Twenty-five years is a long time to be in business anywhere, but it seems like an even bigger accomplishment here in Whistler, where you have to compete with endless staffing issues, two long shoulder seasons (per year) and huge rental overheads. So when the owners of Black's Pub and Sushi Village realized that their two iconic establishments were inching closer to that quarter-century milestone, they decided to celebrate in style.
"We opened a week apart," recalled Lawrence Black, owner of Black's Pub.
Miki Homma came to Whistler 27 years ago, rekindling a long-lost passion for skiing in the process.
"I came to Whistler, and 'Oh wow, what a place!'"
He decided to open a restaurant here, rather than in Vancouver, so he could ski every day.
"I figured, 'Oh, we'll do a restaurant, and at least we can eat!'" Homma laughed.
"For myself, my plan here was just two or three years," Black admitted. "And then I would go down to Vancouver and open a restaurant there."
Apparently, Whistler was so welcoming, he decided to stay.
"I know when I first opened, it seemed like the whole town came to wish me good luck!" Black recalled.
Now, both are year-round Whistler residents with firmly entrenched businesses: Black's is the go-to spot for crafted cocktails, with a perfect patio perch at the corner behind Zog's, at the base of Whistler Mountain. And Sushi Village is a favourite place for locals to get their fill of delicious rolls and sake margs!
Both attribute their success, quite simply, to hard work, adding that they both have a great, high profile location along Village Stroll.
From Dec. 6 to 12, the two restaurants are offering 25 per cent off all food on their menus. On Thursday, Dec. 9, Sushi Village is hosting a buffet-style dinner while Black's hosts a four-course dinner; both events are just $25, and half of the proceeds will go to two charitable organizations, Santa's Helpers and Whistler Adaptive Sports Program.
The week of celebration finishes with a bang (literally) on Sunday, Dec. 12, as the two restaurants team up to host a family-friendly party on the patio with performances from the Whistler Choir and a local dance troupe. Santa will also be making an appearance, and Coast Mountain Photography will be on-hand to take free photos of kids before a fireworks show at 7 p.m.
"We thought about just having small things at the restaurants and inviting our customers, but after 25 years, we thought, 'Who are we not going to invite?'" Black laughed.
"...You know, we've got to do something that's for everyone, and hopefully thousands of people will come! It's for all the people who have supported us for 25 years."
The extra scoop
It's been a busy few weeks at Black's; not only are they gearing up to celebrate their 25th birthday this week, but they finally wrapped up their inaugural mixology competition last Thursday evening.
They've been hosting the Smirnoff Premium Spirit Mix-Off, with semi-final rounds held in September and October. Eight finalists returned to complete in the final round last week, whipping up two drinks: the first, a signature cocktail from their own imagination, and the second, a "black box challenge," which required competitors to use Jägermeister and Johnnie Walker to create a cocktail in just two minutes. (As one of the judges, I can tell you that we were none too pleased at this prospect.)
Tia Stonier of the Mix by Ric's blew the judges away with her original cocktail creation, dubbed Fire and Ice, a fresh, citrusy concoction rimmed with coconut and topped with meringue. She also managed to create an impressively palatable drink in the black box challenge. It was a close race between Stonier and the second-place winner, Hailey Pasemko of Nita Lake Lodge, who created an incredible deconstructed Caesar, but Stonier managed to take the lead, winning a trip for two to Las Vegas for her efforts.
Pasemko walked away with a $300 gift card to Black's and Sushi Village, plus a bottle of Don Julio. Third place, dinner at Hy's and a night at the Cascade Lodge, went to Uriah Conti of the Four Seasons, while Edward Dangerfield of the brand-new Alta Bistro took home a bottle of Dalwhinnie for his fourth place finish. The top four competitors all won a return trip to Vancouver to see a show at the Commodore Ballrooom, courtesy of Black's, Smirnoff and Glacier Limousines.
Of course, honourable mentions go out to the rest of the competitors - Tim Starritt of Black's, Narayan Green of Tommy Africa's, Scott Van Doren of the Cascade Room and Alex Horobjowski of Quattro's - who all put on a great show.
Black's plans to make the competition an annual fall event, so Whistler mixologists have nine more months to get their recipes together!