“[Acorns] are so cute, little top-hatted dudes that grow into big towering gentlemen,” recalls Shira Blustein. She then further remembered that the acorn became the Acorn thanks to tequila nights in Mexico trying to come up with a name for the restaurant. It could be based on that one restaurant in London, which was NOT called the acorn, or maybe it was… These are the stories one gets chatting about with Blustein and Brian Skinner, owners of the Acorn on Main Street and 24th Avenue.
Skinner, born and raised in Vancouver, bags extensive experience in cooking. Ironically starting at McDonald’s then studying environmental chemistry (“Essentially you cook but you cannot eat the final product,” Skinner jokes), he trained as a chef in Vancouver before going for about five years in Europe. By working with famous chefs in London and Copenhagen and co-creating a New York and London vegetarian fast food chain, he expanded his knowledge both in cooking and in sustainability, carbon footprint, etc. Blustein started as a musician. Raised in Calgary, she moved to Vancouver to study film but missed touring and playing. “Nobody knows that but I sang with [Jon Mikl] Thor for a weekend… that was a surreal jaunt!” She is now self-described Acorn co-owner, general manager, janitor, electrician, etc.
Skinner and Blustein met through their love for hardcore punk and generally heavy music. Starting to hang out and having dinner after a Neurosis concert, they gradually contemplated opening their own restaurant. Blustein was very frustrated at that time, especially because of Vancouver’s lack of dining options. Their musical taste leading to the type of morals spread by bands such as Converge, they are both vegetarian. However, the Acorn has no political agenda, as Blustein puts it: “Politics stay at the door.” Anyhow, vegetarianism is too broad a term for Skinner; there are simply too many different styles of vegetarian food. It has also become a buzzword, like sustainability, thrown out there too much and with no government body to check if places hold true to their claims. That being said, they certainly make all efforts to cook local sustainable food in a responsible and intelligent way. They will not serve tomatoes from British Columbia in winter!
People will have to make their own opinion but Skinner and Blustein are confident: if it is good for them it should be good for their customers. This is what having high personal standards means. Any reference to vegetarianism is absent from the Acorn’s signage; granted the logo and name are not pork but some may not realize they are in a strictly vegetarian restaurant until it is, so to speak, too late. “We wanted to create fresh delicious food that happens to be vegetarian,” Blustein insists. The menu tries to follow seasonality although some items stay in no matter what. Skinner mentions that some customers would murder them if they removed the kale Caesar salad (which is fine as kale can be eaten in Vancouver year-round). Every day they also serve “the harvest” which depends on what was available at the local farmers market.
One of the Acorn’s particularities is the late night menu. After 10 p.m. it transforms into a hang out place aiming at proposing fine food, signature cocktails, a sexy atmosphere and good music. They inherited a grandfather’s license, allowing them to stay open until 1 a.m. (2 a.m. on weekends). In May, Kurt Vile and the Violators had an after-show DJ party there. As a touring musician herself, Blustein wanted to create a place she would like to go to, and bring a sense of community with it. In the future, one can expect more events like that. The Acorn will collaborate more with artists by launching a series of limited edition postcards that will be printed and given to customers with their bill. The first featured artist will be Vancouver photographer Jenilee Marigomen. A release party will be thrown each time.
Expect exciting things to happen at the Acorn and always the freshest most delicious food… that happens to be vegetarian. “Running a restaurant is a lot like being on tour, you are performing, sometimes to familiar faces, sometimes to new people. It is a different kind of show but every night you try to perform as best as you can,” Blustein muses in conclusion.
Some music recommendations (even if Skinner thinks this type of exercise is too difficult and stressful):
Isis – Oceanic (Ipecac, 2002)
Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come (Burning Heart, 1998)
PJ Harvey – Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (Island, 2000)
Neurosis – Times of Grace (Relapse Records, 1999)
By Arnaud De GraveBC, British Columbia