You may think you know what to expect when you first walk into Meat & Bread in Vancouver, Canada, for lunch – after all, the name does give something away. What you might not realise, though will soon discover, is that you’re about to taste the best sandwich in the city, and quite possibly the best sandwich ever. Co-owner Frankie Harrington shares his thoughts on Meat & Bread, running a lunch-only restaurant, and life in Vancouver.
I grew up in B.C. and have worked many years in the food and service industry here. In my twenties, I lived in Ireland for 5 years. During my time living and working in Dublin, I met my business partner, Cord Jarvie. Years later, when we were both living Vancouver, we decided to open a sandwich shop: Meat & Bread.
How did you settle on the name Meat & Bread and where did the inspiration for the concept come from?
While working in Dublin, Cord and I would often enjoy a Carvery Roast at the pub. We became inspired by each carved roast and by the idea of putting what you would find in a Sunday roast dinner into a sandwich.
Cord and I originally wanted a small space where we would have one rotating sandwich each day, but we eventually decided on a menu with four sandwiches a day: Porchetta (Italian-style roast pork), Meatball, Grilled Cheese, and a Daily Sandwich that can be beef, chicken, lamb or turkey. There is also one soup and salad that change daily.
Our newest location in the downtown keeps with the same menu, except a different vegetarian option than Grilled Cheese and we serve a Corned Beef sandwich rather than Meatballs.
Our menu has a narrow focus, with quality food and service to back it up. Thus, when we were initially describing our vision to a friend, she insisted the name had to be as simple and focused as the concept, hence, Meat & Bread.
Since opening the first Meat & Bread in Gastown in October 2010, what is your best memory?
The lead up before the holidays is pretty memorable. Each year at the end of December, we have made and sold a Turducken sandwich (turkey stuffed in duck stuffed in chicken). It has always been a good chance to see people in our neighbourhood and to visit with customers who have been coming in for lunch since we first opened.
Do you have a favourite Meat & Bread sandwich?
We have had lots of Daily Specials that stick out in my mind but the Chicken Pot Pie sandwich special stands out to me the most. The Porchetta, which we serve every day with salsa verde and crackling, is always a staple.
What are the benefits of running a restaurant which is only open for lunch, and how do you make it work?
Along with having a simple menu and high quality execution, Cord and I wanted to just focus on one mealtime: lunch. I think when you work in the restaurant industry for as long as we have, with many late nights and early mornings, it is appealing to work in the industry but be able to have a life as well.
What do you like to cook for yourself when you’re at home?
I enjoy barbequing, especially in the summertime. I love making simple pasta using quality ingredients for a midweek meal.
What’s life like for you in Vancouver and what is an average weekend like?
Vancouver is great place to live. It’s a smaller city but has most things a larger city has to offer with the extra bonus of living so close to nature. I reside in Gastown (a few blocks away from Meat & Bread), where there are lots of great bars and restaurants. People here are interesting and creative, and there are also lots of forward-thinking businesses. My weekend always includes watching football (soccer). Cord and I are lifelong Liverpool FC supporters.
What are your top 3 recommendations for someone visiting Vancouver?
1. Eat out a lot and don’t eat bad sushi!
2. Spend time on the waterfront.
3. Hike the Chief in Squamish. [Ed.Note: Squamish is a community about 65 kilometres north of Vancouver on the Sea to Sky Highway. The Chief is a 700 metre granite dome overlooking the waters of Howe Sound with hiking trails to the South, Centre, and North summits.]
Finish this sentence: Enjoying a meal isn’t just about the food…
Enjoying a meal isn’t just about the food… actually, yes it is.