In Praise of Older Diners

September 25, 2019

The Everloving and I went for breakfast today at the Skylight on Commercial. Nothing newsworthy about that; we go there on a regular basis.  However, it was special because the Skylight is going to close later this week, with Eva and her husband retiring after working so hard there for more than twenty years.  The closing saddens us but, unfortunately, extends a series of such closures.

I love a cooked breakfast, and I particularly love eating a cooked breakfast in inexpensive diners.  When I first moved to the Drive in the early 1990s, and living on Graveley, I almost immediately discovered Grant Cafe at 1464 Commercial. The fact that it was positioned at the intersection of Commercial & Grant was a pure coincidence, the cafe having been opened in 1951 by Wally and Gladys Grant at 1501 Commercial. In those days, it was anything but a lowly diner. On its opening, the Highland Echo praised its “unusually pleasant wallpaper design.”  After several changes of ownership, the Cafe moved across the street in May 1968 and by the following year was advertising itself as “The Place Where The Elite To Eat.”   However, it went through another series of owners in the 1970s and 1980s and, by the time it became my regular haunt, it had become a down-at-heel diner.  I thought it was great — the sausages were especially good as I recall — and I was devastated when it closed in 1996.

Luckily, I had already found a substitute. A restaurant called Greek Express had been opened in the Il Mercato mall in 1995. It operated in the space west of Van City and served both breakfast and lunch. The owner was a grumpy old sod but it had the very best coffee I have tasted and the same with their rye toast.  Even better, perhaps, was the gorgeous smell that they produced and which saturated the interior foyer of the mall.  Unlike say McDonalds where the sickening greasy smell keeps me away, the aroma of the Greek Express was sweet and delightful. Even when I didn’t stop for breakfast, I used to walk through the mall just to enjoy the atmosphere. v At the end of 2000, we moved from Graveley to Adanac, and so the Greek Express became less convenient as a daily stop. However, if I had business at the credit union or SuperValu, say, I made sure to have breakfast at the old place, until they too closed in 2010.

Meanwhile, we had discovered the Skylight within walking distance of our new home.  For a couple of years in the early 2010s, I split my breakfast custom between them and the regrettably short-lived Adelines, but the Skylight has been our regular go-to place for the last twenty years.  They have friendly service, great coffee, the best corned beef hash I ever ate, and a large cadre of regular customers, many of whom have become nodding acquaintances at the least.  During school terms, it is filled at lunch time with Britannia students, and I wonder where they will go when they want something better than a slice of pizza.

We are sad, for ourselves, that our favourite diner is closing. But at the same time, we congratulate Eva and her family on their retirement; they have earned it and I hope they enjoy their rest.

 

 

 

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A Date For The Calendar: Theatre On The Drive

February 15, 2019

It has been three years since the Caffe Napoli closed, and The Drive Coffee Bar took its place at 1670 Commercial; and it has proven to be a whole lot more than just a coffee bar. They make really good use of a long thin room. I have been to political meet-and-greets there, for example, and they have their Tuesday night open mic music sessions and on Wednesday night’s they have Weekly Stories.  In a couple of weeks they are adding intimate theatre to their repertoire.

On March 1st and 3rd at 8:00pm, Jo Dworschak will present her award-winning one-woman show, Oh Man; an autobiographical monologue featuring the problems she has with the men in her life, only to learn she’s pregnant and having a boy.

Tickets are available through Eventbrite.


The Whiskey War Goes On and On

January 26, 2019

One year ago, I reported on the BC Government’s seizure of $40,000 worth of whiskey from Fets Whiskey Kitchen on Commercial Drive (here, here, and here).  You may recall that, although Fets purchased their whiskey from legal outlets and paid the full price and the full tax on the purchases, they were technically not allowed to purchase from those outlets.  Similar seizures were made in Victoria.

Last June, the BC Government’s own panel set up to look into the issue, recommended changes to the law to allow the kind of purchases that Fets had made.  This month, the Federal Competition Bureau entered the fray in support of Fets, declaring the BC regulations “anti-competitive”.  It is now 12 months since the raid, and more than six months since the panel’s report, but Fets still doesn’t have their whiskey back, and they are still on the hook for legal expenses and potential fines.  According to an article on Whiskey Cast:

“While the other three bars settled their enforcement cases with the province and paid small fines, the Fergies [Fets owners] are still fighting the potential loss of around $40,000 (CAD) worth of whisky and a proposed fine of $3,000. Their hearing has been pushed back to this May.”

I am clearly on the side of Fets in this fight, but regardless of right or wrong, it is crazy that this can drag on so long. As mentioned above, the government’s own panel came up with recommendations six months ago but they are “still under review.”  I certainly don’t believe that government and business should operate in an identical fashion, but, seriously, no business would survive if they took so long to make a decision, especially in this day and age.

Our otherwise worthy AG needs to get off the pot and make this right for a business that has helped the Drive flourish for more than thirty years.

[Hat tip to Nati Harron for the link to Whiskey Cast]

 

 


Schnitzel and Wine!

August 24, 2018

This coming Sunday (26th), the Downlow Chicken Shack at 905 Commercial is closing out the summer with a special schnitzel and wine menu that sounds like fun.  The event goes from 5:30pm to 10:00pm.  I’m sure there will be crowds.

I could rewrite the Scout’s piece on this and pretend I know what’s going on, but I’m happier to point you to their article.


The New Nicks Is A’Coming

April 18, 2018

When Nick’s Spaghetti House closed after 62 years in business at 631 Commercial, there was already talk of another restaurant moving into the space.  Now, that talk has become concrete action.

The old restaurant is being refurbished and will open as Pepino’s Spaghetti House, owned and operated by the chefs and management team who have been so successful with their Savio Volpe osteria at Fraser & Kingsway.  Much of the ambience of Nick’s is being kept, according to a story in Scout Magazine, including the old murals.

Image: Scout Magazine

There is hope the new restaurant will open in June.

The convenience store that used to be next door to Nick’s has also been taken over by the same group. After a complete refit it will reopen as Caffe La Tana, a traditional food store and cafe.

That northern part of Commercial Drive is home to a wide range of less expensive houses and small relatively affordable apartment blocks. It seems to me that Pepino’s and La Tana are probably looking for a more exclusive clientele which they hope to find once that stretch of the neighbourhood is thoroughly gentrified. In the meanwhile, their marketing will aim, I am sure, for the destination crowd.

 


EVIL Doings at the Havana

March 24, 2018

The East Vancouver Improve League (EVIL) engage in a fast-paced improv comedy contest every Sunday at the Havana Theatre.

 

Proceedings get under way at 7:30pm and tickets are just $8 at the door.

Not sure what will happen in the three weeks that Havana is closed for renos from this Monday, but give tomorrow a look!


Story Time On The Drive

March 22, 2018

Thanks to the always useful ILiveInEastVancouver blog, I learn that The Drive Coffee Bar at 1670 Commercial is hosting a weekly story session each Wednesday evening from 7:30pm to 9:00pm:

“You will hear tales from some seasoned storytellers, but each week they do try and get a new face up to take a turn.  The venue is a favourite of ours for the great coffee, selection of Cartem Donuts and some of the best sandwiches in the City by La Grotta del Fromaggio plus they also serve wine and beer.”

Sounds like a fun evening!