The iconic neon piggy on West Hastings in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside stood among the big red Woodward’s W as one of the most recognizable signs of my childhood.

I was keenly interested to read about the efforts of restaurateurs Mark and Nico Bran to reopen the butcher shop and diner (which closed in 2009). They leased the four-storey building with an eye to incorporating ways to revitalize the neighbourhood too.

The basement is used by a local urban farming group. A second-floor kitchen does catering for assisted-living hotels in the area. The sidewalk take-out window has items like breakfast sandwiches starting at $1.50.

The Brands’ challenges ended up being chronicled in a reality show called Gastown Gamble on the Oprah Winfrey Network in Canada. It premiered last night and repeats Friday at 8 p.m.

Save On Meats, Vancouver

The camera lights and cables were still hung from the ceiling when my sister and I visited Save On Meats diner last month. The decor is an attempt at retro but you can tell most of it is reproduced retro.

The long counter is supposed to encourage the mix of construction workers, lawyers, police and down-and-out types who used to frequent the old Save On lunch counter. But when we went it was almost all hipster types, most with their laptops out.

We wrote our name on the whiteboard at the entrance and waited for a table.

The menu is extremely affordable (especially for downtown Vancouver) and the fare is all diner (breakfast, burgers, comfort food).

Save On Meats, Vancouver

Save On Meats, Vancouver

My fried chicken ($11) was excellent. Hot, crispy, not overly salty skin with moist dark meat. Too bad the side of fries was mediocre, and the steamed carrots and peas just sad.

My sister’s ribs ($11) were “fall apart tender” as advertised but it was slathered with a weird tangy, Asian sauce rather than a bold BBQ sauce as we had assumed. The warm biscuit was the best part of this plate.

I would come eat here again if I was in the area, as I appreciate the affordable prices and accessible casual diner, but I wouldn’t drive out of my way to visit.

Save On Meats, Vancouver

I wish I needed to bring some meat home because we had fun browsing the counter at the butcher shop. Lots of selection from simple ground beef to more unusual offerings like rabbit.

There’s a huge meat cutter in the back with a sign: “Only authorized staff may use band saw.”

Save On Meats, 43 West Hastings St., Vancouver, (604) 569-3568. Diner open Monday to Saturday 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Butcher shop open Monday to Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Gastown Gamble airs Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. and Fridays at 8 p.m. on OWN Canada.

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