Posts Tagged ‘restaurant’

The Dunbar Public House

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

Dunbar Pub drink crowd Palla MediaWhere Friends Gather.

For the past nine years The Dunbar Public House has been Dunbar’s hang out. Dima Mekhlis is the soft-spoken, friendly owner of this restaurant where locals drop in to enjoy a bite to eat, have a drink and watch a game on one of the establishment’s three flat screen TVs.

The corner restaurant is a wonderful spot to meet for dinner before or after a movie at Dunbar Theatre.

It has a pub-like feel but is completely family friendly; for many years it was a diner. Dima says, “Many of those patrons grew up and progressed from milkshakes to beer.” Long term Dunbar residents may remember the location was previously a bike shop and a pharmacy.

The wall is decorated with an assortment of jerseys, including hockey, soccer and baseball. The Dunbar Public House staff is always happy to tune in to whatever sporting event customers’ request. Dima admits his favourite team is the Canucks, especially during playoff season.

Originally from Ukraine, Dima spent his high school and college years in Israel. He has lived in Vancouver for the past 18 years and is the proud father of two daughters.

Dunbar Pub drink burger Palla MediaThe menu highlights pub fare. The house-made hamburgers are the restaurant’s specialty, and what goes better with a burger and fries than a nice cold beer? Some of the featured items include the 29th Ave Burger (in honour of their location at Dunbar Street and West 29th Avenue) with goat cheese and avocado. Also on the menu you will find the lamb burger, the Cajun chicken and tuna burgers and the veggie burger with sautéed mushrooms and Swiss cheese.

Sandwiches, house-made soup and salads and tempting appies including nachos, chicken tenders, perogies, poutine, pork dry ribs and steamed edamame are also available.

Dunbar Pub drink nachos Palla MediaIn addition to the lunch and dinner menu, The Dunbar Public House offers a brunch menu every Saturday and Sunday between 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (and on statutory holidays). A veggie omelette is offered along with eggs Benedict, Montreal meat hash, steak or bacon and eggs, or the Dunbar skillet (veggies, two poached eggs, hollandaise, with your choice of bacon, chorizo, BBQ pulled pork, or smoked salmon). Add a mimosa or a craft Caesar if you like to kick-start your day!

Check out the board to see the daily specials (drinks and food) and don’t miss happy hour every day from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. until closing. Open seven days a week until midnight (until 1:00 a.m. Thursday through Saturday), this is one of Dunbar’s only late night hangouts.

Dunbar Pub drink beer Palla MediaThe Dunbar Public House serves eight draft beers and also is a keen supporter of local craft beers. In total there are 21 bottled beers to choose from. Patrons can look forward to light ales as the summer months approach.

Enticing draft cocktails include the Snake Bite (Strongbow cider, Howe Sound lager and blackcurrant juice) and the Creamsicle (Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc and a shot of Absolut Mandarin). Regular cocktails such as the Bicycle (Vanilla Stoli mixed with lemonade) and the Stress Reliever (vodka, dark rum, peach schnapps, cranberry and orange juice) are sure to wet your whistle.

What makes this restaurant stand out? Dima says, “I believe it is my friendly staff; many are long time employees.”

Dunbar Pub drink Dima Mekhlis Palla MediaHis staff is a group of energetic young people who help to provide an exciting and eclectic environment. Some of them are locals while others come from other parts of Canada and around the globe.

“As a long term community restaurant we care about the neighbourhood.” Dima Mekhlis

He adds, “It’s all about team effort here. The neighbourhood is very special too.” Many customers live in the area and are loyal customers. Dima enjoys his role in offering an environment where good memories are created.

Mark your calendar for Mother’s Day and treat mum to brunch. Close down the home kitchen – breakfast in bed is nice – but going out and having the option to order off a menu earns brownie points!

Dunbar Pub drink 4497 Palla MediaThe south facing patio is a popular place to sit year round thanks to the overhead heaters. People watch, enjoy the sun, wave to your neighbours as they pass by, and best of all, if you are a local, stroll home after a drink and meal. After all, that’s the beauty of having a local public house in your community.

The Dunbar Public House
4497 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC V6S 2G4
Telephone 604-222-9922

Crepe & Cafe

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

Customers Come First for New Owner

Crepe Cafe Dunbar 3500 w41stDiljeet Taheem is the proud new owner of Crepe & Café located at the corner of West 41st Avenue and Collingwood Street. He took over the established business last June and is quickly winning over customers.

Originally from Delhi, Diljeet followed his brother to Vancouver in 1990. He holds a Masters degree in Economics in addition to a diploma in Microcomputer Business Applications. He worked at the Vancouver School Board for a number of years and currently owns a design, printing and sign making company called Jasonbel Creations Inc. in addition to operating Crepe & Café.

His passion for cooking began at an early age. Diljeet explains, “I liked to watch my mother preparing food.”

Crepe Cafe Dunbar Diljeet Parminder TaheemDiljeet had been looking to purchase a coffee shop for two years when he discovered Crepe & Café was for sale and felt it was a perfect fit. Diljeet wasn’t looking for a formal dining experience and knew a franchise would not suit him. He was determined to operate an independent business where he could apply his creativity and make the business his own.

