Daravara
By Gene Kosowan

Everything Fresh

The moniker may have its roots in the British Isles and the inspiration may have come from Texas, but when it comes to neighbourhood bars, there's no doubt Daravara is attracting patrons to its unique, laid-back experience.

Much of it has to do with the lack of thawed and microwaved pub grub on the premises. Instead, co-owner and chef Shane Loiselle, along with his partner, co-owner Pat Bourne, doggedly ensures that every food item is created right on the spot.

“The only thing we don’t really make here from scratch is bread,” he says. “Everything from the bacon to the turkey is fresh. My freezer in the back is about the size of a household fridge, so I don’t bring in much frozen product here. I even bring in fresh Alberta grade-A sirloin and grind it to make all the burgers from that. We also make all our sauces and ketchup from scratch, although we do keep a bottle of Heinz handy for the odd customer who prefers that.”

What's on the menu, which changes seasonally, is so popular that 60 per cent of Daravara's revenue comes from the food, with sales of alcohol comprising the remainder. Favourites include the novelty chicken heart appetizers (which Shane prepares as a form of popcorn chicken), honey garlic chicken wings, waffle club sandwiches and an egg-topped “dirty burger” that's in top demand during Daravara's weekend brunches.

I saw firsthand what a good beer joint can be without having ruffians and drunks, but with really decent food done by chefs. - Shane Loiselle, co-owner and chef
Daravara features fresh, made from scratch food on their menu, which makes them a popular spot for a bite to eat
Daravara co-owner and chef Shane Loiselle ensures all the food in the venue is made from scratch. Photo by Gene Kosowan.

Southern Influences

Daravara is anything but a tavern-style watering hole, something Shane, whose culinary experiences include working as a chef at DaDeO and the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, didn't want. As someone born in Canada but raised in the southern U.S., with an affinity for that region's food fare, Shane was toying with the idea of starting a barbecue joint. But, a trip to Austin, Texas to scope out that city's bar scene provided him with a clear picture of what he wanted in Edmonton.

“I saw firsthand what a good beer joint can be without having ruffians and drunks, but with really decent food done by chefs,” he says. “I’ve seen enough of what can be really bad and what works in some places. What works the best in almost any place is trying not to be pretentious with food and service, try to have good people who you really care for work for you and be good to them. That way, you get to keep good people and they care about you as a friend.”

Daravara is a gastropub with great food, music, darts and more in a wide-open space
Daravara offers a spacious interior for its patrons to dine and drink. Photo by Gene Kosowan

Hidden Gem

It also helps to run everything in a venue with a wide-open interior featuring creative touches that include the bar's accent lighting, with bulbs encased in liquor bottles. Then, there's the west wall, with two garage doors that open the venue up on those really hot days so that folks can get an unobstructed view of the hustle and bustle of 124 Street. And, on those scorching days, thirst quenchers come in the form of a wide array of domestic and imported beers, wine and spirits.

Besides the surroundings, food and service, Shane hints that the mystique surrounding the name has created some curiosity and additional converts to Daravara. While scrambling for a name while applying for a business license, one of Shane's former partners suggested a phonetic spelling of Lough Derravaragh, a lake in Ireland where she used to fish with her dad. The name stuck.

“When we looked at it, it worked,” says Shane. “We don’t have 'gastro pub' or 'bar and grill' or anything else by the name on our sign. I’m sure people have gone past us a few times and had seen the name and think we do Indian food and then venture inside and see what we are. We’re called a hidden gem. I don’t know, maybe the name has something to do with it.”

Daravara is a popular gastropub on 124 Street, a booming downtown district in Edmonton
The west storefront of Daravara can open up for patrons to cool off and catch the action on 124 Street. Photo by Gene Kosowan.
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