When Fray closed in March, the co-owners of the shuttered East Vancouver eatery revealed that its buyers plan to turn the place into a vegan restaurant.
That fully vegan restaurant is called Graze (3980 Fraser Street), and its opening is set for early May. This week, Graze co-owners Michael Lyons and Bridget Burns told the Georgia Straight that their establishment will serve brunch and dinner, and fall into the casual fine-dining category.
“We really felt that there was a big gap in the market here for people that are looking for a healthy, well-balanced, familiar, comforting, satiating meal that’s also plant-based,” Lyons said, seated next to Burns in a booth at the restaurant.
Lyons, a 42-year-old entrepreneur, is Graze’s majority owner. Burns, the 31-year-old blogger behind The Vegan Project, is the restaurant’s general manager. The Mount Pleasant residents have hired Karen McAthy, the co-owner of Good Girl Bad Girl Preserves and the former chef at the W2 Media Café, as Graze’s executive chef.
Last month, Fray co-owners Kyle Polanski and Chris Parry blamed a “partnership dispute” for the sale of their popular eatery near the intersection of Fraser Street and East 24th Avenue. In a statement posted online, they claimed that “a minority shareholder recently signed a contract to sell the business, against the instructions of the majority of investors”, exposing them to a lawsuit.
Lyons maintained that no threat of legal action was necessary to see the deal go through.
“We really don’t know the details of their internal problems,” Lyons stated. “It was on the market for eight months and so we bought it.”
Lyons and Burns took possession of the 88-seat space last week. They plan to overhaul the bar, set up a lounge area, and paint a mural on one wall. The aim is to create a “natural and comfortable” setting. This means lots of green, wood, and, according to Burns, a “balance of repurposed, vintage stuff with new—pops of new”.
As for the food, Lyons said the menu will feature “creative twists on traditional items”. Dishes to watch out for include a fire-roasted vegetable pot pie with mashed sweet potatoes, gluten-free perogies, a Benedict, and pickled beet, yam, and sweet potato fries.
The focus is cooked food, but there will be raw options. Ingredients will be local and organic as much as possible. Starters are expected to go for $6 to $11, while mains will cost $14 to $18.
“We want to appeal to omnivores,” Burns said. “We want them to come in and try and be excited and inspired by the food.”
Graze has inherited Fray’s food-primary liquor licence. Notably, all the alcohol will be vegan. (Many common beers, wines, and liquors use animal products in the filtration process or as ingredients.)
The restaurant will be open for dinner six nights a week and for brunch on weekends. But the co-owners said they’d consider changing their minds about closing on Mondays if there was demand for a Meatless Monday option.
They also want to run Graze in a sustainable manner. To this end, they will have on-site composting and are looking at ways to use rainwater. The back parking lot will become a garden that will grow kale, tomatoes, and herbs for seasonal specials, and they also plan to source some produce from urban farms.
“It’s making the plant-based food really accessible to people with all kinds of diets and achieving that multisided benefit of not having to worry about the environmental impact or a compassionate issue and knowing that you’re getting healthy food every time you dine,” Lyons said.
Lyons and Burns admitted they’ve talked about potentially starting up a food truck and even more restaurants at other locations. But, for now, they’re focused on getting Graze ready for opening day.