Until recently, Fraser and Kingsway wasn’t on Vancouver’s culinary map. A flat-iron intersection anchored by a tiny strip mall, an even smaller strip of parkland and some ramshackle storefronts, it wasn’t until French bistro Les Faux Bourgeois opened its doors in late 2009 that the area started pulling in diners from across the city — lots of them. Enough that without reservations, you’re looking at a seemingly interminable wait for a table. Luckily, that’s what happened to yours truly last Wednesday night. I say luckily, because without that line, I might never have stumbled upon Pop Up Pizza, a bare-bones hipster hangout that nonetheless has some of the best pie in town.
When co-owners Ben McGuire (formerly of Lucy’s East Side Café) and Brian Mosby (formerly of Vij’s) took over the lease at 646 Kingsway to open their dream restaurant, they faced a wait of several months for the necessary reno permits. Luckily, the abandoned diner had a pizza oven in the back, so the pair decided to make some dough slinging pies until the licensing comes through. The result is Pop Up Pizza, a temporary pizzeria that will disappear as soon as City Hall signs the paperwork for their high-end comfort food joint.
Like most transitional spaces — a first apartment or a dorm room — the décor at Pop Up is eclectic frat boy, with mismatched furniture and a big black box speaker thumping out tunes from the open turntable by the bar where guests are encouraged to spin their own vinyl. The guys’ own record collection lines the refrigerator-white walls with memory-lane ‘70s- and ‘80s-era Paul Simon, The Smiths and The The sharing space with ironic/iconic albums by Nana Mouskouri, Don Ho and Bananarama.
The limited menu, displayed on a blackboard over the front windows and table side on a photocopied, take-out style flyer, is nearly as sparse as the décor. Unlike the thrift-store furniture, however, everything that comes out of the kitchen is well-thought-out and charmingly executed. McGuire and Mosby offer up six rustic-style flatbreads with musical names ($12 – $22) that don’t skimp on local, quality ingredients. The meat-heavy Misfit boasts pungent, salty-sweet slices of rosemary wild boar sausage. The Don Ho (Hawaiian, obviously) plays sweet rum-soaked pineapple against smoky Re-Up BBQ bacon and the vegetarian Pixie gets an earthy kick from chunks of Happy Days chèvre. Also well worth trying is the signature “Lamburgini” lamb and beef burger topped with buttermilk onion rings ($13), the perfect complement to a glass of house red sangria. The indulgent $20 prix-fixe brunch is worth the reservation. Side salads, smoothies and the occasional piece of Mosby’s mom’s strawberry pie often work out to three or more courses.
Of course, the good times and good eats could pop off anytime in the next few months, so be sure to pop in before it’s gone.