Looking Sad

February 7, 2018

At the end of Changes on the Drive #77, I reported on the closure of the long-established Nick’s Spaghetti House along with the convenience store next door. There were reports at the end of the year that another restaurant was primed to take over space.

A correspondent recently wrote asking what was happening at the site, so I went down there yesterday to take a look.

 

It was disappointing to see just how sad it was, with no work going on there so far as one could see. I’ll keep an eye in it in the hope that something new will appear soon.

 

Advertisements

Follow Up To The Fet’s Whiskey Raid

January 21, 2018

As I reported earlier, and has been widely reported since, Fet’s Whiskey Kitchen on Commercial Drive was raided last week and $40,000 worth of bottles were seized by agents of the BC government.

At the time there was some mystery as to why this had happened, but the reason has now been made clear — they were purchased from private liquor stores (which had purchased them legally from the BC Liquor Distribution Branch) rather than from the BCLDB directly. All required taxes had been paid but these bars are only allowed to buy their liquor from the BCLDB — even though the BCLDB won’t sell them these particular whiskeys.

It is worth repeating that all required taxes had been paid.  In other words, this is all about the bureaucratic nonsense that is BC’s liquor laws.

Apparently bars and clubs have been buying from private liquor outlets for years and liquor inspectors have allowed it to go on. Now, suddenly, the Ministry under David Eby has decided to stamp down on the practice. They could, of course, have changed the law so that BCLDB could sell these whiskeys to the bars but no, they wanted to play the heavy instead.

In a long article by Martyn Brown, he suggests that the “prohibition style” raids may have been occasioned by the money laundering crisis in BC casinos:

“It is in an interesting coincidence, I’m sure, that this crackdown has occurred only days after Attorney General Eby launched his own scathing indictment of the inept gaming policy enforcement and money laundering problems that transpired under the former government’s watch. No doubt, the last thing the general manager or others in the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch want to do is to leave the branch vulnerable to being accused of falling short in its enforcement responsibilities.”

However, as the same article notes, the raids have done nothing to enhance BC’s image as a tourist friendly Province. Perhaps more importantly for locals, Eric Fergie of Fet’s notes that his small business could suffer badly.

“Fergie said he’s now worried how his small business will absorb the cost. ‘If we are fined heavily for the infractions and we lose our product, then, you know, we’ve got 20-something people that work for us and it’s going to be difficult’.”

Eric and Allura Fergie have been mainstays of Commercial Drive business since opening their original Fettucini’s Cafe in 1987.


Fet’s Whiskey Kitchen Raided

January 18, 2018

Fet’s Whiskey Kitchen, 1230 Commercial, is one of the Drive’s longest serving establishments. It has the widest selection of whiskies in Canada. According to a note on Fet’s Facebook page:

“What an interesting day we had down at The Kitchen today.

At 10am three government agents showed up with the police to conduct a prohibition style raid. The government inventoried, catalogued, sealed and removed 242 bottles of whisky from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society [SMWS] worth about $40k. The same raid was conducted simultaneously at The Grand Hotel in Nanaimo, Little Jumbo and The Union Club in Victoria. All 4 establishments are SMWS Partner Bars and the only whisky taken at each location were the Society bottles.

Every cocktail bar in the province has a few specialty products in their shelves yet only these 4 bars were raided and the only product removed was the SMWS bottles.”

It will be fascinating to learn what this is all about.

 


Lingua Franca

December 20, 2017

With so much linguistic and cultural diversity on the Drive, it is not surprising that sometimes we make up our own language and spelling.

 


Quick Review: Kulinarya on the Drive

December 17, 2017

At least for this week, the Kulinarya is the newest restaurant on the Drive, having had its soft opening on 6th December. It is the sister restaurant to the same-named place in Coquitlam. The ever-loving and I went there for dinner tonight.

For decades this space housed Tio Pepe’s. The new managers have cleaned the place up and given it a pleasant, if not exactly cosy, outfitting. The south wall is shiplap beneath a brick wallpaper and is quite effective. The northern wall is textured in white and grey, with colourful fabric as booth backs.  The chairs appear to be reclaimed, which works and which is good to see. It was a nice enough atmosphere but without ambience so far.

