Small Victory Bakery

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I was here today meeting with a manager of Zamato. And what better  place to meet a fellow food lover than at a place serving artisan drinks and gourmet pastries. My guest boasted how this was her favourite bakery and how she is here multiple times a week, or even multiple times within the same day. And even as one who doesn’t like sweets, she did like what they served. She wasn’t kidding about her being here a lot. The staff recognized her and a few even stopped to highlight that fact. A few asked her, her name and many made small talk. If this was any indication of the level of service, I would say they were successful at delivering.

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The bakery is simple inside and out. No flashy signs, no bold colours. Not even a sandwich board on the sidewalk in front. Just a white veneer and gold type face on the windows. You could definitely miss it, if it weren’t for the hoards of patrons lining up and the rotating of bodies in and out of tables.

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Vaulted ceilings, birch wood floors and cabinets, white walls, and their name in gold script at the back. What was most striking was the abstract wall art by the seating area. Geometric shapes constructed out of metal rods, spray painted in gold. They jutted out of the wall in a three dimensional fashion. Their shine matched that of the golden tap at the help yourself utensil, condiment, and water counter adjacent. There aren’t many small tables and there isn’t much room by the counter, but we managed to wrangle a seat after ordering.

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You start by the window, where their glass counter showcasing all their cakes and pastries was on display. Savoury croissants and cheesy scones. For something sweet: slices of double chocolate, layered coconut, and assorted cheesecakes were available by the slice. For something more compact they also had miniature desserts to try. Salted caramel cheesecake, pistachio and  pecan cake, lemon tarts, and hazelnut espresso bars. And something more filling sandwiches, salads, and pot pies are available for ordering. Something not easily advertised, but instead, self read off a written menu by the till. They also sold loaves of in house made bread that their sandwiches are served on.

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You ordering at the register. If your order is to go you pick it up at the counter when they call your name. If it is for here they deliver everything to your table on a hexagon shaped board, carved with their cafe’s name.  Clever, from a social media stand point. You take a photo and post it, whether you geotag or say where it is from, your picture shows their bakery’s name.

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The truth is I don’t blog about many cafés and coffee shops because I don’t actually drink coffee. The fine roasts and the expensive brews with their nutty under tone is lost on me. So today I opted for a “Matcha latte”. The presentation was similar to that of a coffee. A warm cup with some foam and milk art on top. It was a nice touch using a Japanese style tea cup. The drink itself was warming. Not sweet like I imagined, but instead a deep matcha powder flavour mixed with milk.

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I grabbed the last “sweet and salty, peanut butter pretzel bar”, believing if it is the last of something it is a good sign of its popularity. With the nuts it was both filling like a meal and sweet like a dessert. The chocolate in this was more an after note, peanut butter and salt were the stars of this bar. I love my peanut butter chunky so appreciated the extra crushed peanuts in top to give it that similar texture. Overall it was good, but U would have preferred the peanut butter paired with the more traditional sweet jam then the salty coating of a pretzel. I was also missing more crunch. Perhaps a graham cracker layer, something to sink your teeth into and to hold the bar together. With the amount of oil present this easily fell apart.

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The “salted caramel cheesecake” is a fan favourite. A popular twist on the classic New York style cheesecake. The sticky caramel heightened by salt is defiantly the star of the dish, it is what differentiates it from any other cheesecake. And the reason why I ordered this.

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The “s’more cookie” was a little disappointing. With its name I was hoping to liken it more to a campfire s’more. Crisp graham cracker wafers, melted chocolate, and gooey oozy marshmallow. Instead this was a hard oatmeal-like cookie with a crumbly texture and a chewy marshmallow centre. I guess it was an interesting remix of a classic. And you even got the campfire charcoal blackening on it. A decent interpretation on familiar flavours made for a grown palette. Though I still wanted it more gooey s’more.

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The “Lemon tart” was like a miniature lemon merging pie, especially with the twirl of toasted meringue on top. As the balance of sweet to the natural tartness of lemons, it was my favourite part of the dessert. I wanted more than just a dollop. The crust was equally good, so buttery that it crumbled apart under the pressure of a fork, it was almost flaky. Overall I naturally gravitate to a good lemon desert, this one in particular made for a nice break from the chocolate and cream above, and offered itself as an easy palate cleanser. Such a dessert will often be designated as my last bite, the bite to end my meal on.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I wouldn’t mind returning, though given the area, the travel traffic, and the more challenging parking situation it won’t be any time soon. This was a nice addition to the area. The local’s coffee shop. The spot to grab a good beverage at and some fine treats from. Though given its popularity, not the ideal place to study at. More the place to meet your friend for coffee and a catch up session at. Don’t deny your cravings.

SMALL VICTORY
1088 Homer Street, Vancouver BC, V6B2W9
604-899-8892
smallvictory.ca
Small Victory Bakery on Urbanspoon

Tacofino in Tofino

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I couldn’t leave Tofino without trying “Tacofino”. Having “Tacofino” in Tofino just seems right, they did originate from here after all.

The truck felt like a tourist attraction itself, instead of just a stationary truck to feed tourists with. It was permanently parked at one of the busiest squares in Tofino. It lived amongst surf shops, apparel stores, and other food stalls. Like most places in Tofino, the area too provided free parking. You stopped between one of the many stall lines and travel on gravel and stone towards the back of the complex. It was raining and no one paid any mind. The line was growing and customers were patient in waiting for their turn. The truck opens at 11am everyday, and at 12:30pm we were here at peak time. Everyone gravitated towards the orange and metal food truck. Most were dressed in shorts and sandals for the sun that the weather reports promised, the sun that the clouds refused to deliver. The sounds of condiment bottles squirting and the hot grill sizzling, coupled with the smell of hot oil cooking was enough reason to stay in line. Once again the cold was no deterrent on fresh local tacos.

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The seating area was similarly coloured like the truck. Long share style tables paired with orange chairs gave patrons the option to stay and eat outside. However with the trickling of rain and the gathering precipitation on top of the well waxed tables, most opted to eat in their cars, like us.

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When in the line you can only begin to decide on what you want, when you get close enough to the chalkboard menu to do so. Your choices are between burritos, tacos, gringas, and fresh fruit beverages. The burritos gave you the most options for filling: chicken, pork, beef, fish, breakfast, Vegetarian, vegan, and crispy chicken. For tacos you were limited to fish, tuna, beef, and black bean. Gringas were stuffed tortillas; flavours available included chicken, pork, black bean, just cheese, and even pork and kimchi. Under the menu was a FAQ board explaining what each of the above was. Useful for those not in the know of their Latin food terms.

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You order with the man working out of the passenger side window. It was a tight fit and an awkward strain for him, but he made it work. Next to him hung their Vancouver magazine award in recognition. He passed all orders to the three chefs working out the back end of the truck. After the line to order and pay, we now waited in a second line to claim our food.

