Vegan New West – the New Kids on the Block

Whether vegan, veg-curious, taking part in veganuary, or just into good food, New West is becoming something of a vegan mecca. Delicious options are everywhere and more restaurants are offering veg menus or items that are specifically marked. It’s good to be vegan in New West!

V Cafe – 789 Carnarvon St

Warning – gushing ahead.

I love V Cafe. There, I said it. I could eat at V every single day, but usually try to keep it to a modest 2-3 times weekly. Look, I’m not the only one – whenever I go in, I usually recognize half the folks as regulars.

Nadine’s V Cafe How-To Guide

Everything looks delicious, but you can’t eat it all in one go.

Start with the lemongrass chicken salad roll. One order comes with two generous rolls.

Don’t be embarrassed that you’ve been back three days in a row. You are now ready to move on to the pho. They’ve also got a curry soup with noodles or bun that is a great cold weather meal.

Is the top of your mouth scalded from daily pho consumption? You may now want to progress to the banh mi. I’m partial to the lemongrass chicken but their entire fake meat selection is delicious (and I’m not even a fake meat person! I’ve brought in non-veg folks and they were overwhelmed by the yumminess too!). I like a banh mi with their small bowl of soup.

You are now ready. Order the vermicelli salad bowl. It’s everything in one big party – different types of fake meat including the lemongrass chicken, vermicelli noodles, thinly cut veggies, the sunshine salad dressing. I have more to say about it, but you’ll have to excuse me…I’ve got to head over to V Cafe to get my fix.

Insider tip – ask for their homemade hot sauce!

Wild Thyme– 705 12th St

If you haven’t yet tried Wild Thyme, I’m not sure I should even be telling you about it. New West’s worst kept secret, this little gem is located on 12th Street. They recently expanded from a teeny, tiny hole in the wall restaurant. Prepare yourself: it packs a garlic punch.

Step 1. Bring a friend. The portions are big enough to share.

Step 2. Let the owner know you’re vegan and order the cauliflower bowl.

Step 3. Dig into the warm pita fresh from the oven, fluffy and breathing off hot steam. Use your fingers.

Step 4. Salad.

Step 5. Loosen your pants and dig into the cauliflower bowl.

Step 6. Pack the leftovers in the Tupperware you wisely brought along.

At one time, Wild Thyme was ranked the second-best restaurant on Yelp. Second best in Canada. For their 2017 year in review of best places to eat in Canada, Yelp placed Wild Thyme at #3.

If you think I’m exaggerating then I know you haven’t tried them yet.

Banh Mi Bar – 722 Carnarvon St

The owners are charming. The location is handy. The prices are reasonable. And they have a vegan option with vegan mayo!

I find it hard to believe that not too long ago we were almost banh mi-less in New Westminster. Fortunately for us, there has been a proliferation of Vietnamese sandwich joints open up over the past couple of years.

If you like crusty bread, this is a great option. I like it with hot sauce and jalapeños — what’s your banh mi styling?

Pizzeria Ludica – 601 Carnarvon St

 Like vegan pizza? What about board games? Pizzeria Ludica just opened in New West and it seems to be a roaring success. Roll the dice and check out this new restaurant! Ludica substitutes daiya cheese at no extra cost and their crust is vegan. I recommend the cheesey spinach which has three types of cheese you can substitute out. Sub daiya, mushrooms, and ….? They have a pretty decent selection of board games and the staff will teach you how to play new games. I’m currently 2-0 at Battleship if anyone wants to challenge me!

Pho Pho You – 441 Columbia St

 Noodles? Hot soup? I’m in.

When this spot on Columbia Street first opened up, I popped my head inside and was disappointed to find out they didn’t have anything vegan. I was delighted to learn that not too long after this encounter they created an entirely veg menu!

They have a regular pho and a spicy pho that come with all the fixings – mint leaves, bean sprouts, lime.

I’ve had great and not-so-great experiences with their spring rolls – the great experience was good enough that I’ll definitely give them another go and I encourage you to try for yourself!

Warm up on the cold and mucky days ahead with some glorious soup!

Ramen Hachi -120-888 Carnarvon St

This newly opened spot in the New West skytrain station has only three soup options at the time of writing, one of which is vegan! The noodles are on the thin side, the broth flavourful with a healthy helping of sesame seeds. They also have a vegan gyoza option. I found the gyoza dry-ish, but also a refreshing change from overly oily dumplings. The service was an absolute A+.

If you’re a noodle aficionado like me, you’re sure to appreciate this place. The ramen drought in New West is over!

