Japaribbean Meets Soul Food For a Good Old Fashioned Feast


When you think Thanksgiving I am sure that the first thing which comes to your mind is not Caribbean, Japanese and Louisiana Soul Food. That is of course unless you have been lucky enough to take part in the 20 year strong Vancouver tradition known as Big Al’s American Thanksgiving. With another one rushing upon us in just a little over a week I thought it would be worth paying a visit to the partners behind this event and sharing their stories with you.

Soul Food

Big Al

“Big Al” Robinson moved to Vancouver from Lake Charles, Louisiana 40 years ago as a rookie with the BC Lions but was sidelined by a knee injury before ever taking the field. While some might consider that a bad twist of fate, anyone who has met Big Al knows that this was the beginning of Legend. You see, at the age of eleven Al’s mother had forced him to work in kitchen of his family restaurant and so facing no football Al turned to what he knew, food. Since this unfortunate incident Big Al has run such Vancouver favorites as Bourbon Street, Happy Hour Cafe and most recently Big Al’s Soul Food. While Al no longer has a restaurant, his catering business, Big Al’s Catering, is thriving.


Ken Brooks

On the other side of this partnership is Ken Brooks and his wife Junko Tanabe, owners and proprietors of The Lion’s Den Cafe in Vancouver. Ken, a confident, outgoing character from the island of Nassau in The Bahamas and his soft-spoken Japanese wife Junko have created a unique menue at The Lion’s Den which they have coined aptly, Japaribbean which combines an reasonably priced all day breakfast with Caribbean favorites such as Oxtail Stew and Ackee and Saltfish with Okonomiyaki and a Jerk and Teriyaki Combo. Great food coupled with a cozy Mount Pleasant atmosphere.

The Partnership

Ken, Junko and Big Al

Now, the story is a bit foggy but as some point in the not so distant past, shortly after Big Al closed down Big Al’s Soul Food he was coaxed out of retirement by his friend Ken to come cook at The Lion’s Den. Since Big Al had be hosting the American Thanksgiving at his restaurants all those years and this time he did not have a place, he partnered with Ken and the two of them have been jointly hosting an American Thanksgiving feast annually on the fourth Thursday in November ever since.

Big Al’s American Thanksgiving 2011

If you have never been to this feast it is well worth your while, American or not. The food is insane-good and you are bound to meet some very interesting people (in previous years we have been joined by the likes of actor Blu Mankuma and Headly front man Jacob Hoggard).

When & Where:
Thursday November 24, 2011
Doors & Dinner from 5 PM to 9 PM
Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Centre
154 E. 10th Ave, Vancouver

Menu includes:
This all you can eat feast inclues traditional items such as turkey, ham, stuffing, corn bread, greens, black eyed peas and yams as well as Junko’s special Jerk Turkey, vegetarian dishes, salmon and some crazy deserts.

Live entertainment with Checo’s Sweet Soul Motown & Dance Soul with DJ Cupid

$30 per adult in advance ($40 at the door)
Children 10 and under are free
Children 11-18 and seniors are $15

Pay by:
– debit or cash in person at the Lion’s Den
– credit card over the phone to The Lion’s Den, 604-873-4555
– or electronically via Pay by PayPal to Dianna Kreisel deannakaykreisel@gmail.com (be sure to indicate the number of attendees and a call back number if paying by PalPal).

Big Al, Junko and Ken are looking forward to see you next Thursday!

The Lions Den Cafe

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