Acres of Lions’ Top 10 Favourite Haunts of Home

Victoria’s Acres of Lions seems like a band perpetually on the verge of something big. From their ongoing success in the Peak Performance Project, to international record distribution, to their insane touring schedule, Acres has all the hallmarks of a hard-working indie rock band. “We’ve always been honest with ourselves about who we are as a band and what we do,” said lead vocalist and guitarist Jeff Kalesnikoff. “We’ve always just been who we are. We play simple music but we play it with energy and care and passion.”

Like many bands these days, they find themselves back at 9-5 jobs between recording and touring — but the goodwill and attention they built up over several years of touring has kept the momentum going. “The amount of traction we’re still getting on radio and elsewhere lets us go back to our jobs and careers and still have a job in songwriting, and that gives us hope… Right now honestly we’re just working.” The band is slowly putting together material for their fourth studio album, which is shaping up to be their most intentional work. “It’s time that we slowed down and actually took the song where it’s supposed to be, because that’s what matters at the end of the day.”

Both Jeff and bassist Dan Ball moved to Victoria in 2005 from their hometown of Nelson. The city meant an opportunity to establish a new band without being lost in the noise of a larger city like Vancouver. “We had a band previously out there, it was kind of like a punk rocky band, and we toured a little bit in BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan,” said Dan. “Victoria was where we had a lot of friends, we had friends in a band called Theset, Italian Edition, Counting Heartbeats, Aidan Knight was our friend, we just knew a lot of guys who were the same age as us doing the same thing as us.” It wasn’t long before the food culture sucked them in for good. “You could just walk down the place until you saw a sign that you liked and get something amazing every time, and it still rings true today.” Jeff agreed. “We kept coming back here and we ended up calling this place home for basically that exact reason.”

 

Jeff, Dan and I met up at the Argyle Attic for some pints and they were kind enough to share their carefully curated top ten list of the places they miss most on tour.

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Garrick’s Head Pub, 66 Bastion Square

D: “Number one on our list, and it’s gotta be at the top, is Garrick’s Head.”

J: “Oh is this going in order?”

D: “No, I just want Garrick’s Head to be at the top. It was one of the places we found when we first moved here, before it expanded, and it was our “Cheers” for a long time. Still is. It was one of the those places where you didn’t have to make plans, you could just go in and meet friends.”

J: “I think Dan and I over the last six or seven years spent our birthdays there when we weren’t on tour, and it’s got the best beers on tap. We were a little apprehensive when it expanded, we were used to the fireplace and cozy space and now it’s hard to get in there sometimes on a weekend night. It might super cheesy and nostalgic, but we still get the same table back next to the fireplace.”

D: “We had our first proper band meetings there, when we first got signed to Cordova Bay Records we went in there to look over the draft and they were like, what are you boys doing reading a legal document? You guys usually just talk about bullshit, music and hockey!”

 

Brickyard Pizza, 784 Yates Street

J: “Number two, I’m gonna go with the Brickyard, again it’s one of the places we used to hang out when we were younger and it’s still the place I think of when I wanna get pizza and beer. It’s such a great location and it’s still hip to me, it’s the place to be especially before or after an event it’s sort of the transitional restaurant or hangout.”

D: “The thing I like about it most of all is it’s one of those on the fence places, you can go in for the quickest beer and slice ever, you can be in and out in ten minutes or you can spend three hours and it doesn’t matter.

J: “And the bottom line is their pizza is good, it’s real good. When we play shows at Sugar, after our sets we try to make it there before the last band plays or before it closes.”

 

Foo Ramen Bar, 762 Broughton Street

J: “It’s a new spot, it’s a new hip place. I happen to work there, I’m actually the Kitchen Manager there and I quite enjoy it. The owners of Foo Asian Street Food, it’s a passion of theirs, they traveled the world eating ramen — kinda like us! I foresee it doing really well in the winter; it’s a little slow right now for hot noodle soup but it’s a very comfortable place, very good vibe when you come in and there’s something for everybody.

D: “Everyone in my office at The Zone can’t stop talking about it.”

J: “It takes traditional elements like the bone-based broths for the soup, but I think the nontraditional element of it is just the style that the chef has. Instead of using pork shoulder they use pork belly confit for example. The broths of the soups we make are so complex, there’s a lot of things going on and that’s what we’re trying to focus on. We’re not afraid of pushing the envelope and trying new things, and our summer menu as well, it’s not just ramen, we’re doing rice bowls, sandwiches, salads, it’s new and exciting and I’m glad to be a part of it. We actually have regulars now, which is a nice feeling after only three months. Victoria is a city that’s deserving of a place like this where you can come in, get your bowl of soup and homemade noodles and just enjoy yourself because it’s a pretty chill place.”

