micro bar●bites in downtown Kelowna is so small that, as Chef Rod Butters puts it, “we don’t even capitalize the ‘m’ in micro.”
By Lawrence Herzog
It’s just 900 square feet, designed around a 65-foot-long bar, custom built by local wood craftsman Will Brundula of Heartland Millworks.
Brundula crafted it using three species of reclaimed wood, and assembled the end cuts like a jigsaw puzzle. The bar is surrounded by grey stone and Italian-style plaster walls applied in a four-stage technique that dates from the 1700s. Above the bar, a custom 20-ft. wooden chandelier and antique-style caged lights lend a vibrant, warm ambience.
Only three doors down from their other business, the acclaimed RauDZ Regional Table, micro bar●bites is the realization of an idea that Butters and co-owner Audrey Surrao have been kicking around for years, she says. “We started running wait times after we opened RauDZ in 2009, and instead of sending away that business for an hour plus, we decided to open a space and reclaim that beverage revenue.”
When the diminutive space became available, they wrapped their micro business plan around it, launched a complete reno, and opened in late 2013. Brock Bowes, winner of the 2015 Chopped Canada, came on as executive chef in 2014.
Tips to bite into for a new concept
- Bigger isn’t always better. Generate more sales by turning a small space into a cozy, welcoming place. It pays to invest in quality workmanship and materials for the long term.
- Be creative and simple. You don’t need pretension or fancy stemware; just simple tumblers and a casual attitude that encourages easy relaxation and fun times with friends. “Creatively simple is what we call it,” Surrao explains. “The kind of place that just wraps around you and encourages you to come back again and again.”
- Create twists on simple small bites. Bowes and Butters and their talented kitchen team change their tapas menu monthly, reflecting seasonality and regional flavours. On the charcuterie board are Okanagan apricot sausage, Bison Hunter salami, house-made jerky, country style terrine and spiced coppa. There are shucked oysters, beef tartare, crispy chicken drumsticks, country style terrine, cornmeal gnocchi, to name a few.
- Build excitement with beverages. Their beverage menu showcases an ever-changing selection of beers and wines from around the world and some barrel-aged hi-balls, too. Every day from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., they offer five menu items at only $5 each, plus $2 off pints.
- Offer plates for sharing and drinks for fun. “Make them interesting, creative and ever changing,” Surrao says. “That keeps our customers happy. The Okanagan is more sophisticated now, more adventurous, and it’s great to be part of it, and to have seen the growth and evolution over the years.”