, but it’s not OK to invent a conversation in order to foment hate.

  39. Paolo’s comment above quotes a “Teodore” comment that we still have on file in the moderation queue. It was never published.

  40. I hear the restaurant has nice food, and I really look forward to eating there.

  41. I was going to head to Pidgin anyways, all the protestors have done is cemented my desire to give them my business.
    As far as renaming Pigeon Park, well techincally there is no such place, it’s really called Pioneer Place.

  42. It must have been because I was sharing a computer with someone else.
    I didn’t realise the guy right before me was “Tedor” but I did see the awaiting moderation.
    Sorry I know who that person is. That was really shitty.
    I’m very sorry but I did not write that. I would never do that. I will cut ties with that person immediately.
    Sincerely sorry. I’ve been duped by someone. I feel like a fool.

  43. I’m sorry too, Paolo, because I don’t believe you.

    Can we please see these comments, moderator?

  44. Oh, Paolo. If you really want to apologise, start by apologising for the right reasons instead of blaming the person you were sharing a computer with.

    Karen, I don’t want to share these comments. They were deeply offensive, and have no place in any discourse, civil or uncivil. If hate speech is evil, then what is faking hate speech in an attempt to demonize someone in the eyes of others? Ugh, I don’t know, but it’s really shitty, and doesn’t do these picketers any favours at all. To be perfectly clear, they were written by someone who was trying to discredit the restaurant by posing as one of its “supporters”. Repent, Paolo…whoever you are. At the very least, tell your “friend” Teodore to give his head a shake.

  45. I was born, raised and still live in Vancouver where I am fortunate enough to be a homeowner. In the fall of 1973, between a LIP grant and graduate school, I worked with Libby Davies, her father Peter, Bruce Ericksen, and others who were establishing DERA in the area traditionally known as Skid Road. I have been in every bar and cafe in the neighbourhood and am still recovering from the recent folly of wrecking the Pantages and closing down the Only. In 1973, this part of Vancouver was a true community, about to benefit from the work of area-based activists, just as Strathcona (now uber trendy) was saved in the late ’60s from the wrecking ball and a freeway by SPOTA, lead by the Chan family. Contrary to the mean streets, ugly people mantra repeated by many posters, and despite the best efforts of provincial and federal governments to destroy ‘community’ by morally-bankrupt mental health policies, the DTES remains a community and is neither unfriendly, frightening nor revolting. And, whatever the personal, often-visible troubles of some of its citizens, they are only demeaned, not edified, by the kind of smug voyeurism I have been reading above. I wonder if the choice of the cafe’s name, Pidgin, was made inadvertently as a not-so-clever play on pigeon, or purposefully. If the latter, it certainly speaks to the cafe owner’s consciousness of the great divide this establishment, by its very existence, reinforces. Pidgin is a term for various linguas franca, usually in Oceania, that make possible communication between two or more totally dissimilar cultures. In the Pacific Northwest, Chinook was our lingua franca. In the case of Pidgin, the cafe, the colonizers (writ small) are able to gaze, protected, on the colonized (writ large). Clearly, however, no one is going to use Pidgin, the eatery, as a way to facilitate communication. And any establishment that draws the ire of Teresa Diewert (a respected and talented Vancouver teacher and activist Christian) must truly be without merit. Count me out. If I want spectacular food, I’ll stick to other joints or, for lunch, wander over to East of Main.

  46. HAHAHAHAHA. This is too much.

    That’s some life you’re livin Paulo. I got that post in my inbox this morning. It’s terrible, and so obviously fake. I’m sure the locals hangin in the park tonight will love to read what these protesters have been posting online. Such gems as:

    “I will walk right up to one of those smelly dirtbags and gleefully eat my deliciously prepared food with no shame or hesitation. In fact, I hope I make them cry, I hope those scumbag homeless people are so filled with fear and envy that they leave. Good riddance!”

  47. Paulo if your story is true, you would have seen those comments pending moderation, then in the comment form you would have replaced Tedor/Theodor’s name with your “name”/or email address and then posted your comments complaining that Tedor/Theodor was a Nazi.

    I just hope there weren’t any similarities in your grammar/sentence structure to Theodor’s rant because I just won’t believe you when you tell me you went to the same elementary school together.