The man working at the front pleasant and patient, especially given that he must get the same questions to answer day in and day out; as their clientele shifts with the rotation of tourists season to season. His demeanour is a point I need to note, given how in contrast the kitchen staff communicated. I understand those in the kitchen are frantic, they are forced to turn out food in top speeds, while being trapped in a hot sweat box. However the career they have chosen is in the service sector, where the customer comes first and patrons expect a certain level of courtesy. While trying to claim our meal I made an attempt to talk with the gentleman calling out completed orders. He made no attempt to bend down so that he could hear me, and I could not stand any higher on my tippy toes, yet very impatiently he announced he couldn’t hear me so simply walked away. I was left dumbstruck. Not a big deal, but you could tell he honestly didn’t care about me, knowing there would be more customers if I choose to never return because of this encounter. Sadly I reflected on a similar experience I had with their Vancouver food truck. Where the staff preferred engaging on their phones than with their potential repeat customers. Service aside, at least the food was good.

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Given where we were, I went for the tuna taco. Surrounded by water, eat what is from the water. Seared sesame and soy albacore tuna, with wasabi mayo, shredded cabbage, salsa fresca, and seaweed salad. Served on a fire roasted 6 inch flour tortilla. The taco was a mess from the start. They did a disservice to it by serving it with the toasted gringas below. As a result the heat from the gringas caused condensation on the tuna and it’s other juice filled ingredients. At the end they were both forced to sit in a pile of pickled juices. The tuna was tasty, it was seared to perfection and still a little raw in the middle. It’s accompanying ingredients gave it an zesty Asian feel. You got different textures and complimentary flavours.

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“Gringas” are 6 inch flour tortilla stuffed with cheese, meat, or beans; fresh salsa, and sour cream. Then grilled to “gooey perfection”. They were recommend for kids, but as delicious for all ages. We ordered the pork and were only disappointed that we didn’t order three. Once again, given that it was sitting in a pool of the liquid mentioned above, we thought it best to eat this one first. By doing so, each bite was still crispy and light, with hot melted cheese oozing from the centre. I likened it to a very grown up version of cheese and crackers. So much cheese that it looks like the tortilla is made of just melted cheese.

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My partner still speaks of their “Chicken burrito”. A tortilla filled with rice, beans, cheese, and slaw.  It was a heavy hearty snack both in weight and substance. It was packed full, like a meal wrapped up to go. Rich in flavour thanks to sauce, but you could still make out the subtle char off the grilled meat. Not recommended for those with a small stomach.

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Their “Chocolate diablo cookie” was served right away. Handed to me in a brown bag stamped with their truck’s logo: hands clasped in prayer  between a hard taco. This was a savory dessert that made for a good palette cleanser. The cookie was baked moist and chewy cookie. The globs of melted chocolate gave certain bites am extra pop of sweetness. The coarse salt was used to heightened the cookie’s over all flavour. However it was too salty if you bite into a large crystal. The most unique feature was being able to taste the hot sauce as an lingering spicy after note. It warms your throat, belly, and soul.

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Today it was too cold for drinks other wise their “freshies” would have been tempting. Lime and mint, watermelon and basil, and pink lemonade. Perfect for the sun and after a day of surf. For soda, you pay for the bottled beverages and pull your choice from an indented troth. It’s by honour system with a common use bottle opener at the ready.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
From the masses of people and the merchandise they sold, you could tell they were doing well for themselves. It is probably why they were able to easily expand into Vancouver. The Vancouverites who travel to Tofino for surf, discover and fall in love with “Tacofino” during their stay. So when the first “Tacofino” food truck popped up in Vancouver, we were excited to try them for the first time all over again. This was the best thing we had this weekend, though sadly they do not offer the same menu items in any of their location in Vancouver. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TACOFINO
outside break plaza
1184 Pacific Rim Hwy, Tofino BC
250-726-8288
Tacofino Cantina on Urbanspoon

Big Daddy’s Fish Fry

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According to our host, this may be the best place for fish and chips in town. I was here to find out.

One thing I love about a small town is the parking. Locals tend to walk or bike everywhere so parking is abundant, and often without a fee. Even in the core of the town, like we were today, there were no meters and no need to pay. There was hidden parking stalls in the back, specifically labelled for the restaurant, but there wasn’t a need for them. There were plenty of available parking even closer to the entrance. We pulled over at the adjacent park.

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I always think, a place must do well for themselves if they are able to sell their own apparel to a willing market. Not only do they make a profit, they now have people advertising for them. Walking billboards. The cashier was wearing their branded bandana. And around her hanging off the counter were their similarly branded toques, hoodies, wind breakers, and anything else you would need in the varying climate of Tofino. Each with their name and some with their logo stitched on. There logo was an animated fish skeleton flexing his well defined bicep.

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As is the case with many smaller restaurants here, “Big Daddy’s” only offered outdoor seating. We ate on the patio, choosing between a covered area with picnic benches or an uncovered few tables with an umbrella for shade. I wonder how well they fared during the rainy and colder days? Did the lack of indoor seating hurt their business?

 The space had a back yard feel to it. Its perimeter was gated up with a wall separating it from the home on its right. On this fence were fake portholes, like that on the hull of a ship. Instead of a pane of glass the circular wood and metal bits surrounded a mirror. Christmas lights, colourful reflective glass, and Canadian flags also decorated the scene. Amongst all this music from an old radio, crackled. It reminded me what you would hear at a hut on the beaches of California on a hot dry day, or anywhere equally warm and even a bit more tropical. The country twang and classic rock ballads, reflected the slower paced life. It set the tone, even though the cloud and sun on this less sunny day wouldn’t.

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You approach the hut, walking along a planked path, to order. This isn’t the place to come for those who don’t like seafood. A body length menu listed all the various fish they fry up and how they are able to serve it to you. Cod, halibut, salmon, and tuna. Fried on platters, fried in burgers, and fried and cut up in tacos. Of course the classic fish and chip combo was ever present, giving you choices between pieces and type of fish, but in addition offering oysters and prawns in various preparation as well. From butterfly to coconut crusted, and in popcorn sized bites. If you are looking for something more heartier, you can have your deep fried fish in tacos or sandwiches, or in between burger buns with various condiments. But the regular veggie, beef, and chicken fillings were also available for your chosen platform as well. They even have a surf and turf burger with beef and tempura shrimp for those who wanted their burgers with a twist. For snacks they have sides like French fries, deep fried pickles, and onion rings; and their take on poutine is called “messy fries” with the same cheese and gravy recipe, except the gravy is on the side. Something I noticed off another diner’s plate.

 

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You help yourself to a bevy of condiments on the side or grab any bottle from the tool box caddy at each table.

 

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My partner was forced to have a hot dog with ketchup and mayo as he doesn’t eat seafood and has been having burgers for his last few meals.  It was pretty standard. Tried and true. They cut the wiener in half to get an even cook on each side.

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I had the one piece cod fish with chips. It came with a bonus deep fry pickle chunk. From the temperature and the need to blow on your food before eating it, you cold tell this entire basket was fried to order. I was most impressed by my piece of cod bring severed as a singular long rod. There was a lot here, more value than what I was expecting. I can only imagine how it was dipped into the deep fryer with a slow ease. I had plenty of time to admire its impressiveness. It was so hot that I had to wait to eat, or else burn my tongue. For one piece they were generous with the tartar sauce, which in my opinion is what makes a good fish and chips dish. But I somehow still ran out. The fish was crisp with its light batter, and only slightly oily. The grease was well tempered by the chunky and tangy tartar. You could easily make out the pleasant picking in it. The chewy chips were less fried, they offered a nice break from the moist and crunchy fish. The deep fried pickle segment was battered in the same herbed crust as the fish. It was hot and juicy at its centre, but I found it too briny for my liking. Too much pickle to batter ratio.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.

Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
It was good. The fish was fresh and the novelty of having seafood caught by those living and working in town, from just off coast is a unique experience. It made things all the more enjoyable. I enjoyed what I had, and would not be opposed to returning to try their other catches deep fried and dipped into tartar. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BIG DADDY’S
411 Campbell Street, Tofino BC
250-725-4415
Big Daddy's Fish Fry on Urbanspoon

Tofino BC, 2015

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Our latest trip took us to Vancouver Island. We stayed in Tofino with the Pacific Rim as our weekend backdrop. Here are some of the things we learned, the photos we took, and the experiences we earned. May they inspire you to explore all that British Columbia has to offer. They don’t add a “beautiful” in front of it for nothing.
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Enroute to Tofino we stopped at Cathedral Grove National Park. Most of the trees here are either cedar or Douglas fir. Douglas firs are one of Canada’s largest growing trees.
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This is the largest tree, it is over 800 years old and taller than the leaning tower of pisa.

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Unfortunately many of these great giants have fallen due to root and stem diseases like butt rot, which are a growth that look like portobello mushroom caps. None-the-less these trees are still quite the sight to see, even in their horizontal state.

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Our first stop was at Wickaninnish beach. With the sun out this afternoon, it felt like summer already. Water as far as the eye can see.

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You need to pay for admittance to the beaches. It is more a parking pass. Seniors, kids, adults and families had their own price. A one day pass that opens all the beaches to you, you just need a vehicle to travel between them.
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Rain or shine, Tofino is about the surf. The Pacific Rim with its underwater dips and valleys creates the large waves needed. I can’t believe we have surf country in our backyard. #beautifulbritishcolumbia
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The bluish-purple lumps in the sand are dead jelly fish. Their presence is a phonomenon that started happening many years ago.

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They are called velella velella, “sail jellyfish” or “by-the-wind sailors.” They start out jelly and royal blue, but eventually dry out and become rice paper thin. They can’t actually swim, so are washed out of the water by the waves, and end up on beach to die.

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The wild life here is unlike anything in Vancouver. Colourful birds and vibrant sea life. This little blue bird and his friend joined us for lunch. It helped that we shared out fries with them.

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Even the daisies are more animated here. Look how large they grow with the vibrant sun and the fresh air. They even seem to have more petals.

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The first night’s sunset was the one to see. A few clouds didn’t matter, it couldn’t hide the intensity of the light and the neon of the sky. The hardest part was choosing what background we wanted. Islands, mountains, trees or rocks? Here are a few we liked. The sun sets at 8pm, so begins the walk across the beach to find the best place to watch it all happen. Out here, facing the Pacific Rim you get a clearer view of the sun setting behind the world. In the city sun sets are obstructed by buildings and mountains. Here you can see it disappear and tell that the world is round.

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The streaks in the sky really add that feeling of life. You imagine the plane that once flew past the horizon.
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And once the sun ducks into the water, the sky becomes a gradient of colour, as if in celebration. In elementary school when you had to paint those sun sets and sun rises paintings, mine looked nothing like this. #canadiankids
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Our accommodations for the weekend was a flat within walking distance to the beach. We could even see it in the distance from the patio. Stella Maris is the home of a local shop owner. She rents it out for the weekend and we scooped up the chance. The flat is in Rosie Bay, one suite in a town house complex. We later found out that everyone staying this weekend was from out of town too.
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She dressed her home like a hotel with embroidered pillows: “Stella Maris”, miniature bottles of shampoo and conditioner, and the fluffiest of towels.

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When it came to it, we were too lazy from the drive up, to dress up, and set up for campfire s’mores: so improvised. I have done this on the stove before, but never over a stove like this.

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We then started to get creative. Candied some bacon to make breakfast s’mores, since it was closer to 5am then 12am.

 

Sadly our second day proved to be a cloudy one. The shadow they cast made the air feel crisp. A little too cold for us to try our hand at surfing. We agreed to come back and have our first time during summer.

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We visited Ucluelet, the southern most point of Vancouver Island. It was a quick drive from Tofino. It seems more like a fishing town when compared to the surf town of Tofino.

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We approached the dock by the Ucluelet aquarium. It was here we got a good look at friendly sea lions. At the neighbouring Ucluelet seafood factory, fishermen were being hounded by three barking sea lions and a flock of birds, including a baby bald eagle. They all wanted access to the fish that manage to wiggle themselves free from the nets. We captured this photo of a sea lion under the dock. He was on his way to join the others.
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Jelly fish in their natural habitat.

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I missed the first day’s sun. Wishing it would feel more like summer, I added a popsicle to the mix. What screams summer more than fresh watermelon slices?

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Maple beer grilling sauce, how very Canadian. We were adding it to our steaks on the barbecue. One of the ingredients we purchased at the local grocery store, “Co-op”, for dinner.
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Dinner ready, we ate out on the patio  with our view of the beach in the distance.

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Despite the lack of sun to see set, we headed to the beach to enjoy what little light was left. The blue skies and rippling waves were still worth admiring. Even the mountain tops hidden behind fluffy white clouds were a wonder.

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We finally built a camp fire on our last night. Or rather my partner built the fire as I sat and drank wine. The sun set at 8:45pm and things got dark quick. Luckily we had gathered all our dry branches and the wood we would need well before. This was a roaring fire helped along by toilet paper. It didn’t help that the sand was wet and the branches were damp. Both had to dry before they could burn freely in our fire. When the sun has gone out and the world goes dark, it is a whole other world. You cannot see much, but clearly hear the fire crackle and the waves roar in the background. Here in pitch black darkness we huddled. So dark that we couldn’t even see the fingertips on our extended arms.

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We got hungry so started cooking over our camp fire. A stick was sharpened, and we speared a cheese stuffed wiener with it. The hot dogs cooked over fire, when almost done they popped from the heat. The cheese squirts on to the fire and it hisses. We both have never had a wiener so good.
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For dessert we had marshmallows. My partner perfected the process. With a slow rotation he got an even burn on all sides. The perfect crisp shell and the perfect melted gooey centre. It stuck to our fingers and clung to our teeth.

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And what wine pairs well with campfire s’mores? I recommend this one.

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I love a good campfire. The sights and the sounds, it smells so good. But the scent of smoke never leaves you. For me, a soak in the tub helps. They didn’t have a hot tub so I improvised.