Cleanliness is high on this owner’s list of priorities so he started by giving the restaurant a full makeover. All of the counters were replaced and the floor was refinished. Tiffany-style pendant lights hang over counter and a number of chandeliers are mounted throughout the dining area. A black industrial open ceiling is balanced with white walls and artwork. He also replaced all of the furniture. Diljeet smiles when he reports a little boy commented on the comfortable new chairs.

Not being French or having run a restaurant did not deter the new business owner. The former owners trained him. He says, “I learnt from them but I did not stop.” He mentions his chef friends also shared their knowledge. Diljeet took to the challenge in an academic fashion and threw himself into researching French cuisine. He makes frequent references to the importance of technique.

“Cooking techniques are the same around the world with minor variations.” Diljeet Taheem

When it comes to crepes, Diljeet drew from his experience with the dosa, a type of pancake commonly made in southern India, which share similarities.

Crepe Cafe Dunbar interiorHis wife Parminder works alongside him in the kitchen; she prepares the crepes while Diljeet brews coffee and bakes.

Diljeet hasn’t changed the menu but he has improved it. He has added an organic salad to the crepe plate without increasing the price. He says, “I want to make sure my customers receive quality and value.”

On the menu you will find savoury crepes known as galette made with buckwheat flour. A number of fillings are available including eggs with Black Forest ham and Swiss cheese, smoked salmon with organic spinach and Swiss cheese, and chicken with red onion, tomato and Swiss cheese.

Sweet crepes include lemon and sugar, Nutella and banana, sugar with butter and cinnamon, and an assortment of jam fillings. Gluten-free crepes are also offered. Grilled sandwiches and wraps are very popular with the lunchtime crowd, and the fresh baked goods (including almond cookies and croissants) are a perfect accompaniment to enjoy with a variety of organic coffees (latte, cappuccino, espresso, Americano), organic teas (Diljeet says he makes an excellent chai latte), and other hot comfort drinks (hot chocolate and steamed milk).

When Diljeet sets himself a goal he won’t stop until he masters it. For example, he wanted to improve the coffee sold at Crepe & Café. He says, “I used my research skills to learn everything there is to know about coffee.” From using quality beans to the art of grinding, pressing and percolation, he says, “I technically fixed the coffee brewing process and have passed this knowledge on to my staff. The quality has to be there for the price.”

Diljeet strives for a personal experience. He says, “I want it to be like a home.”

Honest opinions are of utmost importance to Diljeet; he makes a point of personally serving new customers and asking how they enjoyed their meal. “My goal is to have them respond with a wow,” Diljeet says. One of his proudest moments to date was when he asked for feedback from a French couple – they were so impressed with their experience they asked Diljeet if he has spent time in France (he hasn’t).

Treating his customers with respect and courtesy comes as second nature to Diljeet. He likes to pull back customer’s chairs and is always happy to assist senior customers by holding the door.

When asked what he is finding most satisfying about operating Crepe & Cafe, Diljeet replies without hesitating, “What I am learning and using in my business. Knowing the café is improving and that people like the changes is very satisfying to me.”

Crepé & Cafe
3500 W 41st Avenue
Vancouver BC V6N 3E6
Telephone 604-566-9787


Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

mexicali-burrito-dunbar-life-palla-mediaA Taste of Mexico on Dunbar

If you are craving Mexican food, Mexicali is the place to visit for a casual meal. Lee Quang’s customers fondly refer to him as Señor Lee, and he is Dunbar’s purveyor of Californian style Mexican food.

Mexicali has been located in Dunbar for 12 years. Prior to that it was situated on Arbutus Street for 12 years before being destroyed by a fire. Quang was determined to find another West Side location to keep his loyal customers happy and knew he had hit the jackpot when he found Mexicali’s current home.

mexicali-lee-quang-dunbar-life-palla-mediaQuang arrived in Canada from Vietnam in 1988. He learned the art of cooking Mexican food when he worked in the kitchen at Las Margaritas restaurant on West 4th Avenue. This style of cooking is far from his native Vietnamese cuisine but he learned on the job. He has words of praise for the original owners of Las Margaritas who not only trained him but also were extremely supportive when he ventured out on his own. He says, “They became like family and taught me a lot.”

The small restaurant’s décor spotlights Mexicali’s logo (a cartoon chili pepper donning a sombrero) painted on the back wall. In addition, a large mural wraps around the restaurant to create the atmosphere of being on a tropical beach at sunset with palm trees swaying in the warm breeze. Background music, Tejano style, plays over the sound system and gets toes tapping as you dine.

Mexicali is known for its large portions and very reasonable prices.

What is Quang’s secret? Customers order their meal at the counter, pay, and the food is delivered to the table. There are three kitchen staff, including Quang who must have a carbon copy of himself, because he is also out on the floor serving; it is almost as if he is a one-man show and he says this assists in keeping his costs down. Remarkably, he makes it look easy. He smiles and agrees but humbly adds that it is thanks to many of his regular customers who know the menu inside out, which simplifies his job.

