Caffe Barney is an old favourite

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

It offers big helpings of inexpensive, decently cooked food, a varied menu and good music

Mia Stainsby

Lisa Johnson of Caffe Barney serves the chicken avocado wrap and a pint of Red Truck Golden Cream Ale. Photograph by : Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun

When The Sun offices were in the South Granville neighbourhood, one of the places I liked to go for a really satisfying lunch was Caffe Barney. The menu was varied but I inevitably ordered the Burt Wong salad, a melange of spinach, prawns and wonton chips with a maple soy dressing.

Some nine years later, the salad’s gone, and I’m told there never was a Burt Wong. But the place is still jumping. It was packed when I stopped by for dinner recently. We shared mussels in a white wine broth; I had pad Thai and my husband, the Tennessee chicken. (I don’t mean he’s a Tennessee chicken — he had it and liked it fine.)

Next to us, a couple were on one of their first dates, all lovey dovey. “You’re joking!” the guy exclaimed when the server brought his fully loaded plate of food. “I ate it all,” he boasted when he cleaned the plate. This is to say, they don’t starve you at Caffe Barney.

The place has survived since 1988 because it has several things going for it. Inexpensive, decently cooked food, good music (The Arcade Fire and The Smiths were playing when we were there) and very personable staff.

“We’re known as the place where servers go to retire,” says manager Lisa Johnson. “They’re in the early-to-mid-30s and they’ve left the downtown scene. They bring a lot of experience and a ton of personality.”

The menu reaches out to a diverse customer base with pastas and burgers as well as entrees. “We’re known for our burgers,” Johnson says. “The meat is lean, fresh ground, never frozen and served on whole wheat buns.”

There are breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. And for all you sleepyheads, breakfast goes to 4 p.m.

Restaurant visits are conducted anonymously and interviews are done by phone. Restaurants are rated out of five stars. ([email protected])

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2975 Granville St., 604-731-6446

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

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