 

Last day, heading home. Gas was 122.9. We filled up at the “co-op” gas station, which is the same name as their largest grocery store. Here cables on the ground signify that a car has approached the pump. It calls attendants over to help. They squeegeed the splattered bugs off both the front and back windshields, while we went in to pay for the gas that we were to pump. He did a thorough job. We were ready to go. Cautiously we headed back home. Two of our tires’ exterior had ripped driving down here. We suspected it was due in part to the winding roads of Vancouver island and the speed in which we were barreling down them. My partner is an amazing driver, he was practicing his touge and hugging every curve, While other drivers attempted to maintain their speed, but ended up steering straight. The red of their break lights were all we saw. Therefore a pain point for me is when slower drivers refuse to pull over to the side or over on to the shoulder, to allows those traveling faster to go ahead. Not doing so slows everyone down and inevitably results in risky drivers doing stupid things. Some drive on the other side of the road when it is a double line, others cutting some off in order to get ahead. Other than that I love driving on and being passenger on a longer road trip. Frequent gas station stops, winding roads, and a great scenic view, and this trip had it all. White topped mountains, glistening bodies of water, and green as far as the eye can see. West coast nature I love you. For those who don’t  do so enough, please go out and explore all our province has to offer!

 

Wildside Grill

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Rain or shine, summer or winter, surfing happens here all year round in Tofino.

The woman’s home we were renting for the weekend owns the “Live to Surf” shop in the area. Upon our arrivals we went straight there to meet her. So after checking in, we explored the area to find a suitable dinner solution. We followed the bodies and found out sieves at “Wildside Grill”.

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Tucked in the corner like a hut in the woods, it was their seating area that caught my eye first. Seating is available in front of and to the side of the ordering hut. Red wooden picnic tables out in the open, and plastic chairs paired with repurposed cuts of wood for tables under cover. A makeshift shelter crafted from sanded down drift wood, planks, and Christmas lights. I was most amazed by the wooden fish skeleton gracing its roof, it certainly demanded your attention with its spiny bones.
The place was busy, no much else in the area still open so people were willing to line up, pay first, and then wait ten minutes for their order. The area had a youthful energy to it, school aged children playing hide and seek, young families taking their time on vacation, and teenagers loitering with a relaxed attitude. We stood out with our impatient demeanour and or faces glued to our phone screens. We were from the city and it showed.

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As you wait in line you are able to look through their menus. A list of tacos, burger, bowls, and sides. Below the counter were three additional white boards advertising their specials. Considering they had “grill” in their name we made sure to order items that were prepare using that feature. Sadly my partner does not eat seafood, so despite being surrounded by water and the abundance of fresh seafood from it, he shied away from the fresh salmon or cod offered grilled and battered.
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Instead he had the “Chicken burger” with grilled chicken breast, bacon, cheese, smoked relish, lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo. However it was one of the better chicken patties we both have ever had. Juicy white breast meat, moist with flavour. The bacon was smokey, almost sweet; it paired well with the tang of the homemade relish. The crisp lettuce and luscious tomato offered each bite a light freshness to it. The fries were the crisp on the outside and full of chewy potato goodness on the inside. It was good, but truly nothing special when compared to tacos below.
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“Squid taco” made with pacific humbolt squid seared in their house made guajillo Chimichurri marinade. Served with cabbage, avotillo, fresh salsa, and a lime. I couldn’t commit to 3 for $12 so got one for $5. The squid was the best kind of chewy, a distinctive texture that was both enjoyable to eat and easy to bite through. You could taste how fresh the anthropoid was, and how long it sat on the grill to earn its smokey char quality. It also had a hint of curry to it, a warming musky spice that used the juicy tomatoes to balance out its particular heaviness. If you don’t like cilantro you can’t avoid it here, it is mixed in to the fresh salsa. Though it isn’t very obvious, in fact, here is one of the few times I found its herbaceous quality helpful in adding zest; as appose to being overwhelmingly distracting, as I usually find it. The single taco was packed full, I expected as much for $5. I lost most of the filling on my first bite, and needed a fork to finish it off. The first swallow was the best, and one taste of one taco was the perfect serving. I personally would have found three of this particular flavour to be too much. Whereas the pork ones below, I could go back for more of, luckily you get three to an order.

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Because once again, but my partner doesn’t enjoy seafood, despite it being incredible here, so I just had the squid to taste and we shared three “Taco Carnitas”. Each is made with braised pork, salsa roja, cheese, avotillo, and fresh salsa; and served on 100% corn tortillas, topped with cilantro and green onion. These were one of the most exciting and flavourful tacos we have ever had. A squeeze of the lime added some needed zest to things. Tender pulled pork thoroughly coated in a juicy sauce, slightly spicy and well seasoned. I advise eating this fast, for as soon as the tortilla absorbs too much BBQ sauce it falls apart, and your taco becomes a meat salad to be finished with a fork.

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Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.

This was comfort eating. Fill your belly with simple food made with the freshest and best ingredients. Things were a little pricy for everyday dining, but the cost was definitely related to the quality. A great representation of the area and the community. After all, it was on the food network’s “You Gotta Eat Here”. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

WILDSIDE GRILL
1180 Pacific Rim Hwy, Tofino BC
250-725-9453
wildsidegrill.com
Wildside Grill on Urbanspoon

Horseshoe Bay Ferry

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Park and ride on the “Queen of Coquitlam”.

It was my partner’s birthday, I decided to take him away for the weekend. With the itch to travel, a limited budget, and only three days off we decided a road trip was the best option. So from Vancouver we were Tofino bound.

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We woke early and headed towards the ferries at Horseshoe Bay. We intended to make the first sailing at 8:30am, but the call of sleep was too strong and we ended up sleeping in to catch the 10:30am sailing. It is Vancouver, so there was no surprise to see traffic going in the opposite direction of rush hour. Slow moving cars away from the city’s core.

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When we finally approached the terminal, we followed the signs and stayed in the right lanes. Workers in visibility vests greeted us at the threshold. They directed us to the appropriate lane. Are you going to the Sunshine Coast, Vancouver island, or Bowen island? Do you have reservations? For about $20 more reservations ensure you get on the sailing of your choosing. Without it you risk two hour or more waits if the ferry you were aiming for is full. We didn’t realize there was such an option, so never called ahead to make one.
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The next check point is a booth to pay at. You are charged per person, per car, per way. $80.55 with a $1 fuel rebate and a 30 cent port fee. It is a similar wait and process to that of the border crossing, but without the need to show your passport and explain why you are leaving the country.

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After our money was taken we were warned of a possible wait. There was  no guarantee that we would be on the latest ferry, without reservations. However after 10:30am the ferry comes every hour so the wait would be tolerable. And if you have to wait, at least you have the view of the Horseshoe Bay village to stare at in from afar. Tall mountains with flecks of snow, still blue waters, and a forest of evergreens as far as the distance extends. Though you are bound to a wait in your car. Once in this designated area there is no leaving. Your wait is confined. Though facilities are available to relieve yourself at. A row of cars stretches out in one lane, you can see the white of the ferry from far away. Most drivers get out and walk about to kill time. We were at the end of the line, in the shade, we weren’t going anywhere. Time to lean back and get comfortable.
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After the cars traveling from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay unload off the ferry, we, amongst others loaded on. We prayed for us to fit, for us to get on to this ferry, for us to not have to wait anymore. And we made it. Under the ramp and into the hull, we joined the already formed row of cars separated by painted lines. We parked with the aid of attends, they regulating the distance between us and the vehicle in front and behind, for maximum hold. E-break up, it was time to head up to the deck. It required a ride up the elevator or a climb up stairs. We were closer to the former, so opted to wait. 5 decks listed, the passenger one was right on top, the only deck worth visiting.

