Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
SQUAMISH, BRITISH COLUMBIA — It’s night three of his new restaurant and Jeff Park is smiling. “We are already turning people away,” says the executive chef of the Salted Vine, the latest establisment in British Columbia‘s Sea-to-Sky Corridor.
The Salted Vine brings high-quality cuisine and dinner service to a thriving city situated between two of Canada’s premier culinary destinations — Vancouver and Whistler. Despite the fact many residents of Squamish work in either the big city to the south or the resort village to the north, their home has been short of dining options.
Park knows, because he’s been a Squamish resident for more than six years.
“The city needs choice. We thought in the last six months to a year the demographic changes have taken place that made the timing right,” says Park, who worked for several years at Whistler’s Araxi under executive chef James Walt as well as in Calgary at the Chef’s Table at Kensington Riverside Inn, a Relais & Chateaux property. “More and more people are moving from Vancouver to Squamish, because of the housing prices, and they are looking for a place like this, because that’s what they’re used to.”
The Salted Vine also features two other Araxi alumni, manager and sommelier Pat Allan, and bartender Dave Warren. Set up as a family-style experience, the restaurant serves large plates of charcuterie, meat platters featuring Merguez sausages, wagyu beef and more, and a delicious and beautiful selection of colourful beets served with burrata cheese. Park’s cuisine is straight-forward, well-executed fare that would fit in well among the casual fine-dining rooms in Vancouver’s trendiest neighbourhoods.
The Salted Vine most reminds me of Juniper, a good restaurant that opened last year in the Chinatown area and focuses on the flavours of the Pacific northwest. Park, Allan and Warren have opened their eatery in the oldest building in Squamish, a space that once belonged to a hotel dating to 1910. The Salted Vine team completely renovated the unit before launching the restaurant.
As Squamish continues its growth, the Salted Vine figures to do exceptionally well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if its ownership team has plans for other operations in the region. A major development is planned for the city’s riverside, which will attract more hungry migrants from Vancouver.
One of the best dining options available in the Squamish area is Fergie’s Cafe, a wonderful little spot at Sun Wolf Lodge that is known by locals for its amazing breakfasts. But there aren’t a lot of other places to dine and given the rise in prominence of Squamish as a destination, the Salted Vine is certainly filling a need for more culinary choices.
When Vacay.ca named Sea-to-Sky Country — which runs from Horseshoe Bay in the south to Pemberton, north of Whistler — the No. 1 Place to Visit in Canada in 2016, we did it with restaurants in Whistler as the primary culinary options in mind. Squamish, whose Sea-to-Sky Gondola has been an internationally acclaimed attraction, is steadily proving it can provide all the elements travellers desire in a holiday locale. The Salted Vine is the latest component of that evolution.
Location: 37991 2 Avenue, Squamish, BC (see map below)
You Must Order: Beets ($14) come beautifully presented and served along with burrata, granola, citrus and greens. Exceptional in every way.
More Vancouver Area Restaurant News
Virtuous Pie Launches: If you’re a vegan and you love pizza, you’re in luck. Plant-based pizza has arrived on Main Street in Vancouver, where Virtuous Pie makes its offerings with nut cheeses made in-house. The pies are tasty and some are built with traditional pizzas in mind. There’s a Margherita ($10) with cashew mozzarella, a Superfunghi ($12) that has scalloped potatoes and truffle almond ricotta as well as wild mushrooms, and a Kim Jack-Il ($12) with hoisin creme, kimchi, roasted brocolini, scallion and, interestingly, gochujang-braised jackfruit. The creations are from executive chef Jim Vesal, who formerly worked at the Earl’s location in Vancouver’s Yaletown neighbourhood. He says, “I want us to be known for making good pizza, not being good for a vegan pizza place.” Vesal says he’s “90 per cent vegan” and is working at reaching 100-per-cent status. The 21-seat restaurant features wines from Haywire and a wood oven that can turn out a dozen pies at a time. Vesal says the owners of Virtuous Pie are thinking the concept could be one to franchise in different parts of the city and country.
Location: 583 Main Street, Vancouver, BC
You Must Order: The Kim Jack-Il, with its nod to Asian flavours, is the most unique of the pies, I found.
Pies and More at BBQ on the Bypass: The annual Great BC Bake-off features dozens of pies and tarts entered by home cooks in the Greater Vancouver Area. Part of the BBQ on the Bypass celebration in Langley, the contest had three dessert winners and five BBQ winners. I was a judge for this year’s competition and had the pleasure of tasting the winning pie in the “Anything Goes” category, a chocolate pie tart from Saffron Hodgson. Winning recipes and more info can be found on the BBQ on the Bypass website.