  48. My “friend” did something fucked up. After me showing him this thread he posted that shit under that other name and said look at this shit.
    I swear. I confronted him. He told me he was just trying to make people Angry to fight for “the cause” (we met at a housing rally.)
    Anyhow, he also admitted he’s going around pretending to be a racist in order to set up straw men to take down. So he’s a troll and I feel like a big piece of shit for trusting the wrong people and getting sucked into being a jerk and Im really really sorry.

    In defence of my friend, this person I know. He’s had it rough, he’s poor and has a mental illness and he’s very anxious about changes in his neighborhood.

    But I’m an idiot because I should have known that comment was written by him and I actually suspected it but I didn’t confront him with my suspicion because I was being a naive idiot. There’s a lot of crazy emotions happening in the DTES. Maybe I’d be better off taking this friend for a walk instead of letting him get riled on political issues.

  49. just gonna chime in from the Yukon here… i lived/worked on the DTES for many years. i”ve been following the Pidgin protest via my friend’s facebook profile, and also have noticed the rampant gentrification of the DTES. it is noticaible every time i come back to visit and the fear of displacement that the DTES denizens feel is noteworthy. with its proximity to pigeon park (and all that that entails), i’m not surprised that pidgin has been targeted for protest. just sayin’. i hope the voyeristic opportunities it affords its customers is coincidental. if intentional, post colonialism and gentrification aside, it should be put out of business a.s.a.p. and by all means necessary. that’s just mean.

    tyson’s comment: “You keep on building walls and the rest of us will continue on helping the neighborhood through employment, charity and good old fashion hospitality.” strikes me as one of the most naive comments I have ever heard. do you really believe that, or do you say that to yourself to feel better about your part in this process. btw, i must add that your hectoring of people struggling with addictions is disgusts me.

    paulo (whom i know personally, ergo can “vouch” that if he did start that whole hate speech thingy, he would have owned up to it) brings up many valid points and certainly is NOT advocating for ghettoization. he merely states legitimate reasons why centralizing services for this marginalized population is fiscally and socially responsible.

    Andrew, thanks for writing your eulogy (was it a eulogy?) for Jamer after he passed. your words touched me.

  50. This is the best thread ever on Scout!

    Paulo, whatever it is you are trying to accomplish, let someone else “take the wheel”…. If it weren’t so funny it would be sad but right now I am laughing my ass off!

  51. Yeehaw! this is just AWSOME! I know of no restaurant owner in this area who hasn’t gone out of their way to assist someone in the neighborhood or a local charity group. We don’t all tell the world about it and wear the “I did something nice so there!” badge on our chest in hopes that we can lord it over others. If you feel you need to tell everyone what a nice and kind person you are, you’re probably only trying to convince yourself of it. Neither Paulo or Yukon Steve have a clue of who they are so angry at. Just the usual by standers with chips on their shoulders who think only they could ever know what the reality of the situation is. Christ Steve , you cared so much about the DTES you moved to the Yukon, but hey, you follow it on twitter so attboy! You draw these stupid 1+1=35 conclusions that “well if he put a picture of a buffalo on his wall he must have done it to show how much he hates the Native comunity”. Or they must have called it pidgin because it would really stick it to the homeless and that’s totally what a restaurant owner would do! You arbitrarily throw out words like “bigot, racist, genocide et al” and figure even though you can’t actually site any of these things as fact that it’s good enough.
    The ease in which you will make up facts to support your statements is wrong. The fabrication of a boogyman in absence of any provable, substantial one is wrong. The co-oping of real, serious and important issues to support your personal animosities is wrong.
    I have no doubt that you care about those who have to deal with addiction, abuse and a multitude of the other shitty cards life can deal. But for you to insist that the ills and evils of the world are yours and yours alone to understand, and that those who are not doing things they way you would like to see them care not, then you are hopeless. And I don’t mean that as an insult. You clearly have no hope.

  52. tyson, please don’t put words in my mouth that i never said or would never say. i would never claim that the “ills of the world are mine alone to understand”. i would argue that that is everyones responsibility.

    further, you have no clue as to why i moved north, nor what i am doing up here, so just save it boss.

  53. The theatrical display of condescension and superiority by the defenders of the restaurant is enough to make my mind up. @Pidgin, with friends like these who needs enemies, eh?