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The level had plenty of seating across various platforms. Majority of which were already sat when we got there. Many passengers walked on without their car, and now they needed a place to rest their legs and parcels at. Though with enough walking around you can find your perfect seat: a secluded corner to nap in, a desk with an outlet and three walls for undisturbed privacy, or a high top by the window to watch the waves ripple by. The only thing we were missing were lounging chairs to recline in. I know this was a resort ship, but we were tired and could have used the space to spread out and rest. In the end we headed back to the car early to catch ourselves a cat nap.
The layout was a circular maze, though with plenty of signs and markers we did alright. Several area and doors were coded with paintings. One area was designated with a starfish, another a sea lion, and where we parked was near a killer whale.
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In the dining area was a steadily growing for breakfast at the “Coast Cafe”. They served burgers and entrees from “White Spot” and “Bread Garden”. Many deemed it worth the wait. Many small families filled the tables and ate from pirate packs. For those who just needed coffee, a smaller line and a quicker wait at “Coast Cafe Express” was the ticket. They offered expressos and cups of joe, and light snacks in form of prepackaged and premade cold foods. Pastries and sandwiches, fruits and salads. For the travellers, the gift shop offered an opportunity to find souvenirs. And if you missed it the announcement over the PA’s had you considering the above.

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As most tourists do, we sought to get out and up to enjoy the view. Today the “Sun deck” was aptly name. We were travelling with warm weather, it felt like summer. A covered area provided benches and the crisp air, without the glare and wind. We found a place at the stern of the ship (the back), where we were able to lean against the side. There we took some time to enjoy the heat, while gazing out to where we once were. Cloudless skies, hot sun, and boundless waves; with the background of the city and mountains disappearing in the distance. But sadly no marine life, and believe me, camera ready, I looked. You just needed to tune out the children crying, the friends chatting, and the rumbles of the ship to fully enjoy the open sea. Though as I mentioned above our time here was short lived. Both my partner and I are night owls so the 8am rise was difficult for us and we were only know feeling the fatigue of it. So back down we travelled to catch up on sleep and be ready for the day of adventuring before us. 1.5 hour ferry ride to Tofino.

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Though sadly our fatigue cost us the opportunity to see a pod of killer whales travelling to the left of the ferry. An announcement was made over the speakers, by the captain, to call attention to the feat. It was ten minutes after we reclined our chairs and settled into our seats. We were already cozy in the car, so this would be an opportunity missed.

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We were later awoken by the PA again. This time asking all patrons to return to their cars as we would be docking soon. Welcome to Nanaimo.

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On the way back home, taking the Nanaimo ferry to Horseshoe Bay, we raced down the mountain to catch the 5pm sailing. We rushed only to be informed by an electric sign that the sailing was full and the 7pm sailing was already at 53% capacity. It was only 4:30pm. The race  continued until we finally reached the gate and paid the toll. We felt relieved to wait in line 22 for 2.5 hours for the 7pm sail time. At least we weren’t waiting another two hours on top of that for the 9pm sailing. The weekend was over and people were heading home.

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Time was killed at their market place,  an option not offered at the Horseshoe Bay dock. Here patrons boarding by foot and car mingled over snacks. A miniature food court offered pizza, sandwiches, pop, and chocolate. My partner grabbed a bottle of water and a magazine to pass the time. I gravitated to the “Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory”. There they had caramel apples, fudge, chocolate bon bons shaped like minions, and ice cream. I challenged myself to eating their chocolate and peanut coated frozen banana as lady-like as possible. It was frozen on a wooden stick like a popsicle, and not easy to eat. I didn’t consider how embarrassing eating this in public would be. The nuts constantly falling down my dress, for starters.

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At 7pm we started driving into the “Queen of Cowichan” ferry. This time around we decided to stay in the car for the 1.5 hour ride home. The weather wasn’t as nice as on our ride here. There would be no view past the clouds and no warmth on the top deck. So once again reclined our seats and fell asleep. Wake up, hello home.

 

Turkish Donair

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I don’t know much about the Turkish culture, but wanted to find out what made these donairs different from all the others. Today we were at “Turkish Donair” for a quick bite, the only shoppe serving donairs in this area of North Burnaby. My partner has been before and decided it would be as adequate of a place as any other to have lunch at.

I try not to judge a book by its cover or a restaurant by its exterior, but it is hard not to when the place looks run down. The awning was caked with grime. What was once a black covering with yellow font was now stained a mossy green mess. Though considering that this didn’t deter anyone else from entering, why should it me? I would soon find out.

The front window and sandwich board helped to convey everything they offered in clear photos and precise words. Pitas wrapping either Halal meats or the vegetarian falafel. “Halal” refers to any object or action that is permissible to use or engage in according to Islamic law. The term covers and designates not only food and drink but also all matters of daily Islamic life. “Falafel” is a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both. It is a traditional Middle Eastern food.

The restaurant held a narrow space. On one side the counter to order and prepare food behind, and across from it several mirrors mounted on the wall. The mirrors helped to give the room the illusion of depth and breath. The black counter was manned by the lone shop’s owner/only employee. It was decorated with spray painted vegetables: tomatoes, lettuce, olives, cucumber, and rings of raw onions. What followed was a picture of a completed donair with all the ingredients above, tucked neatly in to a warm pita. Above it was a half empty chip rack and to its side a fully empty refrigerated display case. I don’t know if the barren fixtures were because it was Sunday in the early afternoon and they would be closing soon. But I do know it made it seem like the shoppe was going out of business. An empty display case dressed with clean dishes and tongs and cake trays with lids holding nothing but air. At least the can and bottled beverage fridge was well stocked. The above could also be probable because they use to sell more sides and snacks, but those sides and snacks were never very popular. So they ended up being more cost than profit to make; to have available, and to not sell. Therefore they were discontinued. Though if that was the case they should just clear it all out and make room for some more appropriate seating.

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The less functional portion of the restaurant was a very ethnic attempt at interior decorating. I will not be able to call specific items by their names, but can none-the-less describe what I saw and how it all made me feel. Towards the back, a set of side tables and chairs stood. They differed from the ones used for dining closer to the door. The arrangement felt like it belonged in someone’s home. It seemed like the space was designated more for the owner’s friends to come and hang out in, then for actual restaurant seating. Side tables to rest drinks on and chairs with armrest for extended periods of sitting. Two small television sets sat in opposite corners. One was tuned to Arabic news, it offered the only noise in the otherwise quite restaurant. Artificial potted plants, assorted frames commemorating various photos, and antique looking clocks and wall pieces in wood and metal crowded the area. Most curious was the wall mounted wire wine rack, it carried a plastic bottle of Brisk ice tea instead of its intended glass bottle of wine. One table had a printed fabric laid over it, a leather piece decorated with a multitude if watercolour. We weren’t comfortable dining in this portion of the room and only considered the bar by the window or the two top tables across from the counter. The thought of hunching over and eating off of tables at knee height was not too appealing. Nor were we very comfortable with dripping juices on to the fabric table covering above.

