Gastown’s new vegetarian hotspot
Will Meet's meatless fare stand out in a competitive foodie neighbourhood?
April 20, 2016
There was already irony in the name Meet on Main. The popular vegetarian restaurant sells comfort food—burgers, fries, nacho fries—without, of course, any meat. Now, perhaps unintentionally, Meet has an ironic location, too—in Gastown’s Blood Alley, where the bloodless eatery’s second space (which is now open) will have its work cut out for it. In a neighbourhood with high rents and plenty of other restaurants, co-owner Jason Antony says Meet in Gastown will need mass appeal in order to survive. But can a vegetarian restaurant compete for non-vegetarian customers?
“We don’t put a big vegetarian banner on the door,” says Antony, who’s been vegan for 12 years. Non-vegetarians have a habit of assuming vegetarian restaurants are not for them, he explains, and he’s made it his personal mission to change that—partly for ethical reasons (“I see us as a transitional space for people”) and partly for business ones (“To have mainstream success, you need to have a place that can appeal to a wider audience”).
It’s the second time in recent years the space has had a new occupant. Mark Brand’s Boneta closed down in 2013, and Japanese restaurant Shirakawa shut its doors last year. It wasn’t for lack of amenities, though, given the space’s tall glass walls and a rare courtyard patio. “It’s a tough business, vegetarian or not,” says Antony, who nonetheless remains hopeful for two reasons. “One, vegetarianism has grown, and two, I think people have really opened up to what we’re doing.”