New Mexican restaurant Alimentaria Mexicana might just make Granville Island cool
A simple (and delicious) new Mexican restaurant from the team behind Nuba, Chanco, and Fayuca could make Granville Island a dining destination territory.
October 6, 2021
I did a show at the Fringe Festival this year, so I’ve spent a lot of time recently on Granville Island, lurking around Performance Works. And if you had met me in that time, you would probably assume I was promoting a solo show about the nightlife of Granville Island.
I probably spent more hours on this monologue (which usually culminated with “Why! Is! The! Keg! Same! Here!”) Than memorizing my lines for the show itself. Was my co-writer upset? Sure, but not as bored as I was that we had to take a cab to Main Street for a party drink, so let’s even call it.
Look, I think Granville Island is a very special place. The market is rightfully great, the buskers are charming and cheesy, and on a sunny fall day, there’s no better place to stroll with a coffee or sunbathe by the water’s edge. But when night falls they drop the ball so hard I can’t help but get into my tirade for any poor old Fringe fan who dares to wander in my path.
How come this place, which so diligently nurtures a solid live theater scene, has failed to accommodate the most important aspects of an entertainment district: that people want to come out after and talk from what they just saw (or, in my case, celebrate the fact that the fancy mascot costume you bought for your comedy show made a six-show run)? There are a plethora of theaters that cater for all levels of performer, from professional arts club performances and rambling independent shows to full-time improv theater, and yet there are few options open after 20. hours that are not white tablecloths, $ 40 – pieces of halibut joints. Even the Brewery closes at 9 a.m. What madness is this ?!
This is all a very long way of saying: I’m so, so glad that Alimentaira Mexicana opens its doors … and plans to keep them open until 10 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, and at a crazy 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. . (Although this patio, covered in pretty straw umbrellas and lights, seems to be especially nice during the summer afternoon shift. I’m marking my calendar now.)
In the old Edible Canada Building, right in front of the market, the new room of restaurateur Ernesto Gomez (him from Nuba, Chancho Tortilleria and the late great Fayuca) is a blessing on many levels. Beyond the Pan-Mexican fare that adorns the menu (think duck flautas with roasted squash and pickled onions, Tijuana corn sopes with bone marrow, or crispy cauliflower tacos), the room itself is just the kind of fun, late night space. The island has disappeared.
Relaxing music, trendy interiors, simple plates to share and a cocktail menu (developed with the help of Sabrine Dhaliwal, Former Bartender of the Year) that is (naturally, wonderfully) heavy on mezcal.
Also, apologies to Lee’s Donuts, but these homemade churros might be the best thing to do with a deep fryer within a 100 block radius.
But beyond my selfish interest in having a place to split a grilled cactus into pulp and a smoked halloumi in a tomatillo salsa while I chat Goodbye Birdie (or whatever the Arts Club insists on taking to the next stage of the Revue), Alimentaira deserves props for its social impact. The restaurant sources heirloom corn directly from villages in Mexico, which means you’ll end up with tortillas in any range of colors, each from a different farm, with their own depth of flavor. Communities in Gomez’s home country are able to invest even more in their old-fashioned, non-GMO and environmentally friendly farming practices passed down for generations.
A market area at the back offers beautiful Mexican ceramics and dried spices; a takeout window opens any day now; an educational kitchen is planned for future lessons, demonstrations and workshops. Plans are big here at Alimentaira, and I can’t wait to stay up late (all buzzed with the copious amounts of cinnamon sugar I ate with the aforementioned churros, obviously!) And watch them unfold.
1596 Johnston Street