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As you stroll through a modest doorway, the noise of Kingsway fades and a mixological phoenix named Crowbar rises. The space previously housed a thankfully short-lived, half-baked marijuana-pizzeria concept with the unfortunate name “Mega Ill.” It was a place that spawned a hundred “only in Vancouver” news stories—and very few covers. Crowbar is the anti-Mega Ill: a sweet reno has turned a punchline into a handsome 30-seat cocktail bar that takes a more serious approach to hospitality.

Owned and operated by a pair of L’Abattoir alumnus, William Johnson, an industry veteran and first-time restaurateur, the inviting wood-walled establishment blends modern design touches (many outlets for guests electronics) with a homey, natural West Coast feel.

The Fraserhood (we’ve given up fighting the name) is an apt habitat for Crowbar’s confident approach to intricate-yet-unpretentious cocktails. Johnson takes a classic like a pisco sour and adds Fernet-Branca and wood sorrel, and then renames it “Johnny Utah” after Keanu Reeves’s FBI agent character in Point Break.

In the kitchen, Justin Ell, is equally mixed between focused and fun. Expect reinventions of bar snacks like beef crackling and tapas style share plates including vegetarian offerings such as zucchini aglio e olio, fresh burrata, and BBQ cabbage with bolognese.

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