888 Nelson Street
With shrinking domestic markets and consumption, combined with growing awareness and demands overseas, we’re seeing more new entrants in various industries reach our borders. Rumors of Japan’s massive clothing retailer Uniqlo apparently coming soon to Vancouver is one. American’s Target and Nordstrom are also prime examples. And the focus of this piece, the 600+ strong (in Japan) yakiniku chain Gyu-Kaku has steadily made its way with outposts in Asia and the US. Canada was chosen as their beachhead into Canada, specifically downtown Vancouver.
Having been to several of their locations in Japan over the years on lazy meal nights when I was craving meat, news of Gyu-Kaku’s arrival in Vancouver personally didn’t excite me a great deal. Its like a Vancouverite getting excited about a Cactus Club visit I suppose. When its around you and very ubiquitous, the allure is simply not as high. So my eventual visit was even a random, impromptu one just last week. I came away from the dinner pleased overall and with no major complaints and with a clear understanding it can’t be 100% replicated overseas. From the very full room on a rainy, mid-week evening, its clear they have established a solid clientele already. Kudos!
Maggiano’s Little Italy
3200 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV
This gambling and entertainment mecca probably has the best and worst of what America has to offer from a culinary perspective. From absurdly priced, high end celebrity chef fronted establishments to the ultra cheap diners and fast food stands, there is no shortage of food in Las Vegas. It all depends on what you are wiling to pay, the level of your palate, and perhaps even the level of success (or lack of) you’ve had in the casinos.
Strangely enough, I’ve dined at Maggiano’s in an entirely different city – Orlando, FL, just last year. By chance, I came across it again on a hurried trip to the Fashion Mall to pick up something before jumping in a taxi to head to the airport and leave town. I had some mates in tow who were also in a rushed state to do some last minute shopping for the folks back home, and so we dipped in for a late lunch. As I wasn’t feeling overly hungry and did not want to feel bloated while sitting in an airplane for the next few hours, I chose just from the appetizers list.
2031 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, CA
Sometimes just the name of a place gives you a sense of what you might expect. At times this is good and at others, well not so. I agree that setting yourself up for a meal like this isn’t the wisest thing to do, as its really just “judging a book by its cover”. With no facts or proof to make a case either way. But I suppose it builds the advice case for owners – pick a name, and research it well, before you plaster it on everything your restaurant will represent. It could have inherent or unexpected nuances or meanings that you weren’t aware of and then its too late…
So being told by my dining mates that we’d be going to a place called Tacolicious after a long day of work, and the main chooser not someone I’ve really gone out to dinner with before this evening, I had my doubts before I even hopped into the taxi that would take me there from my hotel. I wasn’t aware of the research or thought that went into this decision, and I had no time to do any checking of my own before rushing out to join them, so I couldn’t really complain. From the sidewalk, it looked like nothing special. A smallish-looking space in fact. With just this one side with a window to glimpse inside.
Hapa Izakaya (Robson)
1479 Robson St Map
Clearly, with all of the attention this long standing location has received over the years in local publications as well as by online bloggers, it would perhaps seem strange to some that there has not been a post made here on foodosophy, despite our group’s well known love for the izakaya genre.
I cannot attest to the experience of the other contributors here, but personally, I must have passed by the front of this business 20~30 times over the last several years. And among these, I can only recall stepping inside to check out the scene and/or consider dining inside, mainly out of curiosity, a handful of times. Its just never really struck me as a place I need to check off my dining list. For whatever reason.
Further, I can count on one hand the number of occasions when I made my mind up to really taste the food/sample the drinks here, but decided to turn around after some very spotty service – mainly the lack of attention from any of the staff upon stepping inside and vocally/visually making signs that I wanted to be seated. I can clearly recall this happening at least three times now. And on this last visit, it happened again.
But we stuck around trying to get someone to see us waiting, going beyond my usual patience level. Even flagging down one of the wait staff and being told she’d be back, only to be ignored again. After literally grabbing the next girl that came near us and demanding we get a table (there were several open), we were finally seated.
316 Virginia Street
There are definitely folks out there who take their pizza seriously. It’s no joking matter to them. From the in-depth discussions about the best kinds of flour to use, the optimal oven environments and of course the ideal toppings to make the perfect pie, the discussion will never result in everyone agreeing on one definitive pizza as the “best”. At foodosophy, we’ve certainly not been shy about expressing our thoughts and sharing our experiences at various pizzerias around North America as can be seen here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Wow, that was a lot. And not all of them either.
Now from the Tom Douglas empire comes a boldly named enterprise that would apparently be an apt gathering spot for interesting gourmands willing and able to discuss all things pizza. Serious Pie. Just adore that name. On this visit to Seattle, we had this particular address programmed into our minds but by shear chance, we walked right past the other location in South Lake Union, after checking out the nearby Tesla car showroom. But keeping with our agenda, we hoofed it back to Virginia Street as we weren’t quite hungry yet after our late morning meal back at Toulouse Petit.
