A Bee-view of the Drive – Fets Bar & Grill

by admin - June 24th, 2012.
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In our gastronomic journey up Commercial Drive, we feel like we’ve arrived at the fun part of the Drive with “real” restaurants that truly represent the flavours of Commercial Drive, the fabulously fun neighborhood where we have established our Vancouver B&B. Located at 1230 Commercial Drive, only a couple of blocks from the Bee & Thistle, Fets is firmly entrenched as a vibrant part of the Commercial Drive culture.

According to their website the restaurant originally opened as Fettucini’s Cafe in 1986,  subsequently becoming Fets Bar & Grill in 1996, so it’s been here for a while.  The distinctive murals on the walls and ceiling, representing a variety of rock and roll icons such as the Rolling Stones, Abbey Road and Frank Zappa, are a clue to the distinctive character of this funky restaurant and were created by a muralist named Paul Archer.

Fets’ website tells us that their goal is REAL FOOD with REAL FLAVOUR that blends with REAL PEOPLE resulting in a great neighbouhood joint. We can’t verify their claim to having the largest whisky collection in the city but we do agree that they have a great deck to enjoy it on. Unfortunately, the deck is smallish and it can be a challenge to get a table out there, especially on a sunny day (rare in Vancouver, we know!), but it’s always worth a try.

We were lucky to find a “coupon” deal for a dinner at Fets, so we purchased a couple of them in order to take our grown children and two of our grandchildren with us – a perfect excuse for a night out with the family!  Unfortunately, Fets doesn’t accept reservations on the deck so we ended up eating inside, but it was a good way to check out the atmosphere and the funky decor. We were met & seated quickly, then offered menus by a lovely, smiling waitress.  We quickly discovered that one down side of the coupon was that the two couples had to have the same meal, so we had less opportunity to explore a variety of dishes. However, our meal included share plates of their Mediterranean Tapas plate ($12 on the menu), including hummus, tzatziki, and olive tapenade and served with bread, a Caesar salad ($9 on the menu), a small glass of beer each, share plates of both Louisiana Jambalaya ($17 on the menu) and Flourless Chocolate Cake.   Note that I didn’t write down prices at the restaurant so menu prices quoted are from their website, which we trust are current.

We found we were having fun at the restaurant – a lively atmosphere, nice waitress, a game on for the guys (and they loved chatting with the owner about one of their passions – single malt whisky), so this good mood no doubt had a bearing on our overall experience. However, we didn’t want that to influence our opinion on the food so we were thoughtful about what we were eating. We had mixed opinions on the appy plate – everyone liked the olive tapenade (though our daughter makes better), I wasn’t sure about the hummus but some of the others quite liked it (spicy & lots of garlic, but it missed the mark a bit for me), and the tzatziki was just okay.  The Caesar salad was pretty basic and we thought it could have benefited from a bit more dressing & parmesan. Their menu does warn that the Jambalaya is spicy, but all of us found it too much so.  After one bite we totally lost all sense of taste.  But we recovered quickly with the help of our Traditional Ale, and finally reached the dessert round. The flourless Chocolate Cake was very pretty (or at least, the chocolate “splooshes” that look like spider webs were gorgeous!).  The cake itself was chocolate-y, dense (as one would expect in a flourless cake), but perhaps a little on the dry side. Overall, I guess I would have to say that the coupon 4 course meal was okay, but if the intent was to woo guests into many future return visits, it fell a bit short.

However, what the set course meal lacked, the menu items that our grandchildren ordered somewhat made up for.  Our 13 year old grandson ordered the Mushrooom Swiss Burger ($14 on the menu), and he thought it was “REALLY good”.  Our 16 year old opted for the Fish & Chips ($14 on the menu) and she liked it. Both were definitely generous sized meals which neither of them could finish.  The burger had a nice smoky grilled flavor and was served on good bread, which is always one of my most important criterion for a burger. The fish & chips were pretty standard but tasty.  We decided that the moral here is something that we’ve learned many times before – i.e. when going to a “bar & grill”, order pub food!  It’s what they do well!    This idea, as applied to Fets, seems to be supported in the various reviews I read.  UrbanSpoon reviewers give Fets 4 stars overall, and a majority of the positive reviews seem to be from people who love the burgers.  Yelpers have not been quite so kind, only giving them an average of 2 1/2 stars, with such a variety of reasons that it’s difficult to summarize.  As for us, I think we would be somewhere in the middle if we were rating only the food. However, if we were to get a seat on the patio on a sunny afternoon with good friends, ordered a burger with lots of fries and a frothy cold beer, I suspect we would be up there with the 4 star rating. And we thought our waitress was lovely and the service was excellent.

One thing definitely piqued the interest of at least 50% of our party (the guys), and that was the the amazing selection of whisky available at Fets.  Both Michael and our son in law are very interested in the whole culture of whiskey and they love to sample various kinds and to discuss it at great length. They would have been very happy to while away several more hours sampling as many of them as possible, but their wives (us) wisely dragged them out the door (for their own good, of course!).

In reading the story of  “Whisky” that Fets offers to its’ patrons, we were surprised by the comment that we might find a dog eared copy of their book called “Sweet After Difficulties” lying around. This sounded strangely like the Ferguson clan motto that we have used as a basis for the Bee & Thistle logo and motto! The original Ferguson clan badge from Scotland features a Bee on a Thistle and sports the motto “dulcius ex asperis”, for which we found various translations but finally settled on “Sweeter After Struggle”. This motto seemed so appropriate for us after several years of slaving away, remodelling this lovely old gem of a house that is now the Bee & Thistle Guest House. The motto really spoke to us with a promise of some sweeter times after all of our hard work and struggles. But, in thinking about a whisky bar using the same motto, I guess we would agree that one might find all struggles and difficulties disappearing and life becoming very sweet after a few days of R&R at the Bee & Thistle Guest House, interspersed with frequent visits to the Fets Bar & Grill for some fine sipping whisky (oh yeah, maybe could have one of their delicious burgers while you are there!)!