Reality show “Gastown Gamble” tells Save on Meats’ story

Restaurateur Mark Brand created quite the buzz this summer when he reopened butcher shop/diner Save on Meats. Tonight the hipster-exec takes it up a notch appearing in the premier of docu-drama Gastown Gamble on OWN Canada at 6:30 PST.

Gastown Gamble tells the tale (sure to become gritty urban lore) of Brand saving Save On Meats—Al DesLauriers’ historic Hastings meat emporium of 50+ years, which was slated to become just another Gastown condo.

In addition to saving the butcher shop/deli, Brand and his gang of family and friends band behind the giant flying pig, striving to revitalize the neighbourhood over the six-episode series. Find out more about the first episode which airs tonight below.

Save on Meats butcher shop. Image credit: Taraneh Ghajar Jerven

About Gastown Gamble Episode 1: “Welcome to the Neighbourhood”

In Episode 1 “Welcome to the Neighbourhood,” the usually savvy Mark Brand (also behind Boneta, The Diamond and Sea Monstr Sushi) is actually slightly daunted by the challenge of learning butchery from scratch and passing health code inspections.

Brand, plus wife Nico (former Aritzia exec) who runs the butcher shop, struggle get the four-storey building repaired and up to health code. $25,000 worth of butcher-shop-bound meat will go to waste if they don’t open in time.

Although media coverage of the show credits Brand with saving a neglected East Van neighbourhood, Brand’s appearances on Gastown Gamble are a more nuanced look at East Van community. The show highlights his interest building bridges  between Save on Meats’ older, lower-income clientele and the new crop of moneyed-cool kids drawn to the retro diner. Menu items like the take out window’s $1.50 break-fast sandwich are friendly to the economically-diverse patrons, whom we meet as the series develops.

Reviews call Gastown Gamble, “wry and amusing reality TV.” I look forward to hearing what you all think after Episode 1.

Catch the preview here.

Inside Save on Meats diner. Image credit: Taraneh Ghajar Jerven

Docu-drama Gastown Gamble on the challenges revitalizing the historic Save on Meats butcher shop/deli airs tonight at 6:00 pm PST on Oprah Winfrey Network Canada.

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17 Responses to Reality show “Gastown Gamble” tells Save on Meats’ story

  1. R. Mark Desjardsins

    I saw a promotional clip of this program on the noon hour news today which got me very interested it seeing the entire episode. Can’t find a repeat broadcast time for the first show on the Oprah channel. Anyone know a repeat date?

  2. Eugenia Read

    Mark & Nico,
    Finally, someone is doing something positive. Wow! You are such great people to do this! I can’t rave enough about how much your revitalization of the community and neighborhood means to me as a true Vancouverite. So many memories have come rushing back. I may not live in Vancouver anymore but it is always home. I will follow your success story with great enthusiasm!

    Eugenia Read
    PO Box 409
    Princeton, BC

  3. R. Mark Desjardins

    Since my original post I discovered that Gastown Gambleis broadcast on the Oprah Channel Wednesday @ 6:30 PST, repeats @ 11:30 p.m. and then rebroadcast on Friday evening . I’ve been hooked since watching the promo clip. I was a long time supporter of the original Save-On-Meats and looked with great suspicion at the new reincarnation of this venerable eastside landmark business. As documented in the second installment, the owners didn’t get the butcher shop aspect quite right initially. However they quickly regrouped and listened to the choice of products the community wanted. I have been by twice to purchase an assortment of cold cuts, delicious caraway rye bread and will soon look more closely at the cheese offerings.
    This business is very worthy of our support, unlike another well know meat supplier that pulled out of the lower eastside because their customers felt uncomfortable shopping in the hood.
    All the best to you Mark & Nico and I look forward to seeing you in person to share my thoughts! R. Mark Desjardins

