Those who are not afraid to confess their love for sweets, in particular chocolate, will be ecstatic to hear that a new chocolate-focused shop has recently opened up in Vancouver.
Replacing Safari Cafe at 1007 Main Street (near Pacific Central Station), Lisa Lou’s Chocolate Bar is a humble, one-stop-shop for all things chocolate.
Customers who drop by this colourful, 12-seater spot will find an assortment of treats to indulge on; there are nut-studded chocolate bars, decadent brownies, ice cream sandwiches, chocolate-infused drinks, candied oranges, and the list goes on.
Pastry chef Lisa Gardin (nicknamed Lisa Lou by her father) is behind this delectable concept, and is eager to share the joys of artisan chocolate making with Vancouver.
Gardin tells Daily Hive that she always wanted to be a chef, although becoming a pastry chef and chocolatier was not something she had originally planned for.
“I wanted to be an executive chef,” exclaims Gardin.
After a brief stint as a line cook, Gardin tried her hand at pastry making. It was then and there that she made the switch from savoury to sweet, and transferred over to a pastry apprenticeship with Thomas Haas.
“I absolutely loved the science and the precision of [pastry making],” says Gardin. I like following a recipe, I like cooking my caramels to exactly 118.3 degrees Celsius, and I like the science behind chocolate,” adds Gardin.
Not only has Gardin worked under high profile chocolatiers such as Vancouver’s Thomas Hass, but she has also lived and worked abroad. Gardin travelled to Japan, where she worked under renowned pastry chef Stephan Vieux, and she also did a stint in Dubai, where she worked in a luxury chocolate shop that still makes her designs to this very day.
Back in Vancouver, Gardin spent some time at Chocolate Arts in Kitsilano, as well as at Whole Foods Market, where she worked her way up to a bakery team leader role.
Wanting a change of pace and still holding onto the dream of opening her own shop, Gardin switched gears and focused on a solo project, and thus Lisa Lou’s Chocolate Bar was born.
Adhering to the seasons, Gardin is currently focusing on handmade ice cream and sorbets, in flavours like strawberry and rhubarb, which will soon make way for more berry-forward creations.
While customers can choose to have their ice cream in sandwich form, in a float, or in a tub to-go, scoops are not available at this time. If the demand for Lisa Lou’s ice cream is there, Gardin says that she will bring in a “dipping cabinet.”
Of course chocolate-flavoured ice cream is also up for grabs (chocolate, mint chocolate flake, and malted chocolate), along with a dazzling array of other flavours including toasted coconut, salted caramel, passion fruit apricot, and more.
Other offerings include Lisa Lou’s signature bars otherwise known as the “boys.” Joe, Frank, Pete, and Marc are all named after their flavour profiles. “Marc is kind of an old southern Kentucky fellow, he’s got Maker’s Mark bourbon, caramel, marcona almonds, and whipped malt ganache,” relays Gardin.
Gardin hints that a range of “lady bars” are also in the works. Customers can expect to find bars like “Alice” (Meyer lemon, caramel, candied ginger, and toasted coconut) on the shelves very soon.
Wanting to make sure that Safari Cafe’s regulars still got a good cup of coffee and a baked treat, Lisa Lou’s has a selection of cheesecakes, brownies, lemon bars, and other baked goods on hand, in addition to espresso-based drinks, made using beans from False Creek Coffee.
Come October, Gardin hopes to turn the shop’s display cooler off and showcase truffles and bonbons, handmade chocolate boxes, and traditional treats for the holidays.
Even though the space is rather compact, “absolutely everything is made on site,” Gardin confirms. The chocolate production area is actually a shared commissary kitchen.
“Part of my dream was to have two or three other chocolatiers collaborate with me; we can share space, and share some of the expensive equipment,” says Gardin.
Locally-based small batch artisans Karmei and Art Meets Chocolate share the work space, and a few of their products can be purchased within the store.
Lisa Lou’s customers are able to grab their chocolately treats and coffee to-go, or pull up a stool to enjoy this bright space. Lisa Lou’s is open from 7:30 am to 10 pm Monday to Saturday, and Sunday 10 am to 10 pm.
Address: 1007 Main Street, Vancouver