Ah 70 Mile House, the gateway to Green Lake and a place you’d probably miss if you blinked while driving through it on Highway 97. 70 Mile House isn’t known for much but that is about to change. There’s a new spot about a mile past the general store that feels like a slice of Quebec in the middle of rural BC. The Sugar Shack has everything your inner Quebecois desires. Tourtière du Lac-St-Jean, Poutine, Montreal Smoked Meat, Maple baked beans, Cretons, Maple syrup, Maple toffee, Maple bacon… They also do some kick-ass breakfasts and make maple sweetened coffee.
I stopped in to check out their smoked meat sandwich and poutine. The poutine is very good. hand cut fries, house made gravy, and real cheese curds. It’s up there with anything you can get in Vancouver and wouldn’t be out of place in Quebec. The smoked meat sandwich was just ok. The meat is very salty and a bit dry.
The maple sweetened coffee and poutine make The Sugar Shack a “must visit” kind of place if you ever find yourself in this picturesque part of BC.
It’s been years since I’ve eaten at The Old Spaghetti Factory (OSF for short, I’m lazy and that’s a long name…). I remember fresh sour dough bread, reasonably good American/Italian pasta dishes, and spumoni (Italian ice cream). Hayley and I had dinner at the OSF in Richmond during a recent “Awesome Dads” outing with my pal Allan and his daughter. The place was packed and there was a 30-40 minute wait for a table. Thankfully there’s a bowling alley next door with an arcade so the wait passed quickly.
Once seated we received our ubiquitous loaf of sour dough bread that comes with regular and garlic whipped butter. The only problem I found with the sour dough bread was that it was not sour dough… When did this happen?! It’s a loaf of white bread, not particularly fresh either. That’s fairly disappointing. I ordered a Bacon Caesar from their drink menu. Where do I start. The bacon garnish was of the “McCain Readycrisp” variety and had been sitting out a LONG time. It was pale, floppy, and disgusting. My straw kept getting clogged by something which, after some digging, turned out to be artificial bacon bits. Seriously, just a bunch of soy based crunchy garbage added to a drink for flavour? No thanks.
Next up was an appetizer sized Caesar Salad. Other than a few bits of brown Romaine the salad was ok. Store bought croutons, dressing not dissimilar to The Keg’s Caesar dressing you can buy at a grocery store. To be honest this is what most people would bring to a pot-luck/picnic.
My entrée was Spaghetti with Spicy Meat Sauce. You would think that having a restaurant with the word Spaghetti in the name would mean they would know how to cook spaghetti. You would be wrong. Mark, aka @TheLowerCrust on Twitter, provided that insight for me and added this gem when I asked my followers what they thought of OSF and their pasta;
@WFLBC@pinkwhiskers I swear they probably just make them by the bathtub full and let them sit all night. They don’t know al dente
The noodles seem like they were made days ago and reheated. The sauce is ok, slightly oily and not much spice for “spicy meat sauce”. The random parsley is almost pointless and looks as if it was put there by mistake.
For dessert I had spumoni that tasted like ice cream.
There you have it. No entrées over $13 might be the only thing that would get me to recommend this place. I apologise in advance to all of the tourists who end up at the OSF in Gastown because they don’t know any better. It’s not your fault.
Ah Fort Langley, the place should be crawling with hipsters but it somehow isn’t. Coffee roasters on every corner, pop-up shops, hand made chocolates, antique stores. Seriously, the hipsters will come as soon as they put in bike lanes and a decent transit system. Anywho, right beside “Gasoline Alley”, which isn’t really an alley and yes it has a coffee roaster, is Say Cheese Gourmet Grilled Cheeserie. Say Cheese is a tiny shop, like REALLY small. Thankfully Gasoline Alley has picnic tables and grilled cheese is a good candidate for walking and eating. Grilled cheese in many varieties, soups, beverages, that’s pretty much the whole menu. Each sandwich comes with a pickle and potato chips. I had the pepperoni pizza grilled cheese. Let’s see how that went.
From the pictures I’ve seen on the Say Cheese Facebook page I thought the pickle would be bigger. You can just see the top of it in the picture and there wasn’t much more hidden by the paper. The chips were good, nice and salty, thick cut regular potato chips. The sandwich had pepperoni, mozzarella, pizza sauce and some basil (I think).
Tasty, yes. I was expecting more girth based on the few pictures I’ve seen. The bread was nice, I can only assume it was from a local artisan bakery because there’s a few of them (hipsters, seriously go check out Fort Langley). The pepperoni seemed like grocery store brand name pizza pepperoni, the kind you buy in a resealable bag.
For $8 I expected more. The concept is good, the execution is lacking.
The Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich, a Canadian icon. Greater Vancouver has a few places that make a decent version but there is one that stands above them all. Estrella’s in Langley is as close as it gets to being in Montreal. Hidden in plain sight on 200th street between Industrial Ave and Logan Ave, you’d drive right by Estrella’s if you didn’t know it existed. It is surrounded by automotive shops, industrial buildings and an oddly placed dentist office.
Now that you know where it is open up your calender and make some time to check it out. The smoked meat sandwiches are the best around, by a wide margin. Most places in Vancouver make a sandwich with meat brought in from Montreal which tends to taste like it’s travelled in a truck across Canada. Other places make their own but it always comes out too salty. Estrella’s house made smoked meat is absolute perfection. Tender, juicy, flavourful without being too salty. You can order it lean (less fat) or marbled (more fat) just like they do it in Montreal. Obviously the full fat is tastier, the choice is yours.
You can get poutine, grilled paninis, burgers, sandwiches, soups, espresso and speciality coffee. Nearly everything is house made from scratch. The poutine is outstanding.
Tired of mediocre smoked meat parading as the real thing? Go check out Estrella’s at 5932 200th street in Langley (There you go random Twitter guy who couldn’t Google the address yourself…)
Aburi Restaurants Canada operates 2 of Vancouver’s favourite Japanese restaurants, Yaletown’s Minami and Miku in Coal Harbour/Gastown (it’s on the boarder…). Their newest spot is Gyoza Bar + Ramen located at 622 West Pender street between Seymour and Granville. Minami and Miku are consistently outstanding and the buzz accompanying the news of a new Aburi restaurant was palpable during the summer. I paid Gyoza Bar a lunchtime visit the first week they were open back in September.
Due to the hype and the fact that I was working I decided to go right when they opened the doors at 11:30. There was roughly 10 people already waiting outside and 10-20 people behind me when the doors opened. I was seated at the window which suited me just fine as the natural light is great for food pictures. I ordered the Umami Lunch Duo, 7 piece pork teppan gyoza and a medium ramen for $17. I opted for the pork tonkotsu ramen with aburi pork char siu and tamago with the Fraser Valley pork teppan gyoza.
The gyoza are cooked in a traditional cast iron pan which adds a crispy outer goodness that run of the mill gyoza can’t come close to. They are filled with barley fed pork and come with a spicy garlic soy sauce and an umami soy sauce for dipping. The spicy garlic sauce is the way to go, it’s fantastic. These gyoza are very, very good.
The ramen, while a little on the small side, is equally as tasty. Rich, salty broth, tender pork, orgasmic egg, great noodles. Basically heaven in a bowl. $17 is a little more than I like to spend on lunch but I left full and happy.
The rest of the lunch menu looks great with a 4 ramen options, 3 gyoza options, 2 sandwiches, and 2 desserts. The dinner menu expands things a bit and the drink menu offers up some nice Sake, Japanese whisky, Shochu, a few nice wines, and even some craft beer!
The last time I visited a Famoso Pizzeria it was the mid 2000’s in Edmonton at the original Jasper Avenue location. Famoso has grown quite a bit since then with 19 locations spread across BC, Alberta, and Ontario. From what I remember of my first visit the food and atmosphere have survived the transition from single location to multiple franchises. That’s not easy to do, just ask Memphis Blues… I was invited to try some new Fall/Winter menu items and there’s a Famoso in South Surrey, perfect opportunity to have a lunch date with my daughter!
Famoso has started doing in house slow roasted pork butt so obviously the 2 new items I tried had a pork theme. Me + slow roasted pork = yes please. First up was the Paesano Sandwich, the newest member of the Fire Roasted Sandwich family. House made pulled pork, salsa verde, provalone cheese, rosemary-lemon aioli, arugula, and roasted red peppers. This guy hits all the right notes. Peppery arugula, tangy aioli, savoury pork, slightly nutty provalone. sweet roasted peppers, a herbaceous salsa verde, and that crisp roasted bun. Home run.
The other new item featuring pork is the Korean BBQ Pork Pizza. This is Famoso’s first foray into “fusion” style cuisine. Slow-roasted spiced pork butt, Korean BBQ sauce, fior-di-latte (cow’s milk mozzarella), green onion, cheddar cheese, hoisin sauce, all on Famoso’s traditional hand tossed Neapolitan crust. Again, this one is a winner. Tender pork, nice cheese combo, sweet/salty/spicy hoisin sauce and BBQ sauce with a little green onion to tie everything together. Famoso cooks their pizzas in a traditional bell oven, imported from Italy, at 900 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 seconds. This is a good pizza.
