Looking to cross one off the bucket list at downtown Vancouver’s newest country, rock, and BBQ destination.
I was privileged enough to attend their grand opening, and sly enough to come early to take photos. Doing so to avoid the soon to be crowded bar, seating areas, and dance floor.
Located within the Granville entertainment district, like all the other night clubs and attractions, their neon lights lit up the sky. It’s name in blue, derived from the hotel it was affiliated with; a saxophone to symbolize the regular blue performances within; an a pink pig branded with “BBQ”, for obvious reasons.
This would be my first foot into a country bar/club, and minus the bales of hay, this is how I would expect a modern interpretation of one to be. Walking in, I was immediately impressed by the thoroughness of their theme. The servers were in dressed down “country” wear: a causal red flannel shirt and denim blue jeans. A few had bandanas, but not enough had cowboy boots and hats. They sold you on the “country” with details at the bar and the decorations on the dance floor. The main bar had longhorn bull horns presented in display. Several bottles of spirits and various bottles of wine were corralled behind wire. And rusted cans and tins, were lined up in a row above it all.
Above the glowing red the dance floor were chandeliers shaped like wagon wheels. A texaco gas pump and a moose head stood near by. And surrounding it all l were booth seats, high top tables meant for leaning, a secondary bar, and benches to rest your tired feet. Feet tired from the line dancing, that often went on there.
Tonight they had cheerleaders from the BC lions in. They were here to perform in celebration, and did so incorporating some line dancing moves into their regular pom pom full routine. It very appropriate given the venue. I was hoping we as the guests would be given the opportunity to fall in lines and try some group line dancing ourselves. It would have been another one to cross off on my bucket list. Guess I have a good reason to come back. Back to the only place that would offer such an opportunity.
Their sit down dining area was located by the entrance. A step up, adjacent from the primary bar and the kitchen. From here you got a good look at their smoker. We would later get a behind the scenes look at it, as well as an exclusive tour of their kitchen. The above area was set dim, strung with small hanging bulbs of lights. Along with the television screen broadcasting old cowboy movies, it illuminated the section and made visible the cow patterned flooring underfoot. Splotches of black and white that the red leather upholstered booths and high top chairs stood on. Here, they spoke to their promise of blues music with a gallery of black and white photography. Framed photos of blues and country artists in performance against a handsome red brick wall.
The celebration of the music continued by the dance floor, with a vinyl record collection pasted on the wooden panelled wall, like wallpaper.
For their opening, there was a back drop with props to play out your cowboy fantasies. Dawn a straw woven cowboy hat, a red patterned bandana, and straddle a saddle propped on a stool, for a memorable photo. There were enough hats that many guests wore them to play cowboy and sheriff all night long.
But out of everything, I was most enamoured with the mechanical bull. As soon as he and I locked eyes I knew I would mount him not once but twice tonight. And I was determined to not break a nail while I was bucking around. It was the body and head of a rotund bull, surrounded by an air filled barrier. Like a bouncy castle without the trampoline.
Monday through Wednesday they have live music. And during their weekends they turn the western on with country and rock tunes, and this mechanic saddle for some bull ridding. It is definitely a recommendation for a girls night out. There is an innuendo to the whole thing that have women turning 30 and brides celebrating stagettes flocking to such an attraction. I mean they did make it tempting to host your party here. A reserved table at no extra charge and no cover charge for all those invited, free line dancing lessons from their staff, and a free mechanical bull ride for your entire party. The birthday-bride also gets a complimentary cowboy hat in celebration. It had me contemplating when would be appropriate to have such a night out.