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Fifth Street Bar & Grill, 1028 Hillside Avenue 

J: “Is it Fifth Street Bar and Grill or is it…”

D: “Fifth Street Wood-Fired Rotisserie Grill. They found out they didn’t charge ‘em by the letter. Fifth Street is one of mine and Jeff’s very first haunts, it was right by our house when we first moved to Victoria and it was one of the first places that you noticed where they made everything from scratch, and they still do. Jeff and I ended up working there each over the years…

J: “That’s how I got started in the food service industry, I started washing dishes and slowly moved up and was cooking on the line. That’s where I kinda learned to do the whole thing, a lot of memories from that place.”

D: “And now I host a quiz night there on Mondays, which is ridiculous.”

J: “For people who live in the Quadra Village area it’s perfect, the guys that work at the Zone are there pretty much everyday and it’s the most perfect neighbourhood pub.”

D: “That’s probably the bar I drink at most.”

J: “I do miss the coconut prawns when I’m not eating them.”

 

Ulla, 509 Fisgard Street

J: “I love that place. I’ve been there twice, I know that’s not a lot of experience to name that your favourite, but I’ve never eaten anything like it. It’s all fresh, it’s all local and the chef really prides himself on that. It’s a small menu and everything is perfect. Everything you order is a deconstructed take on the real item. The pork dish they have there, you get three kinds of pork, grilled pork belly, braised pork loin, house cured ham and it’s deconstructed in such a way that each bite you get in it is something new. You get smoked cheddar and potato ravioli with braised chard and you get crabapple sauce and you can pick and choose what you get out of the dish out of the flavour options they provide, and I think its a brilliant way to keep you coming back to try something new. It’s also a perfect spot to bring a date, it’s a well lit, warm wooden room, they have all your favourite craft beers on tap, it’s elegant, it’s clean, one of those spots you wanna go back to because you had such a good experience.”

 

Big Wheel Burger, 341 Cook Street

D: “I love Big Wheel Burger. It is the equivalent of everything you want in a burger just done right. The care and attention that goes into it… It’s such a treat for me, I can’t eat there very often, but—“

J: “What are you talking about, like, you’re thin as a rail, I can barely see you.”

D: “It’s not about the weight thing, it’s more about that I’m just gonna eat carbs… Keep it fresh, keep it fresh. It’s a place that started up in Victoria kind of at the end of the burger craze, and these guys were like, we’re gonna do one thing, and we’re gonna kick so much ass at it, and you know what, it’s amazing when a restaurant has enough confidence in themselves to put only a few things on a menu and do them to the best of their ability.”

J: “That’s really what it’s all about, that’s why you go back to a restaurant, or a burger joint or a ramen bar, or yadda yadda yadda, is because they do something signature.”

D: “Big Wheel is just like, we’re gonna make the best burgers we can make, and if you love ‘em, you’re gonna love them. And it’s not everybody’s taste in burgers, there’s a reason why there’s so many burger places because you can do it so differently, but for me when I crave a burger it’s a Big Wheel. I was in Vegas a month or two ago and I made my girlfriend take a trek off the strip to go to In-N-Out Burger and it was good… But I wouldn’t go to Vegas again for it, I would stick with Big Wheel.”

J: “So you’re telling me you went to Vegas just for In –N-Out Burger?”

D: “Yes.”

J: “Well, okay, that’s weird. But you know, respectable, I can dig it.”

Below: Music video for their hit song “reaction”

Chorizo and Co., 807 Fort Street

“That place is brilliant I get exactly what I want, whenever I want it! And everything is so perfect, the sandwiches obviously but the breakfast, it’s done right, and it’s not overdone, it’s simple, it’s small, you don’t eat too much. I gotta say, the chorizo, the main sandwich there is perfect. All I ever want to eat is a sausage sandwich… Some people might call that a hot dog, I call it a sausage sandwich. The bread is grilled so perfectly, it doesn’t cut the roof of your mouth, it has that crunch, and it has that char flavour you really want when you’re eating a sausage sandwich. It also comes with Manchego cheese, which is a sweet, nutty Spanish cheese, roasted red pepper, aioli and greens. I eat three every week to keep me strong. No, I’m just kidding, but I’ve eaten there twice a week the last couple weeks on my lunch break. I think that place is nailing it. I know this is a big statement, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a better sandwich, I don’t put it down, you know what I mean? I finish it before I do anything else, before my horror comics or Doctor Who propaganda.”

