“What’s a smorgasbord mommy?” Memories of Frank Baker’s Attic

A photo of Frank Baker’s Attic as I remember it back in the mid ’70s. (photo: Ralph Bull)

I was recently driving with some friends past the location of the old Park Royal Hotel in North Vancouver when a big grin crossed my face as we pulled up to the intersection of Marine Drive & Taylor Way. “What’re you smiling about?” prodded one of my buddies. “Do you guys remember Frank Baker’s Attic restaurant that used to be over there?” I replied. Perhaps because they were too young or hadn’t grow up in Vancouver, but none of them knew what I was talking about, and that made me sad. Trips to Frank Baker’s Attic were some of the most fun I ever had at a restaurant and some of my fondest early dining memories with my family.

We moved west to BC from Manitoba when I was a boy. It was the mid-seventies and we were a young family struggling to make ends meet and the move was a huge opportunity for us. There wasn’t a lot of extra spending money, so most meals were spent together at home. Rarely, and only when my sister Terri and I promised to be good (which we often weren’t), we’d get to eat out at a restaurant with mom and dad. And we loved it. But the best treat of all, after church on a Sunday, was when on the way home my parents would exchange a glance in the front seat of our gigantic brown station wagon, and with a wink my dad would say “Hey kids, wanna go for a drive?” Pure joy.

“A drive” was a special family tradition for us. Sometimes it meant we’d grab burgers and wander about looking for garage sales on a sunny afternoon. But on special occasions it meant a trip to Frank Baker’s and a tour of the British Properties in West Vancouver where we’d look at the houses and dream of living in those beautiful big homes. These were epic adventures for Terri and I. From the back seat of that growling beast of a car we’d watch the world go by. We’d marvel at travelling over not one, not two, but THREE bridges, the last being the impossibly large Lions Gate Bridge spanning the Burrard Inlet, connecting the mysterious Stanley Park to the north shore and West Vancouver. We’d pull into the parking lot of Frank Baker’s Attic and Terri and I would be off running before the car had stopped.

“What’s a smorgasbord mommy?” I asked inquisitively, thinking it was another of those strange German words (turns out it’s Scandinavian). Her answer will stay with me until the day I die: “It means you can eat as much of anything as you like dear.” Wait, what? Was she serious? Those were dangerous words to say to a hyper-active, food-processing machine called an eight year old.

Frank Baker’s Attic was big. No, check that, it was huge. I read somewhere that it had 1,200 seats in it, but in my childhood head it may as well have had 5,000. And somehow it always seemed crowded, filled to overflowing with noisy throngs of happy diners—many of whom likely also drove from parts unknown to take in the cacophonous atmosphere and eat their fill from the long tables covered in a buffet spread hard to accurately describe.

If I close my eyes and try to conjure images of the food at Frank Baker’s Attic I see giant bowls of meatballs, rows of bright yellow and white devilled eggs, cold cuts for miles, pyramids of freshly-baked dinner roles, platters of bacon-wrapped scallops, and great, big mounds of prime rib glistening under heat lamps, jiggling and oozing red liquid as the chef cut off thick slices for me—as many slices as I could want! And horseradish? What a delight! It was at Frank Baker’s Attic that I first discovered many foods and flavours I’d never experienced back in Manitoba. This truly was a burgeoning Foodist’s playground.

But amongst memories of food flash odd images and quirky recollections, like that of a Dixieland band that would suddenly start playing, with Frank Baker himself wearing his trademark white suit joining them on trumpet, loudly playing When the Saints Come Marching In as they marched through the crowd, grabbing patrons (especially eager kids like us) to follow behind like some sort of congo line. It was hilarious fun.

I recall the room filled with brightly coloured, strange lampshades that gave the entire place a feeling of some creepy old lady’s parlour or something (turns out Baker was an avid collector of antique Tiffany lampshades). I remember my mom laughing hysterically when she lifted the leaf covering the privates of a statue of David, only to jump back in fright when an alarm buzzed loudly, making her turn red with embarrassment. That was Frank Baker’s—always filled with laughter.

