I have been a long time fan of “Mamie Taylor’s” with their absinthe flights and deep fried ice cream stuffed into apples of the past, to their nose to tail feasts and their seasonal offering of turtle and gator that I once enjoyed. Over the years they have given me much reason to visit them time and time again. Fun and fantastical treats and eats you won’t find anywhere other than on their southern menu.
It is this and their unique stylized space that has me recommending them as a fun spot. The resto-bar has a den-like feel to it. Crafted with red brick, brown wood, and black leather; all surrounded by a collection of taxidermy animals stuffed and mounted. Birds, beasts, feathers, and horns. There was a full bear skinned rug hanging on the wall, and talks of procuring a full length python in the future.
Tonight, we were gathered for a dinner meant to celebrate their new general manager and head chef, and the new direction they would be taking the bar. I was able to chat up the GM, discussing his impressive resume with stints spent at “Hawksworths”, “L’Abattoir”, “Keefer Bar”, and “The Diamond”. And not only did he bring this experience with him to “Mamie Taylor’s”, but his passion for spirits and mixology as well.
The newly minted head chef, also comes with his own impressive resume. No only is he a celebrated chef, but he is also a certified WSET Level 3 sommelier, having worked at Vancouver’s “Calabash Bistro” and “Memphis Blues BBQ House”. He also spent a summer touring the Southern United States BBQ circuit, where he perfected his grilling technique. Then opening the award-winning JAROblue restaurant in Calgary. Together they will be pooling their experience together to take “Mamie Taylor’s” to the next level of its evolutionary journey.
As a well established bar, they are already know for their huge cocktail selection and now they hope to bring more attention to their neighbourhood bar with a new bar menu and some winter specials. In fact our night started with a welcome cocktail and was followed up by a selection of their other alcoholic offerings.
Our welcome cocktail was described as being “Not your grandma’s lemonade”. A citrus spritz made with charred lemon, tequila, gin, lemon juice, and soda water. A great drink for warmer days and cooler nights spent on your back porch.
“Between two fernets” was gin, house vermouth, fernet branca, lemon, and honey. It was so easy to drink, it tasted like juice.
“Jessie’s girl” was a cucumber forward cocktail, it was what you’d imagine combining fresh pressed green juice and spirits would taste like together. Gin, lillet blanc, fino sherry, lemon and orange bitters, topped with a salted cucumber and egg white foam. It was a beautifully refreshing and elegant to drink. There are talks of creating a different foam flavour to help transition it into fall.
The “Negroni on tap” spoke to the popularity and confidence that they had in the drink, keeping enough of it to pour quickly and frequently. Gin, Campari, and vermouth, finished with a house soaked amaretto cherry. This was a strong and punchy drink, ideal for those who like a bold start.
Every drink that came, and every plate that was placed didn’t match the one next to it in either size, style or design. Their mismatched collection gave the table personality and the diners a conversation topic. I appreciated the lack of uniformity, and how it helped to foster the casual air of our meal to come.
With drinks in hand, we were invited to be seated in the second half of the bar. This area served as a great party space, with the ability to draw a velvet curtain close, to help create some privacy. The meal below was served as a tasting, with smaller versions and sized down portions. So be warned, should you yourself visit at a later date, what you get might not get what is pictured below.
Our long table meal began with some appetizers to share, delicious bar favourites that I would come back for. “Roasted brussel” sprouts seasoned with chilli, blue cheese, and sherry vinaigrette. It was a great sprouts dish, crispy and firm, packed full of flavour. Though personally, I would have liked more of the blue cheese to shine through.
“Crispy cauliflower” with persevered lemon, fried capers, and herbs; in a apple reduction. It was crispy, slightly sweet, and simply delicious.
The “ham grenades” were humourously described as being “glorified tater tots”, by our chef. It utilized smoked ham hock with cheese and was served topped with their house-made garlic mayo. They were fun to pop whole in to your mouth. The crispy coating paired well with the smooth cream atop. It makes for a great bar snack to nibble on as you drank down a pint.
Given their southern background, “Shrimp and grits” found a prominent place on their menu. “Grits” are coarsely ground corn kernels boiled with water or milk. Here it was creamy and lumpy like oatmeal, but cheesy and comforting like macaroni and chese. The crispy shards of baked cheese and the juicy shrimp created textural contrast. The latter also offered a freshness to the dish; I just wanted more shrimp, and for each to have a deeper char.
The “Cobb salad” was one of the best salads I have ever had. If you have ever read my other works, you know I dislike leafy greens and therefore stay away from salads. However this bowl with its smaller leaf to topping and dressing ratio had me going back for more. Dare I say this might be my favourite salad in the city. It is not a traditional Cobb salad, instead of using the more commonly seen chicken breast and bacon bits; the kitchen opted for chicken crackling and pork belly with its soft boiled egg, and avocado dressing. Each highlighted ingredient was amazingly prepared and altogether, absolutely amazing.
We had the two bite slider version, where normally this is served as a two handed burger with just as much fries. All beef patty topped the a roasted red pepper relish, Swiss cheese. iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles; all between a house made bun. So simple, but so delicious. This interpretation of a classic spoke to the direction the kitchen was taking: comforting plates prepared with good, local ingredients, that are as fresh as they can get them. Everything they are offering you can technically make yourself, but here, they are doing it for you so you don’t have to. And instead can sit and enjoy it, exactly as you expect it.
The fried chicken was just as good. Where else can you find chicken and waffles that isn’t on an exclusive brunch menu? Here, you can have your crispy fried white meat chicken, with a spongy roast cauliflower waffle, and dressed with a sweet Szechuan honey dressing any time of day. You can taste the quality in the chicken, the breading held up, even after the dish cooled. It remained crunchy until the end, and was best paired with their creamy slaw with its cooling crunch. Using cauliflower in the dough of the waffle was an interesting angle, although flour is still the main ingredient, therefore it is still doughy and fluffy, and far from being gluten free. It had some curry notes in with its cinnamon-y flavour, both giving it a new spicy and exotic twist.
We ended with a teaser of their “Mississippi mud pie”. Perfect for those who love their chocolate rich and dense. The base was a crunchy cookie, the middle a luscious mousse spread, and the cream that topped it the binder that brought them together. The cherry on the top was both figurative and literal. It was soaked in amaretto and ended things with a bang.
However if you are looking for more fine liquors to end your meal on, they also offer a collection of spirit-full digestives. Lighter sips that help you to wind down and digest what you just had. This one did so with the aid of their ginger syrup. Ginger, being a proven digestive aid.
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.
During previous visits I recall the menu being hit or miss, myself debating whether or not to keep it safe and get what I know will satisfy, or ordering the dish that sounded the most interesting, but risking that I won’t like its combination. However everything I tried above was delicious. It gave me the comfort and satisfaction I sough out, but with new and rewarding interpretations. Thus giving me another reason to visit and recommend them, more than just for their limited release dishes, their fine selection of cocktails, and their setting surrounded by conversation starters. They have definitely done well to keep their intimate, social bar the buzz of the neighbourhood with homestyle dishes, a friendly atmosphere, and good conversation. Don’t deny your cravings.
251 East Georgia Street, Vancouver BC