Cantina Beirut, a Pop-Up Dinner With Heart

January 15, 2016
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Cantina Beirut is a pop-up dinner event going down for one night only and bringing together friends, food and good vibes with all proceeds donated to Syrian refugees settling in Vancouver

Ask Abdallah El Chami about one of his earliest childhood memories and he might tell you about his time in the kitchen. Born in Saudi Arabia to Lebanese parents, Dallah, as his friends call him, has a passion for food that was instilled at an early age as he watched and helped his mom make simple but flavourful Lebanese staples. Sitting down with friends and family to share a meal was as important as whatever was on the plate. With that in mind, the self-taught chef is hosting his second pop-up dinner event.

Cantina Beirut, as the pop-up dinner event is called, is taking place on January 30th in Gastown’s The Birds and the Beets. Dallah, who works at a tech start-up by day, and spends the rest of his time honing his passion for food, recalls his first pop-up event at 33 Acres, which took place with a week’s notice when he was called upon by his friend Juno Kim to take over his now iconic Monday night dinner series. For Dallah, the event was a learning experience, one he was eager to reproduce and improve at a second pop-up event.

pop-up dinner: Cantina Beirut

“The challenge at 33 Acres was using whatever experience I had from helping out with a couple of pop-ups and catering gigs previously and figuring out how to put together a menu to feed anywhere from 50 to 100 people,” he says. “It was trial and error.” Dallah recalls that on that night he ran out of ingredients, had to prep midway though service because there wasn’t enough sauce to cover orders rolling in, and was simply overwhelmed. Yet the night was a major success. Not only did he sell out in a matter of hours but he also made new friends who happened to have stopped by the brewery with no idea of what they were into.

pop-up dinner: Cantina Beirut

I like to make improvements and make things the best they can be before moving on to something new,” says Dallah of the menu at the upcoming Cantina Beirut, which will feature  a meat taco, a veggie taco, and dessert. “Lebanese food was the staple of my diet growing up, it taught me about fresh ingredients and flavour combinations,” he says. “The tacos are my interpretation of street sandwiches and flavours you get in Beirut.”

pop-up dinner: Cantina Beirut

Community is very important to Dallah so when it came to plan his next pop-up, he knew it had to be somewhere he loved. “I like to tell people I’m the cafe’s top customer,” he says of the Birds and the Beets. “I’m there everyday, literally everyday. You can ask them.” Dallah, who works in Gastown, dropped in when they opened and quickly became enamoured by the warm environment and the food. Soon enough they hashed out the plans for a pop-up with a cause. A refugee himself, Dallah plans to donate proceeds from the dinner to Syrian families in Vancouver. 

The Dallah Menu Presents: Cantina Beirut
Saturday, January 30
6:30pm to 11pm
The Birds and the Beets, 55 Powell Street, Vancouver

Dallah’s Vancouver

favorite cafe Birds and the Beets Cafe.
go-to drink Right now the Avocado Gimlet at L’Abbatoir… shout out to Shaun Layton.
brunch spot La Mezcaleria. I’m a sucker for huevos rancheros.
date night restaurant Savio Volpe, Ask for Luigi or L’Abbatoir.
chill out spot On a Sunday you will usually find me reading at 49th Parallel in Kits or Beaucoup Bakery.
recommendation for out-of-towners The Gastown Steam Clock…. Just kidding. The Diamond or the Shameful Tiki Room.

Photos courtesy Abdallah El Chami.

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