Certainly for a young boy my age, the most amazing thing about Frank Baker’s Attic was the car. That’s right, the car. I would drop hints and make special requests to go back to the restaurant just so I could stand and stare at James Bond’s Astin Martin DB5—who some claim is the most recognizable car in the world. I couldn’t believe that the very roadster Sean Connery drove furiously in Goldfinger, with its ejector seat, pop out machine guns, and bullet shield behind the rear window was right there in front of me incased in glass (it wasn’t until years later that I realized it probably wasn’t even the actual car used in the famous scenes in the movie). As compelling as the joviality and gluttony happening in the dining room was, I couldn’t wait to be excused so I could go out front and stand at that glass, my imagination running wild as I pictured scenes with bad guys chasing 007 as he narrowly escaped through a combination of skillful driving and the gadgets installed by Q. Mesmerizing.

After jotting down some of these memories for this post I did a quick Google search to see what I could find about Frank Baker’s iconic restaurant and was disappointed how little info I could find. Luckily I did stumble across this short documentary video about Frank Baker by a VFS student from 2003 with footage from the 1980s, but it paints a bleak picture of the restaurant’s slow demise and the decline of Baker’s health. Frank Baker’s Attic is long gone now (Frank died years ago), but the memories of those family adventures on Sunday afternoon drives will remain in my mind forever. And the eight year old who still lives inside me is grateful for them.

The artist, designer and author Douglas Coupland grew up in West Vancouver, and wrote about Baker in his book Polaroids From The Dead:

The man with the horn was Frank Baker, a restaurant owner of that long-vanished era when “fine dining” meant a T-bone steak, three double scotches and a pack of Chesterfields.

Mr. Baker, who died in 1991, had once owned a “swinging” kind of restaurant in West Vancouver where your parents would take out-of-town guests, but only after first getting themselves all revved up with Herb Alpert records.

Mr. Baker was always, to younger eyes, the embodiment of a certain type of cool, so cool that he had even bought the original Aston Martin DB-5 used in the James Bond movie Goldfinger. He was certainly a character, and his restaurant was an occupational puppy mill for a good number of friends during high school who bussed there and diced the vegetables and did food prep on weekends.

As I recounted these memories to my friends that afternoon, it occurred to me there are so few of these type of restaurants left. And very few neighbourhoods like those in West Vancouver too. Fewer still are the flamboyant, eccentric restauranteurs like Frank Baker himself. In fact, I can’t really think of any at all…anywhere—can you?


35 Responses to ““What’s a smorgasbord mommy?” Memories of Frank Baker’s Attic”

  1. Posted on July 3rd, 2011

    Wow! Did that ever just rocket me straight back to climbing into the metallic green Matador with my siblings as dad took us out for lunch to see the James Bond car! I got goosebumps recalling the family outings up there!

    Thanks Mark.

  2. Posted on September 13th, 2011

    Hello Mark,

    Very hard to believe how much time has passed.

    Growing up in Vancouver and then North Vancouver I frequented Baker’s Attic as a child and then as an adult and ended up with my dates their frequently.

    I too remember when Frank bought one of the many Aston Martins used in Goldfinger I believe. I read somewhere there were six or so used for the movie.

    Thanks for the story and pictures Mark.

    ps. Dal Richards would also show up sometimes as memory serves.

  3. Posted on January 31st, 2012

    Brings back so many fantastic memories. I thought I was the only one alive who remembers Frank Bakers Attic. So many happy, funny times…we should have a Frank Bakers Attic reunion. I got to sit in that car once. I was a teenager then and at a private party held there. We razzed him till he finally said ok let’s go and he took us and let us check out the car till we got tired of it. Had many, many good times at the Attic. I could go on and on.

