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Former Organ-ites go foodie route

Jenny Smith and Katie Sketch, formerly of Vancouver band The Organ.

Jenny Smith and Katie Sketch, formerly of Vancouver band The Organ.

Former Organ-ites open Toronto restaurant

– by Shawn Conner

The latest project from two former members of The Organ isn’t musical at all – that is, unless you include the CD jukebox and some of the clientele.

Katie Sketch and Jenny Smyth, singer and keyboardist respectively for the late Vancouver indie new-wave act, have just opened The Henhouse. A bar/restaurant on Dundas West in Toronto (Sketch moved there late 2006, after the band’s breakup; Smyth followed earlier this year), the Henhouse is tailored to the musicians’ taste. “It’s the opposite of sparse, but it’s not over-cluttered,” says Smyth. A cow skull, old fabric wall-hangings, and “vintage ’20s lady prints” are among the décor.

“There’s lots of lady stuff, ’cos we like that, and we are ladies. Statues of ladies and busts of mannequins that we’ve dressed up in ways we like.”

Smyth says she and Sketch figured they would be spending a lot of time at the 46-capacity Henhouse, and wanted their first restaurant venture to feel like home. The homey feel extends to the still-evolving menu, which focuses on comfort food like Sloppy Joes. Smyth and Sketch split the various duties, and have hired a couple of cooks–neither of whom are in bands, at least as far as she knows.

Publicity photo for Vancouver band The Organ.

The Organ.

So would people walking in off the street guess that two indie-rock musicians, once signed to Vancouver-based label Mint Records, are behind the Henhouse? “Well, we put it together ourselves with all of our own decorations from home,” says Smyth. “We built everything ourselves, with the help of friends. And there’d be a couple indie-rockers working behind the bar, so that would probably be a major indication.” A CD jukebox, filled by Sketch and Smyth, provides the music.

Sketch hatched the idea for a restaurant over coffee one day shortly after Smyth arrived in Toronto, and Smyth was happy to go along. The biggest obstacle has been getting the restaurant space, located in an old building, up to snuff. They eschewed any kind of formal business plan, something Smyth dismisses as “cheesy” and “Keg-like.”

As for local indie celeb guests, well, there’ve been a few, admits Smyth. “But we don’t like to drop names.”

(The Henhouse, at 1532 Dundas Street West, officially opens this Friday, November 28.)

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