Old Crow Café - funky decor and fresh-made food in the heart of Folklife Village
“It was in the back of our mind, something we’d always wanted to do.”
So says Julie Sperber of the new adventure she and partner Darren Boyko (seen left) have taken on by opening The Old Crow Café right in the heart of Gabriola’s Folklife Village.
Julie and Darren took over the space from Roger Christie, who had operated Raspberry’s Jazz Café in the same location.
She and Darren have been living on Gabriola for five years. Darren was commuting to Nanaimo every day for work and their youngest child Milo was getting to be a year old.
They were looking for a way to have them both employed on island and able to spend more time as a family.
With decades of experience as front-of-house staff and management in the food industry, Julie said, “there is a love affair with food for sure.”
The catch, they knew, was doing something different than what others are already doing in Gabriola’s food industry. There was the matter of finding the right menu and chef.
They brought in Ryan Zuvich, a friend of theirs from Vancouver to create a menu which had a lot of variety, but kept things simple in the kitchen. Ryan has just opened his own restaurant in Nanaimo, the Hilltop Bistro.
The Old Crow menu is made up of mexican and west-coast inspired recipes. Lots of items with chicken, pulled pork, braised beef or vegetarian options as the start - then built up from there for breakfast, lunch, supper and any other time of the day. Tacos, burritos, sandwiches, salads and incredibly simple yet tasty appetizers. The smoked cheddar dip is one of those ‘to die for’ type dishes. Seen right, the Polenta Fries with chipotle sauce.
Rather than having me type ‘housemade’ in front of everything, consider that the default setting for the menu. From the salsa and hot sauce to the drizzle dessert toppings and gelato.
Gluten-free options, vegan options, you name it, they can do it. Organic, locally-grown, healthy foods - all the things you’d expect from a couple who’s still running Red Roaster, their locally-roasted organic coffee. Yes, they serve up Red Roaster coffee and have the beans available in the café.
Food takes from three to six minutes to show up after ordering, pretty good turnaround for a one person kitchen.
Julie said, “as busy parents, we wanted to have something where people could show up in the Village, order, go get groceries, come back and take their food to go.
“With this location, it lent itself to that.”
Till 4 pm, orders are placed at the till and food brought to the tables. After 4, there is full table service and a dinner menu.
With the limited bar, there are good options for every palate. The margaritas are fresh made and for beer drinkers there is White Bark from Driftwood Brewery. For wine there is a selection with choices for the frugal and not-so-frugal.
To keep building on the menu choices, especially as we head in to the late summer and fall, Julie and Darren have also hired Gabriola Chef and nutritionist Marcie Guerin.
Julie said, “finding Marcie has been fantastic. The brunch menu, that was Marcie’s creation.”
My companion had the pulled pork burrito bowl. (seen above with Julie and Darren) That would be where Darren takes a pulled pork burrito and serves it up salad style in a bowl with nachos. Take all the frustration out of trying to keep the burrito inside the tortilla and remove it, then simply enjoy. An option for any of the burritos on the menu.
Myself, I had the fish tacos. (seen right) My biggest issue when it comes to fish tacos as well as fish and chips is when there’s more stuff around the fish than there is actual fish.
At the Old Crow, this is not a problem. The tacos had good-sized chunks of halibut pan fried with togarashi sauce and served with mangoes, toppings and spicy yoghurt. It was lunch, so I stuck with just the tacos, but there is a smorgasborg of sides to choose from for the dinner version.
Don’t leave without dessert.
• Vanilla cheesecake with mango puree
• a Flourless chocolate torte with berry purée
• Ice cream cookie sandwiches made with Chili chocolate cookies or regular chocolate cookie with three flavour choices of the aforementioned housemade gelato.
On the back of the Crow menu are the Combo meals. Dinners for two, four or six. Call ahead, give them the time for pickup and a pre-made supper is ready to go.
Julie said, “call from the ferry, get the wine next door at Village Liquor Store and head home.”
The jazz music scene was always a big part of Raspberry’s. Julie and Darren are also adding in more music nights with Friday night DJs and several live acts already.
Head in, check it out. You will not be disappointed.
Did you know....
• Starting in August, Taco Tuesdays - after 4 pm, Tacos are $2.50 ($3 for halibut)
• Fridays are Music Night - performances and fresh drinks, the Crow will be open till 10 on Friday nights.
• Have a private party in the evening - contact Darren or Julie to book a private evening for you and a few friends in the Old Crow Café.
The current hours are Currently we are open for 8am to 8pm Monday to Saturday and Sundays from 9am to 3pm for Sunday Brunch.
For the latest menu specials and other Crow news, check out www.oldcrowcafe.ca.