  54. Since when does a legal business have to defend their right to operate,and create jobs for employment minded people?
    This has gone on far too long.
    Why does every business that opens in that area have to appease the DTES dregs?
    What I find insulting as a lifelong resident of Vancouver is the sheer decay of that area for years,and as soon as there is some sort of reprive brought in, everyone is against change.
    People shooting and smoking up in plain view of everyone. Police do nothing to stop it.
    But you try and sell a decent sandwich in a 3 block strip of hastings,and you might as well be shooting dogs and babies.

  55. Finally Steve!! You’re absolutly correct. I don’t know sweet fuck all about you, what you’re doing or what you really think. What I did was take what you and the mighty Paulo said and totally blow it up into some outrageous parody just to support a point of veiw. What kinda dick am I??? Who would commit such acts of douchbaggery just so they could prove a point? Lable someone with inflamitory words like bigot, racist and other gems when there’s no bases for it?
    Fuck, dude this is a comment section on a blog and well, we all agree, this is where all smart and important dialogues take place.

  56. tyson, i’ve read this thread, and to be fair you have made some bigoted comments. ergo, you shouldn’t be surprised/offended if peeps call you out on that.

    dude, all i was really trying to say it the undeniably, the DTES is becoming gentrified, which will displace denizens that have been there for years. it is one of the few if not the only neighborhood they can hang out in without being hectored. further it is the only neighborhood in the city that is still affordable. that concerned citizens in this hood are protesting/picketing restaurants that absolutely are an intrinsic part of the gentrification machine is not at all surprising. why Pidgin has been isolated in this matter is beyond me though. resterantuers (spelling?) and boutique shops and over priced grocery stores can argue that they support local charities till they are blue in the face, but as long as they are still part of the machine, they will continue to drive out and displace an already marginalized population. bottom line.

  57. Why does this neighbourhood belong to the poor and the substance-addicted? What about the hard-working middle-class people who worked here and owned businesses and buildings in this area before it was “slumified” and they were forced out? A boarded-up ghetto benefits nobody. This isn’t “gentrifuckation”, it’s a reclamation of a thriving business and residential neighbourhood. This city needs to help the poor, the addicted, the down-trodden and the marginalized, but it is the responsibility of ALL citizens of this city, not just the businesses in the DTES. Just because you live in Kits it doesn’t mean it’s not your problem. Slums and empty condemned buildings don’t help anybody.

  58. Oh yes, and all these businesses also pay taxes that fund programs on the DTES. I’m going to find out where the protesters live and take over their homes. Apparently it’s my right to take over their space and claim it as my own.

  59. I live in this neighbourhood and have watched the continued gentrification of the area. Unfortunately the model is broken if the goal is co-existence. The current model collects the residents into a single few blocks bordered by the rest of the city, making it easier for those who prey on them to find a very accessible pool of victims.

    This restaurant has actually tried to engage the locals, offering employment to a friend of mine in the area who collects pop cans for a living. I’m seeing some hope in his eyes for the first time since I’ve known him. Looking down the street I see a new deli that displaced a woman who slept in its entry way for years. Also down the street is a women’s treatment centre that has lost funding.

    This protest singles out one restaurant and building on the rough edge of gentrification. It’s not fair or even effective. It’s a simple answer to a complex problem and we as a society should beware. Energy needs to but put into developing better programs for recovery and healing, funding affordable housing in true mixed communities where co-existence is possible and healthy and finally finding ways to protect our most vulnerable community from the vultures that are waiting in the alleys of my home to sell them drugs and exploit them in many different ways.

  60. I live a block from this, resident for 10 years and I am excited to check it out.
    I am hoping this will encourage other entrepreneurs to try new concepts in the cheap rent world of the downtown eastside.. and hope for the reemergence of the real city core that existed for decades before ghetto politics came about. The city and province must start building more social and low income housing in places like Point Grey, Kerrisdale and all over the lower mainland.
    Welcome to my neighborhood, you are welcome.

  61. Think about what would happen to the poverty industry if you spread social housing and services more evenly throughout Vancouver. There’s your answer for all the “outrage” over a restaurant like this. Pidgin, you’re taking away their business.

    For those outside the area, they’re protesting again tonight. Pidgin has covered their windows with black paper.

  62. If you are on welfare and/or drug addicted then congratulations you get free food and housing and all the social services you could possibly want -all within a few walking blocks so that you can successfully fund your drug habit. Marvelous.