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You order from the three menus above the counter. The first menu divided the chicken, lamb, and beef donair options from one another. Essentially it was the same array of ingredients across the board, but you change up the protein in each. Six donair flavours influenced by four different cuisine types. The secondary menus offer the same flavours as a platter or as a combo. A deconstructed donair: meat over rice with a side of salad and pita. Or a fully filled and wrapped pita with a side of rice or salad. Essentially they increase their menu listing by offering the same ingredients in different applications. Clever, though at the same time less can be more for such a business. I recommend that they bring it down to one menu and simply do six dishes the best they can. Maybe then I would have actually enjoyed what I had.

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Because there was only just the owner working the front counter, a few guests left, being put off by the minimal wait. It ended up being better for us as our position in line moved up. He was very friendly. With a smile on his face he informed us they were out of chicken. We were disappointed. How could that be? At 2pm, and with chicken being one of the most popular proteins. Though considering they were also out of toilet paper for the whole restaurant, I guess it wasn’t really that big of a surprise.

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The difference between a large and a small donair was pretty obvious upon comparison. I had the small, as after describing what I saw I was not to optimistic about the food.

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I chose the “Lebanese Beef”, deciding that it would be the most flavourful given its use of sauces and spreads like tabaulah, hommous, and tzatziki; along with tomatoes, onions, and lettuce. The “Greek” with olive, feta, and tzatziki would have been my second choice. The wax bag wrapped and twisted at the bottom of the falafel was a food idea. Not only did it save my fingers from the inevitability of juice running down them, but it held the wrap together until I got to the bottom. The beef had a spongy texture and wasn’t as good as I had hoped. It would have been better with a shredded texture. It was definitely not fresh, but that was probably because it was reheated in the microwave. You could hear the beep to set it, the closing of the plastic door, and the ding-ing of the bell to indicate it was done. I immediately thought, isn’t the point of such places to have the meat cook on the spit, and for the fragrance to waft in the air and attract customers in? I guess they just weren’t busy enough or a large enough operation for fresh food made to order. In my wrap, I missed the hommous and didn’t get enough tzatziki for taste. At this point I could have used a dish of each for dipping in to. The creamy hommous paste, would have not only given things more flavour, but it would have made this wrap more filling. When eating it, I was missing that hearty substance feeling. A void the unripened slices of tomato and excessive amount of lettuce stem was unable to fill. There was a lot more lettuce than necessary, so much so that we ended up digging most out as we ate our way down.

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My parter ordered the “Maritimer Beef”, not being able to have chicken. He liked the sweetness of the sauce included, but decided it was not complimentary to the spicy beef. Like my falafel above it too came with pale tomatoes and too much lettuce. He had passed on hot sauce, which was a mistake. It needed more flavour, another layer, another element to give it some kick. Crispy fried onions or a tangy slaw. Though both really wouldn’t be very Turkish. I would have been nice to have some tzatziki in this one too, a mix of sweet and tangy, it surely needed something else as it tasted incomplete.

When the crowd had filtered out and all orders had been made, the owner sat behind the bar to watch television. Something that isn’t too professional, but for a small shop like this I don’t mind. However he decided to turn the volume up to combat against the already loud buzzing of the refrigeration equipment. It made our conversations difficult, the need to talk over the voices coming from the television. That and we felt like we had to be quiet so that he could watch his tv in peace. This was definitely not the greatest of eating environments. However we were here to eat and go so tried to pay no mind.

As I made mention to earlier, my attempt to use the single stall washroom was foiled without the presence of toilet paper. I search through all the cupboards before asking, but he had indeed run out. Guess they don’t have many female patrons using their facilities or anyone using it at all. The owner had offered to run and get some, but I rather not have waited. The experience was mildly salvaged by his kind demeanour and friendly nature.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
If I was just ranking service, this review would be different. Despite the intention for an easy grab and go snack, our meal was unsatisfying. I rather not return as I can find far better donairs else where. Or simply choose something else in the neighbourhood. Sadly I have had much better an will travel much farther for it before coming back here. I say “sadly” because the owner was so nice and he made up from the greviences above. I would consider coming back just to support him if it wasn’t for the pungent lingering taste I had in my mouth after I finished eating. I craved a palette cleanser all the way to the nearest gas station to use the washroom. Don’t deny your cravings.

TURKISH DONAIR
4066 Hastings Street, Burnaby BC, V5C2J3
778-371-0371
Turkish Donair on Urbanspoon

QQ Sushi

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I have written in the past that this sushi shop fills a need in the neighbourhood. That fact still holds true today. For me it is a quick and easy stop for cheap eats. I am most often here close to pay day, buying their 19 piece sushi special with miso soup for $6.50. You can’t get  much for that price, let alone all this. Though sadly during my latest visit I had to add in this insert to my post. The price of my go to combo has now increased, the chef blamed inflation without actually saying those words. The special was now $6.95. And even though the 50 cents isn’t much more, it just doesn’t feel like the same valuable combo any more. Now that I have had it at $6.50 how can I go back? What was worse was I called ahead, as I always do, to have my order ready for pick up, but it had not even been started.

I noted previously that the restaurant setting was not the greatest. All together I find things fairly disheveled. It is an open space, it does not separate kitchen from dining room. Where being able to watch the chef prepare my meal isn’t necessarily a good thing or something I want to see. I instead highly recommend taking out. To eat the food that I want for the decent price I paid for it, in a setting I actually enjoy. The dining area was worn and in need of a refurbishing and that the kitchen seem cluttered and less then clean. Though I have yet to get sick so continue to consume their goods.

But once again instead of my combo being ready after I paid, I was told to wait, that they will start making it now. I couldn’t wait so asked for a refund. To save the sale another chef, who was actually on break jumped in to help. I often take out around 2:30pm when all the staff assemble and have lunch together in the dining room. This happens every day. One ceases each time a guest enters or their service is needed by someone already dining in the room. This is a very common practice for Chinese restaurants, and at this Chinese run Japanese sushi shop it is no different. Not that I mind them taking a break, I just find it unprofessional the way they go about it. You don’t see this practice at a “Joey’s” or even at an “McDonalds”. And if those employees are eating in the dining area they are doing so one at a time, incognito, out of uniform. As the customer you almost feel bad for giving them business. To take a man away from his meal for $7.50 after tax. None the less it is what it is if you want to eat here. And I still prefer this, interrupting the chef during lunch over the curt woman they employ. She is an employee scheduled to work the register during their lunch rushes. She uses the busy traffic as an excuse to rush through the service portion of customer service. She doesn’t say “please” or “thank you”, she speaks with an impatient tone, and genuinely seems to not care about your patronage. I honestly don’t know why I go back to them and essentially condone her actions each time I give then business. Maybe after today I will think twice. There is actually a newer sushi place a block away. However they do charge more, though the great service may be worth the dollar or two more you have to pay.