He mentions that the community is very loyal, from families with young children to teenagers and adults; people are drawn to the tasty and filling meals. Like clockwork, after he mentions the support of students, a troop of St. George’s students files in to place their lunchtime order before heading back to class.

What do they keep coming back for? Diners are drawn to his quality ingredients and recipes, which are made as low fat as possible. While Mexican food can be spicy, Mexicali’s dishes are made to be on the mild side, although if you request spicy they are happy to turn up the heat!

A number of dietary requirements can be accommodated, from vegetarian to gluten free, nut free, low sodium and low fat. MSG is not found in any of the kitchen’s products and the cooks avoid preservatives to their greatest ability.

Freshness is the name of the game at Mexicali. Quang likes to shop locally and purchases much of his produce at Dunbar Produce. He points out the local merchants are his friends.

The menu includes quesadillas and other snacks (tacos, Redondo rollups) and appetizers (nachos, guacamole, chips and salsa, soups and salads). Entrees feature burritos, chile relleno, enchiladas, tamales, arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), chile con carne and vegetarian chili.

mexicali-4424-dunbar-life-palla-mediaMenu standouts are the lunchtime specials, which offer unbelievable value. Quang indicates the teenage crowd is drawn to these specials because they include Mexi fries and a beverage. A favourite is the beef Redondo rollup – a grilled tortilla filled with ground beef, spices, lettuce, cheese, salsa and sour cream. The other crowd-pleasing specials are the soft or crunchy (your choice) beef tacos and the enchilada with rice and a choice of refried or black beans.

Don’t forget to try the housemade salsa, Quang is extremely proud of it.

Mexicali is not a licensed restaurant therefore expect a virgin margarita made with pure fruits and juices. The “slighty slushy Mexican limonada” is another popular beverage.

This busy restaurant owner has a young family (two daughters), works seven days a week and rarely takes holidays, yet he keeps smiling. He loves what he does for a living and it shows.

mexicali-4424-dunbar-palla-mediaWhat is the most rewarding part of owning and operating his business? Quang is quick to point out it is his customers. He says, “They are very nice and supportive.” He mentions that his customers come from all over to dine at his establishment and while some have moved away from the area they return for a meal at Mexicali, which he appreciates.

Running a restaurant is not an easy job. The hours are long; the rising cost of food makes keeping menu prices affordable a challenge and competition can be fierce. Quang has obviously found the magic formula – he is still smiling and relaxed after 24 years of running his own business!

Bring in this Dunbar Life article between November 15 through January 15 (offer valid from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m.) and receive a 20% discount on dine in orders.

4424 Dunbar Street
Vancouver BC V6S 2G5
Telephone 604-731-6517

The Cheshire Cheese Inn

Friday, May 20th, 2016

CheshireCheeseInn_Alan_Cassidy_DunbarLife_PallaMediaPurveyor of British Pub Fare

The Cheshire Cheese Inn, fondly known as “The Cheese,” has been a Dunbar fixture for 37 years. The name pays homage to London’s Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, which was built in 1666 and has been operating as a pub for 350 years.

Derek Cassidy founded the Dunbar business in 1979. Aware that a large number of fellow British expatriates lived in the district, his dream was to create a cozy pub with a historical feel, complete with low-beamed ceilings, dark wood paneling, a large bar and a combination of booths and tables to gather with friends to raise a glass and enjoy a pub meal.

His son, Alan Cassidy, has been the sole proprietor for 14 years. In addition to his father and himself, four generations of the Cassidy family have been actively involved with the business including Alan Cassidy’s two sons, his brother and his grandfather who worked as a bookkeeper.

CheshireCheeseInn_beer_DunbarLife_PallaMediaAlan Cassidy hails from Liverpool and he is as charming as his Liverpudlian accent. The secret recipe for this restaurant’s longevity is the menu and the cozy atmosphere. Another key ingredient is the warm hospitality offered by the charismatic owner and his staff who he fondly refers to as “a friendly and cheeky bunch.”

“We have wonderful staff.” Cassidy explains, “We put a lot of time into their training and have high expectations of them.”

It appears Cupid is a Cheshire Cheese Inn patron. Cassidy reports that he met his wife and a few of the Cheese staff also met their future spouses while working at the restaurant. In addition to love connections a very loyal customer base has formed. He says, “Some people we serve are the grandchildren of customers my father served 30 years ago.”

CheshireCheeseInn_bar_DunbarLife_PallaMediaCassidy says, “We try to keep to the roots of the old school restaurants.” He explains, “Some of the recipes from the first days are still used today. I think that is why we have stayed around so long.”

“We are proud of the food we put out.” Alan Cassidy

Meals are created from scratch using many local ingredients including line caught seafood and farm fresh veggies. Cassidy says,” If you order chicken pie you know you are getting quality chicken.”

Gluten free options are available and a monthly feature sheet introduces some new selections to tempt the taste buds.

CheshireCheeseInn_pie_DunbarLife_PallaMediaClassic British pub fare includes toad in the hole (pork bangers baked in a Yorkshire pudding served with mashed potatoes and Guinness gravy), fish and chips, Cornish pasties, lamb stew and savoury pies.