Piva – 787 Columbia St

If you can’t already tell from by my restaurant recommendations, I’m not the trendiest person in town. I did try Piva soon after they opened after hearing they have a separate vegetarian/vegan menu. They are located on the happening corner at 8th and Columbia Street, in the base of the Anvil Centre. The view from the windows is pure New West. The restaurant is beautiful and the service excellent. I’m infinitely grateful whenever restaurants identify vegan options or items that can be made vegan. It always saves the awkwardness of asking, the server having to go ask the chef, then returning to say that no, it has eggs or cheese, then having to look at the menu and ask about another item initiating a repeat of the process.

I digress. I tried the margarita pizza subbing some of the most delicious mushrooms I’ve eaten recently for cheese. My dining partner had the nono pasta. His pasta was good, but did I mention the mushrooms? Juicy and flavourful. Next time I might just have the mushrooms. And wine. Definitely worth a try if you’re going for a fancy night out.


Housing Hackathon

I highly suspect you’ve heard much about how housing prices in the Lower Mainland have ricocheted out of control. High housing costs affect everyone – families looking for their first family home, trying to shorten their commute, or sizing up with an extra bedroom; seniors downsizing since property taxes have escalated as the value of their homes has gone up; renting searching for something clean, affordable, and in the right location; or students who want to be close to their college or university.

The average price of rent for one bedroom in Vancouver reached $1950 over the summer and while New Westminster prices are not as elevated as Vancouver, it’s still nearly impossible to find affordable housing.

The City of New Westminster just approved a new Official Community Plan (OCP)—the planning of which took over three years with numerous public engagement opportunities. The OCP provides a blueprint for the city and updating this important document sparked ongoing debate and discussion about how the city can best incorporate density in order to try to mitigate inflated housing prices and to provide space for the growing population.

Every single day, I hear about housing problems – extensive BC Housing waitlists, friends being forced out of the city to find appropriate housing, bidding wars for rental units, fixed term leases, long waits at the Residential Tenancy Branch, increasing density in areas without the amenities to support it. I want to talk about solutions—the more ambitious the better. Often, we are hemmed in by what is most likely, but what if we instead talked about the wildest, most audacious solutions of which we’ve ever heard or dreamed? What if we boldly brought in the best solutions from around the world and tailored them to fit our communities? Have you ever wanted to carve out time to brainstorm with a group of diverse and creative people about housing solutions? Do you have an idea you want to put out and receive feedback on? Then let’s hack.

The Housing Hackathon is organized by Yes in New West, a local housing advocacy group and hosted by Billard Architecture. Using an Open Space Technology format, we’re going to “hack” solutions to the housing crisis. There’s limited space so you can reserve your ticket on Eventbrite.

Not a hacker in the traditional sense? Join us! Are you a renter? We need your voice and experience! Are you a realtor, a developer, an architecture or other housing professional? We want to hear from you! If you’re interested, but feel intimidated by the language of hacking – don’t be! You don’t have to be an expert to attend, but just have an interest in housing and an openness to sharing ideas. We’re going to take the ideas generated at the event and share them with the appropriate folks, thereby turning ideas into advocacy.

Fear and Hope

I made the mistake of watching the video. I’m sure you know the one I’m talking about: it involves tiki torches and chanting.

And while I’m not an American citizen, I felt real, visceral fear while watching the video. I imagined what it felt like to be surrounded by a horde of people, holding a sign like a shield and knowing all too well how these types of situations often end.

Early this year, Nazi imagery popped up in our city like a noxious weed. The community rallied together, but it became impossible for anyone to try to deny that racism exists here.

It is terrifying to think that the type of hate that was so apparent during the Second World War is showing itself so openly again. While I have an incredible amount of privilege, like so many others I also have intergenerational trauma embedded in my family history. The story of racism – of being put in animal pens and having fishing boats and transistor radios seized, of being interned – is as real as the slant of my eyes. It’s forever intertwined with my hard-to-pronounce last name. I’ve heard many others speak of how these images are impacting them physically, reminding them of their parents and their grandparents. Making them afraid for their children.

When I graduated from high school, I told people I wanted to change the world. People laughed at me: “How funny and idealistic! How naive!” But when I worked in social services, I trained hundreds of volunteers. These volunteers were often young women who wanted to be social workers, police or corrections officers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs. There was a retired VPD officer, a woman who had spent thirty years working in customer service, mothers and grandmothers. I had the opportunity to talk to these women about intersectionality and harm-reduction. I got to share my passion and compassion. And they taught me about their experiences, the things they knew, what they felt strongly about. They gave generously of their time, working with marginalized and vulnerable women. Many have gone on to be community leaders and have professional careers. These women have started families and businesses.

