"There's never been a pub in Bridgeland," says Larry Scammell, who with his wife Denise Scammell, were the owners of Black Pig Bistro until last year, when it closed for various reasons.
The couple live in the neighbourhood with their 8-year-old daughter and recognized there was a demand for more approachable food. They've transformed the corner space on First Avenue N.E., the main drag through Bridgeland, into a more casual eatery, installing reclaimed school bus seats along the outer banquette and putting a foosball table in a back corner as part of their new, family-friendly approach.
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"We made a lot of mistakes with Black Pig," says Larry, "It was a learning experience. Now we know what not to do."
With a well-curated collection of craft beers — 12 on tap — they now focus on well-prepared comfort food: handmade burgers, pizza, mac and cheese, pretzels and the like.
"We kept the cocktails we were known for at Black Pig and added a few more," says Denise, "And our wine list is small, but it's fun and interesting."
There are three menu items they don't make from scratch: ketchup, mustard and the buns for the po'boy sandwiches. Even the tater tots are made out of hand-grated Kennebec potatoes and stuffed with cheese.
"We interviewed nine chefs for this position, and asked them all two things: How they feel about baking bread, and how they feel about using a smoker," says Larry.
They lucked out with chef Tyler Ballance, who was previously the corporate chef at Browns Socialhouse in Vancouver and not only owns his own smoker, he's a trained pastry chef who already bakes his own bread at home and has a 4-year-old sourdough starter, which is now being used in their pizza dough and flatbreads.
"We're going to be famous for burgers," Larry predicts.
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If the burger I ate, which was topped with braised short rib and a creamy blue cheese sauce, was any indication, he's right.
They get wagyu beef from Brant Lake and grind it in-house, and make their own brioche buns using an ingredient I've been sworn to secrecy on. The kids menu — several items for $8 each — features smaller versions of the same, made-from-scratch dishes.
The sunny, 76-seat room now has flat-screen TVs on the walls and a larger, pull-down screen for playoff games. The bar is clear acrylic-coated concrete made to look like a city sidewalk, with a makeshift manhole cover on the corner.
A mini version of the new St. Patrick's bridge, which connects the East Village with Bridgeland, arches over the bottles at the back of the bar.
Bridges on First adds to the growing Bridgeland food scene while celebrating our larger community, more reasons to gather some friends around the table.