Meet on Main
By Laurel Borrowman

Come and Meet Without the Meat

Ivo Staiano and Jay Antony know the restaurant business. Ivo made his first foray into the industry when he was 17 as a waiter at Earl’s. By 23, he opened the Urban Well. He conceived and launched, then sold two more iconic Vancouver establishments before joining forces with Jay, who ran DV8, a staple of the city for nearly two decades, to open what Ivo calls “a personal and logical evolution” in their journey as indie restaurateurs.

This time, they wanted to open a restaurant that was more than a restaurant. They wanted to open something reflective of their growth and values in the industry. A place that paid tribute to tasty comfort food, invited socializing in a communal atmosphere, and supported local farmers and vendors. Above all, it had to be totally vegetarian and vegan. On that foundation, they skipped the meat, and opened Meet on Main.

We kind of joke about it being a gateway restaurant… A place where you don’t need to know the handshake to enjoy the food. - Ivo Staiano, co-owner
Ivo Staiano, co-owner of Meet on Main
Ivo Staiano, co-owner of Meet on Main. Photo by Laurel Borrowman

Delicious Vegetarian

Even in Vancouver, where healthy cuisine is as prevalent as sushi, Ivo and Jay know that a certain stigma can still accompany any vegetarian and vegan restaurant. With Meet on Main, they’re confident that everyone, from life-long strict vegans to diners embarking on their first veggie burger, will feel right at home. “We kind of joke about it being a ‘gateway restaurant’ ... a place where you don’t need to know the handshake to enjoy the food.”

With a menu constructed after exploring dozens of veggie and vegan restaurants from Vancouver to California — high-end haunts and dive bars alike — they assembled what is essentially a comfort food menu (also 90 per cent gluten free), fit for anyone.

“One of my favourites is the El Revolution bowl,” says Ivo. From healthy, freshly chopped salads like the kale and romaine caesar, to six different dishes built on a foundation of crispy golden French fries, guests can be sure that everything is made in-house and is locally sourced. That also goes for the good old-fashioned cheeseburger, the hearty, mac’n’cheese and even the simple syrup in the tequila mojito. And you’ll be questioning your server right until your second bite about how vegetarian can taste so delicious.

Meet on Main
One of many delicious appies, The Amsterdam, battered veggie sausage bites that are perfect for sharing. Photo by Jackie Picard

It’s More Than a Menu

At Meet on Main, it’s a full-fledged dining experience, yet you’ll feel right at home, comfortable amidst meticulous planning. It’s modern, yet cozy, communal and unpretentious. Like a proud father, Ivo describes how the space came together. “It’s my creative room,” in which he used a carefully curated mix of the building’s original structure and second-hand furniture and decor.

Sixty-year-old wood joists anchor walls covered in a rotating exhibit of local art, like hand-painted vinyl records, and birchwood painted wallpaper. Long banquet-style seating invites you to saddle up with new friends while retro light bulbs with bright filaments suspended warmly overhead illuminate conversation and culinary delights.

Even the iconic rotating sign out front, a beacon on Main Street, was a part of the space’s original structure, and was surprisingly found to be in working order after being still for 20 years. They would have been happy for it to just light up again, but sure enough the neon was still charged and the motor just needed some slight repair. Now that it’s spinning again, it’s sure to beckon food fans of all sorts for many years to come.

Meet on Main
The tequila mojito is concocted with Meet’s homemade simple syrup. Photo by Jackie Picard
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