Do you laugh at me now if I tell that I believe that this is changing the world? Talking with our friends, family, neighbours, customers, supervisors, and volunteers. Sharing a vision of a world shaped towards compassion and inclusion. It may seem like this hate has emerged from nowhere like a tidal wave, but really it was small pebbles thrown into a pond, creating ripples that radiated outwards. And we need to turn the tide back by throwing in our own pebbles, creating even bigger ripples of inclusion and acceptance.

I am afraid. But the fear hasn’t paralyzed me.

I will continue to work on issues that I believe make a difference – truth and reconciliation, inclusion and equity, public spaces and public services. I will continue to speak loudly when I see injustice, when I hear words that contain ripples of hate. I will take care of myself by spending time with animals, eating green veggies, taking deep belly breathes. I know it’s hard to keep going, but I see the work so many people are doing in New Westminster, in Canada, and in our global community.

If you feel the need to act now, residents are gathering on Thursday at Moody Park for an Open Mic against Racism starting at 7pm. Let’s gather together to show our support and stand against hatred.

And if anyone needs a hug, Gus will be happy to oblige. He gives great hugs.

Dress to Impress

Have a spiffy little number that you’re just waiting to wear out on the town? Wondering where in New West you can get away with cocktail dress on a Friday night?

Pull out your sequined gowns, dust off your bowties, and shine up your best pair of shoes! Feminist New West in Cocktail Dress is happening Friday, July 7!

Join some of your best feminist friends for a few cocktails at Wild Rice beginning at 8 PM. Loll around the lounge area looking like a million bucks while raising money for a good cause. The event is a fundraiser to provide childminding at the Feminist Unconference being held in September at the Aboriginal Gathering Place at Douglas College on unceded Coast Salish Territory.

After the event, consider a little stroll down Front Street to check out the first Friday on Front. Enjoy the heads turning in your direction as you saunter around downtown New West looking like a local celebrity in your glam duds.

*Cocktail wear is not required (wear whatever you want!), but is recommended. And after all, why not?

**You don’t need to be a feminist to attend, but feminism is recommended. After all, why not?

Q10: Albert Kamba: Building Community

Photos by Olga Zamudio

Passing along Twelfth Street, you may not notice Salon Elegant, particularly if you’re not in need of barbering services. But there’s more going on behind the black awning than one would initially guess. If you venture inside, you’ll find a lively space where you might feel drawn to sit down and hang out for a while. Albert Kamba, who runs the shop, is passionately building something of a community centre, a place where youth can be trained in the art of barbering.

There’s plenty of turnover along that strip of Twelfth Street and many shuttered businesses surround the salon, yet his business is clearly thriving.

Salon Elegant opened in 2006 as a two-chair service before expanding to the current location. Albert has a fascinating life story that includes life in the Congo and travels in Europe before becoming a one-handed barber after a car accident. There must be many stories to be told about these adventures, yet what really lights him up is talking about training young men and women. He’s surprised to hear that people have heard his story.

About eight years ago, he began by training his nephew who lived in his community. After finishing high school, the man was unsure what he wanted to do. College didn’t seem like the right fit. Albert took him in and taught him the trade. He says that young men need to be helped, they need guidance to find their way. It’s training and mentorship.

Albert calls barbering a noble job: “You meet everyone—lawyers, bus drivers, politicians…You get to know them. You help them.”

And not just with their hair. Albert tells of connecting people who need a ride from the airport and helping families who are moving. When you become a customer, you become a community member.

A visit to the salon shows the truth in his words. At 10:30am, before the salon even opens, people start to flood in. They perch comfortably in the hairdressing chairs and lounge on the couches. Albert says they often don’t want to leave after they get their haircut and hang out to continue the conversations. The atmosphere is warm and relaxed. He often adds little extras to the salon like TVs showing sports or hosting special parties. The salon is in constant flux, and this keeps it interesting.

Albert casually mentions that he’s a pretty superb barber, and there’s no reason to doubt his words. Customers flock to the salon from all over the Lower Mainland. He thinks Chilliwack, Surrey, and Maple Ridge need more barbers. He hopes that the youth he trains can one day franchise the salon to diverse locations.

“It’s not about making a million,” Albert says. “It’s about providing the service.”  

He emphasizes people from all different backgrounds come to the salon. His most recent trainee is a young woman from Vietnam. She’s already been working with him over eight months. Albert emphasizes the length of time his trainees stay with him repeatedly—eight years, six years, four years…They don’t take his training and leave, but stay on as staff and continue to work in the salon. They enjoy the lifestyle, he says, as well as the trade.

