When Justin Tisdall was putting on paper the concept for a new Vancouver restaurant opening next spring in Chinatown, he kept wandering back to the term ‘juke joint’.
Juke joints were informal establishments born during the era of racial segregation in the U.S. Ran out of decrepit buildings and homes, black people went to these spots to eat, drink, dance, listen to music, and gamble.
Those places are now gone, with only tourist versions remaining in southern American states.
What lives are memories of good times, and Tisdall wants to recreate some of these with Juke, a fried chicken and ribs shop, currently under construction at 182 Keefer Street.
“I kept coming back to the term ‘juke joint’, where you could come in, and just experience a great night with your friends, and when you leave you’re like, ‘Oh that was a great time. I can’t wait to get back’," Tisdall told the Straight in a phone interview.
Juke is going to be a fully-licensed, 48 seat restaurant with an additional 12 at the patio, plus a take-out window.
The new establishment will be at the ground floor of a new condo tower being built by Westbank Projects Corp.
“We’re not going to be a full juke joint,” Tisdall said. “We want to have that lively memorable experience, where you can just be in an atmosphere of being with your friends and having great food.”
In addition to fried chicken and ribs, chicken sandwich will also be a signature dish.
Juke will be located two blocks south of the former Hogan’s Alley, once a diverse neighbourhood known for its black population and entertainment houses. The district was demolished when the viaducts were constructed in the 1970s.
One of the establishments associated with Hogan’s Alley was Vie’s Fried Chicken and Steak House, where a lady named Nora Hendrix worked. Hendrix’s famous grandson Jimi used to visit her in Vancouver.
“The closest to what we’re doing, and we’re trying to pay a bit of homage to it as well is a place called Vie’s,” Tisdall said.
Tisdall, former general manager of Chambar Restaurant, also recalled bringing up his idea about a casual and affordable establishment with his friend Bryan Satterford.
A former sous chef with Hawksworth Restaurant, Satterford brings a fine dining touch to his cooking, which Juke patrons will see on their plates.
“You can create really good food that’s a bit more accessible to the everyday diner, rather than something that’s a bit more high-end that people may only go out to on birthdays or anniversaries and special events,” Tisdall said.
When Satterford was working at home on his computer with a fried chicken concept, his friend and Meat & Bread co-owner Cord Jarvie walked by and saw what’s happening, and said he’s thinking about the same thing.
“So the three of us sat down, and realized that we’re going to be executing something similar,” Tisdall said about his Juke partners.
Over at Chambar, Tisdall’s former duties as general manager are now with Edwyn Kumar, previously with NU, Lumière, Cin Cin, and Hart House.
“We wish all the best to Justin [Tisdall] and his partners with their new venture [Juke], and we are delighted to welcome Edwyn to the Chambar family,” Chambar co-owner Karri Schuermans stated in a news release. “We’re very much looking forward to working with Edwyn to further evolve Chambar, and embrace an exciting new era of dining culture in Vancouver!”