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New downtown Vancouver restaurants have appetite for authenticity

‘Country dive bar,’ Georgian eatery find their place in Clark County food scene

By , Columbian business reporter
Published: October 20, 2019, 6:03am
16 Photos
Owners Ella Bakh, left, and her son, Nick, opened Dediko, a new Georgian restaurant in downtown Vancouver. The restaurant is the realization of a lifelong dream for Ella Bakh, who decided to leave her career as a florist and attend culinary school to pursue her passion for cooking. She said she hopes her new restaurant will introduce traditional Georgian food to a new audience of American customers. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian)
Owners Ella Bakh, left, and her son, Nick, opened Dediko, a new Georgian restaurant in downtown Vancouver. The restaurant is the realization of a lifelong dream for Ella Bakh, who decided to leave her career as a florist and attend culinary school to pursue her passion for cooking. She said she hopes her new restaurant will introduce traditional Georgian food to a new audience of American customers. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The past year has seen a near-constant stream of new restaurant openings and announcements at The Waterfront Vancouver, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the downtown restaurant scene has been quiet.

Two of the newest additions to the downtown lineup opened in the past two months: Dediko, a Georgian restaurant in the Vancouver Marketplace building, 210 W. Evergreen Blvd Suite 700, and Six Shooter, a self-described country dive at 611 Main St.

Both restaurants are located in spots with long histories as food destinations, and they’re each trying to update downtown Vancouver with new and unique food concepts.

Six Shooter

Six Shooter was co-created by a team of four Portland bar industry veterans who found a shared vision for a relaxed, inviting “country dive”-style establishment: Matt Elzie, Annie Maduzia, Alec Van Rossum and Carson Riddle.

The location is familiar: 611 Main St. has been home to a number of restaurants in just the past decade, including Gold Rush, Boomers, Mama’s Kitchen and My Brother’s Crawfish.

The idea originated with Elzie and Maduzia. Both are Pacific Northwesterners with rural roots, and they found a shared vision in imagining the sort of country bar vibe that would remind them of home.

“Every time I go into a bar like this, I’d feel back at home,” Maduzia said.

They brought on Van Rossum to develop the branding and marketing, along with Riddle. Van Rossum said he’d also had a longtime dream of starting a bar and quickly bought in to the vision, a “nod to classic Western dives.”

The group began looking for locations in the Portland region. They didn’t have a particular city in mind, Elzie said, but they did have a specific vision for the kind of interior space and surrounding neighborhood.

Maduzia eventually found a listing for the vacated restaurant space on Main Street, and after a visit the group quickly decided that they’d found the right place.

The group opted to maintain the general layout of the existing space, Elzie said, but nearly every surface and detail was refinished to create a consistent aesthetic. That meant a new floor, a new ceiling and all new booths and furniture.

The pool tables from the previous iteration have been maintained, but they’ve been joined by pinball machines, a Big Buck Hunter arcade game and a saloon-style photo booth. There’s also a stage for musical acts and karaoke nights, and the nearby tables can be rolled away to open up a dance floor.

The goal was to evoke a country feel that visitors might recognize from movies, Van Rossum said, describing it as like “The Double Deuce (from “Road House”) but with less karate fights.”

“We wanted vintage ’70s and ’80s honky-tonk, but more like something you’d see on a movie set,” Van Rossum said. “Every picture people take here is clearly (going to be at) our bar.”

The country aesthetic extends to the menu choices, too. Elzie said the group began reaching out to nearby businesses and residents during the buildout phase, and the feedback included pleas for a full-scale restaurant rather than just a bar with food.

So the group decided to eschew items like burgers, chicken strips and wings to focus instead on home-style comfort food like meatloaf and mac-n-cheese, leaning further into Six Shooter’s hometown vibe.

The group members acknowledge the building’s recent high turnover rate, but they said it’s not a concern for them.

“If you have a good concept and a good business plan, whatever was in there before doesn’t matter,” Elzie said.

And while the names and owners may have come and gone, the building itself has a long and consistent history as a downtown bar and restaurant. There’s even an historical country connection, Elzie notes — local lore holds that a young Willie Nelson sometimes visited between shifts as a radio DJ in Vancouver in the 1950s.