Other selections include handcrafted burgers, hand cut fries, sandwiches, salads and pasta dishes. A wide selection of appetizers (chicken wings, calamari, nachos, bruschetta, fish tacos) is offered to whet the appetite or to enjoy with a pint of beer.

Cassidy mentions that micro and import beers are offered on tap and of course Guinness is a staple.

If you are looking for a local brunch spot try The Cheese. Cassidy says, “Brunch is done on a grand scale in Britain.”

CheshireCheeseInn_breakfast_DunbarLife_PallaMediaCassidy recommends coming with a hearty appetite. ‘The Full Monty’ features three eggs, streaky bacon, two pork bangers, ham, baked beans, griddled tomato, mushrooms, crispy hash browns and toast. Pancakes, Cheshire benedicts, French toast and omelettes round out the menu.

It is always exciting for kids to visit a restaurant that exudes a pub-like feel without the rowdy atmosphere. The Cheese offers a kids’ menu and all ages can be found happily dining together. This is a place to gather and celebrate. Sports teams of all ages enjoy getting together for a meal and watching live sport broadcasts.

A rousing game of trivia takes place each Tuesday night. General knowledge questions posed to diners can range from Disney to politics, history and geography. Correct answers are rewarded with a piece of cheese to drop inside a draw bucket for a chance to win gift certificates and prizes. The maximum size team is four players. Cassidy explains,”Trivia Tuesday is lots of fun. This is very popular in Britain. It makes us feel smart when we get one right.”

CheshireCheeseInn_exterior_DunbarLife_PallaMediaMany memories have been created at the restaurant. Cassidy points out, “The Cheese sees happy and sad times from wedding receptions to wakes.”

Some clients say The Cheese hasn’t changed over the years and Cassidy takes this as a compliment. He and his staff take pride in listening to what their customers say and offering up consistently good comfort food in a familiar setting.

Like the historical London pub The Cheshire Cheese Inn is modelled on, this long-term business is proof you don’t need to fix something that isn’t broken.

The Cheshire Cheese Inn
4585 Dunbar Street
Vancouver BC V6S 2G7
Telephone 604-224-2521

Dunbar Pizza and Grill

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

Where Italy Meets India

Dunbar Pizza Jasvir Nandda Dunbar LifeJasvir Nandda is the jovial owner of Dunbar Pizza, a business he has proudly run for 17 years. The menu is as unique as the inviting aroma of pizza and Indian cuisine, which mingle and fill the air. Nandda’s genuine warmth makes you feel like you have stepped into his home kitchen.

Don’t be surprised if he calls you “my friend” as that is what you will quickly become when you converse.

Up front the establishment is small, with a window counter and seating for a handful of people. Behind the scenes the deep restaurant houses pizza ovens, walk in coolers, a big gas stove and more fry pans and pizza boxes than you can shake a stick at.

Nandda is originally from the city of Jalandhar, located in the state of Punjab, India where several generations of his family, dating back to his grandfather, worked in the restaurant industry. Their specialty was Indian food and sweets. His father and uncle worked as cooks, although he points out his mother’s important role was to be the “home boss.”

In 1993 Nandda moved to Canada to join relatives here. He loves his life in his adopted country and does not miss the pollution or the hot climate he left behind. He also appreciates how safe Canada is in comparison.

After working in various professions he decided to take a risk and open his own business based on his experience as a cook. He thanks a friend of his brother-in-law for encouraging him to purchase a pizza business.

Why set up shop in Dunbar? He explains it took time to find the right location. Two attempts to lease businesses in North Vancouver and New Westminster fell through, and then one day he was visiting Dunbar and spotted a for rent sign in the window. He had finally found a home for his business, which was formerly a pizza restaurant.

Capital outlay for equipment was a consideration when he started out and therefore he started only making pizza. Two years later he introduced Indian food to the menu. He started slowly. Samosas were the first item to debut. A clever marketer, when customers would purchase a pizza Nandda would tempt them with a couple of complimentary samosas.

Today his Indian food is as popular as his pizza. Customers go wild for his butter chicken in addition to the lamb korma and spinach lamb. Those items are only the tip of the iceberg; the Indian menu features appetizers (pakoras, samosas), lamb, chicken and a good selection of vegetarian dishes. Tandoori breads (naan, parantha and roti) and a number of biryani rice dishes round out the Indian menu.

Flip the menu and a long list of pizzas can be found ranging from the Dunbar Special to international salutes to India, Italy and Greece. Nandda says the most popular choices are the Canadian, butter chicken and Hawaiian pizza.

High school students are big fans of Dunbar Pizza. They sweep in during lunch hour and after school for pizza by the slice.

Special prices on pizza by the slice (based on volume) make a meal even more enticing with a can of pop included to sweeten the deal.

Remarkably, in addition to pizza and Indian food Nandda also offers Greek and Italian cuisine. Craving souvlaki, spaghetti, lasagna or barbeque baby ribs? No worries, he has you covered.

“We are so lucky to have so many culinary options in this multicultural city.” Jasvir Nandda

What does he enjoy most about the business? He says eating what he cooks ranks high on the list. He enjoys the variety of pizza and Indian food and says he doesn’t have a favourite dish.

