By Peter Vogler – Whistler, BC
Patios are magical places that come in all shapes, sizes and reasons for being. There’s the hot summer patio overlooking the water, and the winter patio on top of the mountain…your breath visible, blanket wrapped around you while seated by an outdoor fire. And of course, the inner city dive with a few tables and chairs standing crooked in an alley…you drinking a pint of cheap beer. But the function is always the same – to bring friends and strangers together over the comforts of food and drink, some fresh air and scenery…an oasis to rejuvenate the soul.
Vancouver’s Tap & Barrel took it one step further. After the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the usual post-Olympic malaise set in, leaving large parts of the Olympic site unoccupied…a forlorn concrete acreage, devoid of life, but sitting squarely beside beautiful False Creek. It was a site crying out for some humanity to turn it into a lively and picturesque urban centre. But still… it sat empty.
Enter Vancouverite Daniel Frankel, who cast his keen eye upon the forlorn post-Olympic site. He saw it, not for what it was, but for what it could become, and put forth his very best west coast vision of a restaurant and patio that could create a heartbeat for the otherwise moribund site. That vision emphasized a small environmental footprint including regionally sourced ingredients for the restaurant, a keg system called FreshTAP that negated the need for bottles and cans, and locally brewed beer.
Tap & Barrel lucked-out on the locally brewed beers as Vancouver was undergoing a craft beer renaissance. In fact a major member of this new wave of brewers is CRAFT which sits about 30 meters across the plaza from Tap & Barrel. Taking full advantage of this burgeoning beer scene, Tap & Barrel proudly maintains 24 local beers, 2 ciders and 14 local wines, all kept in FreshTAP stainless steel kegs, which perfectly preserve the freshness of every beverage on the premise.
The restaurant is housed on two levels. The open floor plan emphasizes the scenery. The food is fresh and imaginative with a west coast flare and the beer is served from a long central bar. Frankel’s passion for education is evident in the library found upstairs along one wall of the restaurant and surrounded by comfy reading chairs and sofas tucked in to a cozy fireplace. You are welcome to take a book without fuss and return it when you can.
The patio is to die for…overlooking False Creek with a gorgeous seawall walk, which circles the inlet (yes, False Creek is actually a False Ocean inlet, go figure!). It was the perfect location to resuscitate a tired Olympic site. Locals from the neighbourhood mingle with tourists on the patio with a view of Vancouver’s hockey arena, the downtown cityscape and, of course, the mountains and the sea of English Bay with its exquisite sunsets.
It has become the beating heart of a now thriving neighbourhood.