For all that I live in a foodie building (Chef Andrea Carlson lives upstairs from me), I do not have as deep an appreciation for fine and/or creative dining as I might. That is, until this Sunday when I was moved to tears to stumble across a new, exciting, and in my opinion, inspired restaurant.
But not for the reason that others might be or feel it is inspired. Not because of the sound of the food, or the interesting wine list… but because of what it represents, and the inadvertent tribute that it pays.
The Stable House is a wee destination restaurant in the “heart of South Granville” (as the articles say). The heart of South Granville. No really. For me, the actual heart of South Granville. You see it is located in a building that was built by my great-grandfather in 1908, renovated in the late ’50s by my grandfather and father, then named after my great-grandmother, Evangeline. In 1997 we sold it to someone who 5 years later sold it to the current owners. But to me it will always be the Evangeline – my heart in South Granville.
I lived there for a decade, after I had moved out to Vancouver. Sharing the building with a whole host of characters each deserving their own blog post (but don’t worry I won’t), and that was just one decade’s worth of her history. But one central character does deserve more space than the others. A woman by the name of Aileen Vance. She managed and cared for that building for many a decade, from well before my time. She was the heart and the soul of that building. And the hub of all things Evangeline.
Even before I had moved to Vancouver I had spent a great deal of time staying in that building and visiting Mrs. Vance, Mrs. V., Aileen, or the name her eldest grandchild Barney crafted for her: Gum (story has it he was practising “grandma, grandma, grandma” when he was going to visit her, but in the end when he opened his mouth what came out was… Gum). And any time I was in visiting her there was a steady rotation of people coming and going from her … ahm, suite. All of them offered some form of sustenance, the nature of which depended what was currently on offer. Mostly I remember muffins, cookies, salads (in the summer) and soups (in the winter). No one left Gum’s hungry.
The other thing to know though was that not only was Gum an exceptional woman, she also lived in an exceptional place. The “suite” she lived in had been conceived and created by her and my grandfather, out of a hair salon and a clothing shop that were the previous tenants. Having noticed that the retail stores down 13th Ave didn’t fare as well as those on Granville, the space got converted to a living/work space – a loft of sorts, before such things were in vogue. A partial wall separated the office from the living area, a (then) state of the art kitchen was installed, and the “bedroom” was suspended from the ceiling, with a narrow ladder used to reach it. All very unusual (and possibly without the required permits – my grandfather had a bit of a rebellious streak, if you can imagine that?!).
So fast forward, after the death of Gum in ’94, the sale of the building in ’97, the conversion of the space back to a retail shop, and then that tenant moving out… there was a for lease sign in the window, and I wondered what was coming next. One day, doing some South Granville Christmas shopping I did as I always do, I wandered past the Evangeline, just to check in on the old girl, and to make sure everything was as it should be. When lo and behold – a Christmas Miracle. A new sign on the window, a new life. I walked up to the window to peer in (it wasn’t open) and that was when I realized what had become of that lonely, slightly forlorn space. It had been converted to a restaurant. And not just any restaurant, a beautiful restaurant, with funky seats and a state of the art kitchen, and the tiniest of details being attended to. I started crying. I just stood there, crying. How perfect. It was exactly right. THIS is what it always should have been, in fact what is always sort of was. A funky little bistro, where everyone is welcome, and no one leaves hungry, and there is always good company and good conversation.
I miss Gum, and I miss the Evangeline. But now I can go back, and sit in Gum’s kitchen, and be a part of the hum and buzz, to look around and feel the spirit of that place, dating back decades, and remember what it’s like to be in the heart (for me the very heart) of South Granville.
Welcome The Stable House. You are built on a solid foundation and tradition of love, good food and good company.