A love for great food and family is the driving force behind Vernon’s newest eatery.
The Okanagan Eatery – or T’OK.E for short – is readying to open its doors on 30th Street and begin serving up smash burgers, breakfast and sandwiches made with locally sourced ingredients.
Backed with decades in the food and service industry, husband and wife duo Dustin Bowers and Chelsea Enns jumped at the opportunity to open a restaurant in a building that was once home to Da Poke Bowl, Kazehone Restaurant and Matina’s Pizzaria.
Joined by former colleague Mike Turner, the three hope to bring back some energy and life to that downtown block.
Turner and Bowers worked together at Vernon’s Kelly O’Bryans and had always played with the what-ifs of opening their own restaurant, but after both parted ways from the franchise, Turner brought forward an interesting opportunity that would get the ball rolling.
“Mike reached out and said he had a person looking to lease out this spot here,” Bowers said of the 2809 30th St. location. “We always kind of talked about it but we decided to throw caution to the wind.
“In the middle of a pandemic,” he laughed. “‘What are you going to do? Open a restaurant.”
It made sense to wife Enns, too.
“I think with COVID and everything – and I think this is where everyone’s at – we just want to be happy,” she said, underscoring the importance of that work-life balance often lost with late nights in the industry.
“I don’t need to make a million dollars, we just need to pay the rent and sell some good food.”
Bower’s love for food and knack for writing recipes, combined with Turner’s exhaustive experience in restaurants across British Columbia and Enns’ front-of-house mastery, may have unlocked the secret to success.
“Making great food consistently and keeping people happy with great service,” is Turner’s motivation.
Planning really got going in January when Bowers took five weeks off for “daddy days” after the birth of their son, Rowen.
“We just hit the ground running and planned a restaurant,” Enns said.
Things were running smoothly for the trio.
Renovations and upgrades were completed and furniture was scored on a dime, thanks to Enns’ thrifty second-hand shopping on Facebook Marketplace. They sourced ingredients from local businesses such as the Wedge Cheesery, the Hot Bread Shoppe and Grillers Meats and even started growing some of their own in a tower.
But things stalled for five weeks while the team waited for Fortis Gas to flip the switch.
“For the most part, there weren’t any hiccups…” Enns said, suddenly remembering they were broken into once.
With that in the rear-view, they’re all looking forward to their opening.
“Vernon is going to have a really cool place to eat,” Enns said.
While no grand opening is planned at this point, Enns said with COVID-19 restrictions easing, she’s hoping something could be planned for July 1.
In the meantime, customers can stay tuned to @theokanagan.eatery on Instagram and Facebook for announcements of their soft opening.