Award-winning vegetarian and vegan restaurant the Acorn is expanding its footprint in Riley Park with the opening of the Arbor, a new “fast casual” plant-based eatery from Shira Blustein and Scott Lewis, co-owners of the Acorn, and former Farmers Apprentice and Royal Dinette manager Paul McCloskey.
“We really wanted to follow the Acorn philosophy, which is making real food with real ingredients and continuing the relationships we’ve established with local farms,” Blustein tells the Straight by phone. “But this is a more accessible menu—and I say that in a playful way.”
The 1,100-square-foot space is located steps away from the Acorn at 3941 Main Street. It will take a relatively more relaxed—though no less inventive—approach to vegetarian fare, offering dishes like BBQ pulled-jackfruit steamed buns, mac and cheese, Southern fried-artichoke nuggets and sandwiches, broccoli popcorn, and meat-free burgers made from scratch.
Sides like fresh salads, French fries, and onion rings, as well as a selection of freshly baked in-house breads and pastries, will also be available. Crafted by the Acorn’s head chef, Robert Clarke, the lunch and dinner menus will include vegan and gluten-free options throughout. No item will be priced at more than $20.
The bar, meanwhile, will feature an “unpretentious” natural wine program compiled by McCloskey. A number of sips from the Acorn’s cocktail list, plus local beer options and coffee by Calgary’s Phil & Sebastian, will be on hand, too.
Blustein calls the Arbor’s culinary style “real food for comfort”. She hopes that the spot’s laid-back eat-in and take-out counter services will attract both omnivores and herbivores. “It’s just supposed to be easy, low-commitment, and delicious,” she says.
A large draw of the restaurant will undoubtedly be the outdoor green space, which proved popular with patrons during the digs’ past life as Crave on Main. Counting the seats in the Arbor’s dining room, courtyard, and partially covered Main Street patio, the venue will accommodate approximately 70 people.
Compared to its sister resto, the Arbor’s interiors exude a decidedly chillaxed vibe. Once complete, it will boast reclaimed wood tabletops, milk-glass lighting fixtures, colour-blocked banquettes, and charming touches like vintage white chairs, stained-glass mirrors, and ceramic accents by local artist Maggie Boyd.
Blustein hopes to have the Arbor open by late fall. “It’s filling in all the places we can’t touch on at the Acorn,” she says of the concept, “because these are foods that we want to eat every day, too.”