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Jesse Dame, Owner of Wind Cries Mary, On Shared Meals and Jimi Hendrix

Jesse Dame, Owner of Wind Cries Mary, On Shared Meals and Jimi Hendrix

Wind Cries Mary quietly opened up in the old Camille’s Restaurant spot in Bastion Square this summer.

So far, even the surrounding hotels haven’t heard about this new spot to eat, which doesn’t bother owner Jesse Dame one bit. “Being a local myself, I wanted to make a place for the locals,” says the former Flying Pig general manager. The result? A place that’s fit for big, loud groups, intimate dinners for two, or quick stops at the bar. It’s unpretentious and approachable. “You can wear jogging pants if you want to,” says Dame. (Although with the prohibition-era cool space designers Bidgood and Co. have put together, I’m not sure you’d want to.)

The restaurant sits in the brick-clad basement of what was once a law building, built at the turn of the century (you can still see the old safe behind the bar). The design mixes grey cloud wallpaper, nautical shiplap panelling with two-toned leather seats, and a large, central and serious bar. Look for its well-stocked steel canopy from the street. And the space stretches a lot farther than you think: after you turn the corner you see the rest of its 70 seats, which includes a chef’s booth and the entrance to a small, hidden courtyard patio.

Local graphic designer Aleya Samji helped Dame develop the branding, packaging and the name. Wind Cries Mary is a Jimi Hendrix song, yes, but Mary is also the name of Dame’s wife. The restaurant is Pacific Northwest-inspired, and since Hendrix also hails from the Pacific Northwest, it made sense. “He [Jimi] also did a lot with a little,” says Dame. “He had a guitar that would make a million different sounds—our approach to the menu is the same way.” 

You won’t see any dry ice or experimental gastronomy. “We make great food, simply prepared with approachable flavours,” says Dame. Working with local farms, brewers and fishmongers was also paramount for his debut restaurant. They only do dinner and late-night, serving food right up to midnight, six nights a week (they close Mondays so Jesse has a night off to spend with his family). The “elevated cabin fare” is meat-forward, with an emphasis on nose to tail and dishes meant for sharing: Farmcrest Farms fried chicken, Yarrow Meadows duck breast and smoked rockfish cakes. Chef Dave Heely, also from the Flying Pig and now at Wind Cries Mary, even makes his own hand-cranked sausage (pork, duck and lamb) in-house. 

A robust cocktail menu is a must in this town, and so Clayton Thornber was brought on as bar manager to craft the restaurant’s locally infused libations. So far, this includes drinks like the Rainshadow, which features lavender, ginger and vodka that Thornber has infused with pine needles himself. The restaurant just bought a whole swack of figs too, which Thornber will turn into his own fig Irish cream for a Wind Cries Mary version of Victoria’s legendary shaft.  

“He [Jimi] also did a lot with a little,” says Dame. “He had a guitar that would make a million different sounds—our approach to the menu is the same way.” 

The response by Victorians so far has been amazing, says Dame. “It’s all been word of mouth and I’m seeing locals in here, which is what I wanted.” He’s always dreamed of opening his own restaurant, but didn’t get serious about it until after he’d opened six locations for the Flying Pig chain. 

“I knew what it took to be successful and in running a business. I think that’s the mistake people sometimes make,” says Dame. “They love the idea of a restaurant, they love going to restaurants, but you need to have that confidence in being able to operate it.” Before Flying Pig, he worked in restaurants in the Cayman Islands, was a corporate trainer for Disney, and even had stints at the Banff and Whistler Fairmont hotels. 

“My parents owned restaurants on Vancouver Island, just small little mom and pop breakfast joints that I was dishwashing and serving at well before I was allowed to,” he says with a laugh. “[Owning a restaurant] was kind of in my blood.”

Dame grew up with a big family, which often meant meals were shared over big plates of food. This is what Dame wants for people dining at Wind Cries Mary: for people to converse, to visit and to eat together.

Take a peek at Wind Cries Mary’s menu and follow along with them on Instagram. 

Wind Cries Mary
45 Bastion Square, Victoria

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