In a space previously occupied by an Italian eatery, Shira Blustein and Brian Skinner are cooking up what they hope will be the next big thing to hit Vancouver’s vegetarian-dining scene.
When Cipriano’s closed its doors at 3995 Main Street earlier this year, the pair of long-time friends seized the opportunity to fulfill their shared dream of starting up a vegetarian restaurant and bar. They hope to open the Acorn on July 1.
“We want to bring a fresh face to vegetarian food in this city,” Skinner told the Georgia Straight, standing beside Blustein in the South Main restaurant’s future kitchen. “Not that we have anything against brown rice and tofu, but we’re trying to break that mould, and trying to create something that will inspire people and bring something different to the city.”
A 32-year-old instructor at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, Skinner has 15 years of cooking experience. He spent five years working as a chef at Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, including Viajante and Sketch in London and Noma in Copenhagen. He also helped open Otarian vegetarian eateries in London and New York.
With Skinner as its chef, the Acorn will be managed by Blustein. The 30-year-old lives in the neighbourhood and has a background in human resources and music.
According to the business partners and former vegetarians, their idea to open a restaurant dates back several years.
“We realized even back then how woefully underserved vegetarian diners were in the city,” Skinner said. “So we realized the potential to have some variety in the vegetarian-dining scene.”
To that end, the Acorn will serve “vegetable-focused” and seasonal food that’s unique in Vancouver and contains flavours that are “tasty and interesting and different and new and fresh”, according to Skinner. They plan to work with local farms and offer vegan, gluten-free, and raw options.
Preparations are still in the early stages, but they anticipate pricing appetizers in around the $8 to $10 range, and mains in the $16 to $19 range. The restaurant’s business hours will be limited to evenings. In addition to its dinner menu, the Acorn will have a late-night menu listing “bits and nibbles” to go with drinks. But they’re not ruling out expanding their hours in the future.
“The main reason we want to open a vegetarian restaurant is because we really enjoy working with and serving vegetables,” Skinner said. “To us, that’s what we believe is the freshest, most delicious food. So we just want to bring that to the customers in the most inventive and fresh way possible. It just boils down to the fact that we really, really like vegetables.”
According to Blustein, the Acorn is aimed at everybody—vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores.
“What we’re really hoping is that it will be the kind of place where everyone can come in and enjoy it,” Blustein said. “You can bring a date. You can have your birthday dinner here. It’s that kind of space, where it feels sexy and classy. But also you can come and hang out, have a drink, sit at the bar, and eat some snacks.”