Consistently good food, friendly service and a comfortable, fun atmosphere.
That’s the focus of the Avalanche Neighbourhood Pub in Courtenay, where new executive chef Kyle Wainwright is bringing his Italian-based approach to food and launching a new menu this fall.
Wainwright, who comes to Courtenay from Vancouver, is helping the pub refresh its menu and become known as a comfortable place for people to sit down for a good meal and a good conversation.
The Avalanche has been open since the summer of 2008 at the Mount Washington Hostel on Eighth Street, and it’s an exciting time as the pub moves in this new direction.
“We’ve established we’re a great place to go out and get friendly, fun service,” said general manager Devin Moldenhauer. “We’re a neighbourhood pub where people can go, a friendly place to come out and have a good time. Right now, we’re in the process of creating more of the dynamic of a neighbourhood pub where you can come for lunch or dinner and stay longer if they want. Food brings people together. The difference between a restaurant and a pub is you can sit here for hours and watch the game or play pool.”
Moldenhauer is excited to be bringing Wainwright on board as his “chef extraordinaire.”
Wainwright is in the process of refreshing the Avalanche’s menu.
“For me as a chef, that’s probably one of my favourite words, ‘fresh,'” he said. “If I can source it locally and support the community, I will. We’re kind of upscaling the menu a bit and definitely making it an adult menu.”
Wainwright says pasta will be a big part of the new menu.
“It’s definitely Italian-influenced,” he said. “Quality food prepared well and presented well. We’re not going hoity-toity. I am a chef from the city, but I’m not bringing the frouf and fluff. I just want people to know they can come and get great food at a great price and not wonder who’s in the kitchen, because I’m in the kitchen.”
Wainwright plans to focus on offering quick lunches at a great value and on moving toward a tasting-style menu where people can come in and order appetizers that reflect the rest of the menu.
“I want to try kind of a trio-style appy menu to entice you to try more of the menu and to gain the trust of the community,” he said. “Six months to a year from now, I want people to know this as a staple. I know it will take time, but we’re very patient … it will be lots of smiles and lots of ‘good to see you’s.”
Wainwright says his menu will also feature a little bit of the slow movement.
“It’s not just one principle,” he said. “It will be slow food, burgers, nachos, pasta where you can choose your sauce … it’s an interactive menu. It gives people a chance to talk, to pick what they want so they feel they’re getting what they pay for.
“You can cut something in half and share. I think that’s the direction people are going with going out — they want to go out and have a conversation. We’re not overdoing things, and we’re not trying to complicate things. Fresh, clean, simple, consistent food.”
Wainwright has been cooking for 15 years, primarily in Vancouver.
He has worked at Carmelo’s, an Italian restaurant in Vancouver, and received a lot of of classic European training.
He says he received a lot of great training from John Pavle from Carmelo’s.
“Because of him, I had already a lot of the passion and zeal, but with training from him, it helped me have direction,” he said.
Wainwright’s philosophy in the kitchen is based on using local food.
“I have my own garden at my home and teach my kids about growing food,” he said. “I wouldn’t be trying to start something here in a new town if I didn’t feel I had something to give, something worthwhile and enjoyable and worth coming back for again and again and again. My vision here is a simple, Italian-based philosophy of food — simple, clean and presented well.”
Wainwright is looking to launch the new menu in early September.
“We’ve changed and we’re just continuing that change,” he said. “We’re continuing to grow and change into a neighbourhood pub.”
Right now, Wainwright is busy reorganizing the kitchen, setting up systems and establishing himself with local suppliers.
He’s working with Rennie Lorraine and Britt Hamilton in the kitchen.
“It’s a small team, but we are just that, we’re a team on the same direction,” he said. “We’re having fun there. There’s a lot of respect in there. There’s a lot of kitchen philosophy, and it’s going to reflect in the food. Happy people doing happy things.”
Wainwright wants people to know that everyone is welcome at the Avalanche. Families can come in and enjoy his food while sitting at the Go Mango restaurant in the same building.
“There’s none of the city attitude,” said Wainwright. “We’re not trying to be anything special. We are all family people here. We are as much part of the community as the community is our guests here. They are our guests, and that’s what they can expect — respect, a good time and good food. You’re getting something here you’re not going to forget.”
The kitchen at the Avalanche is open all day and is open late until 10 p.m. Takeout is available for lunch and dinner, and there will be specialty nights.
Besides the food, the Avalanche offers a wide range of nightly entertainment.
There’s something for everyone, including an NFL Monday Night Football pool, Monday night karaoke, the Comox Valley Pool League, poker every Wednesday night, UFC pay-per-view, the very popular Comedy Night the third Thursday of every month, DJ Mike on the Mic on the weekends, occasional live bands and themed parties.
The Avalanche is located at 237 Eighth St. in Courtenay at the Mount Washington Hostel. Call 250-331-0945 for more information.