If you’re looking for great food and a friendly, comfortable atmosphere, Billy D’s Pub & Bistro in downtown Courtenay is an excellent choice.
With soft lighting, choices of cozy booth seats, bars stools or tables and friendly staff, the pub had a very welcoming and easy going feel to it as soon as I walked in the door. Owner Deana Simkin says that atmosphere is exactly what she’s trying to achieve.
“It’s very friendly in here, everybody knows everybody. People come in and most of the staff, the servers, know everybody by name and I think it’s great,” says Simkin. “It’s like Cheers when everyone goes ‘Norm,’ you know, that’s what you want, you want it to be fun and neighbourhood-friendly.”
The service was genuinely friendly — as well as prompt and attentive — throughout the entire meal.
My sister — who was my dinner companion — and I chose a quiet booth and, after some trouble deciding which starter to order because plenty of options appealed to us, we chose the pork riblets tossed in house seasoning.
We were both surprised by the size of each riblet; they were considerable pieces of meat. The house seasoning was the perfect flavour to compliment the pork, which was absolutely succulent with a nice crispy texture on the outside.
My sister chose the Thursday night dinner special of New York Steak, which is priced very well at $11, and came with potatoes and Caesar salad. She also added sautéed onions to top it off. Plenty of ‘Mmmm’ noises were coming from that side of the table, and she particularly liked the rosemary flavouring on the steak and the garlic in the mashed potatoes.
I ordered the Slow-braised Lamb Shank off the Chef’s Fall Creations part of the menu, which was braised with red wine and blackberry jus. The flavour was as unique as it was delicious, and certainly made me think of fall.
Potato gnocchi and glazed pearl onions nestled in beside the lamb also were coated with the fabulous sauce, and broccoli, carrots and squash topped off the meal nicely.
Besides the lamb, Cider, Maple and Rosemary Chicken Breast, and Butternut Squash Ravioli were featured on the fall menu, and Simkin noted the pub has special menu items throughout the year.
“We’ll switch it up for the seasons and so this is more of a warm, hearty, winter type of meal — we have something lighter and fresher for spring and summer,” she explained, adding she likes to give the kitchen space when it’s creating new dishes. “I try to let the creativity flow in the kitchen.”
She also noted a new Red Seal chef is joining the team this week and will bring some new menu items with him.
Another new feature of the pub is live music, which Simkin said all started when the Vancouver Island Music Business Conference was in town earlier in October.
“I had their songwriters’ showcase (here),” she recalled. “They came in that night — and it was crazy in here, it was fabulous — and all the songwriters and the performers came in and performed and that was like our kick-off to it.”
Now, Simkin is bringing in well-known local musician Joey Clarkson — and a friend — every second Saturday evening for acoustic performances.
Thursday evenings are Music Trivia night, which Simkin said are “always a hoot.”
Meanwhile, the pub offers dinner specials each night, and Toonie Tuesdays, featuring excellent deals on appetizers, are always popular.
Each day there’s a different martini on special, selected from the pub’s list of 55 martinis. And, of course, there’s a full bar with a wide selection of beers on tap.
Simkin bought the pub with her husband Warren Plue at the end of 2010. She’s the hands-on owner in the relationship and organized renovations in the spring of 2011.
Simkin noted she was going for an old English pub atmosphere; dark wood and soft lighting give it a cozy feel, but unlike some English pubs, it’s very fresh and clean.
Simkin noted she has strong local focus in everything she does, and the pub renovations were no different.
“When we renovated — because I’m big on local, downtown, you know, keeping it in the Valley — everybody we hired, everything we did, was local,” she said.
Billy D’s Pub & Bistro is located at 268 Fifth Street in Courtenay. It’s open Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., 11 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, visit www.billydspub.com or call 250-334-8811.