The Blind Sparrow on Denman (across the street from Kintaro Ramen) calls themselves “Vancouver’s first gastrotavern”. I fail to see the difference between “gastrotavern” and the more popular term “gastropub”. Let’s see if my visit during their happy hour cuts through the bs and answers the question, “Is this place good enough to return to?”
They’ve got a small patio on the side that has about 5-6 tables. The interior is dark and has a lot of wood. There’s pictures of the interior on their website, including a picture of their gorgeous glass-walled keg room.
Tuesdays are $5 pints (real 20oz pints!) all day long. Their daily happy hour from 4-6pm also features $5 pints.
With a name like “The Blind Sparrow”, it sounds like other places like The Fat Badger, or The [adjective] [animal].
11 taps of local craft beer and one cider. Their regular prices are not bad! Good to see both 14oz and 20oz options. Did I mention that 20oz is the only amount that’s legally allowed to be called a “pint” in Canada? Anything else should only be called a “glass” or “sleeve” (ugh). Good variety of styles without any pointless overlap. Whoever handles their beer knows their stuff. It’s not beer geek level amazing (there’s Alibi Room, St. Augustine’s, Darby’s, Portland Craft, etc, for that), but it’s a solid selection of year-round and semi-seasonal craft beers.
Bar snacks. Their full menu is available online and is up-to-date. I was there to try out their happy hour menu with a Pokemon Go-obsessed friend, but I’ll come back to try their interesting Sparrow Mix (housemade “nuts and bolts”) and eye-opening Tri-Cooked Fries.
Rest of the menu.
The Happy Hour menu. One of each please!
I’m glad they haven’t gone too over-the-top with the bird references.
Parkside Pilsner (4.9%) – my first time having a Parkside Brewery beer! I had brief flashbacks to gaggy sweet Granville Island Brewery beers, cuz Parkside’s brewer Vern Lambourne used to be the brewmaster there. Thankfully the slight sweetness I did taste gave way to a delicious floral noble hop aroma, especially as it warmed up a touch, making for a good pilsner experience. Makes me more open to trying more Parkside beers in the future. They just opened up in June in Port Moody’s brewery row, joining other breweries like Moody Ales (I like their Matcha Saison), Yellow Dog (one of the best IPAs in Canada and excellent seasonal fresh hop beers), and Twin Sails Brewing (solid German styles plus slowly branching out into other styles).
Fried Chicken ($7 happy hour price) marinaded in sriracha buttermilk and served with pecorino serrano ranch dip.
The coating was soft in some places, crispy/crunchy in most places. So texture-wise a fairly satisfying and juicy boneless fried chicken. However, I got this sweet element that I just didn’t dig. Skewed too much into the sweet territory without enough saltiness to balance it out. My drinking companion thought they drizzled honey over top, but I had my doubts. Maybe it was something in the marinade? I wouldn’t think to combine honey with sriracha.
There’s a mild cheesiness in the ranch dip but I didn’t get any spiciness from it. I think if you list an ingredient in the description, one should be able to taste it. Maybe they’ve developed the menu to cater to people with wimpier palates (i.e. “the casual fine dining effect”).
In some pieces, I could see a red/pink hue from the sriracha marinade. The meat was very moist, but I still don’t know about that sweetness… If they do in fact drizzle or toss the chicken in honey, I’ll ask for it without next time. Kinda conflicted about this dish.
Spicy Prawn Tacos ($2.50 each during happy hour) with bean sprouts, roasted tomato salsa, cilantro, lime, and sour cream, presented “tacone” style. Charred/burnt aroma on the flour tortilla. Substantially underseasoned, and comes off as burnt and bland. That line between char and burnt is quite fine. I think I would’ve been ok with the level of char if it was seasoned more aggressively. The prawns were cooked perfectly though, juicy and bursting in the mouth, so their technique is good. Actual flavours need a bit of tweaking.
Chickpea Bruschetta ($7 during happy hour) with fresh naan and spiced yogurt. I kinda hate this dish — the concept and the eating of it. That might be Earls’ or Cactus Club’s idea of “bruschetta”, but to me it looks more like pico de gallo with chickpeas. Awkward to eat cleanly. I’m all for playful experimentation, but how far can you stretch a concept until it breaks? What happened to bruschetta like this:
33 Acres of Nirvana IPA (7%). It took 33 Acres a couple years before finally put out an IPA, but it’s a great, approachable one. Balance of pine, citrus, bitterness, and sweetness.
Those foam rings mean the glass is clean! Not just clean, but “beer clean”. Excellent.
I’m a bit conflicted about The Blind Sparrow. It’s a solid neighborhood place for reasonably-priced craft beer, but the happy hour food is a bit wonky. Good technique (aside from the burnt tasting prawn tacos), so they can cook…but I have a feeling that what we ate isn’t a full representation of what they can do. I’ll have to return for a closer look.