American Sociological Association

Omnivorous Gentrification: Restaurant Reviews and Neighborhood Change in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver

Through an analysis of restaurant reviews, this paper examines the production and consumption of food, as well as ideas and symbols about food, within a gentrifying neighborhood, the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver. In particular, it analyzes how reviewers frame culinary “authenticity” and attach symbolic value to a low‐income area of the city, while often acknowledging an emerging civil discourse that sees gentrification as a problem. I explain the tensions and contradictions in the orientations of newcomer restaurateurs and the food writers who report on their activities with a concept drawn from the sociology of culture, omnivorousness. It refers to a broad shift in the consumption patterns of high‐status groups in Western society from highbrow snobbery, to an eclecticism of tastes drawing from all levels of the cultural hierarchy. The analysis shows how the populist impulses of “foodie” discourse and “social preservationism” come into conflict with the drive to achieve status and distinction through omnivorous consumption practices. Gentrifiers try to resolve this tension through “ethical entrepreneurialism” which fails to address ongoing structural inequality in the neighborhood.


Zachary Hyde





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