The Coquitlam branch has a very extensive menu. However, the Commercial Drive place’s offerings are significantly more limited, presumably until they get on their feet and check the market. That was a little disappointing as the everloving and I had gone on line and chosen what we were likely to order: we both had to change our minds. That’ll teach us to be moderne!

The good looking one of us had a pancit, which was very large, very tasty (she said), and good enough to bring home what could not be eaten at once. I had an Arrozo with minced beef.  I was both surprised and saddened at how little seasoning (let alone spice) had been used. It was, shall we say, bland. Still, one out of two isn’t bad.

Service was good and the price was reasonable. Another good thing — their takeout boxes are a recyclable cardboard. I hope they expand their menu and prosper on the Drive.

 


Review: Bao Down On the Drive

July 29, 2017

Today I went for lunch at Boa Down which has been open a couple of months now.

Bao Down has been described to me as a Filipino-fusion taco joint, and that seems fair enough. The place is bright and cheery, with — today at least — loud NSFW hip-hop blasting out. It is dressed like a beachfront cabin, the attractive tables made from irregularly cut wood. With the front window open, the place is perfect for people watching but, if that bores you, they have two large screen TVs.

The menu essentially consists of a number of baos and tacos, each with a more or less exotic filling. I tried the Between Two Worlds bao (braised pork belly, hoisin, pickled daikon and carrot) and the Huli Huli taco (island style chicken breast, pickled papaya, crispy garlic, and radish).  They come with a range of homemade hot sauces.  The boas and tacos themselves take some chewing. Service was welcomingly minimal and the price — the two dishes plus an oversized portion of Kennebec fries — was about $17.

The food was more than OK and there was the occasional bloom of unusual taste that woke up my palette. But, for me at least, I can’t see this becoming a regular habit.


Joe’s Grill: A Quick Review

July 20, 2017

It was happenstance that I bumped into a good friend outside Joe’s Grill yesterday, just an hour or so after they had opened up for their first day of business on the Drive. Having brunch at the new place seemed a natural.

Joe’s Grill already has three locations in Vancouver, on Denman, Davie, and Main. For their Commercial Drive location they have slotted into a space on the east side of the 900-block that has a less than illustrious history for restaurants; it has been vacant for 10 months since Nonna’s failed after just a few months of business following a previous 10 months of vacancy since the earlier failure of Adeline’s.

The interior of the space has been modified somewhat, making it much more appealing and open than it was before; it felt comfortable and welcoming. It still has the lovely patio, where we chose to eat on what was another fine summer’s day.  Service was excellent: prompt, efficient, and courteous. That could be a challenge on a restaurant’s first day, but they managed it well.

The menu is standard breakfast and lunch fare. The Commercial Drive location hasn’t made it to their website yet, so I have linked to the menu on Davie Street.  However, the Drive menu seemed shorter, with less choices. My friend had corned beef hash and scrambled eggs; his looked good and he declared himself satisfied with it. I had the classic eggs benny, my usual test for a diner.  Mine came with country fried potatoes. The benny was fine — the egg cooked exactly to my specifications — but, as is usual in many breakfast joints, the hollandaise was a little bland, as if they forgot there was supposed to be lemon juice in it.

With coffee and tip, but without toast, my breakfast came to about $16. This is about the same as Zawa’s, the Euro Cafe, or the Tangent. The everloving and I usually spend about $20 for two breakfasts with toast and coffee at Skylight and their portions are bigger (as they are, too, at the Tangent for example).  But it is a nice place and the patio is a real plus.

Joe’s Grill’s timing for their opening is both good and potentially bad. Good because the Skylight in the next block is closed for vacations for the next few weeks; I am certain that many of Skylight’s regulars, like me, will give the new place a try during that time.  Potentially bad news is that the Bosa’s store next door to Joe’s will close in September when their rebuilt store on Victoria re-opens. Joe’s will lose the foot traffic that Bosa brings to that corner, and they will have to hope both that another restaurant chain doesn’t take the large space then available or that the double-wide vacancy doesn’t bring a sense of desolation.

My friend and I were the only customers when we arrived but by the time we left the place was quite busy. I wish them well!