Best in Vancouver, on the Drive

May 4, 2023


The Georgia Straight Golden Plate awards for best in Vancouver have been announced. There were many Drive establishments that won or placed highly and they are mentioned below. The full set of winners can be found at:


Jamjar Restaurant at 2290 was chosen as 2nd best Lebanese restaurant in Vancouver.

JJ Bean, with a branch at 2206 Commercial was voted best coffee chain in the city.

La Grotta di Fromaggio at 1791 Commercial won as best deli in Vancouver.

With a branch at 1752 Commercial, Sal y Limon was chosen as the best Mexican food in the city, and with the 3rd best tacos.

At 1588 Commercial, Dolce Gelato was voted best gelato in Vancouver, and the 2nd best ice cream.

At 1399 Commercial, Livia was voted best bread bakery in Vancouver, and the 3rd best gluten-free bakery.

Memphis Blues at 1342 Commercial was voted 2nd best barbecue in Vancouver.

Oca Pastificio at 1260 Commercial was chosen as 2nd best Italian restaurant in the city, and 3rd best pasta joint.

The Kulinayra Restaurant at 1134 Commercial was voted 2nd best Filipino restaurant in the city.

At 1128 Commercial, Sula was awarded 2nd best Indian restaurant in Vancouver.

The Lunch Lady at 1046 Commercial was voted best overall on the Drive, 2nd best Vietnamese restaurant in Vancouver, and 3rd overall in the city.

Bombay Kitchen and Bar at 1018 Commercial was voted 3rd best Indian restaurant and 3rd best takeout place in Vancouver.

The Karenization of Zawa’s

March 9, 2023


My email is filled this week with notices that Zawa Restaurant at 920 Commercial is being taken over for a short period in May by a group called Karen’s Diner. Their schtick — copied from experiences decades ago in London and Paris — is to have the servers be rude to the diners. There is a cover charge of $55.

It is no surprise they chose Zawa for their local experiment because it has been possible for many years now to go to Zawa’s and have the owner be rude to you without a cover charge (see here and here).

Huge Rent Increase Means Loss to the Drive

March 5, 2023


Tanam To-Go, the Palestinian restaurant at 1108 Commercial, has only been part of the neighbourhood for a short while but has already proven itself popular. However, it will close at the end of this month because the landlord has decided to raise the rent from $40 per square foot to $61 — an increase of more than 50%.

“How do they expect small businesses to survive let alone making money? Goodbye Commercial Drive,” wrote the business owner.

Perhaps we need rent control to help these small businesses. Perhaps the BIA could weigh in on the issue, though I won’t hold my breath on that.

Farewell to Fet’s

December 30, 2022


As the year closes, so too does one of the longest-established businesses on the Drive — Fet’s Whiskey Kitchen at 1230 Commercial is no more.

Eric and Allura Fergie opened Fettucini’s Cafe at 1179 Commercial in 1987. It changed its name to Fettucini’s Espresso & Pasta Bar in 1994. In February 1996, it moved across the street to 1230 Commercial and dropped “Espresso” from its name.

One of its features were large murals on the wall, many of which featured the Fergie’s love of the Rolling Stones. (I still have a marvelous portrait of Mike Jagger which I bought from their artist).

In the 2010s, the restaurant underwent a complete renovation, emerging as Fets Whisky Kitchen showcasing one of Eric’s other obsessions — a huge range of whiskeys. A few years ago, the government raided Fets and took away a large quantity of their whiskey. But the Fergie’s fought back and just a few weeks ago they successfully won the whiskey war with the BC government.

Both the Everloving and I really enjoyed spending time at Fets. The food was great, the service was excellent, and the Fergie’s were excellent hosts. It was always my go-to place if I had lunch meetings on the Drive. Unfortunately, their lease is expiring and they decided the time was right to end their 35 year-old business.

They will be sorely missed, but we hope that Eric and Allura enjoy their retirement.

The Whisky War Is Over — and Fet’s Won!

December 8, 2022


Long-time readers will perhaps remember the great Whisky Raid of 2018 when the forces of law and order raided Fet’s Whisky Bar on Commercial Drive and absconded with 242 bottles of the really good stuff.

Now — as Eric reports it — “after five years, two enforcement hearings, a Judicial Review and a hundred thousand dollars in legal fees later, a couple of tenacious restaurant owners won their case against an out-of-control provincial liquor regime and two hundred and forty-two bottles of some of the world’s rarest whiskies are being returned to them.

Good for them, and a shame that it took so much and so long to straighten out.

My question: what is happening to all the bottles once the restaurant closes at the end of this month?

The Lunch Lady Is In Town!