My daughter had the Kids Special, a small or “Pizzetta” Margarita pizza, a drink, and a scoop of gelato for $7! The gelato and sorbetto selection is quite extensive but of course my picky kid chose vanilla…
After almost 10 years between visits I was very impressed with Famoso and the quality that has remained despite their large expansion. I like the communal seating mixed with separate tables, the casual self ordering system, and the quick service. Go check them out.
I love Steveston. Steveston has some great restaurants, lots of places with extensive craft beer menus, and is home to the best BBQ in BC at Hog Shack Cook House. Tucked in behind the Hog Shack, right on the water, is Kove Kitchen. Kove Kitchen has taken the place of Mandalay Lounge, a steakhouse that was popular with locals but was in need of a change. Kove is owned and run by the same people behind Mandalay and I decided to pay them a visit last weekend. For what it’s worth I never dined at Mandalay so I have nothing to compare Kove to.
One thing that hasn’t changed (that I can comment on) is the view. It’s pretty spectacular, especially at dusk. Kove is, by all accounts, a little more casual than Mandalay was with a menu focused around comfort food made in house using quality ingredients. The beer list is focused on Belgian style beers which is a welcome carry over from Mandalay.
The thing that drew me to Kove was their Scotch Egg. They had posted pictures of it on social media and I had to try it. There used to be a fish and chip joint in Ladner called Uncle Herbert’s that closed years ago, Their Scotch eggs are the benchmark in my mind. Kove’s Scotch egg is very good with a nice crisp breading and a decently thick layer of savoury sausage meat. The dijon aioli is different…but a nice touch. The yolk could’ve been a little softer, it’s best when it’s in that magical place where the yolk is still dark yellow and soft but isn’t liquid. All in all a very good Scotch Egg.
Next up were the house made crab cakes with fresh salsa and Thai chili sauce. This dish was kind of all over the place. All of the parts were great but they didn’t make much sense together. The crab cakes themselves are fantastic. Large, fresh, lots of crab, pretty close to perfection. It’s just one man’s opinion but I’d ditch the salsa and Thai chili and go with something like citrus aioli or just keep them naked with some lightly dressed greens on the side.
The burger was another dish I had seen on social media. There are a few options on the burger menu but I chose the classic bacon cheeseburger. The 7 ounce patty is Canadian AAA and is ground in house. Served on a pretzel bun with double smoked bacon, applewood smoked cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, and “Kove sauce”, this is a VERY good burger. The patty is thick, juicy, and well seasoned. The bacon and cheese are strong enough to be noticed but not overpowering. The pretzel bun is actually a good addition, I was worried it would suck. This burger will keep people coming back to Kove Kitchen. The hand cut fries are also very good. I paired it with a Dageraad Brewing Amber which was awesome.
So, is Kove better than Mandalay? I have no idea, but Kove Kitchen is a winner.
Hawthorne Beer Market is the newest member of the Pacific North Coast Restaurant Company. Its siblings are the Washington Avenue Grill in White Rock, The Cabin at Crescent Beach, and The Vault which is just down the street from Hawthorne in Cloverdale. I was pretty excited to hear the PNCRC was opening a craft beer focused place and I love the area of Cloverdale where they chose to open it. It’s right on 176th street in old downtown Cloverdale. It took me longer than I’d planned to visit but I finally made it there last week.
It was Wing Wednesday and that means wings are going to happen. Don’t fight Wing Wednesday, just embrace it. The hot wings were quite good, mostly drumettes which was a hit with my dining companion. They aren’t overly hot but the flavours are all there along with some acidity. Nice.
Scotch eggs are the perfect food. Hard boiled egg packed in sausage meat which is breaded and deep fried. Probably not recommended by your cardiologist though. Everything here was spot on aside from the sausage layer being a little thin. Actually it was way too thin. More sausage meat and this is a contender for best scotch egg in town.
The Prime Rib Burger was a huge let down. The patty had the taste, texture, and appearance of a pre made (read – frozen) patty. I’m not sure how long this dish sat in the window before it made it to the table, it didn’t feel overly long, but the fries under the burger were a soggy, greasy mess. There’s a blurb on their website that makes this burger quite surprising “We’re the new kid on the block, and we do things a little different. For starters, we only use the freshest ingredients, and made from scratch sauces. No prepackaged junk you might come to expect from some of the other guys.” If I’m wrong and this burger is actually made from scratch I’m baffled at how you can make fresh ingredients and non pre-packaged junk taste like it came from a Sysco box.
The beer list is solid. I had a Bomber Brewing ESB and a Four Winds pale ale. The staff was friendly but they seemed like they were short a server as one young lady appeared to be covering the entire place (restaurant and bar).
I think Hawthorne has potential, I like the look of the place and the overall concept. I love the location and the beer selection. I just can’t fathom the choice to serve a pre made burger in a place that preaches fresh ingredients.
