Anchoring the busy south side of 49th Avenue and the far reaches of Main Street, All India Sweets restaurant is situated as a gateway into Vancouvers Punjabi Market.
Depending on your viewpoint, the restaurant is either unremarkable with its faded black-and-white photographs hanging askew on walls papered in a floral print reminiscent of a sewing room, or, preferably, its very remarkable that such a place exists: a venerable Indian restaurant with the character and charm of an old diner.
The restaurant has changed hands numerous times since it opened in the 1970s and for the past two years has been run by an enthusiastic Steve Ram who is even more enthusiastic than usual this past Saturday as its not only the communitys Vaisakhi celebration, but its also the day his restaurant receives a Vancouver Heritage Foundation Places that Matter plaque on behalf of the Punjabi Market.
Oh my God, were really excited. Its such an honour, said Ram. The All India Sweets owner, who owns and manages the restaurant with his wife Tina Chand, says the Main Street market has changed in recent years because much of the population is gravitating to Surrey where the South Asian community is large and land can be bought at a more affordable price. Were not going anywhere, though. Were definitely here to stay, said Ram. Hopefully this plaque and recognition of the Punjabi Market will excite people and make them want to come down here. A lot of people Ive talked to in Vancouver really want the Punjabi Market to stay.
The excitement of recognition and hosting the plaque extended to the restaurants staff , including head chef Barham Goshal. Goshal, who moved to Canada from Punjab during the late 90s with his older brother Shiv in tow, had heard that All India Sweets was the place to work so it was the first (and only) place on the list to ask for employment. Fifteen years later, the Goshals are responsible for the home-style Indian cooking on the menu, and in the impressive dessert display.
I am very happy! Its a special day, said Barham, translated through Ram. Im the oldest staff member here so its a very good day.
The Heritage Foundations Places that Matter project started in 2011. The public nominates a person, place, or an event that is both a unique and important part of the city that has yet to receive acknowledgement. Its been an amazing project, said Jessica Quan, the special project coordinator for the Vancouver Heritage Foundation. Its an opportunity to learn so much about the little stories in Vancouver. The project is for locals just as much as it is for tourists.
Ram is undecided about where to put the oval-shaped Places that Matter plaque, whether it should be displayed prominently inside the restaurant, or outside to attract curious passersby. That will depend, too, on how the India Sweets renovations go. But theyre only going to be slight changes, Ram said. We have so many people who remember being kids when they first came in and they dont want it to change a bit. They tell us to keep the crooked frames on the wall and the old funky wallpaper!
Other places that have previously received the Places that Matter plaque include such varied notables as the Elm Trees of East Sixth Avenue and The Railway Club. For a full list of Places that Matter, go to vancouverheritagefoundation.org.