Michael Vu has plans for a new restaurant, a place downtown where people might soon reconnect and relax as they would on a weekend.
The Salmon Arm restaurateur, who owns and operates Hanoi 36 at 141 Hudson St., is excited about his next venture, Weekends Restaurant & Lounge, to be located down the block and around the corner on Alexander Street at the former Chicken Direct location – the space currently marked with an Adam Meikle mural of a dog fetching a Frisbee.
Vu’s inspiration for the planned 26-seat restaurant are, in part, big-city izakaya eateries and tapas bars – casual drinking establishments where customers can order a variety of dishes off a menu to be shared at the table. Vu had the idea to open such a place in Salmon Arm long before COVID-19 and related restrictions.
“As soon as we came to Salmon Arm and set up Hanoi 36, we scouted around the area to see what is needed…,” said Vu. “It seems we do have a lot of similarities in terms of cuisine for the bulk of the restaurants in Salmon Arm. With that, we figured maybe we should play it up a little bit.”
Vu intended to have Weekends open by May but, with the current provincial health order prohibiting in-house dining, he’s hoping to be serving customers later this summer.
Vu does have a menu ready though. It offers charcuterie boards and a variety of specialty sandwiches that include a kimchi karaage chicken roll and a Philly cheesesteak roll with gravy. The menu also includes several poutines, featuring fresh-cut kennebec potatoes, cheese curds and an in-house gravy (a word it pains Vu, a French-trained chef, to use) made from the beef broth at Hanoi 36. Vu said he would like to open a chain of poutineries, but will start with Weekends’ poutines and tapas-style dishes.
As weekends often involve staying up late, Vu plans to keep the new restaurant open late.
“The whole point of Weekends was that people like myself who have family and also who work until 8:30 or 9 p.m., by that time, we have nowhere to eat or drink. Even though I own a restaurant, the last thing I want to do is cook for myself…” laughed Vu, noting Salmon Arm’s demographics are changing, with younger families and working professionals moving to the city from larger urban centres who might be accustomed to the type of dining experience Weekends will offer.
When COVID-19 restrictions do ease up and B.C. restaurants can once again welcome diners inside, Vu anticipates it will be a good time for Weekends.
“When things do cool down a little bit, we’ll need places like this,” said Vu. “We need places to connect again, places where we can get together, where we can say, ‘Hi, how are you doing? Have a drink on me.’ It’s one of those things that let us feel somewhat normal again.”
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