Estevan Village is a quaint little neighbourhood in Oak Bay steps from the soft sands of Willow’s Beach. The one block retail strip is pure nostalgia with an independent toy store, a pharmacy, trendy shops, and trendy restaurants and cafes. Estevan Village holds a special place in my heart. My grandpa used to live at The Uplands Gate, an apartment building located about 2 blocks away. I used to walk with him (and my mom) through the village and down to the beach when I was a child. Willow’s Galley is a small fish and chip shop that’s been a fixture in the village since 1978 (I’ve read 1980 but the staff told me 78 so…). If you think the building looks like an old corner store you would be correct! I’m not sure how old the building is but it’s been there for a long time.
I spent the weekend in Victoria with my daughter and part of the plan was to retrace the steps of some of my favourite childhood memories. We parked outside my grandpa’s building and walked towards Estevan Village and Willow’s Beach. We stopped at Willow’s Galley for a quick lunch. I had 1 piece of Halibut and chips. The batter was golden and crispy, the halibut was hot and fresh, the chips were hand cut and very tasty. I really like the batter they use. It’s not fancy, there’s no panko, it’s not tempura. It’s just a simple batter. Solid, classic fish and chips from friendly people in a cool location? What’s not to love.
Hayley and I ate our lunch on one of the picnic tables outside but Willow’s Galley is close enough to the beach that you could walk there before your food got cold. Fish and chips at the beach seems like a good idea.
My grandpa passed away many years ago. It’s hard to think about how long he’s been gone. Taking Hayley to “visit him” was very fulfilling. All of the places we visited were just as magical as I remember them. I know that my childhood memories aren’t about the things I had, they’re about the things I did and the places I went with my family. I hope Hayley knows how much this weekend meant to me. Actually, I know she does.
It’s safe to say that most of you have heard of PiDGiN. If you haven’t I’ll assume you are a Quaker who eschews television and the internet. PiDGiN has been the target of anti-gentrification protests since it opened. The thing that I’ve never understood is why PiDGiN was targeted over other places nearby. There are lots of restaurants and bars serving food and drinks that are most likely unattainable to some locals but they’ve been largely left alone. I’m not here to figure it out but I can weigh in on PiDGiN and its menu.
First things first, what’s on the drink menu? I can tell you this, they have an impressive selection of Japanese Whisky and that makes me happy. The cocktail list is long, varied and interesting, and they have wine on tap. My beer nerd pals can choose from a few P49 bottles as well.
The food menu is an east meets west affair with a preference for Japanese style dishes melded seamlessly with classic western techniques. The first dish to arrive was a riff on udon using long shredded potatoes cooked al dente with spicy cod roe and seaweed butter. mix it all together and you have a textural masterpiece. The slightly firm texture of the potato is an unexpected treat. The seaweed butter and spicy cod roe provided a not overly salty backbone with a hint of the ocean.
Next to arrive was a bowl of roasted shishito peppers with grated parmesan and toasted pine nuts. 90 percent of these peppers are harmless but one in every 10 has a pretty awesome hit of mouth burning amazingness. Now stay with me hear as I try to describe the flavour. You know the way a movie theatre smells? The scent of popcorn and sweet candy? That’s what this tastes like. I’m being serious. It’s good.
This dish, gnocchi, takes a hard left turn from the east/west love affair, but not in a way that upsets the flow of the menu. The gnocchi are fairly large, fresh, warm, and tender. This a a relatively simple dish constructed in a way that elevates every ingredient. The peppery radish and mild ricotta are a great companion to the gnocchi.
Next up was “Vitello Tonnato”, Veal carpaccio, albacore tuna, fried egg emulsion and togarashi (chilli pepper). Veal is a no go for a lot of folks and I get that. I am not one of those folks, judge me accordingly. The raw albacore and veal were a silky combo with the egg adding richness and flavour. A very nice dish all around. The veal seems slightly unnecessary though. Using a high quality beef that isn’t veal would open this dish up to a wider audience and the dish wouldn’t suffer at all. That’s my 2 cents.
Finally I had the Pan roasted halibut with cauliflower purée and pine nut raisin agrodulce. Halibut is a conundrum. It was, until fairly recently, an inexpensive fish but marketing and trends have pushed it to another level. Halibut IS a great fish and this preparation is outstanding. The sear is spot on and the slight sweet/sour character from the agrodulce is a nice touch. Cauliflower purée is the new mashed potato and I’m a big fan.
PiDGiN is the real deal. The protests have seemingly stopped and the place was packed and buzzing with happy customers when I was there. Kudos to owner Brandon Grossuti and his staff for persevering, most business owners would’ve given up long ago. I’ll definitely be back.