If 2015 was the year of losing Edmonton music venues, 2016 is shaping up to be the year of gaining them back. So far we’ve already seen the opening of a handful of new venues, including The Alley, Chvrch of John, The Almanac and, most recently, The Needle Vinyl Tavern. Located right downtown in the old CKUA headquarters on Jasper Avenue (as apt a venue for live music as there ever was), The Needle just opened earlier in March and has already hosted a number of shows.
But just as important as the bands on stage are the food and drinks you’ll be noshing on to fuel your live music experience. Vue spoke with Wesley Littke, The Needle’s general manager, for the inside scoop on what to expect from the food and drink menus—which are printed on real vinyl.
Vue Weekly: What was the motive behind opening up The Needle?
Wesley Littke: With so many venues closing, we wanted to bring back to the heart of downtown a really great music club with a slightly higher capacity than has been seen in the past. Everyone thinks back to Sidetrack Café about having this really great story of, I met my future husband or future wife or significant other, or I had a really great time because I saw this band before they were famous at Sidetrack. But in this particular case we wanted to differentiate and also be a tavern.
VW: Tell me about the food menu you have designed.
WL: We are going with a classic American tavern menu—so burgers, steaks, appetizers, nachos, sandwiches, house-made pizza, a couple desserts. Definitely that kind of made-in-house [focus], utilizing as many local ingredients [as possible]—for example, one of our premier ingredients is Irvings Farm bacon, and we’re also using their maple sausage for our bacon-wrapped sausage bites.
VW: Who’s heading up the kitchen?
WL: Our chef is Jonah Sloss. Actually, he was my apprentice […] basically the last seven years he’s worked consulting, working with me doing consultations, working for other restaurants, fixing their menus. Before I came on board here I was a consultant. […] I’m a Red Seal chef and I’ve consulted for a lot of different business, about 25 over the last 10 years, and he’s worked alongside me.
VW: What about the drinks?
WL: On our beverage front we have eight draft taps and four wine taps—two white and two red—and about a selection of about 30 different bottles and cans in our back bar.
There’ll be a monthly feature menu once we get to that point. Of course right now everything’s new, so everything’s kind of a feature. But we’ll be doing monthly feature menus where we feature maybe the newest IPA from Alley Kat and maybe, once Two Sergeants finish moving their brewery, we’ll pick up a couple bottles and cans from them.
VW: How are you trying to differentiate The Needle from all the other pubs and bars out there?
WL: For example, on our well liquor, a lot of bars are just going for the bottom line, whereas we want to differentiate ourselves by having quality. So, our well liquor is a premium well, so we pour Crown Royal; we pour Ketel One; we pour Tanqueray. By no means is it like the Red Castle that you might find down the street somewhere else. For us it’s not about pushing products; it’s about making sure that the product stands for what we stand for.
VW: What other concepts were you focusing on with the food and drink?
WL: For us, it’s about the details. For example, right now, if you were to go to any tavern-style restaurant or bar or pub and get a burger, it would come out to you on a plate or cutting board. We’ve actually been so detailed, I went out and I created a burger box: so it’s a really unique recreation of, it looks like it’s 1930s wood. Or, for example, our menus are actually printed on vinyl.
VW: Is there anything else people should know?
WL: [For] our happy hour, not only are we featuring five-dollar draft and wine specials, we’re also having a band every day, Monday through Friday, during happy hour. We’re also doing brunch, from 10 am til 2:30 pm on Saturday and Sunday, where children will be permitted. … Our menu is economically priced, and it’s going to be exceptional quality.
The Needle Vinyl Tavern
10524 Jasper Ave