The recently opened DeaFined restaurant in Kitsilano is offering Vancouverites a unique dining experience where diners are encouraged to order their food and drink using American Sign Language (ASL).
Staffed by Deaf and hard of hearing servers, this novel eatery has completely integrated sign language into the dining experience and hopes to bring people together by bridging the gap between the hearing and non-hearing communities.
For those who don’t know how to sign or are anxious about signing for their supper, there’s no need to fear. With the help of instructions, in the form of a painted wall mural illustrating the ASL English manual alphabet and a “cheat sheet” laid out on the table outlining basic phrases like please, thank you and bill, diners are armed with a series of signs to communicate their menu requests.
Ordering is further simplified. Each dish is allocated either a letter or number, accompanied by a depiction of how to make the sign with your hand. For example, the baba ghanoush (a dip of roasted eggplant, garlic and tahini) is the number four, signaled by holding up four fingers.
Diners may come for the unique experience, but “they will stay for the food”, says Owner Moe Almeddine. With a range of lamb, chicken, fish, vegetable and vegan dishes, the menu at DeaFined will “satisfy everyone”.
The menu at DeaFined can be best described as Eastern Mediterranean, drawing inspiration from Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian cuisine. It features a range of appetizing plates including: braised lamb shank; fried cauliflower served with tahini; Mediterranean ratatouille, and crusted steelhead trout.
Whether customers come for the sensory experience or the food, one thing is for certain – a fun, fulfilling and educational evening is to be had.
Indeed, a meal at DeaFined provides great insight into what it’s like to be hard of hearing, which is exactly what the restaurant intends to bring into focus. By opening this one-of-a-kind restaurant in Vancouver, Alameddine aims to call attention to the Deaf community, whilst at the same time provide career opportunities and growth for the Deaf and the hard of hearing in the hospitality industry.
Alameddine said he came up with the idea after opening Dark Table, a similar concept for the blind, where diners eat in total darkness while being served by visually impaired serving staff.
While Dark Table raised awareness for the blind community and provided jobs for the blind, Alameddine said that he recognized a need for employment opportunities to assist the deaf community.
In 2006, data collected from Statistics Canada reported an unemployment rate of 10.4 percent for those with “hearing limitations”. Of this group, over half say their condition affects their ability to look for work. For those who are completely deaf, the number is estimated to be much higher.
DeaFined is not the first deaf restaurant – Toronto is home to SIGNS Restaurant, which hires a large proportion of deaf servers, and San Francisco is home to Mozzeria, a pizzeria which has a deaf owner and staff – but it is the first in Vancouver to have a large deaf wait staff.
While it is DeaFined’s sensory concept that makes it stand out from the crowd, some might worry that the restaurant is a tad gimmicky, however it is anything but. DeaFined is the real deal, offering a gorgeous dining space, a sunny patio (for those who a lucky enough to get a seat), efficient service, and some delicious food served in a relaxed setting for everyone to enjoy.
Address: 2340 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver
Hours: Open seven days a week from 5pm until close (check website for further details)