Mechanical bull riding is glamourized in movies and on television, landing it on many people’s things to-do list. And the “Yale” is the only place downtown that lets you check it off. This would be my first time. A young man manned the station behind a pedestal of controls. You showed identification and signed a waver: if you get hurt, the bar is not liable. You go on at your own risk, fully aware that the whole point of the activity is to out last a jerky machine, programmed with the intention to whip you off and down by force. Hopping on is challenging if you aren’t very fit, or like me, lack upper body strength, with the ability to lift yourself up and on to the saddle. The “bull” operator was kind enough to give me a hand, or leg. On bended knee he allowed me to use his thigh as a stool. Though during the second time around, full of liquid courage and off the high of doing it once before, I was able to hop on myself. Before my first ride I enlisted his help, asking of for tips and tricks on how to out last the machine. You hold on with one hand, using both could potentially lead to you clock yourself in the face, so should the bull jerk that way. Then from there it is negotiating your balance and reacting the the machine. When you were swung one way, you have to tilt to the other, then rebalance yourself back at centre as soon as possible. This was the trickiest and not doing so soon enough is what resulted in you loosing your balance and tipping off. Extending your legs and asserting your bicep strength to hold on helped. The settings vary with a “sexy” mode for those scared to fall, but wanting a taste of the experience. “Sexy mode” is basically the machine swerving back and forth under you, like a women swaying her hips to the beat at a night club. The ride typically starts from here, then cascades to the point where it is obvious that the “bull” wants you off its back. The fall is inevitable, but just as fun as the ride itself. You are still holding on tight to the braided rope, so it is your bottom that lands on the mattress of air. Despite the exhaustion, the trembling after, or any rope burn and chafing, you immediately want to try again. To best your time, especially if it is your first. By the night’s end I had ridden it twice with a combined time of 50 seconds. I was proud, having won a prize the second time around. And proudly walking away with battle scars. Scars in the form of a bruise in my inner thigh from the thick braid putting pressure in between my legs, and the soreness I experienced the days after. Worth it, to say I have lived and done it.
A country western bar isn’t the same without some good barbecue. And their entry into the game comes with one of the biggest smokers in Vancouver. This one was affectionately named “Gator”, by their executive chef, who shared his nickname with it. He was kind enough to give us a run down of his operation and a behind the scene look at what he loves to do day to day. He opened the stainless steel door of the smoker to reveal a slow rotating wheel of grill racks. From what I could make out, they were smoking full rack of ribs and others meats wrapped in tin foil. The smoker is stacked with logs of wood. The wood is not what cooks the meat, they are used to accent it with their scent and flavour. Hickory, cedar, cheery and pine from the Okanagan. Three hours the meat sits in brine, three hours more it sits and slow cooks in the smoker. The chef sprays the meet to keep its surface moist. This is how they make proper slow-smoked meats with their homemade rubs and sauces.
Just past this is their kitchen. Line cooks were back here tonight prepping the appetizers that would soon be passed around to the guests. Slider buns being squirted with sauce and brisket being sliced under a heat lamp. We were gifted a taste of some of the most succulent meat I have ever had. This was quality melt in your mouth meat, made all the more tender with its pockets of fat. No sauce needed it was full of flavour. I could have eaten the whole mound with bare hands, if given the chance.
Their menu is a celebration of good meat just like the above. Barbecue platters of pulled pork, brisket, hot links, and side ribs. With all the traditional sides of course: coleslaw, baked beans, potato salad, and corn bread. They put their spin on this and other bar classics like soups and salad, wings, nachos, burger and sandwiches, and full entrees. A salad with corn nuts, a quinoa bowl with beans and their own smoked tomato vinaigrette, grilled cheese with BBQ chicken and caramelized onions, a chopped chicken burger with a buttermilk ranch sauce, and the ability to add smoked meat to practically anything.
Don’t mind the darkness of the food photos below. At such a setting I rather not turn on my flash and blind others. Plus it is a more accurate account of the experience. I eat the food in a darken setting and want you, the reader to experience what I do, as I do.
“Jalapeño corn bread”. Moist nuggets, like spongy cake bites, but with the gentle sting of some spicy jalapeños to kick it up a notch.
“Baked Mac n’ Cheese”. Elbow macaroni heavily coated in velveeta melted cheese, then breaded in cornflakes for the perfect crunch. Heaven on a stick and the perfect accompaniment to drinks. It was served with their homemade chunky ketchup-like dipping sauce, for those in need of tomato with their cheese.
The “Pulled pork” sliders were made with slow cooked pork shoulder, crunchy slaw, and jalapeño mayo on a brioche bun. It was definitely a multiple napkin burger. They were generous with the moist maker sauce, I didn’t miss any of it when glops of it fell to the floor within my first bite. The spice was a slow burn balanced by the heaviness of the cream. The bun was good, but I would have liked less of it to better highlight the pork.
“Side ribs”. They were easy to eat as the meat fell of the bone. Great as is and better with a thick and sweet barbecue sauce.
And we had plenty of rye and ginger cocktails to wash it all down with. Because really, what else do you order at a country bar other than whiskey?
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I could definitely see myself back here for dinner with my partner and dancing with my girls. They are bringing something new to the area and people are eating it up. The bull riding and line dancing are ones to stop by and try, and the barbecue platter is one to lust over. For a low-key fun night, without the need to dress up, this is one that I would recommend for a good time. I have already promise my partner that I will take him back to try their barbecue, so expect a more comprehensive post on the food, soon. Don’t deny your cravings.