Dunbar Pizza exterior Dunbar LifeHis customers make the long hours well worth it. Many of them are locals and have been supporting his business for years. When people call him for deliveries (a big part of his business) often he is so well acquainted with them that he knows their order. He says some customers will even let him select on their behalf.

Living in Surrey means long days for this hard working business owner. The restaurant is open seven days a week until late at night. Nandda likes to spend his limited free time with his wife and two teenagers. Vacations don’t happen often, in fact it was three years ago that he was last in India.

With a smile on his face, Nandda concludes,” I am born to work.” Based on the pizzas that my children tried and gave two thumbs up, I would also add he was born to cook. I will be back to try the Indian fare.

Dunbar Pizza & Grill
3348 Dunbar Street
Vancouver BC V6S 2C1
Telephone 604-732-4999

Hungry Dog Cafe

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

A Doggone Good Restaurant:

Hungry Dog Cafe Sandie Noble Dunbar LifeWalking up the path to Hungry Dog Cafe is like arriving at a friend’s house for a meal. The little restaurant is located in a tiny house, located slightly west of Dunbar Street on West 29th Avenue.

Once inside Hungry Dog Cafe you will be greeted with a warm hello from proprietor Sandie Noble. No matter how busy she is, she seems capable of stopping to take the time to welcome guests to her “bucket list” cafe.

This diner is her dream come true. For a number of years she and her children’s father, Robert Noble, owned two Moonpennies Coffee and Fine Foods restaurants in down-town Vancouver. Looking for a change, but wanting to stay in the restaurant business, she decided to open a restaurant in Dunbar Village, which she has proudly called home since 1971.

In 2012, when she was on the verge of starting her new journey, Sandie Noble was diagnosed with breast cancer. Based on her strength and character she says, “I knew I’d get through it” and indeed she did. She says, “I hope to inspire other women to get through breast cancer by keeping their eye on the prize.” Sandie Noble got her prize. In September 2014 she completed her final treatment and returned to planning Hungry Dog Cafe’s opening.

The business officially opened in late November 2014. Sandie Noble is extremely grateful to her landlady, who she calls “an earth angel,” for patiently waiting for her to occupy the space.

The business name came to Sandie Noble because it was catchy. She laughs when she reports some people have mistaken the restaurant for a dog bakery, although she points out they do have doggie treats for dogs who patiently wait outside while their owners eat.

Hungry Dog Cafe interior Dunbar LifeHungry Dog Cafe is an inviting space with its cheerful yellow walls, dark brown ceiling, vibrant wall art, and pale wood floors. A glass display case separates the five-table dining room from the open kitchen where Sandie Noble and her son Robbie Noble can be seen effortlessly preparing meals. It always makes them smile to hear people exclaim “Wow!” when they walk through the door.

Sandie Noble is committed to serving fresh and wholesome food. She remarks, “This is food that I would serve my family and friends at home.” She uses her own recipes and believes in purchasing the food locally.

The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch daily with a popular brunch menu on weekends. Hungry Dog Cafe serves breakfast all day for those who are seeking a tasty frittata including ham and cheese, three cheese, vegetarian or the Sunrise with eggs, peas, shredded carrots, honey ham, onions and Brie. The Road Trip breakfast features an English muffin with ham or bacon, cheddar cheese and egg.

The lunch menu includes sandwiches with fresh warm personal size baguettes as the foundation. These tasty baguettes from Vancouver’s Boulangerie La Parisienne bakery are purchased three-quarters cooked, with baking completed at Hungry Dog. Sandie Nobles says, “That way the bread is soft and warm inside and the crust is just right.”

There are a variety of sandwiches to satisfy any hungry dog.

Hungry Dog salads include a salad bursting with flavour featuring kale, chickpeas, feta, and lemon vinaigrette. The cheese tortellini salad with sun-dried tomatoes is another popular choice.

Housemade baked goods feature muffins, pies, cookies and loafs. Notable is the $1.50 a cup coffee and tea. It feels like stepping back in time to see such an affordable hot beverage.

In addition to serving meals in house Sandie and Robbie Noble (who was previously a sous chef at Earls) also run a busy catering service. She credits her son as “A hard worker and meticulous at his craft of cooking.” They are constantly inventing and trying new things. Sandie Noble confesses that inspiration can hit at anytime, including when they watch the Food Network. The pair will exclaim, “We can do that!”

This business owner is 100 per cent grateful to be living her dream and sharing her passion with her neighbourhood.

“It’s all about passion,” Sandie Noble says, and this is undoubtedly a large part of Hungry Dog Cafe’s success. Her love of food and people comes shining through. She is humble and is deeply appreciative for the support of Robert Noble (who co-owns the business) and their two other adult children, Annie and Connor, who are always willing to lend a hand.

Hungry Dog Cafe exterior Dunbar LifeWith warmer weather arriving there are plans to open an outdoor patio. The demand for more tables certainly exists as an increasing number of people flock to the restaurant. Sandie Noble reports, “The reception from the community has been outstanding” and one of the most satisfying comments this devoted restaurant owner hears from content diners is, “We’ll be back.”



