Since opening in January of 2018 in East Van, Aleph Eatery has garnered rave reviews for its thoughtful takes on Middle Eastern vegetarian eats. But when COVID-19 hit, Aleph’s owner Haitham El Khatib was sent searching for answers.
“We had to adjust and go where the money was,” says El Khatib, noting that the restaurant closed dine-in service on weekdays. “I was driving around the city and seeing other businesses doing well and thinking 'What are they doing that we’re not doing?’”
So El Khatib reduced Aleph’s menu and moved to a more takeout-friendly operation. But he noticed that, after the change, the restaurant’s resources weren’t being used particularly well. “I had been contemplating the idea of having a ghost kitchen for awhile, and suddenly it clicked,” he recalls.
That idea was vegan hot dogs done well with high-end ingredients and interesting concepts: “I just wanted to do something fun and a bit different than the regular hot dog, because it’s all vegan,” he says.
The concept was launched earlier this week under the name Wurst of Us and El Khatib says it’s going quite well so far. “It’s been awesome to be honest, I just got a message from my chef saying, ‘If it stays like this I think we’re going to have to hire someone.’”
The menu items all feature dog-related names, like the El Perro with pink onions, jalapeno and charred corn and the Inu, a Japanese take with pickled cabbage, wasabi mayo and nori. They can be ordered for takeout or delivery.
El Khatib also has a fairly out-of-the-box idea for a Valentine’s Day promotion. “We’re going to ask people to tag those who bring out the Wurst of them on Instagram,” he says with a hearty laugh. “People are already connecting a lot with the concept.”