It seems most of our dining recommendations recently have been focused around the Downtown Eastside. Our latest enjoyable food find is Rainier Provisions, brought to you by the Heather Hospitality Group, the people who have played a large part in gentrifying Gastown with good food and drink through perennial favourites like The Irish Heather and Salt. Rainier Provisions began serving eager customers not too long ago in a large and airy corner spot at Cordova and Carrall; when we visited, just about a week after it opened its doors, it was already packed. With tall ceilings, a big, bright room, and lots of seating (some of it communal along long tables) it’s easy to see why – a friendly pricing structure and an inviting atmosphere, make Ranier destined to be an incredibly popular addition to the Heather Group’s roster.
Modern comfort food best describes the style of cuisine at Rainier. Options like the Roast of the Day (a plate of roast beef served up with traditional sides like Yorkshire pudding, braised greens, roasted potatoes and gravy, all for just $11) or Fresh Handmade Sausage (apple and cranberry sausages, roasted potatoes, braised greens and gravy ringing in at $9) were extremely tempting and surprisingly affordable; many a customer succumbed to these options on our visit, especially the roast, judging from the plates flying by us. We stopped in for lunch and tried the roast in sandwich form. It was fantastic to find sandwich meat being given so much respect: thick, tender slabs of beef roasted to medium were flavoured with a spicy horseradish mayonnaise and decorated with aged cheddar and lettuce. The other Hot Sandwich we enjoyed was stuffed full of Moroccan spiced chicken – the juicy meat had an exotic flair which was complimented nicely by the mint onion yoghurt. Both sandwiches were served on a soft, chewy roll which served its purpose of holding in its filling well.
At $9, both Hot Sandwiches are accompanied by small sides making a full meal; the couscous was bland and lacked flavour so we would recommend the Kale Caesar which you can also order as a full sized plate. The crunchy Kale held its own against the creamy dressing well and although the menu states there are no anchovies in the dressing, it is so flavourful, you would never know it. Finally, we also sampled the Fish Pie. Prepared with cod and vegetables which were bound in a fish velouté and topped with a delightfully flakey puff pastry, this was the essence of comfort food and the kind of thing you want to eat on a cold, rainy day, i.e. almost every day in Vancouver. Although this menu sounds like a carnivore’s delight, there are options for vegetarians – a Vegan Chilli with three kinds of beans sounds delicious and on our “to do” list for next time.
There seems to be a recent trend towards dining establishments also providing a curated selection of groceries to go (as at Finch’s Market and St. George’s Marsh), and Rainier Provisions is Sean Heather’s nod to this movement. Not only does Rainier supply you with tasty food and drink for breakfast, lunch and dinner on site, but you can also purchase a variety of carefully selected groceries such as San Marzano tomatoes, pastas, and various cured meats to take home with you. Supplies were limited when we visited, but we expect this aspect of Rainier to be beefed up very soon. It’s reassuring to note Rainier is working with some excellent suppliers like Neal’s Yard Dairy and Stumptown for coffee. This Portland-based company has some of the most respected roasts in the business. The coffee we tried was wonderfully rich, full of flavour, and absent of the bitter aftertaste that so many lesser brews leave behind. We’d like to come back to try their breakfast menu along with another cup of Stumptown, but with brews on tap, dinner and drinks is definitely on the horizon as well.