East Van's Red Wagon restaurant launches a French twin
Fans of Brad Miller’s East Van landmark "neighbourhood joint", the Red Wagon, will be happy to hear that the chef-owner is opening another restaurant in the vicinity.
This time, the successful entrepreneur—who almost single-handedly kick-started a culinary resurgance in the Hastings-Nanaimo area with the establishment of the snug and wildly popular Red Wagon three years ago—is drawing a bit more on his past experience working at restaurants such as Bistro Pastis, Au Petit Chavignol, and West (not to mention his hands-on experience in the City of Light).
What this means, Miller told the Straight, is a focus on "French bistro food, basically, with good prices". The new joint’s name, Bistro Wagon Rouge, shows the acorn hasn’t fallen far from the tree, as does, literally, its location. It’s at 1869 Powell Street, in the old Dockers premises down by the waterfront, just a few blocks north and west of his original enterprise.
After giving the kitchen and menu a few test flights in the past two weeks (although he denied hosting any soft openings: "That sounds rather erotic, actually") and tentatively scheduling a November 1 launch, Miller said, he gave in to demand and decided to officially open Tuesday (October 29).
"I was hoping to ease into it, but we thought we’d bite the bullet and go for it."
No word on the decor, but expect, as with the first Wagon, a relatively minimalist experience: Miller isn’t afraid of the odd scuffed square of linoleum. "It doesn’t have to have tablecloths," he said, adding, "We’re not all beef stew, though."
Miller described Wagon Rouge’s food as "democratic" or "blue collar" bistro, with "very French" dishes: cassoulet (which, he said, "went very well" in testing), terrine, pâté, tongue, duck confit, pork belly, and "classic onion soup". He said he is also fond of his grilled-octopus-and-potato salad.
As veteran Wagon riders know, some of those ingredients have found their way onto the menu and into specials at the Hastings and Garden eatery, where Miller and his capable, busy, and large posse brine and smoke their (where possible) locally sourced meats for their patient, queued customers.
But lovers of the nirvana represented by a menu with all-day breakfasts won’t be able to skip Wagon lineups by simply jogging north: Bistro Wagon Rouge will only be open for dinner hours, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday.
And, yes, it has a liquor licence.