|The Naam restaurant still has a counter-culture vibe.|
The restaurant is based in the same elderly building where it began in 1968, with flower-filled window boxes, vines and a bench out front. Its furniture is old and solid. It offers the same natural vegetarian dishes that it did when such fare was dismissed as "rabbit food." Begun in the peace-and-love era when many young people were exploring Eastern philosophies, it still has elements of the vibe it offered to hippies who weren't welcome in other restaurants.
The Naam was "counter-culture central," wrote Vancouver Sun restaurant critic Mia Stainsby in a brief 2011 history of the place. "Spiritual seekers, politicos, hippies, anti-war activists, as well as vegetarians converged. Greenpeace had a start-up meeting there."
I was never a major patron, not belonging to any of those categories, but I have eaten my share of Maui Maui veggie burgers at The Naam since I came to Vancouver in the early 1970s. But in the last few years, it has drifted out of my mind. Other, trendier restaurants had opened, the city was turning into a luxury land for the rich, and conversations became focused on house prices and demolitions instead of more idealistic topics.
When my friend Ros and I discussed The Naam this week as a possible place for lunch, I actually checked to make sure it was still operating. It's not only operating, but thriving, judging from the crowd we saw there on Friday. But the best news is that not all the patrons were old hippies; there were just as many young people, even if many of them were using tech devices not invented yet when the restaurant first opened.
So, as piece after piece of Vancouver falls to the wrecker's ball, there is some hope that a little chunk of its history may survive. Perhaps, even after all its original patrons are gone, The Naam will be a reminder of a time when peace and love were still part of the city's equation.