Quick Bite – Carl’s Jr!

Fast food is fast food, quick, cheap, not that great. Is that actually true? In most cases it is but there are a few exceptions. Five Guys and In and Out are both fantastic fast food joints but they also cost a little more than a Big Mac combo. A recent addition to Vancouver’s fast food scene, Carl’s Jr, takes a similar approach. Fast food that aims to be better than most but at a slightly higher cost. Does it all add up?



Located on Dunsmiur between Howe and Hornby, Carl’s Jr isn’t easily found if you don’t know it exists. I’ve had lunch there 2 or 3 times now and I’m not blown away by anything in particular. The best burger I’ve had is the Western Bacon Thickburger complete with an onion ring and a “fresh baked bun”. The regular Western Bacon Burger is pretty underwhelming but the trademark Thickburger version brings a larger beef patty with better seasoning and the bun is actually pretty good too.

If I were forced to compare Carl’s Jr to another fast food burger joint I’d say it reminds me of Burger King but more expensive.

The verdict? Carl’s Jr IS slightly better than most burger joints but I don’t see the extra dollars being worth it. I’d gladly pay the extra at Five Guys and for slightly less I’d rather have a Bacon Deluxe at Wendy’s.



Quick bite – Mag’s 99 Fried Chicken and Mexican Cantina


It's pretty hard to miss this place, it's brighter than the sun
It’s pretty hard to miss this place, it’s brighter than the sun

Ever wonder what would happen if someone took over a KFC/Taco Bell and started making the same kind of food but actually used good ingredients and cared about what they were serving? Just off Highway 99 as you roll into Squamish there’s a VERY bright yellow building that used to house the aforementioned fast food giants. It closed about a year ago but has been resurrected as Mag’s 99, a fried chicken and Mexican joint using fresh, never frozen chicken and house made GOOD stuff with no preservatives whenever possible.

Nice view of The Chief
Nice view of The Chief

I was in the mood for fried chicken, the Mexican dishes will have to wait for another visit, so I ordered the 3 piece “snack pack”. It takes up to 10 minutes to get your order but it’s piping hot and fresh when you get it and you get a plate of tortilla chips and chunky house made salsa while you wait.

Tasty house made salsa
Tasty house made salsa

The chicken is everything that fried chicken should be, the flavours are very reminiscent of KFC or Churches but the quality of the chicken is far above any fast food joint. I had a thigh, a full wing and a breast in my combo with fries and a drink for under $10. The batter is delicious and you don’t get the greasy fried chicken hangover that usually accompanies fast food fried chicken.

3 piece snack pack
3 piece snack pack

Verdict. Mag’s 99 is good, classic fried chicken made by people who care. Go check it out if you’re in Squamish.


What’s for Lunch Global: Shanghai Airport Edition

May I introduce a new guest blogger, Russ. This marks his “writing anything, ever” debut. He’s a systems engineer and he’s currently working abroad in China. His crepes are soooooo good he puts me to shame, I’m hoping he’ll do a guest post for those one day. Oh, and I’m married to him 🙂

When in need of some fast food when I first arrived in China from Vancouver, I stumbled upon a KungFu restaurant at the ShangHai Pudong Airport.  Intrigued, I thought I would try it out, as an alternative to vastly more accessible and familiar KFCs.   If you have ever been in a lineup at fast food restaurant in China, you will know it’s not really a line up. When one person has finished ordering everyone else tries to be the next person to order, and it can be a little overwhelming if you find yourself at the front of the line and you have not really decided what to order.  You are not allowed to take up space at the front of the line if you are not ready to order.  Orderly line-ups just take too much time…  I found myself hastily pointing at a picture of a meal and ordering a beef rice bowl combo.
The beef and onion steamed rice bowl was decidedly satisfying.  It was served with a side of boiled lettuce salad dressed with slightly salty and vinegary dressing.  I had never had boiled lettuce before, but surprisingly, it was very tasty, and I definitely could have used a larger portion.  A cool lemon iced-tea drink was a good choice when the outside temperature was more than 35 degrees …. and to top it all off, a nice view of Bruce Lee… Going head-to-head with Colonel Sanders of KFC right next door.  While you can find KFCs in China like Starbucks in Vancouver, a rice bowl is nice change from chicken burgers and fries when you need something quick.  And I do mean quick.  My order was filled before I had even thought I finished deciding what I wanted.  In fact I did change my mind once, and they quickly swapped what was on the tray in front of me.  The decor is like that of most fast food places, but with a nice inspiring Bruce Lee keeping watch.  So if you ever find yourself passing through the Shanghai Pudong international airport, take a short stroll to this restaurant section near the Maglev train station.  You’ll find 2 KFCs, and of course KungFu.  You won’t be disappointed.  (pictures attached)
Bruce Lee is watching you
Beef Rice Bowl with Steamed Lettuce
Bruce Lee looks tense




Save On Meats

I’m a little late to the party on this one but hey, I’m a busy guy. Save On Meats is a Vancouver landmark located in the heart of the Downtown East Side, a neighborhood that I don’t frequent due to a pathological fear of bedbugs… After 52 years of serving the people of Vancouver the original meat market closed down in 2009 so owner Al DesLauriers could retire. This past June Save On Meats was resurrected by local businessman and restaurateur Mark Brand. Now operating as a diner, street side sandwich counter and meat market I was pretty excited to see what all the fuss was about.

The sandwich counter is closed on the weekend so I ventured into the diner to get some takeout, the obvious choice being “The Burger”, a $6 bacon cheeseburger with a side of fries. This burger has garnered a ton of positive press and the hype is warranted. Sharp cheddar, thick cut bacon, a fresh hand formed beef patty on a fresh bun with butter lettuce, tomato, mayo and relish, perfect combo. The fries were really tasty too, not the best ever but good. $6 is a crazy good deal for this food, try and find something this good for this little anywhere, you won’t.

The atmosphere in the diner is awesome, a good feeling in an otherwise bleak area. I was asked if I was a cop on my way out the door by a local who seemed to be intoxicated but I’m sure he was just tired from being up all night walking around… If I know most of my readers as well as I think I do I would guess that 70% of you will never go to Save On Meats simply because of its location. Don’t worry about the neighborhood, it’s coming around and places like the new and improved Save On Meats are the key to making the DTES a place worth visiting again.


Random A&W New menu item testing

So I’m sitting at A&W with my coworker today eating a sandwich I had made at home and one of the managers comes up to our table with a tray full of burgers. I thought I was getting tossed for bringing in my own food but she asked if we would like to try one for free, with one catch, we had to fill out a survey telling them our thoughts about this new burger. Um, free burger? Ya I’ll eat it I guess…

The survey indicated that there were 4 types of burgers on the tray, a single, a single with cheese, a double and a double with cheese. I got a single with cheese, which was processed, with mustard, ketchup and the same caramelized onions found on their Prime Rib Uncle Burger. The onions were the best part of this little random freebie, the rest of it was just a cheeseburger, nothing spectacular here. I seems like A&W is trying to come up with a less boring standard burger that doesn’t cost as much as a Teen Burger.

This leaves me with a very thought provoking and somewhat amusing question, what will A&W call this new burger? Most of the family members people can relate to are already in use throughout the A&W burger lineup. This leaves you with some non traditional names to chose from, The Step Dad Burger, The Second Cousin Burger, The Creepy Guy Next Door Burger, or maybe The Guncle Burger?? It would seem A&W has a very daunting task in front of them. The burger family is getting a little full!