Once upon a time there was a bight-eyed young couple with a modest dream of bringing fried chicken to the good people of this rain-soaked city. It's tough to imagine but when the Downlow Chicken Shack opened in 2018 we were living in a fried chicken wasteland: there was Juke, there were a few hole-in-the-wall Korean spots, and that was it. People talked about Church's with reverence, seriously.

Well, you know the rest—a line formed for the Commercial Drive haunt and it has pretty much been there ever since (even during COVID it was slammed). I can't think of another restaurant in this city that's become so beloved in such a short period of time (maybe Savio Volpe, but that's about it).ee

READ MORE: Our Editors' Favourite Takeout Spots During Isolation

And to satisfy their customer's insatiable desire for more, owners Doug Stephen and Lindsey Mann have been busy. They opened DownLow Burgers in The American Hotel in 2019, Vennies Sub Shop in May of this year, and then a second DownLow Chicken Shack at UBC in September. And now—incredibly—they're about to launch a new venture at 1111 Commercial Drive (that's three new spots in seven months...during a flipping pandemic). Oh, and they had a baby in July 2020.

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The new spot is called Drive Canteen and I think it's fair to say that it's a pretty unique concept in the way that a convenience store that sells steamed hot dogs, insanely flavoured homemade cookies, custom sneakers, dumplings from Dicky's Dumps, Urban Art...ah, man, I'm giving up—this a starting to sound like a Stefon skit. Here's what the press release says:

The founders of DL Chicken, together with urban streetwear entrepreneur and art collector Zach Wilcox, are taking the traditional convenience store to the next level with the opening of The Drive Canteen next week. Located at 1111 Commercial Drive, snack lovers can satisfy the munchies with locally made sweet and savoury treats, tricked out hot dogs, loaded nachos, and housemade beverages.

Shoppers can also revel in its custom sneaker collection, curated streetwear, and curated urban art hub, which is coming soon after launch.

“The Drive Canteen is for everyone who has ever had cravings for some good, old-school snacks and drinks,” explains Doug Stephen, co-founder of DL Chicken, Downlow Burgers, and The Drive Canteen. “Instead of just the usual mass market brands you may find at traditional convenience stores, we’ve tapped a few of our good friends to help us stock the shelves with locally-made treats, in addition to some nostalgic favourites.”

Current exclusive items include:

● Four “classic” chocolate bars by
Beta5, featuring Crispy (dark
chocolate, crispy wafer), Creamy
(dark chocolate, caramel), Chewy
(dark chocolate, peanuts, milk
chocolate nougat, caramel), and
Smooth (dark chocolate, peanut
butter);

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● Scarlito’s Way cookie flavours, such as dark chocolate George and miso-flavour Mary;
● Stuffed cookies by Chaotic Good;
● Jamaican patties by Elbo Patties;
● Dumplings by Dicky’s Dump;
● Pizza Pockets made from scratch;
● DL Chicken spicy dill pickles;
● Spiced corn nuts;
● housemade granola bars.

A special The Drive Canteen hot bar section will feature a variety of made-to-order spiced nachos and steamy hot dogs of all kinds, from regional classicals, such as Chicago-style and choux-choux (Quebec steamie); Japanese-inspired with wasabi mayo, bulldog tonkatsu sauce, and crispy shallots; and an Italian variation with pepperoni jam, tomato sauce, and mozzarella.

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The cool zone features milkshakes to start, with more to come by next spring. People can also quench their thirst with a variety of small-batch adult-style non-alcoholic beverages.

On the retail side, Stephen and Lindsey Mann have partnered with business partner Wilcox to curate a forthcoming urban art hub focused on highlighting talented local artists. There will also be a sneaker section named HySoles by Josh Jose, complete with sneaker cleaning services and bespoke sneaker customization.

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“Doug and Lindsey are huge community supporters, and I couldn’t think of any pair better to partner with,” adds Wilcox, founder of Future Grownup and Puffy Shirt Screenprinting.

“The Drive Canteen is going to be a great addition to The Drive. I look forward to curating a selection of urban collectables and art for people to add to their personal collections.”

Soon, the team will turn The Drive Canteen’s sub-zero level into an exclusive, accessible arts and events space, complete with a separate entrance in the back of the building. It aims to focus on non-traditional art forms, local talent, and pop-ups.
To stay up-to-date, please visit The Drive Canteen’s Instagram account @drivecanteen

Phew. Can't wait to see what December brings for these two layabouts.