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Bryan Kenji Tanaka, bar owner

Updated: May 2, 2021

This is Bryan Kenji Tanaka, from Halifax.

Bryan is 31 years old and is originally from Toronto. He came to Halifax in 2013 for what was supposed to be a one-year trial and has been living there ever since. He fell in love with the community and decided that he didn’t want to leave. He now co-owns two restaurants in the city, Julep and Hermitage.

Bryan started in the hospitality industry back in Toronto when he was 18 years old. He found himself a job with the father of a high school friend, who was a famous chef at the time. On his first shift, he was asked to cut a pineapple. He didn’t bring a knife and didn’t know how to do it the way they wanted it, so he was asked to cut buckets of onions all day. At the end of his shift, he was told that he wasn’t a good fit for the kitchen, but since they liked his character, they offered him to try the front of the house. He didn’t know what he was getting himself into but accepted anyway. He started bussing tables, polishing glassware, and worked his way up. A few years later, he was the manager of the place.

Bryan got into cocktails early in his career. He was trained by other bartenders that were incredibly knowledgeable and that were confident and comfortable with teaching what they knew to younger and impressionable people like himself. However, it wasn’t until he moved to Halifax that it really took off. The first job he got on the East coast was at The Bicycle Thief, where he worked along truly great bartenders like Jeff Van Horne, Matt Boyle and Lauren Wainwright. Not only were they lovely people, but they made amazing drinks. He was a server at the time and just wanted to work at the bar with them. Which he managed to do of course. He stayed at The Bicycle Thief for 4 years until he decided to jump ship and start his own restaurant.

Him and his partners wanted to create a cocktail bar and a kitchen. They conceptualized and designed everything themselves and launched Julep on June 12th 2019. Bryan wanted the bar program to be accessible. As much as he likes all the facets of cocktails, he wanted to make sure his guests wouldn’t feel intimidated by the cocktail menu. Same goes to the style of service and ambiance that they provide. Whether you want to dress up, have a nice bottle of wine and eat a full meal or you feel like having a couple of cocktails and a quick bite, the experience is curated to make you feel welcomed. Unfortunately, we left the city a little too early to get a chance to try Hermitage, their second restaurant that opened earlier this fall. Based on the fact that both Bryan and his restaurant made an exceptionally good impression on us, it goes without saying that we look forward to be back in Halifax and try this new address.


A little bit more about Bryan...

The three words that describe him best: loud – hard-working – passionate

Fun fact about him: He’s probably the weirdest person you can know. As much as he can be the most professional and normal person, when you really start to know him he actually is the weirdest person you’ll ever know.

The first drink that made him fall in love with cocktails: An Asian flair infused margarita.

An advice he would offer future bar owners: Surround yourself with good people, good partners. Have a healthy, fully transparent relationship, trust each other and just go for it.

His biggest strength as a bartender: The general honest conversation he can have with the people he serves. The conversations that opens doors to people and make them become your best friend for the night.

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