At Bells & Whistles, it’s easy to get caught up in an internal debate: Is this a restaurant that happens to be a sports bar, or a sports bar that happens to be a restaurant?
Honestly, it probably doesn’t matter, because if you’re here to watch a game, the large screens set up on back-to-back wall space slicing through the centre of the room, will give you exactly what you want: The game. And if you’re here to eat and drink, well, they’ve got you covered nicely.
Bells & Whistles opened up with gentle fanfare this fall, joining a slow parade of newcomers to the Fraser Street corridor. The venture is from Gooseneck Hospitality, the team behind Wildebeest, Bufala, and Lucky Taco, and shares its sibling restaurants’ panache for creating a niche and sliding right into it, full on.
There are little touches in the room, like the staff’s storage lockers and the listing of upcoming major sports league games on the wall, that emphasize you are in a space governed by the church of sport. But while food can often be a gut bomb throwaway scenario at a sports bar, Bells & Whistles keeps it classy–with some very compelling and creative twists.
It’s true, this is a burgers, beers, and appies spot at heart, but the team at B&W deliver with a classy, retro touch–down to the campy, colourful trays the food comes on.
Kick off your meal with their appies (or make them the main event). The Lettuce Wraps are a build-your-own affair based on chunks of savoury pork belly, and the Popcorn Shrimp is often a first-draft pick.
Hand-formed patties of short rib, brisket, and chuck are the base for their hefty burgers, which are piled on with tantalizing toppings, from the classic to the extreme, like their “All Day Breakfast Burger,” which includes a maple sausage patty, hashbrowns, and an egg.
Their veggie burger patty is housemade, and runs laps around the ol’ generic freezer-found option you might score somewhere else. Burgers come with fries, but you’d do well to bring their golden-fried onions rings off the bench. But they’ll dress your fries up, too, as a bar-worthy side, with anything from garlic and herbs to a more fully-loaded “Ballpark Chilli” version with everything but the kitchen sink.
There’s lots more decadence on the B&W sandwich menu–The Fat Stevens, which is beer-brined chicken, gravy, mayo, with crispy fried onions, is a popular pick–and they do have some salads that lighten the load. The restaurant pays careful attention to their produce and protein sources, and gets their milk buns made for them by Swiss Bakery.
There are two things you’re probably going to need to do at Bells & Whistles. First, you’ve got to get something to drink. You can try some of their extensive beers, including special collaborations like the dry-hopped Four Winds house brew, or check out their wine list or cocktail menu. Ask about their featured slushy–fans of Wildebeest will know what’s up. (Right now they’ve got an Espresso Martini slushy that they turn into a chilly, boozy dessert called the “Affo-gettaboutit.”
Dessert–saving room for it–is the second thing you’ll need to do here. That’s because Bells & Whistles makes their own custard-style soft serve, and swirls it up either straight up or in a selection of sundaes. The Troy Tulo-Whiskey takes the pennant, though, thanks to its combo of soft serve decked out in whiskey caramel, peach jam, roasted pecans, and iced tea crystals (yep, the powder).
If you prefer to be a part of the action yourself, head to the back where you can toss some hoops or roll some skee balls. Ask the staff about buying tokens (or hit them up from 2 to 5 p.m. when they have them for free).
Bells & Whistles is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood, and would make a great place to go if you have a mix of sports fans and, well, non sports fans, in your group, thanks to its comfy vibe, killer food and drink, and fun things to do besides stare at the screen. But, hey, if you want to do that, you definitely can.
Address: 3296 Fraser Street