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The Tuck Shoppe: A sandwich love story

By Paris Spence-Lang
Low-pressure, localized eatery is bound to grab your attention. Photo: Sarah Whitlam

Low-pressure, localized eatery is bound to grab your attention.
Photo: Sarah Whitlam

VANCOUVER — If you’re a cyclist like me, coming down the enchanting Adanac bike path, you’ll notice a strange sensation as you blow down Union street, past good old Gore Avenue, beside the nameless greenspace ensconcing the gaping maw of the Georgia Viaduct: a slight magnetism. You’ll feel it pulling you off the road, onto the sidewalk, and before you realize what you’ve done, you’ll have locked up your fixie (because you are riding a fixie, even though you have no idea why). The sensation pulls you around until you are facing a storefront you’ve never seen before. No, not Stephen King’s Needful Things—it’s the Tuck Shoppe.

Why haven’t you noticed it before? Because it’s new? Maybe. Maybe, but you know the truth. It’s because you were too busy feeling big in the city—and it’s only now that the Tuck Shoppe has found you ready and called you in. Ready? Ready to slow down, ready to take it all in, ready to lay into your life again? Ready to eat a crafty sandwich and drink a goddamn pint.

There’s a vintage Sears canoe on the ceiling. I find the paddle in the bathroom, along with a poster of Veronica saying she loves Canada. Kendrick is singing “I love myself,” and I think I do too. I find the proprietors, Adam Merpaw and Zach Buckman, engaging with their clientele. Introverts beware.

Borne from the idea that businesses can be enjoyed (because really, have you ever had a good time at The Pint?) Merpaw and Buckman built this place with no-pressure enjoyment in mind. “The store’s full of indulgences,” they tell me, whether you’re being indulged by the kitchen, the toys & candy, or the taps (I’m drinking a first-run cider from the guys at Bestie, bone-dry). “It’s stuff you can get excited about. It’s somewhere you can go to get a sneaky pint in on your lunch break.”

Though it’s hard to be sneaky in the Tuck Shoppe—everyone knows each other. Statistics show that if a neighbourhood local stops in, they’ll bump into friends at an average of 2.7 tables. And it’s not just the people: fresh ingredients grown and baked within walking distance are at the foundation of this sense of community. The guy from Union Street Cycle is finding a bike for the hostess while he waits for his sandwich.

A woman walks in to deliver a bag of still-breathing pea shoots. “Check that out,” I say. The owners just smile.

I start with the celery root soup. Scratch stock, fennel, and pork belly lardon, and I think we develop an emotional connection.

For the sandwich, from a distinctive menu of six options, I choose the French onion dip with brisket, Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, fresh horseradish, and a side of onion jus, broiled on the cashmere of baguettes and served with Hardbite chips and an unbelievable store-made pickle spear.

Look, I don’t care if your brisket was born and bred in Alabama, this brisket kicks your brisket’s cattle-branded ass. Marinated for 24 hours, cooked sous-vide for another 24, this is the cure for Vancouver’s epidemic of veganism. I well up with this food in my mouth. I well up. Churches need to stop with their wafers and start serving the French onion dip, because I’m pretty sure Jesus’s heart pumped onion jus.

“What did you think?” Ha. What a stupid question—not even the great poets could describe love. They give me a home-made fruit roll-up as a parting gift, and I go to leave. Really, I try. But when you’re coming down the enchanting Adanac bike path, you’ll notice a strange sensation as you blow down Union street…

The Tuck Shoppe is located at 237 Union St and open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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