Are restaurants meant to be missionaries?

Last night I went out to celebrate a friends birthday at the new extension to Nicli Antica Pizzaria, Vicino . The meal was fabulous, the space very cool, birthday celebrations always good. But I have to admit that I went home with a stomach ache. It was certainly not Vicino’s fault, at least not directly. It had to do with the rather uncomfortable one block walk from Columbia and E Cordova to the restaurant. You see the only parking to be had was right in front of the Anchor of Hope Salvation Army. And the crowd out front did not exactly seem hopefully, in fact I was more than a little worried for my safety.

I thought I was being a little sheltered until I reached my group, and my boyfriend commented that I should have called from my car and had him come get me and walk me down the block. I was more than a little stressed out over this.

Am I a snob? Maybe. Sheltered? Well yes, probably. But the whole thing was so weird. To practically sprint down the block to avoid crackheads and then come in to Peroni, and $10 per oz. beef jerky, and in house made prosciutto, and other (really delicious) modern hipster excess just seemed completely bourgeoise.

Is this what Gastown is now? I suppose it was coming. Once a few dive bars started getting a more influential following, it was just a hop skip and a jump to organic butchers, South African gastropubs, and charcuterie down alleys. Then there’s Save On Meets, a Gastown experiment so smug it even got its own show on OWN . Is it just because it’s cheaper, better for business? Or is it just that elusive hipness that’s so necessary to keep a restaurant humming along in Vancouver. I have a feeling though that its much more desperate; the deep soul satisfaction that the middle class get when they help out somehow with “the downtown eastside situation”.

Now lets be frank; it’s shitty down there. Deeply horrible. But that doesn’t mean that putting a new nice restaurant in the middle of it is somehow helping out. It’s just forcing the unappealing to the side, over one more block maybe. At worst these new new places become the neighborhood equivalent of new gold fillings in a meth addicts mouth. They’re out of place, and kind of pointless if the recipient is still on the goddamn meth.

The the downtown eastside isn’t a zoo and I for one don’t like going down there to garp at the detritus. So I’m not sure what the point of all these new places are. Are we somehow bringing money into the area? Not unless we get mugged on our way to Chill Winston. Are we just putting a happy modern face on a poverty problem that shows no signs of slowing down? Pasting over poverty with high end furniture shops and gelaterias?

What do you think? Should we keep up the gentrification of Gastown, or leave the homeless a neighborhood to be homeless in?

One response to “Are restaurants meant to be missionaries?

  1. As you wrote: “Are we just putting a happy modern face on a poverty problem that shows no signs of slowing down? Pasting over poverty with high end furniture shops and gelaterias?”

    It’s certainly a twisted fashion sense. ‘Can’t have authenticity without a little urban decay.’ And it often diminishes any real sense of the humanity that is wrought from such a place.

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