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I digress, back to my “sushi special combo” now at $6.95. Together two chefs boxed everything in 2 minutes, which made me skeptical of what I would actually be getting. The rolls were from the fridge. I paid 50 cent more for something not made to order? Truthfully this, I think this was now enough to have me taking a break from “QQ”. The special comes with the most popular of rolls from the vegetarian and non vegetation side of things. California and dynamite roll paired with yam tempura and cucumber rolls. Truthfully they all were descent and filling, though none was good to stand out on its own. Creamy crab, crunchy prawn tempura, starchy yams, and crispy cucumber wedges. Standard for North American sushi.

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Below are a few other dishes I have had previous to the above episode. The next five are Japanese dim sum. I call it that because their origins is Japanese, but some how during the preparation process they come out completely different than expected. Something reminiscent of Taiwanese bubble tea shop snacks or Chinese small plates. Japanese dishes made in a Chinese tradition.

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The “Takoyaki” tasted like fish balls, and were just as dense. The kind you have during hot pot. Though they weren’t actually shaped like balls, more domes with flat bottoms. And they were smaller and less dressed than what you would expect from Takoyaki. Not a lot of mayo, hardly any dried herbs or any bonito flakes. There was section of octopus tentacle in the centre but it offered nothing but its rubbery texture. Not worth trying again.

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The “Agedashi tofu” was even more disappointing. This was officially the worst rendition I have ever had. Even with the sauce served separately the squares of tofu were mushy. In no way were they ever crisp from their tempura battered deep fry. And even with a healthy soak in the tempura sauce provided each block of bean curd remained bland. It needed seasoning. The tofu needed salt, and the batter that coated it needed some flavour.
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The “seaweed salad” was pretty standard. I am sure they buy a lot of it premade to serve like this. I knew what I would be getting with this one and was not disappointed. It offered something light and fresh to accompany all the other deep fried appetizers.

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The “spring rolls” were lacking in colour, though their pasty complexion was not a reflection on their crunchy exterior. With more flaky shell then chopped up ingredients, it could have used and taken triple with filling. Though like this they kept their standard fast food spring roll flavour, especially after a dip into the sweet and spicy sauce. Pretty uninspired.

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I could not be certain if the pork “Gyozas” were homemade, but given the above and how delicious these were by comparison, I would think not. Each dumpling was chewy with slightly crisp skin from a thorough pan frying. It was filled edge to edge with well seasoned pork meat. Best enjoyed with the salty dark sauce provided, but not dependant on it. Clearly the Gyozas and the spring rolls were made by two different people.

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The “vegetarian sushi combo”.
I actually prefer vegetarian sushi, I know I am essentially eating vegetables and rice in a travel ready format and that soy sauce over raw vegetables aren’t really that good. But it’s something about them all together that works for me.

The kappa roll was your standard starter roll, a bite of cucumber and rice. The yam tempura roll is best eaten warm, with its filling fresh out of the deep fryer. Then you still get than crisp with all that chewy rice. Leaving it for too long has it going mushy. The vegetable roll was surprisingly very tasty, especially considering that the roll is just raw vegetables wrapped in seaweed and rice. This large bite was filled with avocado, cucumber, carrot, lettuce, and sweet tofu. The sweet and salty sauce finishes it off well.

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The “chicken don” was pretty good. A descent amount of chicken coated in a sweet teriyaki sauce, served over crisp bean sprouts and moist rice. Though not enough chicken when considering the amount of rice you get. At least the rice too is coated in teriyaki sauce, making it easy to consume without a bite of chicken. The chunk of carrot and the floret of broccoli were left on the rawer side. They were tough to get teeth into and hardly worth the effort.  More visual interest than edible element, they gave an other wise brown dish a pop of colour and some appeal. Digging around I did find a silver of carrot and one of zucchini. They made a fine additional to the bowl and I wished for more.

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The “beef don”, like the chicken one before was fairly standard. Served in the same fashion and the same sauce. Thin cuts of beef coated in teriyaki sauce over crisp bean sprouts and moist rice. This was pretty much the blue print for their other rice bowl dishes too. You choose a protein or tofu, it gets coated in teriyaki sauce and is served with everything else. This order could have use more sauce to make up for the dryness of the curls of meat. If possible finish this all in one go, having to reheat it turns the meat even tougher with an unappetizing grey colour to match.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I don’t come here expecting the best sushi I have ever had, or anything all that good in fact. It just beats spending $10 for a meal every day. Though eventually I do grow tired of their special combo and do mix things up. Never the special rolls though, I have learned my lesson, they are not all that good for the extra dollars you shell out. Also keeping it simple with minimal ingredients in a roll proves to be a solid game plan for any North American style sushi shop.
Once again the food isn’t the best, the setting isn’t the nicest, and the staff are not the most courteous, but there is just something about this place. Like they have figured out the magical formula where their quality of food is precisely equivalent to the amount they offer it at. Nothing has been amazing, yet nothing is bad enough to bring to the attention of a staff member or to deter future visits. There is good value and for that alone I will continue to take out with them, but just maybe less frequently.
Don’t deny your cravings.

QQ SUSHI
1640 West Broadway, Vancouver BC
604-568-9018
qqsushirestaurant.ca
Q Q Sushi on Urbanspoon

Jethro’s Fine Grub

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Another restaurant I have taken this long to visit because of its earlier operational hours. They specialize in breakfast and brunch, and only open long enough for a late lunch. We choose their newest and second location for our 2pm dining today. The free parking lot to the side of the restaurant was a plus. It sure set the lunch off right. I have always found their name fun: “Jethro’s Fine Grub”, a catchy oxymoron. And printed on their presumptuous awning, it was even better. “Est. 2010 – Forever”.

I have peaked into their original location and was a little disappointed at the interior here. It looked like the former establishment used their space well. Scuffed floors and chipped fixtures. Not much seemed redone or renovated for the new space for this popular restaurant. The fresh coat of paint on select walls and the pop of teal helped to bring new life, but the friction from the metal diner chairs was quickly wearing parts where chair and wall met.

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One wall featured a streak of black paint that was used as a chalk board. On it their logo was drawn, their trademark font: a retro tattoo style. And on either sides of it, an advert for their social media presence was detailed.  After reading it, I would be posting a picture of us enjoying our food for a chance to win a $20 gift certificate. The opposite wall featured an assembly of frames. Literally just the frame of several frames hung on display. A large one adjacent boxed in their own line of apparel. Tees and tanks featuring the café’s name. Other than that there wasn’t much in the way of theme or decoration. Not that it mattered much, the plates of food to come were eye catching enough, and they didn’t need additional distractions.

The restaurant had a very relaxed vibe. Slow traffic through the doors, classic rock playing overhead, and the servers dressed in tanks, tees, and runners. Our server was friendly enough. She apologized profusely for forgetting our order, for repeatedly having to arrange our table’s condiments and to restock the napkin dispenser as we ate. It was only because we were the last customers in and they were closing in an hour. She was getting a bread start. If she didn’t explain her motions and just burst into our personal space to action the above, it would have been a different story.