  4. Posted on March 1st, 2012

    WOW i have tears in my eyes reading this. Dad would drive us up from Kitsilano and my little sister and I would do all that you said you did too.I recall the buzzer when the ladies would lift that leaf and everyone in the restaurant would know what they did in the washroom hahaha. Those sure were the days. Hmmm i miss all that, and my dad.

  5. Posted on April 28th, 2012

    I came across this on the web quite by accident. I was the first Maitre D’ at the attic. It indeed was a fun and very busy place to work. Everything I had learned at school and previous jobs, I had to forget as the table set ups, everything had to be different, it was Frank’s way. I was very lucky to have worked with Frank Baker and Charles Evans. We had many well known people as guests. This all took place commencing in June of 1968, we had a couple of “soft” openings, then we thought we would have a rest, the first Saturday night we did 300 people in a restaurant at that time designed to do 100, it was later expanded. I am sure there are other people arround that remember the Attic

  6. Posted on May 22nd, 2012


    thank you for this!



  7. Posted on October 10th, 2012

    Trip back memory lane. I bussed there as a teenager. It was a right rolicking place, full of staircases, little rooms, and, of course, crowds of people. Frank often sat back, watching the action, nursing a scotch and soda. Every now and then he would pull out his diamond-encrusted trumpet and, man, that guy could blow! Towards the end of the evening the (usually rather large and kind of going to seed)cabaret lady would sing “Show me the way to go home.” The signal for the regulars to toss down their drinks, and make their way to the door.

  8. Posted on November 9th, 2012

    My wife and I got married there in April 1979…Fantastic memories, drove past the place where it used to stand just recently, with two of my daughters!

  9. Posted on November 9th, 2012

    We are from So. California. We took a trip up to BC in our camper in 1974. Our older son, Brian, was 4 at the time. We camped on Vancouver Island and went salmon fishing and clam digging for a week. Then we took the ferry across to Vancouver. A local guy told us that if we wanted to experience real Canadian fun and cuisine to go to Frank Baker’s Attic. We took him up on it when we got there. What an incredible place. The whole upper story glowed from the ceiling of Tiffany chandeliers hanging there. Then we were told that the floor lamp on the band stage was a real Tiffany, valued at that time around $40,000. We were told that when Frank found that out, he had the lamp bolted to the stage. Being antique collectors, we absolutely loved that every table and chair, and every place setting and plate and cup was antique and completely different. There wasn’t a place setting that matched in the entire place. The salmon was delicious. The show was so much fun. Our four year old got out and marched with the band all around the restaurant and through the kitchen. He still remembers it to this day. I am so sad to hear that it no longer exists and my son cannot take his children to see it anymore. What a loss for all of us who remember it!
    Oh……..and I will never forget lifting the figleaf and walking out of the restroom with a red face while the lights and buzzers flashed everywhere! Lol

  10. Posted on November 20th, 2012

    I grew up in Deep Cove and going to this restaurant was brilliant! I remember being able to have as many desserts as you wanted. For a kid that was those beautiful fancy parfait glasses filled cubed jello in every color, topped with Cool Whip and a maraschino cherry. Luxury! Imagine, I could have as many as could eat? Incredible!

  11. Posted on November 28th, 2012

    Hi there, I was searching for Frank at the Attic as I have just seen the new Bond film which reminded of amazing trip I had with my husband Sandy who sold Frank the Aston Martin. It was one of seven made for the film and we shipped it to New York where there was a dock strike so Frank had to pay for all our accommodation until it was released. After that we raced across Canada feeling really bad about the delay but when we rang Frank he didn’t care as we were on T.V on our way
    to Vancouver which advertised The Attic!!! We had an amazing time with Frank lots of stories but bedtime!! cheers Joanna

  12. Posted on December 30th, 2012

    This is great for memories ! I worked at the Attic from 1972 until 1976. I worked with Charles Evans and Frank Baker and many others ,,,,it was fun place to work and the tips were great. I got a ride in the DB-5 one day when the guy that came to tune it up took it up Taylor Way along the Highway , down Cap Road and along Marine back to the Attic. We have many celeb’s show up at the the Attice as well, Liberace, Phyliss Diller, Cheif Dan George ,,,even Jimmy Pattison came in all the time,,, then after Charlles Evans passed away Frank made some bad hires and they ripped him off !!!