September 14, 2022


We had lunch today with old friends at The Lunch Lady on Commercial.

It was a delight made even more special by meeting Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thanh, the original Lunch Lady, who is visiting from Saigon and staying here until the end of the week. She was warm and friendly and quite obviously enjoying her stay in Canada during which she had visited Montreal and Toronto.

A good time!

Zawa — No Good Surprises

August 18, 2022


I am a great booster for businesses on the Drive but about two years ago I wrote about why I would never again use or recommend Zawa Restaurant. Now I see that the entire front of house staff has walked out due to the “inappropriate actions and harassment from the owner.”

Image from Facebook

The only surprise is how long this took to happen.

Given the huge number of fine eating establishments on the Drive, there is definitely no need to give such a disaster your patronage and support.

Another Sad Loss on The Drive

February 2, 2022


Thanks to Penny for the heads up: I had completely missed an important business closing in my last Changes on the Drive report. The Drive Coffee Bar at 1806 Commercial has closed down according to a sign on their window.

They were a nice bunch in there, but apparently the covid-downturn was just too much for them. They will be missed.

Anti-Vaxxers Arrested at JJ Bean

January 13, 2022


During yesterday afternoon, a group of about twenty anti-vaccination louts invaded the JJ Bean outlet at 2206 Commercial Drive, refused to wear masks inside the coffee shop and harassed the staff. Police were called and five protesters were arrested for trespassing.

Staff believe the harassment was targeted and will happen again.

Cafe Deux Soleil and Mutual Aid

January 6, 2022


Just a couple of days ago I reported on the sale of the popular Cafe Deux Soleil on Commercial Drive. And just yesterday I was musing about the need for more mutual aid and co-op structures to combat capitalism. Well, in a tweet last night, those two thoughts melded:

“[W]hat if we crowd funded to buy cafe deux soleils and turn it into a worker co-op. it is such a great community space and i will be SO SAD if it disappears,” tweeted Serena Jackson, which gathered a whole thread of supporting comments.

It would be a marvelous community achievement if we could do it. Maybe the CCEC or similar could help with financing? Comments and suggestions about getting this ball rolling?

Another Drive Icon Bites The Dust

January 4, 2022


The Cafe Deux Soleils cafe on Commercial Drive is for sale, and it looks like the iconic eating and live entertainment place — one of my favourites — will soon be gone.

Having opened in 1995, the business is available for $299,000. The 2,295 sq.ft. space currently pays $8,400 per month in rent. It often is quite busy, especially at weekends.

“The listing by realtor Jean Seguin’s Restaurant Business Broker agency states: “Take advantage of one of the bigger footprints on Commercial [D]rive and bring your next great concept.”

If it closes, which seems likely, it will be a sad loss for our neighbourhood.

Last Day for Poke on the Drive

June 14, 2021

Poke 5, at 2247 Commercial, is closing for good tomorrow night.

They were here for about three years and I never tried them, to be honest. They blame the pandemic for the closure.

It is unfortunate they are closing now just while other veterans and new places are beginning to re-open on the Drive.

Bad Management

November 7, 2020

I am a big booster for all the businesses on the Drive. I rarely shop outside the neighbourhood and I am pleased to recommend local stores to anyone who asks. So when things go wrong, I am both upset and disappointed.

On Thursday I had a book signing event which I chose to hold at Zawa’s Restaurant. There is a sign in the window that says, due to covid-related limits on occupancy, drinks (such as coffee or beer) will only be served with the purchase of food. Several of the people who came by stayed for a while and had full meals and drinks. I would guess that a few hundred dollars was spent.

Today, I met with three others at Zawa’s for them to collect their books. Each of the four of us ordered breakfast dishes. While we waiting for the food to arrive, the owner approached us and said sternly that we couldn’t have a meeting there without buying food. He was rude about it and obviously had not checked with his server before coming over. Just as he finished berating us, the waitress brought our food. The owner slunk away without an apology and kept watching us with an unhappy face for the rest of the time we were there as if we were doing something wrong.

For various reasons, I have been in Zawa’s three times this week. I will never go back. There are too many other pleasant places on the Drive where customers get treated with respect and courtesy. I hate to knock a local business, but bad service is bad service wherever it takes place.

Havana Closes Temporarily

September 2, 2020

The always popular Havana Restaurant at 1212 Commercial has closed for a while as they deal with an employee testing positive for covid-19.

After hearing from the staff member on Monday, the restaurant voluntarily closed. No re-opening date has been announced at this time.

Dining-In as a Treat

May 26, 2020

Yesterday, I had to go to the pharmacy. They were busy and I was asked to wait twenty minutes for my prescription.  I had no problem with that as I am at an age where having to sit in their comfortable chairs and wait is a bit of a blessing, to be honest.  However, I had noticed on my walk passed, that The Dime had re-opened, and so I went there instead.

