Bells & Whistles
By Tracey Rayson

Beer hall and casual eatery in Fraserhood

East Vancouver's Fraserhood has established itself as a thriving food-and-beverage hotbed, where each business newcomer fosters a good dose of originality, blissfully foregoing the trend du jour. The innovative Bells and Whistles is no exception, opening its doors in October 2017 with culinary clout – the casual dining and beer hall concept is helmed by Gooseneck Hospitality's James Iranzad, Josh Pape and Nick Miller, the team behind Wildebeest, Bufala and Lucky Taco. "We're pretty fearless about exploring our creativity, trusting that the public will come and see what we're excited about," says James. "Creativity is a big part of our motivation. We don't ever want to create safe restaurants."

Good friends for over a decade, James and Josh collaborated on their first project and opened Wildebeest in 2012. "As much as we're like-minded, we're also good at different things, which allows us to bring different strengths to our organization," says James. "Nick's been an employee since day one and rose up the ranks to operations manager; now he's a partner." The team looked to fill a void in East Van, which they felt had an overt need for their casual dining and beer hall concept.

We're trying to create the ideal neighbourhood restaurant and bar because we live in the community and that's where we would want to go. - James Iranzad, co-owner
The creative team behind Bells and Whistles. From left to right: Nick Miller, Josh Pape, James Iranzad and executive chef Alessandro Vianello. Photo courtesy of Bells and Whistles

Beverages, beers and bites

Bells and Whistles' 150 seats are divided between two rooms – picnic tables and banquette seating in one, and a generous-sized horseshoe bar with a handful of high-tops in the other, allowing for lots of co-mingling. The creative beverage program reinvents age-old standards, think Caesars with lemon and passionfruit liqueur. "Josh is an unbelievable bartender," reveals James.

The wall-sized, marquee-style tap list keeps you in the know of your favourite pours – 19 in all including Bells and Whistles' signature hoppy pale ale by Delta's Four Winds Brewing, a rotating lineup of local craft beers, a few imports, plus taps for Dominion and Lonetree ciders and B.C. wine. "We have great passion for beer and wine and I think that has been such an important backbone to all of our establishments," says James. When in rotation, order a Twin Sails Stout Float, a milk stout or porter, with a dollop of soft-serve salted caramel, handcrafted by Canmore's Foothills Creamery. It's beer float perfection! The ice cream is also available by the dish. "It's really special," says James. "It's by far the best soft-serve I've ever had."

With Gooseneck Hospitality development chef Alessandro Vianello spearheading the menu, standard fare is kept simplistic, but not predictable among likely pub staples. Burgers are elevated like the Fancy (thyme-roasted mushrooms and onions, goat cheese, truffle and basil aioli, alfalfa sprouts and tomato), sandwiches include the Fat Stevens (beer-brined chicken, gravy, mayo and crispy fried onions) and starters are coined with iconic initials, like the KFC a.k.a. Korean fried cauliflower (with pickled cucumber, green onion and cilantro).

Bells and Whistles serves cocktails with a twist – try the Pimm's Cup, Steakhouse Caesar or Hop Fashioned.
Bells and Whistles serves cocktails with a twist – try the Pimm's Cup, Steakhouse Caesar or Hop Fashioned. Photo by Thomas Bullock
Bells and Whistles' Fancy burger is made from a mixture of short rib, brisket and chuck served on a locally-baked squishy milk bun.
Bells and Whistles' Fancy burger is made from a mixture of short rib, brisket and chuck served on a locally-baked squishy milk bun. Photo by Jonathan Norton
The Farmcrest chicken wings at Bells and Whistles are available in four flavours: original, pineapple sriracha, garlic mustard or salt & pepper.
The Farmcrest chicken wings at Bells and Whistles are available in four flavours: original, pineapple sriracha, garlic mustard or salt & pepper. Photo by Jonathan Norton

Sports and socializing

Bells and Whistles is a great pre- and post-game hangout or the perfect spot to watch the game, thanks to a couple of large HD projection screens; however, it's clear they've distanced themselves from the formulaic sports bar. The clean lines and open concept design by Ricky Alvarez of Tinto Creative is light and refreshing. Growlers dangle along a feature wall, ceiling pipes are exposed and a pop culture caricature wall mural by local artist Alex Usow (Rhek) adds to the charisma. Token-operated basketball and skee-ball games provide an interactive element, great for socializing or to satiate your competitive streak.

"We have a tremendous passion for this industry; we absolutely love it," reveals James. "We consider it not just from a business perspective but also a guest perspective — we're trying to create the ideal neighbourhood restaurant and bar because we live in the community and that's where we would want to go."

[Header photo by Jonathan Norton]

Bells and Whistles is bright and inviting thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows and a neutral colour palette.
Bells and Whistles is bright and inviting thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows and a neutral colour palette. Photo by Thomas Bullock
At Bells and Whistles' daily happy hour, free game tokens for skee-ball and basketball are available.
At Bells and Whistles' daily happy hour, free game tokens for skee-ball and basketball are available. Photo by Thomas Bullock
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