A wish list for the Vancouver restaurant scene

Chefs and restaurateurs dish on what they’d like to see added to the food-and-beverage mix
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With files from Michelle da Silva and Craig Takeuchi

“I believe we have room to get better with more locavore food. We have rooftop space in Vancouver that’s not being utilized the best it can be. We all have space where we can grow our own food, and that’s exactly what we need to embrace.”

—Bill McCaig, owner of Nicli Antica Pizzeria

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Tannis Ling, owner of Bao Bei, said she’d like to see more small eateries that have “a good mix between drinking and eating…there’s not enough establishments that really focus on alcohol and then maybe have small bites to eat as well. It’s mostly just dining.”

Other interviewees wanted the city to ease up on the red tape. “I wish the government would relax on laws a bit. Let us do our thing,” said David Lee, owner of the Flying Tiger. For example, he wanted to have live music at his restaurant but couldn’t “because my licence does not allow that. I wish the government would just say, ‘Look, just create a good, fun Vancouver.’ ”

“I’d like to see the city be more liberal with development permits and cool spaces,” said René Lafleur, owner of Baru Latino. “You see a cool, old building and you can’t develop it because the city won’t let you.”

Others wish the liquor laws would loosen up. Sean Heather, owner of the Irish Heather and other Gastown eateries, dreams of having urban distillers in Vancouver like Americans have in Brooklyn. “Why are we, with some of the best water in the world and some of the best grain in the world, buying vodka from Russia?” he asked. However, he said, he doesn’t expect to see private stills in Vancouver in his lifetime.

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“First and foremost, I’d like the economy to recover and have people have the ability to spend more of their income on food.”

—Andrey Durbach, co-owner of La Buca, Pied-à-Terre, and Cafeteria


When Georgia Straight staffers called up over 100 Vancouver chefs, restaurateurs, and managers for our Golden Plate Awards industry survey, we asked them about Vancouver’s place in global culinary trends. They told us not only about where our restaurant scene stands but where they’d like to see it go from here in the next five or 10 years. Here’s a sampling of what they wish for—both practical ideas and pipe dreams.

Many of those interviewed expressed a desire to see more independent restaurants thrive. To that end, Lila Grace Gaylie, owner of Lolita’s South of the Border Cantina, would like to see “a coalition of independent restaurant owners getting together and having more support in that community”. This would help with “letting people know you’re still there even though you don’t have 10 restaurants”.

Others wanted to see more varied ethnic cuisine. “Vancouver needs an amazing German restaurant. We need a great Moroccan restaurant, and we need a great Swiss restaurant,” said Anthony Sedlak, owner and chef of the American Cheesesteak Co. According to Alan Hoffman, co-proprietor of Acme Café, “Vancouver could definitely use more traditional Mexican….Not to say there’s isn’t some great places, but we could certainly use more”. Catherine Introligator, co-owner of French Made Baking, wanted to see “more inventive Mediterranean cuisine”.

Mark Taylor, owner of Cru and Siena, said that “we’re lacking big time on the vegetarian front.…It’s really amazing considering we’re the tree-hugger centre of Canada, and Hollywood North.” He noted that several years ago he considered opening a vegetarian restaurant the caliber of Cru, so he consulted friends and possible investors. “The almost unanimous opinion was, ‘It’d never work here,’ ” he recalled, partly because Vancouver’s smaller population couldn’t support it. “It’s going to take another trailblazer, another pioneer” to do it.

Las Margaritas owner Dan Rodriguez would like to see more mid-range seafood restaurants that “are inexpensive and good, just grilled seafood”—places between low-end fish ’n’ chips and high-end fancy plates.

Josh Wolfe, owner of the Fresh Local Wild food truck, said he’d “love to be able to sell booze on my [food truck] patio”. But besides liquor laws, Wolfe would like to see “less top-down regulation” from the city for food carts. He noted that unlike for regular restaurants, food-cart menus must be approved by the city. He said vendors should be able to decide what they serve and the market can then decide whether or not that business survives.

While the American Cheesesteak Co.’s Sedlak said Vancouver’s new food trucks are “awesome”, he “would love to see them be able to move around”. He explained that they’re often confined to the same spot, so people who don’t live in that neighbourhood or don’t work downtown miss out. “Move the stops around so the rest of the city can experience what’s out there,” he urged.

What would you like to see added to Vancouver’s food-and-beverage scene? Unleash your desires below.

Follow Carolyn Ali on Twitter at twitter.com/carolynali.

Comments (2) Add New Comment
Jorge
Umm... we desperately need a proper Mexican restaurant. Not a burrito truck (ehem, burritos are not Mexican food). Not a street food place (La Taqueria...great tacos, but this is Mexican fast food), and not Canadian-Mexican vegan fusion. A real Mexican restaurant...a place that serves Yucateco cuisine, or Oaxaca cuisine, or Puebla cuisine.

Think beyond the taco.
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romeogolf
I would like to see colonial Indochinese cuisine, like Indochine 1929 in Hong Kong or Ana Mandara in San Francisco. There's more to Vietnamese than phở!
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