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With it on the menu, how can I pass up trying alligator for the first time? It was this or the “Catfish Po-Boy”. Guess it will give me a reason to wake up early to try catfish for the first time. “Alligator Nuggets”. Battered and flash fried ‘gator over basmati rice. Served with a blonde barbecue sauce, and a tossed salad. The alligator bites were very pleasant looking. Fried crisp these nuggets were pop in your mouth friendly. Deep fried crispy on the outside, dry and stringy on the inside. The actual meat was fairly tough, you couldn’t easily bite a nugget in half. It tasted like chicken. The flavour was all in the seasonings and the accompanying dish of sauce. I have never heard of a “blonde barbecue sauce”, but I was won over on the first taste. It was creamy and tangy, and tasted nothing like the ranch dressing it resembled. Better, if possible, and delicious enough to want a second go at it. Though there was not enough of the sauce to help moisten up the equally dry rice. I found it especially hard to swallow towards the final bites.

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My guest, craving something more fresh had the clear choice: their “Obligatory Vegi Wrap”. A fist width burrito filled with rice, black beans, apple fennel slaw, corn, jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, and two types of bbq sauce. The same blonde sauce above and a hickory barbecue sauce as well. Vegetables, lentils, and grains brought together to form a food rainbow. As is the case with most burritos, it is a commitment to finish. The initial few bites were the best and towards the mid point you struggle to keep ingredients from spilling out, and to keep yourself excited over the one note flavour. Even though it essentially had as many flavours as it had ingredients. A mix of smokey, sweet, and tangy. Combined with a crunchy, starchy, and gritty texture. Although many of the ingredients were raw you didn’t get a sense of intended freshness; with the heavy beans, the filling rice, and the over powering barbecue sauce. We would have preferred more grilled vegetables wrapped up in this colourful roll. And less of it all together, this was not a burrito you could finish in one sitting. A half was boxed up to go. Though burritos do not make great leftovers, the tortilla shell often breaks apart from accumulating additional moisture from the ingredients within.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I would like to come back to have my catfish, but to also try their all day breakfast, which they are better known for. The food is really the allure here, your favourites with a slight southern twist. This location seems to see less traffic, so chances are you may be able to avoid the line and wait more prevalent at their original restaurant. So if that was what was stopping you from trying “Jethro’s” before, you have no excuse now. Don’t deny your cravings.

JETHRO’S
3455 Fraser Street, Vancouver BC, V5V4C4
604-620-5292
jethrosfinegrub.com
Jethro's Fine Grub on Urbanspoon

Roadies Burger Bar, Hard Rock Casino

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The Hardrock casino in New Westminster has been open for a year now. So this date night my partner decided it would be spent dining at their trademark cafe. Sadly it does not exist, something we only discovered after the car ride to. Instead they offer five other dining experiences. We were looking for cheap and quick so that eliminated the Pacific Northwest restaurant and steered us into the actual Casino. Clearing the ID check and the security guards we travelled past blinking lights, the clinking of chips, and the rolling melodies to the back of the hall.

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We originally planned to dine at their pub/bar space “Asylum”, but given its popularity during this hockey game that would not be an option for us. Though my partner noticed all the food from “Asylum” was prepared else where and only
ushered there by waiters on trays. Following their travel path led us to three other restaurants, or rather the casino’s food court. So we cut out the middle man and decided just to eat here. The Casino food court accommodated. It knew its demographic and catered to it. 50% off for those 50 and up. Outlets to charge your devices at built-in to several tables. Eating options for the most decerning of tastes. And they even hire numerous youths who found their work place exciting and the later hours enjoyable.

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You chose between three stalls side by side. One a Chinese fast food stand, the second various sandwiches; and the last, what we had, the burgers and fries. The menu was a little harder to read then order off of, three giant screens in a row. Each representing one of the the three food stalls. And each kept flipping between two options: mains and sides. Luckily there was a hand held menu to reference. You pay at and order from the same counter. You are then given a number on a metal stand to identify you to your meal, as you search out your seat. You choose your seat amongst tables and a bar surrounding the perimeter. The checkered floor distinguishes the dining area from the carpeted casino floor. This was all an open space. So you could still see the bright bulbs of the slot machines, and hear the noise of those making gains with each pull of a handle.

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Like a fast food chain all drinks, utensils, and condiments were a self serve affair. Fountain drinks to the right, available after you are handed a plastic cup to fill. To the back a counter organized. Here you choose your equipment and gather all that you need. Chopsticks or forks, chilli sauce or mustard, napkins, the convenient wet wipes, and water dispense from a tap.
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The “starter burger” came by mistake, I snapped a photo before realizing and bringing it back to the counter. This was just a beef burger with tomato, lettuce, and their specialty thousand island-like sauce. It looked good, the patty seemed juicy and thick, and the vegetables were a vibrant hue. However it was not what I was craving for, nor was it what I requested. When I brought my concerns to the woman at the till, the one we paid with, she looked skeptical of my claim. Instead of correcting my order she insisted on checking through the previous receipts. It only concluded she typed our order incorrectly, as my partner said “cod” and even pointed the desired option out on the hand held, laminated menu.

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The fish burger that I really wanted was worth the hassle and the wait. Beer battered cod with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and loads of tartar sauce. The fish was definitely fried to order. It was tremendously oily, and as result the batter flaked off and things literally fell apart. Maybe the process was rushed to accommodate me. But sadly it only hindered the full potential of the burger. It was a messy affair. The tomato was definitely appreciated as it helped to break up all the grease. Overall still a burger I would order again, who doesn’t love a good crispy piece fish and a dish of creamy tartar sauce to dip it in to?

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My partner got the “Bacon cheese burger”. It was your classic burger line up: bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and their signature sauce. It was the sauce that set it apart from all other burgers, that and the perfect grilling of the patty. The patty was not over cooked, as is often the case with such quickie burgers. It was moist throughout, with the tiniest bit of pink remaining; it made it all the more enjoyable to eat. This one we made a combo with a side of fries and the fountain drink of our choice.

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We couldn’t go without trying their onion rings, so we ordered it as a side. The rings were cut thick, with a similarly thick coat of breading. It definitely had the crunch of a good onion ring, but was overcooked to achieve it. A burnt taste that lingered with each bite. I couldn’t get past it and the crumbly texture to fully enjoy the crunch. A creamy mayo based sauce would have helped this tremendously. Plus the rings were a little on the blander side.

When we left with our empty papers and used plastic one of the bussers  thanked us for clearing the table. He jokingly offered us a job. I always thought it was customary to minimally clean up after yourself. To clear the table and allow for the next round of patrons to take a seat. Like tipping, it is just expected and you do it not to be judged going against that.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.

I liked the glamour of dining in a casino. I found the food decent and the prices fair enough. But mostly I would like to return to try their North American Chinese food and their in house made chips that paired with their deli style sandwiches. Though for fast food it wasn’t served very fast. I guess good food takes time. Don’t deny your cravings.

ROADIES
Hard Rock Casino
2080 United Boulevard, Coquitlam BC, V3K6W3
604-523-6888
hardrockcasinovancouver.com/venue/roadies-burger
Roadies Burger Bar on Urbanspoon