Three Early Seafood Nosheries

CVA 99-3895 - Hotel Pennsylvania [at 412 Carrall Street] 1931 Stuart Thomson

CVA 99-3895 – Hotel Pennsylvania (at SE corner Carrall and Hastings) and adjacent to it, Old Country Fish & Chips at 6 East Hastings (street level in the Desrosiers block); just a few doors east on Hastings was the Only; and just about a block north of here was Oyster Bay Cafe at the SE corner of Cordova and Carrall (kitty-corner from the Boulder Hotel). At the time this photo was made, Vancouver City Hall was in the Holden Building (the 10-storey structure adjacent to the Desrosiers block), so I expect that city employees made up a large proportion of the seafood customers at these three nearby restaurants. 1931. Stuart Thomson.

Once upon a time in the City of Vancouver there were three major seafood restaurants in the vicinity of Hastings and Carrall Streets. Yes, I said three not only the Only – which was one of the three and certainly the most recent of them to close its doors. There was also Old Country Fish & Chips just a few doors west of the Only on Hastings and Oyster Bay Cafe just a block north from the other two on the SE corner of Carrall and Cordova. I’ll give less attention to the Only, as its story is pretty fully detailed elsewhere.

Oyster Bay Cafe

This was certainly the earliest of the three to be in business. It seems to have been the first restaurant in Vancouver run by George Clayton Leonard, who would become well known as the proprietor of the local coffee shop concern that would be established a few years later and be known as Leonard’s Cafe.¹ While Leonard cut his teeth at the Oyster Bay Cafe, he didn’t own it for very long. Within about 6 years, he seems to have sold the seafood restaurant. It had a string of owners over its 50+ years in business. It ultimately closed in about 1948.

CVA 447-44 - Oyster Bay Cafe Building Carrall Street and Cordova Street ca 1947 W E Frost

CVA 447-44 – Oyster Bay Cafe Building at Carrall and Cordova Streets. ca 1947. W E Frost.

Old Country Fish & Chips

This “chippy” was located on the unit block of East Hastings at Carrall Street (6 East Hastings – where Liberty Market is located today). It was on the street level of the two-storey structure that was built by Magloire Desrosiers at about the turn of the 20th century and known since then as the Desrosiers Block

Old Country was an early entree into the restaurant business for another fellow whose name would become associated with the mainstream restaurant biz in Vancouver: Bert Love (Love’s Cafe and Grill). He seems to have opened the chippy with a partner (John Dobson) in 1916 at 334 Carrall, just a block from the Oyster Bay. However, within a couple years of opening, Bert shed both that early location and his partner. He moved the shop up to the Desrosiers block, where it would remain for the rest of its life. By 1922, Love had sold Old Country to J. S. Johnston, who owned it until the early 1930s. Old Country Fish & Chips closed its doors for the last time in 1933 (when it became the Rex Cafe until the early 1950s). Later, another entrepreneur would try to make a go of running a chippy at this location: The No. 1 Coney Island Seafood Restaurant (see the final photo in this post).

CVA 99-3455 - The Original Old Country Fish and Chips store [6 East Hastings Street] 1923 Stuart Thomson

CVA 99-3455 – “The Original” Old Country Fish and Chips shop [6 East Hastings Street]. 1923. Stuart Thomson.

Only Fish & Oyster

the-only.pngThe Only, of seahorse signage fame, was opened in about 1918 – although not as the Only until about 1924.³ It endured for more than 90 years, until 2009. It was owned by Nick Thados and his brother-in-law (I’m assuming) Gust Tohodar and the Thados heirs after Nick’s death. For more about the Only, see the link above and many other accounts of the shop’s story available online.



The Only Seafood Interior (Taken through front window) - Closed. ca 2014

The interior of the Only (taken through front window, before the windows were boarded up, just a few weeks after this image was made). Closed. ca 2014. Author’s photo.

CVA 791-0793 - 412 Carrall Street Jan 1986-2

CVA 791-0793 – Lone Star Hotel (former the Pennsylvania; aka Woods Hotel) and the No. 1 Coney Island Seafood Restaurant (where the Old Country Fish & Chip Shop formerly was located); the Only was still operating a couple of doors up Hastings; but the Oyster Bay Cafe had, by this time, was no more. Jan 1986.


¹Leonard’s local coffee chain seemed to begin in about 1907 as the Coffee Palace and about a year later under his own name. George seems to have engaged in latter-day public relations, however – aka fibbing – when he indicated on later signage that Leonard’s Cafe had been operating since 1892!

²Desrosiers was a tinsmith and built the building initially to house his stove shop. The building has been in a very poor state for a number of years; it is encouraging to see that renovation work has begun on the block, recently.

³The shop was originally known simply under the name of Gust Tohodar. Nick Thodos and his heirs ran the Only for most of its years in business. Before the Only was at 20 East Hastings, there was another seafood shop there, briefly, known as the Vancouver Oyster Saloon. It lasted for just a year or so, starting in 1916.

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