(There’s no specific record of Nelson visiting the bar, which was known at the time as The Pastime Tavern, but he did work at the former KVAN AM radio station located less than a block away, so the legend could be categorized as unconfirmed but plausible).

Several of the visitors in the first few weeks were regulars at Boomers. There have also been other denizens of downtown Vancouver and newcomers from Portland.

The staff is fairly spartan to begin with, consisting of the four co-founders, a lead chef and two cooks. The plan is for that roster to grow as the place gets busier, Van Rossum said, but all of the founders wanted to take a very hands-on approach to operations.

Dediko

The other newcomer is Dediko, run by mother-and-son team Ella and Nick Bakh (the latter of whom goes by the name Nico).

The restaurant is located in one of the suites at the Vancouver Marketplace building on the northeast corner of Evergreen Boulevard and Columbia Street. The space was formerly occupied by Woody’s Tacos, but the new restaurant bears little resemblance to its predecessor.

It’s the realization of a lifelong dream for Ella Bakh, who grew up in Georgia and moved to the United States in 1996. She loved cooking from a very young age, she said, but ended up working as a florist.

She stayed in that field for more than 20 years, she said, but the floral industry began to feel the impact from grocery store competition. One of the side effects, she said, was that more and more of the florist businesses ended up focusing on funerals, and it began to weigh on her.

She wanted to pursue her passion for cooking, and began exploring culinary school options. She said she was initially concerned that she was too old to embark on a restaurant career, but decided to go forward after receiving encouragement from both school representatives and her own mother.

She completed courses at the Northwest Culinary Institute in Vancouver, which included an internship in her hometown, Georgia’s capital city of Tbilisi. After getting back, she began looking for a restaurant space. Nick Bakh put his college studies on hold to help out, using his artistic skills to design the interior.

Ella Bakh said Georgian meals tend to be enormous family affairs, so she initially envisioned a very large restaurant — but the Vancouver Marketplace location ended up being plenty to manage.

Nick Bakh said they wanted the restaurant to have a Georgian look and feel while still fitting comfortably into the modern American food landscape. That turned out to be a tricky balance to strike, he said, especially because there aren’t very many examples of Georgian restaurants in America.

There are several local Mediterranean places and a few eastern European options, but Portland only has one specifically Georgian restaurant — Kargi Gogo — and Vancouver has none. So the family went to New York for inspiration, and investigated two Georgian restaurants — one that they said had a traditional design and atmosphere, and one that went with a modern American look and feel.

“We wanted to look at those two and make a balance,” Nick Bakh said. “A lot of this is experimenting.”

The tables and counters at Dediko emphasize wood elements that are designed to evoke the warm atmosphere of urban restaurants in Georgia, which tend to feature a lot of balconies. The shelves bear lines of Georgian clay pots for serving hot food, as well as bottles of Georgian wine.

On the more modern side, the restaurant uses an order-at-the-counter system for lunch, which Nick Bakh describes as a nod to the grab-and-go restaurant scene.

The restaurant’s name and logo draw their inspiration from Kartlis Deda, a monument in Tbilisi that depicts a woman in traditional Georgian dress, holding a cup of wine in one hand and a sword in the other. The statue’s name translates to Mother of Georgia.

The restaurant takes its name from the word Deda, meaning “mother.” According to Ella Bakh, “Dediko” translates as the more affectionate term “mommy” — which is the name she came to be known by among her follow chefs and students when she was interning in Tbilisi.

The restaurant had a soft opening on Aug. 21. The Bakhs said they started with a limited number of items and slowly ramped up to the full menu as they got a better feel for how the restaurant would operate.

Ella Bakh said the menu is still a relatively small sampling of Georgian dishes, but she didn’t want to overwhelm new customers who are unfamiliar with the region’s food, where dumplings, marinated grilled meat and cheese bread are popular dishes.

Once the restaurant has been around longer there will be opportunities to add in new items like seasonal dishes and specials, she said.

“I want to introduce the American people to this food,” Ella Bakh said.

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