Published on Main balances fine dining with a serious love for its community

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      As much as there were goals when Published on Main first opened in Mount Pleasant a half-decade ago, things have, at the risk of understating things, gone a little better than planned. Flashing back to the beginning in 2019, brothers Cody Allmin and Clay Allmin, along with Gus Stieffenhofer-Brandson, were initially hoping their first year in business together would lead to a shout-out on the prestigious Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants list.

      “We hit number 88, which was cool,” Cody Allmin recalls. “But when we were opening the restaurant we always had top 10 in mind. Michelin was out of the conversation because it didn’t exist in Canada yet.”

      How things have changed since then, with the awards and accolades piling up. When the Michelin Guide officially touched down in Vancouver in the fall of 2022, Published on Main was one of eight restaurants in the city awarded a coveted star. Making that year a truly memorable one, Published also claimed top spot on the Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants list, followed by a third-place finish in 2023.

      This year, Straight readers have voted Published on Main the Best Overall Restaurant and best Pacific Northwest Restaurant in the 2024 Golden Plates Awards.

      In some ways, the neighbourhood shaped the direction taken with Published on Main. First was making sure the restaurant fit the whole vibe of Main Street.

      While still hanging onto its reputation as one of the most colourful post-hipster cool ’hoods in Vancouver, the area continues to gentrify; alt-everything musicians and boho artists mix with families and professionals who want something more authentically real than Yaletown or Kits. The result is everything from much-loved dive bars and craft breweries to destination restaurants like Published on Main and the award-winning Anh and Chi.

      “When we were opening up Published, we never wanted to be a white-tablecloth restaurant,” Allmin says. “We wanted to be a community restaurant that serves really good food at a price point we thought was quite approachable. We opened here on Main because we wanted that community around us.”

      The increasing desirability of Main Street also put other factors in play.

      “The lease rate kind of dictated some of the discussions of the concept,” Allmin explains. “It’s a great neighbourhood, obviously, but we had to make sure we had the revenue potential. So one of the things that we talked about was a fine-dining restaurant. I had 10 years of hospitality in my back pocket, but I’d never worked too much in a formal dining setting. So I started reaching out to people.”

      Eventually one of Allmin’s good friends, Doug Stephen of Downlow Chicken, put him in touch with Stieffenhofer-Brandson—who, in addition to being a business partner, is also the executive chef at Published on Main.

      “We went and grabbed a coffee and found we were the same age, we boxed at the same boxing studio, had the same friends in the industry,” Allmin recalls. “We got along right away and started working on the concept. It was my first time building a restaurant from scratch, and, I’ll tell you, I learned a lot.”

      Laughing, he notes that Stieffenhofer-Brandson came with a gold-star food pedigree—a stint at Hawksworth and a summer at the revered Noma in Copenhagen ­—but in many ways, he seemed more built for Main Street.

      “He’s fully tattooed and used to be in a heavy metal band,” Allmin says. “He’s that kind of guy—someone who hangs out at Jakalopes. He’s not one of those chef’s-whites-with-a prim-cut guys. He walks into work wearing shorts and a t-shirt and baseball cap, but runs a fine-dining kitchen. That’s his style.”

      Sarah Annand.

      Noting that the ride has been as wildly entertaining as it is has been exhaustively busy, Allmin admits that Published on Main didn’t exactly hit the ground running.

      Following the endless days and overruns that seem part of opening any restaurant in Vancouver, the Evoke-designed spot opened for business in 2019—only to shut down, with the rest of the city, when Covid hit the following spring. Knowing he had a mountain of contractors’ bills to pay, Allmin remembers sitting around with the staff, unsure of the path forward. In front of them was a 20-litre tub of freshly made onion dip, which Allmin and Stieffenhofer-Brandson realized they would have no one to serve it to.

      “It was a really rocky start where we went through a lot of challenges,” Allmin recalls. “We sat there and watched a lot of our colleagues in the industry do quite well during Covid with delivery and things like that. Because we hadn’t had a chance to make a name for ourselves before Covid, we really struggled.”

      But as restrictions lifted, Published on Main began to build a serious buzz, partly for its innovative cocktail program and top-flight wine list. But mostly for the food.

      The constantly changing menu ranges today from appetizers like the Japanese-inspired Bee Pollen Milk Buns and Wild Nettle Gomae to Venison Tartare with flowering red currant and Fraser Valley Duck Breast with barbecue asparagus and lilac jus. Whether you’re talking the Merguez Wrapped Lamb Saddle, BC Fiddleheads with toasted yeast furikake, or BC Fire Morel Gnocchi with truffle and Moon Bay kelp, presentation is everything, each plate a meticulously composed, colour-blazed work of art. 

      “Published is really about the kitchen for us,” Allmin says. “We have fantastic cocktails and fantastic wine, but we’re about the food program.”

      For all the accolades heaped on Published on Main, he notes that there’s one place it doesn’t get a lot of credit. Sometimes you can’t have it all, which is why you keep striving for greatness—even if, explaining a months-long waiting list for reservations, everyone else sees you as at the top of your game.

      “It’s funny—we never get put into that West Coast category when we’re being judged as a restaurant,” Allmin offers. “But I feel like our program is one of the most West Coast programs out there. We’re a globally-influenced multicultural restaurant that showcases BC ingredients to their fullest. That’s really what we think of as Published being.” 

      Published on Main is located at 3593 Main Street.

      Sarah Annand.