Meditations

Les Faux Bourgeois’ “Dude Guru” Does It Again With Che Baba


Che Baba Cantina Vancouver outide

Vancouver's newest cantina meets yoga studio, Che Baba.

“Hey! Long time! How are you?” shouted Stephan Gagnon as his face lit up when I walked into Che Baba.

I looked around, and was met with a dimly lit room filled with locals cheerfully chatting over delicious looking continental fare such as beat salad with confit shallots, pistachio encrusted liver paté, mushroom risotto with truffle oil, gnocchi with sage & brown butter, braised lamb with celeriac purée, fish en papillote with quinoa, squid stew on crispy polenta, and other terrific looking plates. No wonder these people were cheerful—the menu looked and smelled amazing.

“What is this place Stephan?” I wondered as I took in the funky curves and patterns that seemed reminiscent of the psychedelic sixties. “And how have I not heard of it before?” I challenged my friend, who was grinning widely as he gave me a tour.

What Gagnon showed me was a new concept in Vancouver’s restaurant scene: one part local cantina and one part yoga studio. The eclectic, psychedelic aesthetic started to make sense, reminding me of hippy living rooms of the early seventies. Gagnon, who practices yoga himself, had created a spot for he and his friends to practice, relax, laugh and eat good food together.

Che Baba Cantina Vancouver interior

The designer and builder behind Les Faux Bourgeois and other popular Vancouver restaurants has created an ambiance somewhere between zen and psychedelic.

“In Spanish-speaking countries like Argentina, “che” is a slang nickname similar to “dude” or “bro” and “baba” is an Indian word for “father”, “wise man” or “guru” Stephan explained with his thick French Canadian accent and a glint in his eye. So essentially the restaurant is called “Dude Guru”! Hilarious.

“When we opened Les Faux we wanted to create a friendly, unpretentious bistro for the neighbourhood. But when it started getting so busy it became hard to get in, and sadly the locals from the neighbourhood came less and less often.” Enter Che Baba.

“I haven’t done any marketing or promotion at all.” Gagnon explained “I’m so busy doing my own thing, I don’t even know what’s going on in the industry these days, and I wanted to create a warm, friendly space for the neighbourhood.” He went on to explain how he managed to convince local chef Marta Pan (owner of Pan-o-Pan Foods) and Geoff Van Hussel to join him on this unique neighbourhood project.

The large illuminated sign on the side of the building still advertises the print shop which used to be house in the building, and Gagnon plans to use that space as a community-access art project to showcase various artists in the neighbourhood.

As with other past projects of Gagnon’s, which aside from Les Faux Bourgeois include Vancouver gems such as Jules, Gastropod, and Bistrot Bistro, he teamed up with his partner Scott Cohen. Nearly all the design concepts and construction was done by Gagnon himself in the workshop at the back of the building.

This isn’t really a restaurant review website, so I’ll spare you the long descriptions and my opinions of my first visit and just post a few photos below of our plates to give you an idea what to expect. But I predict good things for this spot and will be heading back soon—who knows, maybe even for a yoga class!

This gem of a restaurant only seats around 35 and they don’t take reservations so locals can access the space on a first come, first seated basis. So much for Gagnon’s idea of creating a restaurant for those frustrated by how busy Les Faux is. But I’m confident you’ll find it worth a little patience if you have to wait for a seat.

Che Baba is open seven days a week for brunch, lunch and dinner (just brunch and lunch on Sundays) and is located at 603 Kingsway (just down the street from Les Faux Bourgeois), Vancouver, BC; 604-558-1519 www.chebaba.ca @ChebabaCantina (no reservations)

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