KASK Late Night Drinks and Culinary Delights

by Frank Peebles, photos by Christos Sagiorgis and Bo Dannefaer

SCENE PG PROFILE – KASK TAPROOM & EATERY

If you've been missing your friends in the last few weeks, the best guess is you'll find them soaking in a cast. Or rather, a Kask. No problem. There's a 17-foot wooden plank table right down the middle, with plenty of seating and a lot of more intimate tables all around the room. You've got a space of your own just waiting. Don't worry about being late to the party. Late is what Kask Taproom does best.  They open at 3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Mid-week they are open till midnight, and all the way to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It's a unique schedule. No one else in the city has it. In fact, no one else in the province has it, and they had to lobby Victoria hard to earn the special privilege. "We are the only one of our kind," said owner Ross Birchall. "We are the only food-primary location in B.C. that has a liquor license and is allowed to be open until 3 a.m. I had to work for months to get that designation approved, and it worked." The City of Prince George was an early supporter of the idea, which helped change the regulators' minds in Victoria. City Hall personnel knew that Birchall's proposal would change the face of the city's downtown, and inject a new kind of life into our local economy. The business model looked a little like a restaurant, a bit like a pub, but it was sufficiently different from either one, so it opened on Nov. 18 as its own special thing. Kask serves beer, but only the craft-brewed kind and only fresh from a keg. Also, there is no live entertainment. The only outside stimulation is a pair of moderate TVs playing things like classic movies and occasional sports events. "Other places are good at live entertainment. That's not for us," said Birchall. "People come here for the food, for the unique beer, and for the people.

This is a place made for socializing. I love that people get up from their table and move around, talking to other people all over the room." The place itself is a conversation piece. Most tables are made of B.C. maple slabs still wearing their living edges. Some are made of reclaimed cable spools. The bricks were recycled from demolition projects. The bar shelves are cut from local birch. The beer comes served on blocks of wood reclaimed from old barns in Saskatchewan. The black-and-white photos on the wall depict industrial scenes from local days gone by. "Right down to the decor, we at Kask embrace and celebrate the industry characterizations that created Prince George in the first place, and the people who fuel them to this day," said Birchall. The beer comes in a variety of glasswear, but the most popular way to get some suds at Kask is to order a flight. That's a set of 10 mini-glasses in a cluster (there's a 5-glass option, too). Each flight vessel provides a different beer to sample. It's the perfect amount to drink yourself over the course of a visit with friends, or to swap around to learn new tastes and breweries as a group. About half the sudsy options come from all over the small-batch world, and the other half comes from the exciting new B.C. collection of craft brews. Some of the labels are from right in our own region. The food comes in full menu form, and it, too, emphasizes sharing. The Kask kitchen crew looks first to the local area for its ingredients. There are salads, wings, burgers, sandwiches, fries, desserts, and a number of specialty items handmade in-house (kimchi quesadilla, pinche tacos, goa bhaji, Indonesian satays, etc.). The attention to authentic taste and nutrition makes Kask a standup new edition to the close-knit culinary family in downtown Prince George.

"We came out of the gate hot, with a full beer program, a full kitchen program, and as we go forward, we are going to continue to keep the favourites and mix in some new things," Birchall said. When the tall revolving Kask sign above the building went operational, its bold black-and-red vibrancy helped complete a key downtown puzzle. For the first time in recent business memory, all commercial spaces are occupied on Specialty Ave. - the block of 4th Avenue between Quebec and Dominion Streets. Kask was the last piece everyone was waiting for. It became a living example of the new momentum radiating out of the city's downtown core. Kask also expresses the idea that Prince George now has a social life every bit as stylish and contemporary as Yaletown and Gastown in Vancouver, the new pop in Victoria's urban core, Portland, Seattle's Capital Hill district, and now our very own version of vitality. It comes in the form of a dashing downtown, it comes in the form of warm spaces for warm conversations, and it comes in a Kask.

WGO2016, FeaturedNorm Coyne