Carthage Cafe: A Review

March 17, 2017

It has been many years since I visited the Carthage at 1851 Commercial Drive — and I have no idea why it has taken me so long to go back.  Today, with a good friend, the everloving and I had lunch there and it was wonderful.

The space is lovely; not too small, but intimately dark, and beautifully decorated in the style of a French brasserie with Tunisian accents. The tables are comfortably large and exquisitely dressed with good quality silver and sparkling stemware. Service was very good, friendly, knowledgeable, and never crowding.

I had the Carthage mussels. There were a good many of them, all splendid, and drenched in a marvelous cumin and harissa liquor. They have good quality bread, too, which helped soak it up.  It is a long time since I enjoyed mussels as good as these. The everloving had the steak sandwich, which also came with a harissa-based sauce. She declared it to be “great!”. Our friend had one of the daily specials, a fish stew which looked tremendous and which he thoroughly enjoyed.  All of the dishes were more than sufficient for lunch, and each was plated beautifully. Prices were on the moderate side of normal.

One small caveat — the frites were a little disappointing and, unlike everything else, were served without much care. This could be improved without too much effort.

Our friend has a relative in a wheelchair. He told us that he once made a reservation for them and, upon their arrival, found that the tables had been specifically re-arranged to make life as convenient as possible for the wheelchair-bound diner. That’s good service.

All in all this was a joyful experience, and I am sure we will return before too long.  Well recommended.


Cabrito — A Review

March 2, 2017

Last night, the ever-loving and I joined some friends at dinner at Cabrito restaurant at 2270 Commercial. It has been open about a year and this was our first visit.

It is a small space, although that is now typical on the Drive – a standard 25′ store frontage running to the back of the building. A lot of the available area is taken up with a bar (?) along the north wall which was not used at all while we were there.  That means the maximum number of patrons is about thirty (if you all breath in at once) seated mostly at communal tables. The decor is bright and Spanish; I liked the feel of it.

Most of the dishes are served as tapas. However, that wasn’t clear to any of us until the waitress explained that each of our choices might be smaller than we expected, and perhaps we should order more, which we did after more time spent with the menu. Maybe we should have known, but we didn’t.

We ordered beet salad, chicken Basquaise, a burger, a chorizo hot dog, Brussels sprouts, and the lamb. It was almost enough for the four of us.  The white beet salad was tremendous and, arriving first, kept us in happy anticipation for the balance. The chorizo was also excellent, and the sprouts were good.  The chicken had an interesting earthy flavour that wasn’t bad, but I got bored with it quite quickly. The burger was full sized, but came without any sides. I didn’t try it, but our friends thought it was “OK”. The lamb came as three very small chops and was overcooked, though the sauce was very pleasant.

So, the food was moderately all right. However, the various dishes arrived with great time gaps between them. The burger arrived last, perhaps 20 minutes or more after the beet salad. Tapas is sharing food, and it becomes difficult when there is only one dish at a time. The waitress was cheery, but that didn’t help the food come in any better order. And $25 a head without any drinks also takes it out of the cheap eats category.

Finally, it was very busy. The noise level was high enough when we arrived and somehow became even louder as the evening progressed.

I am afraid this place isn’t going to make it to our list of favourite and regular haunts. The Zomato rating site gives it 3 out of 5 which sounds about right.

 


Changes On The Drive #67

March 1, 2017

It was a typical February/March day this morning; cool and grey — pretty good for walking!  There were very few changes this month.

South of First, there were no changes that I could see, except that The Drive Smoke Shop at 2064 is now open.

2277 (1 month), 2240 (19 months), 1801 (1 month), 1740 (5 months), and 1735 Commercial (1 month) are all still vacant.

1706 Commercial is also still vacant (3 months) with the Bubble Tea shop still not yet open. Around the corner at 1706 E. 1st, that too is vacant as the cupcake store has not yet re-opened there.

North of First, in Il Mercato Mall, the former Strawberry Bakery site is still vacant after 26 months. There are still offices for rent upstairs, too.

Nothing much has changed at 1608, the Libra Room. The place is still papered over and the Opening Soon signs are still there, but the fact is it has been closed now for 7 months.  However, upstairs, some of the apartments look like they are now tenanted.  The Roma at 1510 is also still closed, after 4 months, with Opening Soon signs garlanding the windows but no other signs of life.

The Charlatan bar at 1447 Commercial is closed, too, but this is for renovations and they will be back open “in the spring”.

Across the street, there is a lot of activity. The former Bikes On the Drive double storefront at 1376 (vacant 2 months) is being completely rebuilt inside.

bikes

So too is the Pagoda at 1408: after sitting idle for 7 months, workman are hammering away inside and I saw new appliances being delivered today — a hopeful sign.

The small store next to Renzo’s Cafe at 1303 Commercial is vacant (5 months).

Having only opened in August, the ramen restaurant at 1179 is closed once again, but signs are hopeful they will “open soon” (seems to be this month’s refrain!)

The REACH rebuild in the 1100-block is moving ahead steadily. They had the back lane closed off this morning for some heavy-duty work.

reach

At the northern end of the Drive, 1104 (34 months), 952 (6 months), and 902 Commercial (22 months) are all still vacant. With regard to 1104, I called the agent and he tells me they are looking for $4,000 a month for that tiny store. When I suggested that might be why it had been vacant so long, he gave me the telephone equivalent of a shrug.

Finally — after all these vacant notices — I want to say that at least five businesses have “Help Wanted” signs in their windows which must be good news.

