The Narrow Lounge
By Jesse Donaldson

A Prohibition-Style Speakeasy — with an Attitude

If you're looking to find the entrance to The Narrow, it might take some doing. But, as manager Rachel Zottenberg notes, that's part of its charm; since it opened in 2008, the intimate, 40-seat lounge has built its reputation on a cheeky sort of secrecy. Above the entrance is a single red bulb, and the interior is reminiscent of a prohibition-era speakeasy, featuring ornate wallpaper, mounted animal heads, classic cocktails, decadent food, spot-on music and plenty of nooks and crannies.

“With no sign on the front door — nothing to tell you that you're in the right spot other than a little red light, it's pretty hidden,” Rachel chuckles. “And what we've found is that it's become a really great word-of-mouth place. People know they're going to like it because they've heard about it from a friend. And as a result, our regulars have grown quite organically. It's always a friend of a friend of a friend.”

I think unique adds comfort. And darkness adds comfort. Lots of nooks and crannies, and some strangeness. Vancouver still needs a lot more of that. - Rachel Zottenberg, manager
A prohibition-era speakeasy at the foot of Mount Pleasant featuring classic cocktails and decadent, boozy entrees.
A prohibition-era speakeasy at the foot of Mount Pleasant featuring classic cocktails and decadent, boozy entrees.

Tough To Find. Easy To Stay.

Like its customer base, The Narrow, too, has expanded organically; opened by David Duprey back in 2008, it has since given rise to a number of other restaurant projects, including The Emerald, Hindenburg and the now-defunct Rumpus Room (all of them owned by Rachel and David, who are also involved with The Fox Cabaret and The Rickshaw). As Rachel notes, the only thing that hasn't changed much is the space itself, built according to David's vision: dimly-lit, ornate, and (of course) narrow.

“The place was originally just this huge warehouse,” she recalls. “And David built all these different nooks and crannies to it. And it became this small, intimate space. David's amazing. He's pretty visionary, in terms of... he's sort of a bull in a china shop. He doesn't know what the word 'no' means.” She laughs. “And we need more people like that in Vancouver — people who aren't scared to do what they want.”

The back patio, opened in 2013, features Mexican-style decor and drinks.
The back patio, opened in 2013, features Mexican-style decor and drinks.

Look for the Red Light

As the neighbourhood around them grows, so too does The Narrow's friends-of-friends clientele; in 2013, to accommodate growing demand, a 20-seat Mexican-themed back patio was added. The cocktail list remains extensive, and in step with the restaurant's speakeasy feel, even the food has a boozy touch (the fish tacos are marinated in tequila, for example). Currently, there are no expansion plans in the works, and as Rachel states with a grin, no plans to make that entranceway more visible. Instead, The Narrow will keep on doing exactly what it does best, as Vancouver's cheeky little secret.

“I think unique adds comfort,” Rachel concludes. “And darkness adds comfort. Lots of nooks and crannies, and some strangeness. Vancouver still needs a lot more of that. There's not enough yet.”

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