TAPshack: Pirate Pub and Mill Bistro to be mini Tap & Barrel outposts

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Lindsay William-Ross/Vancity Buzz

Cyclists and joggers round the corner at seemingly breakneck speed as the spring sun glints cheerily off the windowed exterior of the Pirate Pub. Typically, a patio full of customers would be filling the seats of this bar and restaurant with prime frontage kitty corner from Granville Island and tucked under the Burrard Bridge, but today there is paper up on the walls and the doors are closed. Big changes are happening.

The Pirate Pub is one of the properties in the portfolio of Vancouver’s Daniel Group, and owner Daniel Frankel says now is the time for him to streamline his restaurants, which is why this quirky, cult-classic spot, along with Frankel’s first restaurant, the Mill Marine Bistro & Bar, are undergoing a transformation.

“It was time I evolved,” admits Frankel.

The two restaurants will each become a TAPshack–smaller, more eclectic and contemporary siblings to Frankel’s wildly successful Tap & Barrel restaurants.

At about 1500 square feet, the Pirate Pub certainly doesn’t match the scope of any of the Tap & Barrel locations (the third to open was the Shipyards in North Vancouver, and at 14,000 square feet, it’s the largest restaurant in Western Canada), but that’s fine with Frankel, who is ready to “have more fun,” with the space and to get a little experimental.

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Frankel walked me through the Pub, which is pretty much fully stripped down inside, and describes a whole new bar area backed by custom-designed kegs fitted with wine taps for pouring exclusive small-batch wines from local wineries. Also aligned with the Tap & Barrel philosophy of keeping it local and ditching bottles and cans, the TAPshack will have what Frankel calls a “geeky” craft beer program, where they can showcase unusual brews that they just can’t bring into Tap & Barrel because they don’t come at such high volumes. All the taps will be rotating at the TAPshacks.

With wineries and brewers already in talks with Frankel and the TAPshack beverage director and sommelier to bring in one-offs and fun product, when it comes to food, the TAPshack will be an “all blackboard” style program of eats, with seasonal rotation, and an emphasis on techniques like sous vide, healthy choices, and little to no fried foods.

“These are high volume small kitchens,” elaborates Frankel. The menu will offer “casual Pacific North West favourites,” and be “heavy on the appetizers,” ideal for sharing, showcasing local ingredients–without any pretentiousness. There will be a weekend brunch program, and Frankel assures all the food will be at a competitive price point.

Many of the menu decisions stem from one unique limitation of the Mill Marine Bistro kitchen, which doesn’t run on gas; when Frankel launched his “baby” in 2003, the Mill was ahead of the curve in having a kitchen that uses only induction cooking and equipment–a practice that has become slightly more mainstream in recent years.

The TAPshack interiors will also echo the ethos of the T&B restaurants by using repurposed materials for the decor, and Frankel says he’s having lots of fun sourcing stuff to use for the aesthetic elements. TAPshack will also boast a nautical motif, and feature the work of local artists.

Particularly at the Pirate Pub, where those windowed walls open up fully to give the space an indoor-outdoor “I’m on a boat!” feel, the vibe will stay fun and family-friendly. Pooch parents who have come to love the Pirate Pub for allowing dogs on the patio will be happy to know that TAPshack will still be a welcoming spot. Over at the TAPshack at the Mill site, there will be fire pits outside, too.

“TAPshack is going to be really fun,” promises Frankel. “They will really be epitomizing Vancouver’s ‘outside’ experience.”

Rollerbladers, bike riders, walkers–boaters, too–will be able to stop in at TAPshack soon; plans are to have the Pirate Pub spot open at the end of May, and the Mill location at the start of June.

TAPshack – Burrard Bridge

Address: 1012 Beach Avenue
Twitter: @piratepub

TAPshack – Coal Harbour

Address: 1199 West Cordova Street
Twitter: @millbistro

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Lindsay William-Ross Lindsay is a Senior Editor at Vancity Buzz, and currently runs the site's Food section. A fourth generation Vancouverite, she spent the last two decades in Los Angeles, where she was EIC of the city's top blog, earned her MA, attended culinary school, and was an English professor (among other things). Lindsay's first published piece was December 1980 in The Province; it was her letter to Santa. E-mail: lindsay@vancitybuzz.com
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