It is in the 100 block of East Pender Street right beside the New Town Bakery and it truly is one of the best places for a host of Cantonese dishes including my favourite, the curried beef. Chinatown Barbeque at 130 East Pender Street will remind you of the places you frequented a student in Chinatown~clean, packed, and bustling with dishes coming out of the kitchen. Carol Lee is the owner, and she also chairs the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation and is on the Vancouver Chinatown Revitalization Committee. You may recognize some of the chefs and servers from the Daisy Garden in Chinatown works hard to support local residents and employees. The servers and chefs at Chinese BBQ used to work at Daisy Garden restaurant at 142 East Pender, a popular place that was destroyed in a fire two years ago.
As Wanyee Li of Metro News observes “Diners at the 48-seat restaurant can choose from several iconic Cantonese dishes that Chinatowns around the world used to be known for – BBQ duck, BBQ pork, roast pork, poached chicken, soy sauce chicken, and more.
“It’s a fine line. You want to be changing and you want to respect the history – but people love the food,” said Lee.
And the place is packed, with a mix of the young and the old proving as Lee notes that “businesses that pay homage to the glory days of Chinatown can still thrive in the neighbourhood…I think a lot of the Chinese stores think it is hard to open in Chinatown and they have gone to other places where it is easier,” said Lee, acknowledging people can find Chinese food almost anywhere in the Lower Mainland. “But Chinatown has something different,” she said. “It’s something that is historic – it’s part of our Vancouver and Canadian history.”
A draft report commissioned by the City on “legacy businesses” in Chinatown identified four factors: historic significance, small or a family operation, welcoming to seniors and culturally relevant. And food is a way to get people to the table and reanimate an area. The success of Chinese Barbeque has been so evident that the support of Chinatown restaurants is seen as the base for a “thematic” streetscape renewal in Chinatown, with Foo’s Ho Ho restaurant expected to reopen in 2018.
Bill Yuen, a researcher at Heritage Vancouver identifies the welcoming factors to seniors and lower-income people, and the use of dialect languages as being part of the success for legacy businesses, and notes in a Vancouver Sun article that “It’s about developing businesses to enhance those values that make this place meaningful to people.” Chinatown Barbeque is a great start.