The Dime in pre-plague days

The Dime is one of my favourite places on the Drive and I was genuinely excited to get back in the door for the first time in a couple of months. They did not disappoint.

On entering, you have to sign in with your contact information. I noticed I was the fifth diner. That business, plus some blocked off tables and the use of a much-smaller paper menu, were the only signs noticeable to me that we had gone through this plague. There were no gloves or masks, but each setting was well cleansed after being used. It was service with a smile from a server who seemed genuinely happy to be back at work.

I sat in my usual spot, looking out onto the Drive, thoroughly enjoying my Swiss Peppercorn burger and a long cold drink of Dam Amber beer. Beside the Dime being a lot more empty, and a lot quieter, than usual, I felt back at home!

Good News — and Bad — for the Drive

April 14, 2020

In previous reports I have noted that Triple A Grocery at 1626 Commercial was boarded up and probably closed.  However, today it seemed to be open again, which is good news.  Hope it is permanent.

On the other hand, Storm Crow Tavern at 1305 Commercial is closed and not coming back.  The owners posted on Facebook:

“The Tavern already had many challenges, such as an expiring lease in an aging building slated for redevelopment, and the coronavirus, for us and many other small restaurants, is a fatal blow while we’re already down.”

They will be keeping on with their Alehouse on Broadway, and the Manor in Toronto.


Many thanks to Ferry Seagull for the heads up.

Another Shoe Drops ….

April 7, 2020

Federico’s Supper Club, a 20-year veteran at 1728 Commercial has announced its closure.

“The restaurant’s owner, Federico Fuoco, said that in addition to a rent increase, thousands in monthly taxes being paid, and wage increase requests, the COVID-19 pandemic was ‘the nail in the coffin’ for the small business … ‘Now is the time for [small businesses] to get real help. Not deferrals or loans, but real financial help. This is the only way landlords will be able to work with tenants in finding real solutions instead of just letting tenants walk away for good,’ read the statement.”

Fuoco has been a force on the Drive –especially concerning Italian Day — for many years. He ran for City Council some while ago, and is still on the Board of the Vancouver NPA. He has been a leader in the move to “protect” the Drive from bicycle lanes.  His club has staged numerous tribute bands over the years. It will be missed.

Last week Cabrito Cafe announced its closure, and Triple A Grocers was boarded up.


The Drive’s First Closures

April 3, 2020

In the last Changes on the Drive report, I noted that it is too early to tell the long term damage the covid-19 crisis will inflict on local businesses.  However, we have now heard of the first closure in this period.

The five-year old Cabrito Restaurant at 2270 Commercial will officially close this weekend.  The tone of the press announcement suggests that the closure was going to happen with or without the virus. The virus, however, has disrupted any plans for a big send-off party.


When I was doing the Changes walk last Tuesday, I noticed that Triple A Grocery at 1626 Commercial had closed. When I passed by yesterday I saw that they have actually boarded up the place.  I hope that is just a temporary situation.


The Virus Strikes The Drive

March 16, 2020

This weekend I received a useful email from Fet’s Whiskey Kitchen at 12340 Commercial Drive reminding me of the extra safety regime they had put in place at the restaurant to protect customers.

Today, in another email, they announce they have decided to close indefinitely as a precaution.

“In light of the clear and strict recommendations of Canadian and provincial health officials for social distancing, we were compelled to act swiftly and decisively to help combat the spread of COVID-19. Along with the collective governmental and societal efforts to contain this pandemic, we hope that this decision contributes to bringing us closer to putting this behind us, getting our people back to work, and once again fully enjoying the relationships that we’ve nourished over the years. Aside from public safety our highest priority is to ensure employees are looked after. As we await details on emergency government relief funding, we will be making every effort to properly assist our employees through this crisis.”

I didn’t hear anything about restaurant closures in the BC Health Officer’s press conference this morning, so this action by Fet’s is purely voluntary, and I applaud their community spirit.

Absinthe Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

February 14, 2020

We had another great meal at the Absinthe Bistro on the Drive tonight.  Excellent food and gracious service.

Between us we had the goat cheese terrine, rib-eye steak, scallops, and rice pudding.  Each was beautifully presented and perfectly cooked.  Moreover, they were more than happy to explain the ins and outs of the sauces, reductions, and special sides; the chimichurri (with the beef), the endive marinated in lemon and the pink apple confit (with the terrine) were particularly good.  The rice pudding with caramel was the perfect finish.

So happy to have somewhere so special so close to home.