British Columbia

Number 9: deaf restaurant makes an experience out of a meal

Ordering can be a problem in some restaurants. At Deafined, you'll have to do it in sign language (don't worry, they'll show you how).

Deafined's wait staff entirely deaf or hard of hearing

Lisa Christiansen and Jason D'Souza went to Deafined, a restaurant where the entire wait staff is deaf or hard of hearing. Dish number nine is watermelon and grilled halloumi salad. (Jason D'Souza/CBC)

On The Coast's Lisa Christiansen and Jason D'Souza are exploring the diversity of Vancouver through its food. In a new series called Number 9, they go to some interesting restaurants, order dish number nine off the menu, and see what they get.

Today, Lisa Christiansen and Jason D'Souza checked out Deafined, an Eastern Mediterranean restaurant with a twist: all of the servers are deaf or hard of hearing.

Manager Nicole Ryan signs "nine" in American Sign Language (Jason D'Souza/CBC)
The menu's items are numbered, and come with a guide to American Sign Language. Few of the servers lip read, and writing things down is considered the option of last resort.

Deafined's manager, Nicole Ryan says there's been a bit of learning curve since the restaurant opened in May.

"It was hard at the start because none of the [servers] had really been employed before," Ryan said. "At the start we had interpreters on the busier days, but we found the more we went on, the more I learned, the easier it became for the servers. and now they're perfect. They're on par with some of the best servers around."

The owners of Deafined also own Dark Table, a restaurant where all the servers are blind.

Ryan says the owners noticed that blind and deaf people alike have lower employment numbers, and created the restaurants for them.

"Most people don't bump into a deaf person in their day-to-day lives, and I for one, before I started working here, had never, ever met a deaf person," Ryan said. "At first I was a little bit awkward, but they were so open and welcoming that now it's fine."

Dish number 9: watermelon and grilled halloumi

Dish number nine: watermelon and grilled halloumi (the sign for "nine" is helpfully provided). (Jason D'Souza/CBC)

Number nine at Deafined was a salad of watermelon with halloumi cheese, arugula lettuce and pomegranate.

"It looks fantastic!" D'Souza said with anticipation.

And after they tucked in to their meal, D'Souza noted that eating at Deafined wasn't so much a meal as it was a unique experience.

Tune in to On The Coast all this week for more culinary capers from Christiansen and D'Souza.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Number 9: welcome to a restaurant where the wait staff is deaf


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