    If you are middle-class – move to the suburbs!

    “21-Doors” above this restaurant is one of the very few properties in this city that the middle class can afford. The government is building even more SRO’s in the area. These plans should be shelved and more housing like “21-Doors” should be built.

  63. Only the naive or selectively ignorant believe people that choose to live as they do on the streets while refusing millions of dollars in available services and aid should be allowed to continue to oppress one of the most historic and iconic neighbourhoods in Vancouver. It is human freewill to choose how you live and abusing drugs and alcohol has consequences we all suffer from and pay for. Its tome to take back the streets and finally end the look the other way attitude the city has taken. Business owners in this area are doing the heavy lifting the mayor and police chief are to weak to do. Those who refuse to be part of society have no say in how that society evolves. There is no value to anyone in promoting slums and ghettos over functioning communities.

  64. To all the people and Teresa Diewert, who are against this establishment:
    What the hell is wrong with you? Too much of a good life? not enough life problems?

    If this was a crack house would you be supporting this? it would give your sorry existence something to work about?

    I have started a business in a foreign country and I know how much hard work, dedication and hard earned money goes into….

    I respect the owners and staff of PiDGin for what they are doing.
    They did not choose to open in a nice shopping centre or Robson/Kitsilano area, but because of lower rent ( I hope! ) they are changing the area from bad into good.

    Keep up the good work and don’t let the bullies stop you!!!

  65. As one of the ‘rich’ (read: first time homeowner who only available to buy my condo because of low-market pricing) people who lives above this place, I need to say that it’s getting frustrating. I’m fairly certain the only way people will encourage or support any new business near the DTES (Pidgin is technically still in Gastown) is if it is an entirely low income building or a drug shelter.

    You can’t reason with people who would rather scream than do any research, unfortunately.

  66. Here’s the full transcript of what a pro-protester wrote to manipulate the conversation, posing as a patron of Pidgin. This was not published by Scout for good reason. However, i feel there needs to be accountability for those that seek to harm our neighbourhood. This is the Vancouver poverty industry at work.

    “Author: Teodor
    Look how much we already give to them! These parasites are never happy until we’re all as destitute as they are!
    Why are we wasting our time on these subhuman mongrels? See what these fools are trying to do? They’re trying to get in the way of progress. We’ve been much nicer to the DTES than they deserve. Why we don’t throw them all in jail is beyond me. Maybe we should let Pickton out to finish the job so the rest of us can get on with cleaning up our city from these lazy native Indian whiners and their anarchist window smashing friends. Hey Idlenomore wannabes, why don’t you be idle no more and get a job!
    Vancouver needs to get over their squeamishness at dealing with these vermin. This town needs an exterminator to get rid of this subhuman filth. I work hard all my life and no one gave me a free lunch. I for one, will gladly eat at Pidgin and I will gladly indulge in the food I’ve worked hard for. I will walk right up to one of those smelly dirtbags and gleefully eat my deliciously prepared food with no shame or hesitation. In fact, I hope I make them cry, I hope those scumbag homeless people are so filled with fear and envy that they leave. Good riddance!
    We are the people with money and business and this is our city. If you can’t or won’t work that’s your problem. If you get killed by a serial killer maybe you should have gotten a job instead of loafing off the system and being a hooker. If your an native indian, look you guys lost and this is our land now so get over it, stop trying to act native and just assimilate already. Go get your free school and your affirmative action job and maybe you can get to eat a nice meal, too.
    No sympathy for dead hookers or useless bums.”

  67. Aside from the racist crap this doesn’t much different from what the Pidgin supporters are saying.

  68. I don’t think the restaurant owners are villains and I am sure they are socially conscious. Yes the DTES is rapidly gentrifying, and they are one of many.

    But what seems to be lacking here is sensitivity. First, the name of the restaurant. Second, this:

    Clearly, a lot of thought went into everything a diner’s eye might set upon, and that includes the wide angle view of the oft-sordid goings on across the street at Pigeon Park. There are at least a dozen seats right in the window, which tells me Grossutti and Ono are not in the least bit embarrassed by their bright projection of style and cuisine in the heart of the Downtown Eastside. And nor should they be. The contrast between inside and out might be massive, very real, and as striking to those who congregate on the northeast corner of East Hastings and Carrall as to the diners themselves, supping foie gras rice bowls and sipping Negronis in heated, cloistered comfort behind an unfrosted window, but that’s the reality of Vancouver, and I dig that they’re framing it instead of running from it.”