 

Previous Changes on the Drive editions are here.


GW Area Council AGM

February 28, 2017

The Annual General Meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council is coming up this weekend:

 

Sunday 5th March, 2:00pm

Canucks Family Place, 1655 William

 

There will be the important matter of the election of a Board of Directors for the 2017-18 year. And the keynote speaker will be Caroline Adderson, author of the important Vancouver Vanishes.  More info at gwac.ca.

If enough interested residents join and make their voices heard, GWAC really can be the community’s voice as strongly as it has been in the past.  There are important developments afoot in Grandview over the next year or two and the residents need to ensure there is an organization that speaks for them.

See you there, I hope!

 

 

 


Open House at Britannia

February 27, 2017

This coming Saturday, March 4th, between noon and 4:00pm, the folks who are working on the Britannia Renewal project are holding an Open House and Ideas Fest.  They want you to see the groundwork they have laid for the project and to actively solicit your ideas and feedback.

The updating of the Britannia site is almost certainly the most important project our neighbourhood will undertake this generation. The site contains two schools, gyms, a swimming pool, a library, facilities for seniors and childcare, playing fields, offices, and community spaces; it is the very heart of Grandview and changes there will affect us all in one way or another.

I hope many of you attend and make sure your voice, your opinion, is heard. This really is important.


St. Francis School Meeting

February 2, 2017

This evening I attended the meeting held in the basement of the St. Francis church at Napier and Semlin. Earlier discussions about the church’s desire to build a new school can be found here.

The meeting was to introduce the project to the immediate neighbours of the church. However, the meeting was well known to GWAC members, people who read this blog, and others, so there were perhaps one hundred citizens in the room from a wider range than the limited geographic area expected. I thought that was a good thing.

There were half a dozen well-constructed display panels explaining the site, the demographics of the current student population, and some general aspects of the project. There was a fairly short speech about the project from a member of the church’s building committee from which we learned

  • that the budget for the school building is $12million;
  • that the church owns the current school site at Victoria & Venables, Wilga garden, and the St. John’s convent site;
  • that the current school site will generate more revenue from a sale than the sale of the garden and St. John’s combined;
  • one option is to rebuild a school at the current site; his will involve a 2 year relocation of the student body during construction, and the sale of both the gardens and St. John’s to pay for the construction;
  • the church’s preferred option is to sell the current school property, using the funds to build a new school on the gardens, demolish St John’s and create a new green space in its place;
  • the new school will have roughly the same enrolment as today — 220 students from 160 families;
  • they want to bring the children closer to the church as a matter of strengthening the faith and increasing community (my words, but I think I got it right).

And then there were questions from the audience. Someone whispered to me that the Church has no idea of the fight they are getting into; and it is certainly true that the tenor of the questions was negative. However, the church was firm that a new school will be built and the discussion is about how that gets done. From the Q & A we learned:

  • that there are no plans to expand the use of the school after school hours beyond the PTA-type meetings that happen today;
  • a majority seemed to favour building on the current site, maintaining St. John’s, and selling Wilga gardens to the Parks Board (though the shortfall in revenues this plan creates was not really addressed, except perhaps that the church should only build what it can afford);
  • that St. John’s is currently used by a number of community groups and that some consider it t have heritage value;
  • that traffic is a major concern, as is any suggestion of changing the traffic-calming regime currently in place;
  • that the current proposal is too massive for a residential area;
  • that all schools in Vancouver are in residential-zoned areas (I haven’t fact-checked that but it was said, and sounds not unreasonable);
  • that the Notre Dame High School project on Renfrew is not an SFA program;
  • that many people believe a phased construction program at the current site would allow the school to continue operating throughout;
  • that a rezoning will be required for the size of the proposed structure.

I found the meeting to be a good start to the process. It was the kind of meeting that Boffo/Kettle should have had but never did. I’m sure neither “side” came away completely satisfied with what was said and done but at least the conversation has begun and is out in the open. By encouraging on-going dialogue, SFA has a wonderful opportunity to teach developers how this process can be improved.

As for me, my inclination is to support the project as proposed by the church, with conditions:

  1. the school is no taller than the church;
  2. the design is actively neighbourhood-friendly;
  3. the green space at St. John’s is a truly public space outside of school hours;
  4. creative effort is put into the traffic issues.

Wilga gardens are not publicly accessible in the sense of being a park; having publicly accessible green space at St. John’s would be a good replacement and better than we have today.  I have reservations about the heritage value of St. John’s. I believe the traffic issues are solvable given creativity and good will on both sides. I would be happy to see density in the form of, say, a three- or four-storey apartment building at Victoria and Venables; that would be a significantly useful addition to the community’s housing stock.

It was interesting to hear the opposition speakers tonight and I appreciate some of their concerns. However, I think the wider community can benefit from this proposal and so it has to be given consideration even if it disturbs a few time-honoured routines that have become entitlements for some.


GWAC and Immigration

February 2, 2017

The regular monthly meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council is going to be rather different next Monday at 7:00pm. GWAC has been invited to a presentation at Grandview’s new Immigrant Welcome Centre:

ISS of BC Welcome Centre

2610 Victoria Drive, V5N 4L2

Lisa Bautista, manager of the centre will talk about the services and programs they provide. There is also hope that we will hear from some recent immigrants who have settled locally.

Given the unmitigated humanitarian disaster that is unfolding just south of us, this may be the right time to be discussing sanctuary cities and other immigration concerns.

It will be worthwhile.