The Western Canadian fine-casual chain continues their design evolution with an art-deco-meets-tiki-cool new Burnaby room. 

As someone who grew up in the ‘burbs with few independent, interesting restaurants to choose from, I have spent probably years of my life total slamming back the yam fries in a big leather booth at whatever Earls, Red Robin or Milestones was closest to the mall. It’s hardly a childhood to complain about, but these were not formative dining experiences—they just were there.

As I grew up, my tastes evolved along with my options. I began to view casual-fine chain dining as a last resort, returning only when a group birthday party or a road trip I-guess-this’ll-do stopover. (Or when enticed by a particularly promising happy hour special—who is strong enough to resist the siren song of a $4 frosé?)

But what I’ve missed as I’ve been living my big-city life (and/or fighting not-infrequent frosé-induced brain freezes), is that some of these chains are starting to grow up too. They’re not just doing it to impress me, of course: it’s gotta be tough to be a chain restaurant in this age of foodie frenzy. You’re still under pressure to deliver consistency from location to location, but there’s now an expectation that every dining experience needs to be a truly unique occasion and every dining room, a draw in its own right. And Earls, at least, is taking note.

The new Station Square location isn’t the first Earls to go rogue from its cookie-cutter suburban vibe with its design: the Earls.67 in Calgary was designed in partnership with award-winning restaurant designer Craig Stanghetta; a new Ambleside location rocks a sophisticated palette of walnuts and greys. But with its beautiful, art-deco-meets-tiki-room interiors, this Burnaby room cements this new non-trend trend for the brand’s spatial design.

It’s a beaut—and a far cry from its upscale-sports-bar past. In the dining area, rich greens and camel-coloured leather banquettes provide views to the open concept kitchen. Pops of greenery and off-kilter geometric tiles throughout give a homey warmth. Vintage photography from the iconic Fred Herzog lines the walls, and a gallery wall in the dining room features local works curated by the Burnaby Arts Council. The showstopper is the full-wall mural in the bar by Burnaby-born artist Priscilla Yu, an abstract and kaleidoscopic representation of Deer Lake Park.

Alongside an extensive craft beer list and lobster tostadas, you’ll still find that good ol’ chain resto staple—yes, yam fries are still on the menu. But in a space this pretty, it doesn’t feel like settling. Pass the aioli.