Hungry Dog Cafe
3625 W 29th Ave
Vancouver BC V6S 2G4
Telephone 604-657-5481

Handi Cuisine of India

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Handi Cuisine, 4432 Dunbar, dinner - PallaMediaA friend recently joined me for dinner at Handi Cuisine on Dunbar Street. It was her dream that this article could be ‘scratch and sniff’ as we recalled the assorted delicious tastes and fragrances that drifted through the restaurant that night.

Amar Maroke owns Handi Cuisine. How did he derive the business name? A handi is a traditional clay pot used to prepare gourmet Indian cuisine.

Maroke is a restaurant mogul of sorts, as he and his family own 13 restaurants throughout British Columbia. He arrived in Canada with his family in 1993 from Mathura, a city in Northern India, and the next day he was working in his uncle’s kitchen.

He told me that although his family settled in Canada in the late 20th century, his great grandfather had lived here from 1904 to 1914 when he worked at a mill near the Port Mann Bridge before making the long journey home by ship.

Handi Cuisine - Amar Maroke - PallaMedia

In addition to being the proprietor, Maroke is a chef, although these days he is on the front line running two of his businesses. In total he owns three Handi Cuisine locations (Burnaby, Vancouver and West Vancouver) in addition to Akbar’s Own on West Broadway (which he purchased 3 years ago and his wife Mamta Maroke manages), Alexandra’s Bistro in Nanaimo, and his latest enterprise, Masala Junction, which opened at the end of April in Port Moody.

A memorable way to welcome the turn of the century, on January 1, 2000, Maroke opened his first business, Masala on Dunbar Street (which he renamed Handi Cuisine in 2009). Along with the restaurant came one of the company’s assets, Richard Schwan, who is a server extraordinaire. Maroke jokes that his loyal, extremely knowledgeable and kind employee is sometimes mistaken for his father. In fact, Schwan hails from Peru.

The warm and cozy space on Dunbar is decorated in earthy and golden tones with a number of paintings done directly on the walls. The atmospheric background music is at a low enough volume to allow for easy conversation.

The menu is extensive with an array of chicken, lamb, seafood, vegetarian signature dishes including Prawns Goa Curry, Lamb Rogan Josh, Eggplant Bhartha, as well as appetizers (pakoras, samosas, Aloo chat) and desserts.

The most challenging part of the evening was narrowing down which tempting dish to select, so I left that decision to the expert. Maroke recommended the Butter Chicken, which he says is one of the most popular menu items. He told me I would be happy and as if to confirm this, a customer walked by the table, smiled and agreed as she was taking home an order of the same dish. My companion, who is a vegetarian, selected the Palak Paneer (homemade cheese cooked with spinach, onions and Indian spices). We also ordered the homemade garlic naan and a Kingfisher Indian beer for good measure. We were excited to see our entrees arrive in individual custom-made chafing dishes. A small candle keeps the dish warm, allowing you to relax and savour your meal, rather than race to it eat before it cools down.

As we dined, and exchanged “yum” comments, we watched a dramatic Tandoori Sizzler being delivered to another table. It reminded me of the wow factor of a fajita dish on a hot skillet in a Tex-Mex restaurant I worked at years ago. Sizzling meals have a way of attracting attention.

Handi Cuisine, 4432 Dunbar, interior - PallaMediaThe Handi Cuisine kitchen has five staff hard at work. The handcrafted meals are prepared from scratch, including the sauces and naan bread. The chef is capable of creating meals for special diets with advance notice, and there are many gluten-free options available. On busy nights Maroke and as many as four staff attend to clients. In addition, the popular home delivery service keeps three drivers busy. Prior to the restaurant opening at 4 p.m., Maroke sources vegetables in Chinatown and then makes deliveries to Akbar’s Own and Handi Cuisine. He also manages the company’s bookkeeping.

In addition to sit down dining, take out and delivery, Handi Cuisine offers clients a unique in home catering service. A chef will come to your house or event and cook from your kitchen. They have catered for small groups (40) and very large groups (2,700 was their largest catering gig, and required a team of 35 staff to manage).

During the summer the menu remains the same, however a few lighter dishes and salads are introduced as daily specials.

Handi Cuisine - 4432 Dunbar - PallaMedia

 At the end of April Maroke launched his latest restaurant, Masala Junction, in Port Moody. I wondered how he oversees so many businesses. He says, “I love meeting new people and it depends on how you take your job.” He enjoys the time he spends working, and therefore it is not stressful for him. He concludes, “It is a combined effort of the right team. This is not a one man show at all.”

As for my friend and I, we left Handi Cuisine feeling very content and look forward to returning again – very soon.

Handi Cuisine of India
4432 Dunbar St
Vancouver BC V6S 2G5
Telephone 604-738-3186

Scott Morison: At Home in Dunbar

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

You may be familiar with the restaurant franchise Browns Socialhouse, which places emphasis on eating, drinking and socializing. What you may not know is this highly successful enterprise has Dunbar roots. Scott Morison (Browns Restaurant Group President and CEO) lives in the area, and the head office is located on West 41st Avenue across the street from the IGA.