  13. Posted on January 9th, 2013

    Frank Baker -There is a blast from the past!
    we were neighbors of the Bakers many years ago and what I recall about him is when he made an ice rink on his patio for the kids. I dont mean just for his daughters. Frank made it for all the kids in the neighborhood.
    Very decent man.Actually all of them. Great neighbours.

  14. Posted on January 10th, 2013

    I remember the car as well. We never ate in the restaurant though. Was a buzzer and light hooked up to the leaf? I had only heard of a light that flashed above the outside of the bathroom door. Someone should dig through some newspapers, magazines, and books and create a wikipedia article on Frank and the Attic to preserve the memory of it.

  15. Posted on January 19th, 2013

    wow that brought back so many memories thank you

  16. Posted on January 20th, 2013

    I have the same fond memories of FBs. Unlimited dessert! He also had a second car with a living room and TV in the back. Can’t remember what it was.
    Also remember the Town Pump as a resaurant, and cooking my own stake at Kejack’s on Main as a family treat. Went to the old spaghetti factory in gastown and it has hardly changed since it opened in 1971.

  17. Posted on April 20th, 2013

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  18. Posted on April 11th, 2014

    Ah memories! I used to work at the Taylor Way Home Service next to “The Attic” and had the honor of parking Mr. Baker’s white Cadillac after I filled it with gas and cleaned all the window etc. I spent many an hour just staring through the glass at the Aston Martin, and the Toronado, not to mention climbing on the old fire trucks. he was a great guy. Yip that kind of restaurant is gone too. He used to make all the guests line up and march through the kitchen to see how clean it was. He played his trumpet and told jokes the whole time. What a guy!

  19. Posted on May 19th, 2014

    Hi I see that a couple of people mention my Father Charles Evans. I would be grateful if anyone who knew him would mail me. He left England for Canada in early sixties and I never saw him again but would love to find out about his life and what sort of person he really was. Many Thanks for any information you can give me. Pam

  20. Posted on August 5th, 2014

    As a boy I worked at the Taylor Way Home Service gas station next to the Attic. Mr. Baker used to drive into the gas station, get out of his big car, and go next door to his restaurant. I had to fill it up, check everything under the hood, and clean everything from headlight to tail lights. Then, I had the honor, as a 15 year old boy, to driver his big white Cadillac convertible over to his parking spot next door, right beside the Goldfinger James Bond car. I spent a lot of hours just looking at that car. Wow! I did that twice a week for 3 years. In those “good old days”, I made $1.75 an hour, and averaged $5.00 per day in tips. I don’t remember any of that from Frank…now that I think about it. I am sure to be wrong as he was an incredibly nice man. With the exception of my dear old Dad, they didn’t come much finer. We miss you Frank!

  21. Posted on August 13th, 2014

    When I think back on my childhood happy times that stand out the most and one of them is of me standing there for what seemed like hours staring at the James Bond car. Yeah yeah dinner was great but the car and Shirley Temple drinks. My little sister and I would order Shirley Temple after Shirley Temple. I would constantly ask to go back out and look at THE CAR.

  22. Posted on May 3rd, 2015

    Hi Mark,
    Awesome post on Frank Baker’s Attic restaurant!
    It brought back fond memories of the 80’s going to The Attic.
    Thanks Mark for bringing a smile to my face this evening! Those were the days! Cheers

  23. Posted on July 8th, 2015

    Anyone remember Frank Baker’s Attic in North Vancouver?

  24. Posted on July 31st, 2015

    I remember going to Frank Bakers as a child when my parents drove up from Renton Wa. It seemed so big to a child under 13. The miles of food, desserts on trays and carts and also the barrel of afterdinner mints by the cash register counter.