  4. Brenda Herceg

    I saw the OWN production last week …
    I sincerely wish MARK and his staff the very best on this courageous attempt to revive a business so old and so much a part of the Vancouver Eastside. Their commitment to contributing to helping those who are the inhabitants is truly a mark of integrity …
    During these agonizing days of attempting to do both don’t lose the faith.
    Misplacement for an hour or two is ok … you need to refresh that wonderful spirit !
    Blessings …

  5. Anne-Marie Cartier

    Our Neighbourhood Gastown heros……Support this couple and their quest to fight bureaucry and the archaic rules and regulations …..Nice to see this restaurateur and his wife reopening and rescuing this historic butcher shop/diner Save on Meats and striving to revitalize the neighbourhood. Al DesLauriers’ historic Hastings meat emporium of 50+ years, was slated to become just another Gastown condo.
    7 hours ago · Like · 1

  6. Trudy Johannsen

    Love Gastown Gamble. As a former “East Ender”, I know the store well. I would love my kids to see it. Will it be re-broadcast or is there a DVD available?

  7. Jacky Roman

    I recently came by your restaurant with my mother, we had a lovely dinner, the price was great especially for the location, the food was delicious, the service was pleasant and the ambiance was good, my mom and I enjoyed our selves and even had a dessert.
    I am so pleased to see a business who is not only a business but a supporter in the community. Thank you for this and I am glad to support your business, I will be telling all of my friends about your restaurant and about my experience.
    I am so happy to see you care and give a chance to people who are struggling, who have had a shady past and who want to work, I wish you all the success in “Save on Meats”, may God bless you, your business and the people involved in this wonderful on going project.

    I am an employment counselor, I believe that most of the time what my clients needed was an opportunity for work, even if they had a shady past, we can help our community by helping others, help themselves.

    Thank you for all that you do in the community.

    Victoria, BC

  8. George C

    Sent this to the Vancouver Coastal Health:

    Dear Sir or Madam:

    Well …. how do I begin ….

    I am angry! Frustrated and disenchanted, however, I refuse to give up.

    I am certain you are aware of the TV program Gas town Gamble. It is a shining star in the middle of the black hole called the East Side of Vancouver, Hastings Street. A misery and shame to Vancouver’s community. I have been a patron of Save on Meats for many years and was very sad to see the location shut down. What a rejoice to see that historical location being revived. What a challenge and admirable effort on part of the individuals that seem to care and have a heart to assist a dismal situation and people of lesser means.

    YOU! Well …. how do I put this without being rude. Your inspectors have done nothing but to prevent a great social issue come to fruition. Interestingly, your last inspector declined being filmed. Obviously, he/she must have been very proud of shutting down the establishment. I do understand that you have a mandate to keep food health safety. Please allow me to take your inspectors on a trip of discovery through ought China Town. Can you just imagine the filth and infractions throughout. Shall we take a television crew along? Would your inspectors be willing to be filmed.

    Shame on you! You pick on an effort of good cause while ignoring the obvious. Congratulations, I would fire you all.



    • R. Mark Desjardins

      For those interested, Oprah’s OWN Network is replaying the Gastown Gamble shows on Friday evenings in groups of two. I believe they re-run again on Saturday or Sunday afternoon in that “twofer” format as well. I caught the first four and I believe that there are two more coming up next Friday. Good luck catching the all on the rebound!

  9. Mario

    I wish there where more buisness minded people that had similar ideas to help out the community and make Vancouver a better place you should be very proud of what you have done and are doing you guys ROCK!

  10. pierre

    j aime le concept je vit a surrey et je vais decemdre a vancouver pour voir de mes yeux.BRAVO ? Ils vous faut beaucoup de pluplicite@@@@@@@@@@@@

  11. Svetlana

    I don’t know what happened to this store. Judging by some comments it is not in a good condition. I hope I am wrong. My husband and I were planning to make special trip to Gastown to buy meat there. We liked people from this store very much.

  12. denise

    i been watching and am really impressed with mark and nicos commetment to the community keep up the great work and inspiration

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  14. Ian McLennan


    Loved your show. How is SOM doing now. Will you be able to get the building? Thanks


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