At 30 minutes to 1am our group of five stumbled into “The Hub”, Yaletown. Last call was on the horizon and day was approaching, yet our server received us with open arms. And despite our intoxicated state she was nothing but patient. I suspect this is a common occurrence in her industry.
The Guru (gurucooking.ca) says that “The Hub” was the original “Browns”. But from what I can remember during my latest visits, they don’t seem all that similar. Here the logo is the letter “H” with utensils protruding from each angle, a duplicating pattern of fork, knife, and spoon. The decor had that quintessential, contemporary, casual, bar feel. Dim lights from oval paper lanterns, hard wood floors with matching hardwood ceilings, red brick and mortar walls, an island bar with flat screens mounted to it, and an option to sit on high top tables or in elevated booths. The wall by the kitchen was lined with speakers caps, it was an original design that made for a great conversation starter.
This was the casual dining destination for craft beers, thick burgers, and bar comforts. In a setting that breathed unpretentious, the servers wore logo-ed tees and jeans. In their comfortability, you were made to feel more relaxed. They were not on stage and therefore neither were you.
The menus was your usual division between food and drink. The food was divided into “snax”, “greens”, “mains”, “desserts”, “pizzas”, “sandwiches”, “brunch”, and “burger bar”. I was excited to see a page just for Caesars on their drinks list. 5 options: 3 Roman emperors, and one made from gin. Each started off with Clamato juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire, and fresh horseradish, with a salted rim. And differed in garnishes, including pickled beans, poached prawns, and cucumbers. The “Augustus” is made with Finlandia jalapeño vodka, a pepperoni stick, and lemon. The “Smokey bacon” too has Finlandia vodka, but is then jazzed up with smoked paprika, a bacon stick, and a bacon bit rim. With the emphasis of this Caesar being on bacon, I was disappointed that it did not include a full slice of bacon. Or maybe there was, the other half was crushing up for the rim. If that is the case l, this drink needed more bacon. Though the quarter I did get was thick and crispy. In general these some of the strongest Caesars I have ever had, you could clearly make out the alcohol in each sip, and their spiciness seem to only amplify it.
The Guru ordered the “Beef dip”. Made from a fresh baguette, horseradish mayo, prime rib, and au jus. There was the option to add caramelized onions and cheese for extra. The bread was quickly turned into mush, even before a dip in the jus. The Guru knows and likes his beef dips. He says that as simple as a beef dip is, it needs a harmonious marriage between meat, bread, and sauce. Each element needs to bring something to the table, without out shining another. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case for him. The Guru also wanted an order of onion rings. And instead of that, he was given the option to have them as a side dish to the beef dip, as a posed to the standard potato fries that were suppose to come with his sandwich. The rings were thick cut, beer battered, served with chipotle mayo. They tasted good, but you didn’t taste the beer battered difference that was suppose to set them apart from the others. They were no different in taste than the frozen and flashed fried kind.
“Fully loaded nachos”, tomatoes, black beans, corn, black olives, banana peppers, green onions, and cheese. With salsa, sour cream, and guacamole on the side. The Guru said that the key to a good nachos is its layers. Were the mountain of chips intertwined with additional servings of cheese and veggies in addition to what was on top? Though this plate had the above, the Guru claimed that it tasted like a Mexican restaurant in an all exclusive hotel at 4am in the morning. Every chip should have a taste, and did until you realize they gave up half way.
It was last call and one of my guests had yet to finish the beer in hand, let alone the one that sat untouched on the table before him. Though with the added pressure of not being able to have more beer, he simply attempted to order another of the drink he had yet to try. And like the onion ring suggestion, our server offered advice that suited our needs, the customer’s need over her restaurant’s. She suggested that he try the beer on the table before she got him another helping of it. She was right, it was strong and sharp and he didn’t like it. In both instances without her help we would have been upset. By ordering more than necessary unknowingly; and having to order more to replace something we didn’t like, while having to pay for the original and it’s replacement. This is a great approach when in the customer service industry. You cater to your client, and that is what she did. We were impressed by her questioning of our bad decisions. And in turn we appreciated her and the restaurant a whole lot more.
“Red wine braised beef”. Beef with a rich demi glaze, served with mashed potatoes, and seasonal vegetables: cherry tomatoes and asparagus. The meat was a tad on the chewy side, but the ample serving of gravy saved what could be have been dish sent back. The potatoes were lumpy, if you like that sort of thing. It is like the great chunky or smooth peanut better debate.
It was only a matter of time when poutine went handheld. The “poutine burger” is a burger bun sandwiching fresh cut fries, cheese curds, demi glaze, crisp bacon, and Frank’s mayo. On the menu it clearly warns “no meat”. This burger has no room for lettuce, it a hot mess; and there’s no avoiding making one when you order this. However two bites this became a regular poutine that you eat with a fork. Sort of defeating the whole purpose of getting it in its more complicated bun form, as a posed to it being scooped out into a bowl. None the less it was tasty and I finished all of it, soggy bun and all.
“Broccoli and cheese soup”. A classic thick and creamy bar type soup. It takes being used as a dipping sauce for burgers and sandwiches well. But on its own, with its thick chunks of garlic bread croutons, this the soup is rich enough to feed like a main.
Would I come back? – Yes.
I enjoy pub food and this was some of the best I have had in terms of consistency. Visit to visit the food has been the same as its always been. You don’t get bells and whistles, but you do get your satisfaction requirements met. You come in knowing you won’t have to eat through a bad plate; not sending it back because it was your fault for coming on a slow night, or on one where the head chef wasn’t working. There shouldn’t be the need to have food a guessing game. It’s science, use the same formula to get the same solution.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. “The Hub” has every one of your classic bar favourites You want salty, savoury, sour, and sweet? This menu has you covered. There are options from a bucket of shrimp to edamame beans, to a brown rice bowl with salmon and mango, and a carnivore pizza made with spicy yogurt and four kinds of meat. I find it doesn’t matter when I come or what I ordered, the food is always good. Just don’t expect anything ground breaking, I haven’t seen much of a change in it for the last year to year and a half. You just get what you can get everywhere else, with a slight variation. Classic, well known, and well loved pub food. Don’t deny your cravings.