  25. Posted on September 8th, 2015

    My boyhood memories of Frank Baker’s attic include many Sunday bus excursions with a friend from South Vancouver to Stanley Park and a walk across the Lion’s Gate bridge to our final destination : The $2.00 children’s smorgasbord at The Attic. Our first stop once off of the bus at Stanley Park was the Texan Burger on West Georgia to get one or two of their 5 cent soft ice cream cones! Then on to Frank Baker’s for our reward for having walked for a few kilometers to get there. Lunch was always satisfying, with a great variety of food and deserts. We usally waddled out of there with barely enough energy to walk back across the bridge to the park and to the bus loop at Lost Lagoon. It was a sad day when the restaurant closed!

  26. Posted on February 18th, 2016

    My memories exactly, only my family would only go on New Years Day for dinner. Coolest place ever when you were a kid, and I’m sure the adults liked it too. I’ll never forget the multi-coloured sugar.

  27. Posted on August 9th, 2016

    His beloved wife Dorothy passed away on Friday August 5th, 2016.

  28. Posted on August 12th, 2017

    With my husband Sandy we sold this car to Frank on condition that he didn,t drive in on the road. We delivered it to Frank in Vancouver and had great fun with him and Dorothy. I remember he had a motor boat on the Hudson Rive” and made a lawn on the deck.
    Did he have any surviving children?
    Sweet memories.

  29. Posted on November 9th, 2017

    Thank you so much for all this information and going down memory lane….my husband and I young married couple 1971 from Kamloops and just moved to Vancouver and going to the Attic was fantastic…everything about it, the food, the car and the atmosphere….just loved it.

  30. Posted on July 20th, 2018

    Grew up in North Vancouver during the ’60’s. Never ate in the restaurant, but stared at that DB countless times.
    Great memories.

  31. Posted on May 14th, 2019

    Hi Mark,
    Are you sure we arent related? lol.
    We moved to Van from Calgary in 1972 in our Vista Cruiser station wagon.
    Right from the Tiffany lamps to the buzzing fig leaf to the all you can eat dessert I was hooked. We loved the Sundays that we were lucky enough to go to Frank Bakers Attic and stare at the car in glass. Then walk it off in Stanley Park. Wonderful childhood memories…

  32. Posted on October 17th, 2019

    It was one of the actual Bond cars. The car was sold in 1986 to people in Florida for $250,000. Then it got stolen a few years later and had not been seen until recently. It is believed to be holed up somewhere in the Middle East.
    The car is now estimated to be worth between 7 million and 10 million pounds.

  33. Posted on June 28th, 2020

    My dad Joe Lee was the chef and kitchen manager for the fine dining restaurant downstairs of The Attic. I also worked at Frank Baker’s as a banquet girl and helped out upstairs at The Attic on weekends when I was a teenager. My Father was a loyal employee of Frank Baker’s up until the recession and the restaurant closed. For those that remembered the dressed up salmon and all the fixings, that was the work of my dad. We have many photos of my dad and Frank Baker. My favourite part of the restaurant, the iconic James Bond car in the showcase.

  34. Posted on July 3rd, 2020

    Wow! Just Wow! This post is awesome! I remember being at Frank Bakers for one of my first dates with my future husband (now married 43 years), it was fabulous so on that note we returned at least three times, bringing my inlaws and friends. I could hardly wait to take one of our female guests to the washroom (I made sure separately) so I could sucker them into lifting the fig leaf and awaiting the big hurrah!
    So much fun at Frank Bakers! The beautiful Tiffani Lamps I loved that engraced the restaurant, Wonderful food and the bring back of wonderful memories, bringing the elders back into the beautiful time he created for them and all! Such great times we had, and will never forget, so happy we got to give our parents that wonderful time and memory. God Bless your soul Mr. Frank Baker, thanks for the memories of fun and great food!
    Donna Morris/Gord Morris, Surrey, BC

  35. Posted on June 19th, 2022

    Loved the Aston Martin, but he also had a “67 X” and old fire engines at that location. Sorry that its gone.

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