Browns Restaurant Group office employs over 30 staff, with ten employees usually on the road making field visits or performing audits. Why did Morison choose to locate the office in this neighbourhood? He has lived in the vicinity for many years and wanted to have an office close to home with his wife, Elizabeth Burke. Morison points out that Browns staff patronizes local businesses, and he enjoys seeing this economic spillover into the community.

People frequently ask Morison what exactly is a Browns Socialhouse? He replies, “We serve fresh, tasty food in a lively room that’s fun, full of energy and designed to be as comfy as my living room…without the dog hair.”

Morison pioneered the Socialhouse concept ten years ago, however this was by no means his first foray into the world of dining. In fact, he initially trained as a chef and worked with Earl’s in the early 1980s. He entered the business side of the restaurant industry with former business partner Richard Jaffray. They owned and operated Café Cucamonga’s, a sandwich and ice cream parlour on West Broadway. They moved on from that two-year venture to co-found the Cactus Club with silent partners Leroy “Bus” Earl and Stan Fuller. Morison was involved with the restaurant for eighteen years and describes those days as having some incredible highs and lows. Jaffray bought Morison out approximately eight years ago.

The first thing that I noticed when speaking to Morison is his optimism, energy, business savvy and his quick wit. With a laugh he describes having, “an Oprah a-ha moment” nearing the end of his association with the Cactus Club and realized it was time to try something new. He aspired to be a mentor and realized that the franchise model was a new path to be explored.

In June 2004, Morison opened the doors of the first Browns Socialhouse on Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver. He set out to create a business model where people who had invested their time working in and operating restaurants could own a piece of the pie. In other words, every Browns Socialhouse is owned and operated by locals who have a vested interest in their community and the success of the brand.

Morison is naturally drawn to the creative end, and enjoys everything from brand concepts, to restaurant design, music programming, and the overall guest experience. He is equally competent in problem solving, and overseeing the legal and financial side of the business. These are skills he has honed through opening dozens of cutting-edge restaurants throughout his career.

Browns Socialhouse franchises have been popping up from Nanaimo to Regina, with Ontario next on their radar screen. Clearly, Morison has big plans for Browns Socialhouse with rapid growth on the agenda. They are presently sitting at 22 locations with up to five more due to open this year. In addition, there are 50 more franchises ratified. Browns Restaurant Group has also burst into the American market with franchising under the name Scotty Browns. To date two locations are operating in Bellingham, Washington, and a third restaurant is due to open in Bellevue in early 2014. Morison says the plan for expansion in Canada is much bigger as he truly understands this market and what Canadians want.

Executive Chef Jason Labahn recently joined Browns Restaurant Group in October 2013. He brings to Browns a wealth of culinary experience from his time spent at high-end establishments in Las Vegas including The Mirage Resort, Bellagio, Wynn Resort & Wolfgang Puck Springs Preserve. In 2011, the Glowbal Group lured him to Vancouver as Executive Chef for Black and Blue Restaurant and The Roof at Black and Blue.

Labahn will play a key role in shepherding Browns’ new Culinary Test Kitchen, set to open alongside a new flagship Socialhouse in Langley, B.C. in early 2014. The Test Kitchen will feature a connecting boardroom for demonstrations and training and boasts state-of-the-art audio/visual capabilities that will allow Browns to communicate new menu items and preparation techniques with multiple outlets across North America in a user-friendly way via the Internet.

Morison describes Labahn as “a rock star” and says he is learning so much from him as they work together on menu development. They speak the same language as they seek to make meals memorable through “the texture, the sweet, the sour, the crunchy and the salty,” and bring these elements together to make food “craveable” and familiar, which will keep clients coming back for more.

Browns Socialhouse changes its menu twice annually and keeps on top of trends. For example, on a visit to Los Angeles Morison noticed food trucks serving tacos were all the rage and he introduced them to the menu.

I asked Morison how he came up with the name Browns. Amusingly, he told me that he had seen an interview on CNN about a business that impulsively chose their name by randomly opening up the phone book. Morison thought this was a great idea and gave it a try. Although he didn’t come up with the name on the first attempt by the second flip he hit the jackpot with Brown.

Over time Morison visits each restaurant location, and he enjoys seeing sites when they are still dirt. He associates Stompin’ Tom’s version of “I’ve Been Everywhere” with his own assorted travels to Canadian towns and cities. Indeed he has been everywhere from Wayburn, Saskatchewan to Fort St. John, B.C. where he saw snow on the ground in May.

He can afford to poke fun at the quintessential Canadian experience, as he is a proud Winnipegger. He says growing up on a hobby farm was the best childhood he could imagine. Again with tongue in cheek, Morison says he was the envy of many teenagers when he would ride a snowmobile to work at the Husky station.

With his Winnipeg days long behind him, Morison is a certified West Coaster. He enjoys the lifestyle and all of the opportunities that living in this climate affords. While he previously lived in Kerrisdale, he and Burke recently moved to Dunbar. They were looking for a very specific home within a small radius of the park and his office, and one with a contemporary look and feel with an open floor plan. They also hoped to live close to the Endowment Lands at UBC, which further narrowed their search. Morison marvels that such a magnificent park can be nestled in the city. It took patience, however they found their dream home, which is a one-minute commute to the Browns office. They undertook a renovation to incorporate a Pilates studio into the floor plan, as Burke is a Pilates instructor who also happens to be a successful entrepreneur in her own right (she owns The Pilates Group in Steveston).

