A North Vancouver couple is hoping their new restaurant tucked away in the Lower Lonsdale neighbourhood will become a hidden gem of the North Shore culinary scene.
The first thing many people note about Kitchen Craft Eatery is that it’s in a unique location, above Esplanade in a little plaza near John Braithwaite Community Centre, overlooking Lonsdale Quay and the North Vancouver waterfront. The Eatery has no street-facing presence. If you don’t know it’s there, you may happen upon it on foot but you’ll never spy it from a car window.
“It’s off the beaten path,” said chef and proprietress Maile Deligianis, a North Shore native who runs the restaurant with her husband, Louie Deligianis. “It was my dad who found the spot – his office is just down the street. He tried to explain where it was – I wasn’t even sure. And then we came to look at it and we were like, ‘Yeah, this is great!’”
It is, in fact, a lovely spot once you’re up there (Louie said he just tells people the restaurant is right on top of the Shoppers Drug Mart on Esplanade). Maile and Louie are hoping folks will make the effort to search it out and try the hearty comfort food, craft beers, pastries and other sweet treats on offer.
The menu comes from Maile, born and raised in North Vancouver. She came to the culinary scene later in life, she said, having spent her 20s working as a server and in the hotel industry. The push into the kitchen came when she was in her early 30s, with a little help from the likes of Rachel Ray, Guy Fieri and the Iron Chefs.
“At around 30, I guess, I was at a point in my life where I really needed to figure out what is it that I love to do,” she said. “And it was just when the Food Network was kind of blowing up, it was early 2000s – cooking, feeding people, that type of thing.”
She studied at Vancouver’s Dubrulle French Culinary School, first in culinary arts and then pastries and desserts. She then got to work in kitchens around Vancouver, including as pastry chef for Umberto Menghi’s Circolo in Yaletown, the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Gallery Cafe, and later at Carmelo’s in West Vancouver. In 2014, Maile opened Pemberton Heights Pastry, where she attracted an avid following for her savoury and sweet creations. In 2019, with their daughter becoming more independent as she prepared to move from elementary to high school, the couple finally decided to take the plunge and open a full restaurant of their own.
“We were like ‘this is the time! It’s never going to be better than this!’” said Maile with a hint of an ironic laugh. Because of course, it wasn’t exactly the best time, what with a global pandemic about to set in.
But the couple plowed ahead even as COVID-19 shut the world down, with Louie taking the lead on building out the space while navigating the ever-changing health restrictions. There was a lot construction work to do in the kitchen, as the restaurant that previously occupied the space specialized in raw vegan food – no need for an oven.
“Having guys working in here and having so many new rules to deal with, it was like herding kittens with construction guys,” said Louie, adding that their space is right next door to a Vancouver Coastal Health office. “So obviously we did everything by the book.”
Finally in March of 2021, the Eatery opened, offering favourites like key lime pie, an assortment of Maile’s pastries – she’ll put her sausage rolls up against anyone’s in a head-to-head battle, she said – as well as what she calls “elevated comfort food.”
Her favourite meal to prepare is The Pazinski, an original creation that she concocted under unique circumstances. Given the food offerings available at nearby competing restaurants, Maile was tasked with creating something that was like a burger but wasn’t actually a burger.
“We had to be pretty creative,” she said. What she landed on was a blend of ground beef, cheese, pickles and a tangy mustard-Worcestershire glaze, all baked on a brioche bun.
“That’s the Pazinski,” she said with a laugh. “As far as our sales go, it’s not at the top. But when people try it, they love it. … I stand behind the Pazinski. I won’t let it go.”
The couple is now in the process of revising both their menu and their outdoor space for the upcoming cold and wet weather. That big patio space may be a bit tricky to find, but it will be open year round, with heaters keeping guests warm as they enjoy a meal with cool waterfront views and without the constant racket of cars splashing by.
“It’s a little quieter, a little bit away from the street,” said Louie, reinforcing that it’s worth the effort to seek out the space. “It’s such a nice spot, the greenery, the big patio … we love the spot.”
Kitchen Craft Eatery is located at 210-150 West Esplanade in North Vancouver. For more information or to check out the menu, visit the Eatery’s website.