You can get just about anything for lunch downtown Vancouver, be it rice or noodle bowls, burgers, sushi, or soup and salad, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a bite that's based on the bold, vibrant flavours of the Caribbean.
Vancouver is, indeed, home to a celebrated hub for Caribbean food and culture; Calabash Bistro on Carrall Street is a go-to for Friday or Saturday night dinners and drinks and music. Now Calabash has teamed up with North Point Brewing Co. at the Bentall Centre and has debuted an approachable menu of shareables, sandwiches, and snacks perfect for pairing with beers and friends or grabbing a meal on the go.
North Van's North Point Brewing opened up its second space in Vancouver's downtown core last August, and its cafe initially offered pizza as its main food option. This spring, North Point welcomed Calabash as its new food partner to the space, and the Caribbean restaurant is set up there as a satellite operation, with a custom-designed menu by Chef Cullin David that showcases the best of Calabash's signature eats.
Designed as a sort of primer for the key flavours of the Caribbean - an often-untapped cuisine that's rich in history and global influence - presented in approachable dishes that work great with North Point's in-house craft brews. Alternatively, if you aren't staying to sip, you can pick up a take-out friendly Calabash panino or Jamaican patty on your lunch break or for a post-work snack.
'It's the ultimate fusion food,' says Calabash's executive chef
"You won't find any of these flavours in the shops around here," David says of the menu's dishes like jerk chicken wings, pork rinds dusted with berbere spice, or house-made sauces like jerk mayo or mango tamarind.
David hopes having Calabash at North Point will inject "a bit more soul, and a bit more flavour" into the area; he's even thinking of ways to get the word out - or aroma out - by hosting a BBQ pop-up on the cafe's patio, which faces Bentall's impressive hang-out zone where people gather for breaks or to catch live music in the plaza.
"Caribbean cuisine has so much depth, heart, and soul," explains David. "So much of the world has lent its flavours to it," he adds, citing Chinese, Dutch, French, Indigenous, and West African influences. "It's the ultimate fusion food."
To bridge the gap for the Caribbean-curious, David's menu at North Point is remarkably approachable. Case in point, a pressed sandwich loaded with brie, spinach, tomato, and jerk mayo, house-made jerk bacon. It's smoky, creamy, and comforting - and a low-risk gamble if you're new to the cuisine.
David's menu showcases plenty of vibrant ingredients that are hallmarks in Caribbean food, like "green seasoning," on popcorn, or plantain and casava chips to scoop up some of Calabash's signature kicked-up guacamole. Caribbean food has a rep for being extremely spicy, but the chef says he keeps things toned down in his food.
While you can pop into North Point for a beer and a taste of Calabash, the other upside to using the space as a satellite is that the venue is ideal for event and meeting bookings, for which Calabash can provide catering.
North Point Brewing Co.'s Bentall Centre location is at 1025 Dunsmuir St and is open from noon to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday. Happy Hour is offered 2 to 5 p.m.
Video: Tasting the new Calabash food menu at North Point Brewing in Downtown Vancouver
@forkingawesomevia Just add beer. #forkingawesome #vancouverbc #caribbeanfood 🎙️@LindsayWR ♬ Makeba