The couple has been married for seven years. They began dating fifteen years ago when they met at the Cactus Club in Richmond where Elizabeth was working as a hostess. With their two pugs, Olivia and Pupa, they take full advantage of the neighbourhood, and enjoy running the Endowment Land trails together and taking the dogs for walks. They also appreciate all of the local businesses within walking distance and they frequent many of the shops and services.

When asked how they make their marriage a success with two busy careers, Morison says the secret is ensuring they spend time together. Friday night is their designated date night. They do not have children and Morison admits that also makes it easier to set time aside for each other. They enjoy vacationing in Hawaii at Christmas and are looking forward to a trip to Thailand this winter at a resort where they will spend time working out (Pilates included) and meditating.

Morison says he thanks his lucky stars that he made the move into the world of franchising ten years ago. It has provided him with a more interesting career and a fulfilling and balanced life. The future looks very bright for this entrepreneur with his drive and vision to make Browns Socialhouse a household name.

Browns Restaurant Group
207A-3540 W 41st Avenue
Vancouver B V6N 3E6
Telephone 604-630-0885

Kokopelli Cafe

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

The bond of friendship can brew great ideas.

Cindy Delgado and Jessica Hotz met in 2002 when their oldest children were in preschool. They lamented that although Dunbar was an ideal community to raise their respective families, there was a missing link, namely a cafe that would welcome parents and children with open arms and offer fresh and healthy food, like you would find at home.

On their wish list for a family friendly cafe were special touches that only parents would think of, such as a wide doorway and aisle to accommodate double strollers, a washroom with a child-sized sink, a change table, and of course a great play space for children.

Their vision for Kokopelli Cafe was born, and the business has flourished for seven years under the ownership of Delgado and Hotz, keeping families happy and well nourished.

After three months of major renovations to transform the space that was previously a green grocer, and prior to that a bakery, Kokopelli was open for business. All the food that they serve is made in the cafe’s kitchen daily from scratch. They are proud to offer healthy alternatives and tasty gluten-free options.

Choices abound on the impressive menu. Hot and cold beverages include coffee, tea, hot chocolate, iced drinks and blended “Frapelli” drinks. If you are looking for something to tantalize your taste buds the vast selection of baked goods ranges from carrot cake, to loaves (lemon, chocolate chunk zucchini and the Maui loaf, laden with coconut, pineapple and banana), brownies, muffins, scones, cookies and banana bread. Another treat is the mini donut muffin which tastes like a donut, but is not fried.

The breakfast and lunch menu is abundant. Breakfast croissants, yogurt and granola, wraps (the Southwest wrap features black beans, cheese, brown rice and cilantro), quiche, quinoa salad and sandwiches (including Tuscan chicken and Portobello mushroom). Not forgotten are their youngest customers, who can order grilled cheese sandwiches, yogurt, fresh fruit, baby food in jars and Baby Mum-Mum rice biscuits.

Not only can you enjoy food fresh from Kokopelli’s kitchen while you are at the cafe, but you can also take it home. These smart thinking entrepreneurs also sell their own granola, which is so popular that it is now available at Stong’s, IGA and The Heights Market. Some local bed and breakfasts also serve it at their tables.

Designed to make your life simpler, Kokopelli offers frozen take-home entrees and soups. This is a growing business for them and Hotz promises it “tastes just like it would at home, if you had the time to make it yourself.” Their macaroni and cheese and chicken pot pie are very popular. They also sell frozen scones that you simply pop in your oven and take credit for – it can be your little secret. Delgado and Hotz take great pride in everything that they serve and believe “if it’s not good enough for us, it’s not good enough for you.”

Hotz has a degree in food and hotel management, and comes from a marketing and consulting background. Delgado has a background in business. Hotz is full of praise for Delgado’s culinary skills. She believes Delgado’s love of baking and food preparation breeds great food, and the business partners look for those same qualities in their kitchen staff. They have found those attributes in culinary trained Heather Eddy, who runs the kitchen along with the rest of the team. As well, several employees work behind the counter in this busy cafe.

Delgado and Hotz delight in giving back to their community through volunteer work. Both of them are actively involved with their children’s schools. In addition, Hotz has been a board member with Dunbar Village Business Association since its inception five years ago. They both believe strongly in this community which feels like a small town where people know and care about each other.

What Delgado and Hotz offer Dunbar is exemplified by the story of a customer who was expecting her first baby. She did not know anyone in the community until she discovered Kokopelli and became a regular customer. She made friends through the cafe, and was deeply appreciative for Kokopelli’s existence. It is stories like these that Delgado and Hotz find deeply gratifying.

The namesake behind the business, Kokopelli, the south-western flute playing deity who spreads joy to people, has certainly infused himself within the walls of this warm and homelike cafe. Delgado and Hotz, your mission has been accomplished.

Kokopelli Cafe
4593 Dunbar Street