 

Glo Restaurant & Lounge, 104-2940 Jutland Road

D: “Glo! There is no restaurant with a better atmosphere in town I feel. When it’s what you’re after, for a place with a great atmosphere, great view, and just, really good food for a decent price.”

J: “I’m gonna chime in and say I’ve never been there.”

D: “Dude, get it in you. The food is all carefully crafted and they have a huge amount of appetizers that are amazing. You can go for a couple of quick beers when you’re having a meeting and have some finger food but you can also go in there for a meal and it’s right on the waterway. You cannot get a better view in town at any other restaurant, you know? I cannot say enough good things about that place. I mean, it’s one of those places you’d take a girl on a first date and one you’d take her on your fourth or seventh anniversary.”

J: “That’s how I feel about Ulla.”

D: “Let’s head down there one time! Their tacos man, braised beef, so good, six bucks and you’re getting two tacos.”

 

Bon Sushi, 1467 Hampshire Road

J: “It is this tiny family run, owned and operated spot. I’ve have sushi all over the world, various coasts where they catch the fish fresh and serve it to you, I’ve never had sushi like I’ve had it at Bon Sushi. It’s the Japanese aesthetic that is really pleasing to the eye, it’s impressive and I’ve never seen such care and attention to detail as I’ve seen there. Same with the freshness of the fish, I’ve been to a lot of sushi places, when you get the sashimi, you get the raw stuff that really pushes the envelope and Bon’s sushi does it right. It’s probably one of the most charming places I’ve seen, it only seats about twenty people, not even. I’ve looked back in their kitchen and they have a stove range like we would in our apartment, no gas heat, just an electric range and their rice cookers strewn about…”

D: “I’ve seen that movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi [italics], it was just amazingly good and I really enjoyed it. I’ve seen places, it’s the way you treat it and the technique you use in doing it and that place… I’ve had sushi in a lot of places and I like weird sushi too…”

J: “You can go to Azuma, Shizo, they all present it, they all do it the same, the freshness factor is key, they all do that but when I got to Bon Sushi it’s perfect. The fish is the perfect temperature, it’s not frozen but it’s so perfectly cold it’s like it just came out of the ocean, and when I get something deep-fried it’s perfectly crispy and hot, it’s never disappointing. My girlfriend and I probably go there four times a month.”

D: “I go there about once a month and make it an event when I do do it. And it’s the only place I’ll order sashimi, not because I don’t like it anywhere else but because they’ve ruined me for other places. That place is real talk, A+.”

Photo from Acres of Lion website.

Photo from Acres of Lion website.

Smith’s Pub & The Argyle Attic, 777 Courtney Street

J: “The first thing I wanna say about Argyle Attic and Smiths is Smiths is the first place we usually come to after a gig. It’s the place we usually go after hours, it’s just always like we wanna go to Smiths, it’s dark, it’s got good music, we just always find ourselves here. We never decide to go to Smiths but at some point in the night after Brickyard after everything we seem to find ourselves here half an hour or 45 minutes before closing.”

D: “Smiths is usually the last place we head to at last call of the night, but there’s no negative connotations with that, it’s a place people meet, like-minded people meet. We all enjoy tunes, good times, we all enjoy smiles and high fives…”

J: “I hate high fives… But yeah, in that haze of friends and alcohol and pizza and adrenaline that exists after a gig, we always find ourselves there for our one last drink. Even with us not playing gigs I find myself here at least once a week.”

D: “Argyle Attic too, they’re just really cool places, aesthetically they look rad and oh, they’re playing “So What” by Miles Davis! Just heard that…”

J: “I’ll be honest I’ve only been up here a few times, but I’m really enjoying this right now, it’s nice and quiet, I know it’s a Tuesday night but yeah.”

 

After holding forth on their favourite spots for the better part of an hour, the boys were ready to hit Brickyard for some 11pm pizza. “Man we’ve listed so many things on this that are just, we’ve been coming here for years, it’s just a part of life. Garrick’s Head, Brickyard, Smith’s, life in Victoria you could say, especially being in a band.” You heard it here first.

Written By:

Vancouver-born photographer, writer and designer Sol Kauffman has had his hands dirty in restaurant kitchens for years, washing dishes and slinging pizzas. In 2008 he moved to Victoria to pursue a BFA in Creative Writing at UVic ...

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