    This just seems like a REALLY REALLY BAD IDEA. I know the restaurants press release says the following:

    “When choosing this location we knew that there would be a stark contrast between what is outside and inside. Rather than this being viewed as a negative we believe it starts a conversation, one that is overdue. Our patrons come from the DTES and all over the city, some of which have never taken a step in Pigeon Park. This venue is on the divide between the east and west of the city and can serve as an opportunity to bring a more integrated community, where we can better understand each other’s viewpoints and struggles.”

    Staring at the “oft-sordid goings on” in Pigeon Park, and having the occupants of the park stare at diners eating foie gras, has nothing to do with conversation. It is deeply insensitive and incredibly arrogant, all in the name of style (however it is framed/publicized). If the restaurant had a non-controversial name and did not focus on the window and tables, I suspect there would be been no picketing…

  69. “Staring at the “oft-sordid goings on” in Pigeon Park, and having the occupants of the park stare at diners eating foie gras, has nothing to do with conversation. It is deeply insensitive and incredibly arrogant, all in the name of style (however it is framed/publicized). If the restaurant had a non-controversial name and did not focus on the window and tables, I suspect there would be been no picketing…”

    And there you have it: the mountain from the molehill. And you talk about arrogance! A business can sell what it wants wherever it wants however it wants if it is within the law. Honestly, how is that news to you?

  70. That is the point. A business can do whatever it wants. How it chooses to do what it wants is the issue…this has nothing to do with the law. Choosing to intentionally focus (in a voyeuristic sort of way) on the disparity between low-income DTES residents/the people who frequent Pigeon Park and the diners as a stylistic marketing tool, is arrogant. Picketing by low-income residents has nothing to do with arrogance. It has to do with anger at being belittled and mocked by this ill-thought out marketing tool.

    How often have you seen a movie where the rich people are inside a warm restaurant, laughing and dining, while some poor down-on-his-luck person stares mournfully inside while getting drenched in the rain? The way this restaurant was planned highlights this type of difference — who is inside and who is outside. Almost like going to the zoo and seeing a rare endangered species from the other side of the bars, the low-income DTES Resident…

  71. What makes you think it’s a stylistic marketing tool? Also…

    “How often have you seen a movie where the rich people are inside a warm restaurant, laughing and dining, while some poor down-on-his-luck person stares mournfully inside while getting drenched in the rain?”

    Oh my God. You can’t be serious?


  72. Foodies need to be responsible citizens. Don’t cross community picket lines. I have seen so many places go up like this, each one anchoring the condominums that then go up above them (or the reverse order, in the case of Pidgin). Foodies should be boycotting gentrifiers like Pidgin, and taking their business elsewhere.

    If you consider yourself part of some kind of food movement or food community, support the low-income movements for social justice when they speak out against how parts of food culture displace communities. If you cross the picket lines, you’re clearly engaging in pure gluttony.

    Oh wait, shit, glutony’s apparently what this magazine is all about according to its mast head.

  73. Quit it with the tiresome myopia, Peter. Your dull-minded, inarticulate, holier than thou lecture grates because its rhetorical approach is never effective, on anyone, like, ever. To listen to you go on about social justice and your special food community in the context of this optically ridiculous farce of a protest would be entertainment if it weren’t so fucking poetically emblematic of what is wrong with the DTES and the short-sighted NIMBY thinking that is so irretrievably hardwired into this City. You think you know about food? You’re a former sandwich worker from Save On Meats. Honestly, the way you pass yourself off as some sort of community food security czar is a joke. You want to make a difference? Learn nuance. You want to fight for the DTES? Punch a drug dealer. Don’t just sit on the internet and comment on blogs as if you’ve really got something valuable to say. Not that that has ever stopped you. I just googled you and that shit is off the charts! You’ve written freshman spin and bleeding heart vitriol for just about every socialist piece of shit website from here to Halifax and back. You’re a legend, Peter! But a baby. A big fucking, spoiled baby. And a pitiful bully. Sadder than Pigeon Park. Dumber than Grossutti. A real Vancouverite. A credit to your ideas (and the way in which you communicate them) and a tribute to your city. Keep up the enthusiastic stupidity.

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