Charlie’s gets new name, new menu

Downtown Vancouver restaurant owners turn focus to whiskey & tapas

Charlies Bistro

With a recent rebranding of Charlie’s Bistro in downtown Vancouver, the five-year owners are poised to capitalize on an exploding interest in whiskey and tapas bars.

Charlie’s Bodega Tapas & Whiskey Bar was unveiled on January 9th after light renovations wherein carpet was removed to expose the concrete floor underneath, the mirrored back bar was replaced with more stream-lined shelving, light fixtures were changed out and heavy curtains were taken down.

The real change is in the food and drink menus. One tapas at a time owners Peter and Lisa Dougherty (proprietors of downtown’s La Bottega, as well) are looking to educate customers on Spanish cuisine.

“We’re going as authentically Spanish (with Charlie’s) as we try to keep La Bottega Italian,” Lisa said.

Patrons will see pinchos (appetizer-sized portion of food presented on a skewer), tapas (appetizer-sized portion of food served on a plate) and raciónes (entrée-sized portions). Authentic dishes like patatas bravas, paella, an array of bocatas (sandwiches) and bacalao (salty cod that pairs beautifully with the acidic white wines of Spain) are just some of the options available.

Thursday night wine and whiskey tastings will help highlight the complete bar revamp. Charlie’s Bodega opened with 32 local, regional and international whiskeys with hopes of increasing that count to 60 in the future. Wines are predominantly Spanish and Portuguese with a few Northwest favorites kept for familiarity including Vancouver’s own Burnt Bridge Cellars.

One thing that hasn’t changed at Charlie’s Bodega is the staff except to add a couple more positions which puts them at seven full-time employees and soon-to-be four part-timers.

“Our staff means the world to us so they’ve been with us pretty much since the beginning,” said Lisa.

Whiskey aficionado and long-time bartender, Matt Magness, has been tasked with educating the staff on this spirit that has seen a significant increase in sales across genders over the last year in the U.S. market. In fact, a recent report in Forbes Magazine cited that 37 percent of whiskey drinkers are now women.

A growing food scene

Jacob Schmidt, spokesman for Visit Vancouver USA, pointed out that restaurants and attractions translate to tourism dollars for local economies. He quoted the latest Washington State Travel Impact Report that visitors alone spent $116 million on food and drink services in Clark County in 2013.

“We’re always really pleased when new restaurants open or restaurants like Charlie’s rebrand to embrace new dining trends. I think that – the tapas bar and the whiskey bar – those are both kind of hot dining trends right now,” said Schmidt.

As residents of the Carter Park neighborhood, the Dougherty’s enjoy living, working and playing in downtown Vancouver.

“We love the people. We love the concept. We love the small town feel,” Lisa said. “We absolutely love doing business down here. We wouldn’t be anywhere else.”

Charlie’s Bodega Tapas & Whiskey Bar is located at 1220 Main St. in Vancouver.