Toronto’s ‘The Haifa Room’ Founders Open ‘Bar Haifa’ in Vancouver, Blending Middle Eastern Cultures and Cuisines [Interview]

Date:

Share post:

The founders of The Haifa Room — a beloved Middle Eastern restaurant/bar located in Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood — have opened their new elevated West Coast concept, Bar Haifa, in Vancouver.

The port city of Haifa, Israel, has been home to Arabs and Jews living and working alongside each other for centuries. In this spirit of co-existence, close friends and seasoned restaurateurs from both Palestinian-Muslim and Israeli-Jewish backgrounds Waseem Dabdoub, Fadi Hakim, Yossi Misrahi Eastwood, Daniel Suss, and Mark Kupfert came together to open their Toronto take-away window in June 2021 during the pandemic and felt the name captured the essence of their endeavour.

Soon, The Haifa Room grew beyond mouth-watering take-out falafel and sabich pita sandwiches. Later that year, with the addition of Chef Jason Hemi (formerly of Fat Pasha and Rose and Sons), it became a hyper-casual 28-seat restaurant, with accolades and a loyal following for its Fennel and Apricot Labneh, Kofta, Boneless Lamb Shoulder, and Signature Fresh-made Hummus.

L-R: Daniel Suss, Chef Jason Hemi, Fadi Hakim, Waseem Dabdoub, Mark Kupfert
Image: Bar Haifa

“We all have different gigs but we all came together for this project and Waseem connected us all. And it’s been like a really special project. It kind of got us through COVID. It was a dark time,” Kupfert said. “For all of us, I think it’s a breath of fresh air compared to our regular (work). We all have different things.

“During COVID I was approached to open up another location of my current business. I have a bunch of vegetarian restaurants and I was in COVID and just kind of feeling closed in and the idea of doing something very far-placed, full of nature, beauty, a beautiful new building. And I thought ya this is what I should be doing. I took the leap. Then COVID just continued, continued and continued. There were delays, and delays and delays. By the time I got our building permit and we were ready for construction, I lost my passion for that use whereas I was still very passionate about the Haifa Room and what it was doing just in terms of the narrative, the food, the experience. It just seemed a lot more exciting.

“So I approached my partners and told them we have this opportunity. We already have a lease, we already have a building permit. We just have to redesign it and I think it would be a really good location because it has good lunch and dinner trade and it’s in a super cool building and there’s a patio and doors that open.” 

The Vancouver restaurant was originally scheduled to open in July of this year, but because of construction delays it was pushed to mid-November, placing the opening in the midst of the tragic conflict in Gaza and Israel.

“At first, words failed us. We’re devastated. We all have family members living in Palestine and Israel,” said Hakim. “As we grapple with the situation, we grieve for all the civilians, our helplessness. For now, our focus is connecting people through shared experience and finding a commonality between people through food.”

Image: Bar Haifa
Image: Bar Haifa

Located in the heart of downtown Vancouver on the ground floor of the Deloitte Summit building on Georgia at Homer, Bar Haifa contains 55 indoor seats, including a cocktail bar, chef’s table, banquette seating and an open kitchen, along with a spacious outdoor patio that will double its seating during the summer.

The Vancouver eatery features an expanded menu that showcases the terroir of its new location, with lots of fresh seafood and local ingredients, along with a dedicated take-out only street-food menu. Bar Haifa will have a bigger focus on service than in the Toronto location, and an extensive wine and cocktail list. 

The partners believe the concept could be successful in other Canadian cities.

“Right now we’re just relieved that this one opened because it’s been so delayed,” said Kupfert.

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

More From The Author

RECENT RETAIL INSIDER VIDEOS

Advertisment

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Subscribe

* indicates required

Related articles

Anatomy of a Leader: Ken Keelor, CEO of Calgary Co-op

After moving to Canada from India in 1995, Keelor began working at Save-on-Foods and then other major retailers as his career progressed upwards.

Unprecedented Opportunity for Canadian Retailers to Sell to Consumers in China Online

China is the world’s largest online consumer market, and it is projected to grow for years to come.

Modern Golf Opening Innovative Golf Social Experience in Downtown Toronto’s First Canadian Place [Interview]

The 8,500-square-foot Financial District space will feature multiple bays, bars, lounge areas, and partnerships with Food Dudes for food and beverage offerings, marking a significant shift in the company's growth strategy.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Gears Up for Nationwide Expansion in Canada with Innovative Store Formats [Interview]

New locations in new markets are planned, including a mix of Doughnut Café concepts and manufacturing locations for the public called 'Theatre Hubs'.

Robson Street in Vancouver in Flux as New Retailers Prepare to Open Stores [Feature]

The street is seeing new retailers prepare to open, including a prominent corner that is about to see some very big changes and a potential luxury mall nearby cancelled.

Wendy’s Bold Dynamic Pricing Move Has its Positives and Negatives [Op-Ed]

Sylvain Charlebois discusses the unusual move by Wendy's in the US to implement dynamic pricing, and how it could benefit the business while potentially turning off consumers.

Growing Crisis in Retail Inventory in Canada as Factory Direct Liquidates Stores [Interview]

The founder of A.D. Hennick & Associates says he's seeing overwhelming demand to liquidate inventory, indicating a concerning trend in the industry as more retailers look to insolvency.

Here’s What We Can Learn from Canada’s Response to Inflation in the 1980s and 1990s [Op-Ed]

Younger, poorer households have disproportionately suffered because their price index is skewed more toward food and shelter, say the authors.

Food Preferences in Canada Changing as Millennial and Gen Z Demographics Shift [Op-Ed]

Sylvain Charlebois discusses Canada's aging population and how younger consumers are shifting the grocery food landscape.

Henry Singer Unveils Downtown Edmonton Flagship Store at the ICE District, Featuring a Bar, Barber and Shoe Shine [Photos/Interview]

Jordan Singer discusses how the upscale menswear retailer recently relocated its Edmonton flagship store from Manulife Place into a 10,000 square foot space at the base of Western Canada's tallest building.

Canadian Retail Sales Dip: Year-End Drop in Discretionary Spending [J.C. Williams Group Analysis]

2023 Canadian retail sales ended in a lacklustre way, with controlled consumer spending amid a tumultuous year.

Landlord QuadReal Launches Pickleball Courts in Commercial Properties to Create Consumer Experience [Interview/Photos]

The initiative helps revitalize and re-imagine spaces using sustainable development practices, while incorporating the latest technology to enhance the visitor experience, blending physical and digital elements.