Relationships are clearly what Salon Elegant is all about. He speaks about his customers’ loyalty. They often hear about him by word-of-mouth and, he openly acknowledges, a one-handed barber is something of a novelty. But once they have their hair cut by him or one of his trainees they are hooked and become regulars.

“New Westminster made me who I am,” he says, without a hint of hesitation.

Clearly a man of ambition and vision, what is next for Albert? He has his answer at the ready: a barbering school. He has many young people requesting to learn from him and he’s not equipped to deal with the large number of requests. Without any formal or informal advertising, how do people find out about his low-key training program? Word of mouth, of course. The trainees tell their friends and those friends come to Albert requesting to be trained by him. He wants to take them all in, especially since there’s such a need for quality barbering services, but to do so he needs a formal school.

It seems obvious: the demand for quality barbers matches elegantly with the demand for his training. He can pass on what he knows about creating a strong relationship with customers and about cutting their hair just right.

The school isn’t currently in the works, but the idea is percolating. In the meantime, there are youth to be trained, the salon to be run, people to be helped with the day-to-day activities of their lives. And always hair to be cut.

Need a haircut? Check out Salon Elegant at 806 Twelfth Street or at

Truth and Reconciliation New West

2017 marks 150 years since Confederation and it is an ideal time to begin a conversation about reconciliation in the Royal City. Several municipalities have already declared 2017 to be the Year of Reconciliation. On December 5, members of the working group Truth and Reconciliation New West presented at the New Westminster City Council meeting to discuss the upcoming dialogues taking place in New Westminster.

This is the transcript of the presentation:


The Witness Blanket was created out of hundreds of items reclaimed from Residential Schools, churches, government buildings, and traditional cultural structures that include Friendship Centres, treatment centres, and more.

We are very fortunate to have this piece of artwork in New Westminster. The Witness Blanket is a national monument to recognise the atrocities of the Indian Residential School era and is a symbol of ongoing reconciliation.

It’s been a year since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada completed their work and it seems like a very fitting time to open a dialogue about Truth and Reconciliation here in New Westminster.


Aanii, Boozhoo, ’Uy’ skweyu

Greetings everyone, my name is Babs Kelly, I was born into this city, this ancestral and traditional land of the Qayqayt, 50 years ago and it is an honour to be with all of you today as we consider what reconciliation means to each and every one of us, our community, our way of being together, and our way forward.

I am the grand-daughter of Rita and Bob from Liverpool and Olds Alberta, as well as the grand-daughter of Slim and Tina, and the daughter of Marilyn, who came to BC from north eastern Ontario and the land of the Fort Albany 67 Indian Reserve.

As a young boy Slim was taken away to residential school. He came out of residential school broken, and we all inherited and internalized that brokenness. The family story goes, that Chief Dan George dipped me in the chuck in hopes of giving me something to see through the hard times. I like to think of that as my first moment of truth. My family’s truth includes a legacy of violence, addiction, survival sex work, institutionalization, self-harm, incarceration, sexual abuse, and the fear of having our children seized.

It also includes the possibility of healing – not just through individual efforts and care, or with the support of our loved ones, but with the support, and with the acceptance of the truth, from the communities we find ourselves in, no matter how far from home.

I was asked to bear witness and speak this truth to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to share my story of the legacy of the intentional harm that was done to my family. I was asked to face my shame, to keenly feel the pain of systemic and personal racism, to understand the solitude of social disconnection born out of otherness;

And now I ask you, to lead our beautiful and historic city with courage, to consider the truths revealed through the TRC, and to believe in a community that honours reconciliation and where we are all one.

I know that reconciliation is possible, and that it will take different times and different paths for all of us.

And I know, as I walked here this evening through this city, this community, and as I look around this room, that we are all one. Reconciliation is an opportunity, a hope, and a way forward with so many of the challenges that we face; it is a way of understanding and reaching new solutions and it is a way of saying that we each matter and we each care.

On behalf of my mother, my aunties and my grandmothers, chi miigwech, Huy ch q’u, and safe journeys.


Along with Erin Watkins and Nick Rowlands from the New Westminster Public Library and Hayley Sinclair from Community Volunteer Connections, we have organized a panel discussion called Community Stories of Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday, January 19 at the Anvil Centre. We have invited dignitaries to attend and the event is open to the public with childminding available. Tickets are free or by donation with proceeds being donated to Spirit of the Children Society. This will be an opportunity to have a conversation about what T&R means for people living in New Westminster.

The panel discussion will be followed by a series of kitchen table dialogues which will be smaller scale, community-led discussions from January 25-February 18. We will come back to Council after these events to report back about what we heard. More information can be found at