If the middle of a recession was a bad time to start a new business, especially a restaurant, nobody told Sterling Grice and Patrick Lynch.
Last fall, they opened FOO in the former beer and wine store of the Dalton Hotel downtown on Yates Street and it was truly an overnight success. “One of the Fridays, we did almost 300 people,” says Grice, who has kept his regular job serving at Brasserie L’Ecole.
“Some days, it just doesn’t stop,” adds Lynch, the head chef.
The business hit its year-two business plan target after just one month, and they figure on recouping all the startup costs by the end of year one. “We just keep getting busier and busier,” says Grice.
Not that they’re complaining. With the average menu item just $10, they need the crowds. An outdoor patio is opening in a couple of the parking slots and FOO wants to increase its walk-up takeaway business.
The name is a tribute to Foo Hong Chop Suey, a now-closed Chinatown landmark, but the menu is “Asian street food” and moves a long way beyond the Cantonese mainstays.
Grice and Lynch met a couple of years ago. Both had dreamed of opening their own place, but didn’t have a theme. A Winnipeg native,Lynch had travelled extensively in Southeast Asia — even cooked for the Australian embassy in Cambodia at one point — and thought they could bring the region’s kind of fast food to Victoria. He was at Monsoon and Wild Rice in Vancouver and came to town in 2006 to work at Sanuk in the Magnolia Hotel. Grice, a third-generation Victorian, has been around restaurants for
Lynch credits their designer, Raubyn Rothschild. “If we didn’t have her, it wouldn’t have looked near as good,” he says. The stripped-down contemporary look is inviting; there are just 10 stools but nobody waits long for the chefs behind the high counter to box up their food.
Their address at Yates and Blanshard doesn’t hurt either. “I don’t think we could have gotten a better neighbourhood,” Lynch says. St. Andrew’s Square office buildings are a short stroll west and they get some of the movie-going crowds, too.
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