Guu With Garlic
1698 Robson Street
It would seem I’m slowly making my way to checking out all those izakaya that I’ve heard about the past five years or so that I’ve subconsciously been avoiding deliberately since I perhaps harbor some bias in that I will no doubt mentally compare them to all the great ones I’ve been to in Japan. Alas, Guu seems to have won me over as I’ve now been to several of their stations and will perhaps make my rounds to them all one day. This particular visit was the back end of a night out with an old friend visiting Vancouver for a short business trip. In reality in keeping with true Japanese salaryman tradition, we should have reversed the order, but oh well.
Immediately after our hearty meal, I’m surprised we were able to down a short but steady stream of nama beeru. Asahi was the pick on this evening. A visit to an izakaya just wouldn’t be the same without some cold ones, so once again, glancing over the the folks seated at the counter bar with us who were just drinking water just made me shake my head. Its like dressing up to go to the ball, but not engaging in any dancing, I just don’t understand.
Japadog (Waterfront Station)
600 W Cordova St
Much is already out there about the Japadog phenomenon. Your truly has had his fair share of dogs at some of their outlets, but this one at the Waterfront Station was a first timer. Melding in with the throngs of visiting tourists fresh off the cruise ship and wandering around Gastown was interesting to say the least, and I could do some casual observing of how they interacted with our fair city. A few minutes near the Japadog cart was a key highlight. I’m sure many of them had no clue what was going on or being offered here.
I haven’t bothered to keep up to date with the latest flavor combinations but this #6 on the menu board, the Gokudare, seemed something fresh. I should have investigated further. But alas, I got drawn to the classics. This time the #2, Kurobuta. I love how they have dubbed it the MVP – the Most Valuable Pork. I’m torn if that’s the result of a clever play on words or some odd Engrish creation…
O-toro previously wrote about this now five-location strong pizzeria based in Edmonton known as Famoso that is trumpeting some true ingredients that go into a classic Neapolitan pie. So on my recent visit to the Alberta capital, I knew I had to give it a try myself, as there is no sign of it coming to the west coast any time soon, and I don’t have immediate plans to visit Calgary (where they have one of their five locations).
As it was on the city’s south side and thus closest to the airport that still is way too far for my liking from the city’s downtown core, the South Edmonton Common location was visited for this lunchtime meal. [I did manage to see the location for the one downtown later during my stay]. It was quite busy for a mid-week day, although I’m sure the pending holidays had something to do with it, but the access to this shopping area wasn’t as bad as it ended up being days later (and of course for Boxing Day). First impressions were positive. Bright, clean, with a nice buzz about the place. The centralized glass display that housed many of the desserts and drinks anchored the room, with the pizza cooks working in the open towards the back where I could also spot the wood burning oven. Everything fit the “fast casual” claim they spout out in their marketing.
After a busy day this past summer checking out various tourist sights in Seoul, I hopped back onto a train back to the suburbs to where I was spending some nights sleeping early on in my journey. On the short walk back to the residence from the station, I noticed a boisterous establishment that seemingly was a pub/fried chicken kind of joint. I suggested to my travel mate that we go check it out – despite having finished eating a hearty dinner an hour before – but was told there was a better place they knew about, and the family I was staying with vouched for it. Sounded good to me. It allowed some more time to digest our dinner and was really convenient too, as all it required was a phone call, as they delivered! A change into some more comfortable clothes later and soon enough the door bell was ringing.
Reportedly there is an outpost of this popular Korean-style fried chicken known as Kyochon Chicken in Koreatown (Los Angeles) as well, but its the first I’d heard of it. Not being able to read anything around me probably had something to do with it. The logo I’d seen before though around the Korean capital city. It seems to be mainly a delivery/takeaway kind of business model. I think the places that serve Korean chicken that I’ve seen here in the GVRD are kind of like that (lots of “to-go” orders), but have seating areas as well where the beer (that goes so well with these things) flow freely. As this was a second dinner, I just asked that we get a dozen or so and I wanted to try the original flavor, so not enhanced with the sweet-spicy sauce that really makes Korean-style chicken so yummy.
770 Bute Street
“If you build it, they will come”. Its as if the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson from the 1989 classic film Field of Dreams is whispering all the way across the Pacific Ocean into the ears of the leadership responsible for steering the business growth of established Japanese ramen chains. First of the known bigger players, Santouka, ventured forth and established a Canadian beachhead in the burgeoning ramen battle zone situated in the west end of Robson Street. It’s probably my favorite in town these days, but I’m I would be curious to hear what the likes of the man behind the original true ramen-ya in Vancouver, Matsubara-san of Kintaro fame, would have to say about the growing market and resulting competition for the dollars of Vancouver “rameniacs”. Hard to believe its been eleven years since this all began in our fair west coast city.
Delving into the history of Sanpachi is an interesting read. Starting in that ramen hotbed of Sapporo back in 1987, its stretched to now approximately 70 outlets throughout Japan and as well as overseas (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan). Progressive it seems in their business model as well, by offering “gift packs” of its popular miso and shoyu variants through an online store. The sole founder (and current CEO) is fiercely proud of the original and unique taste of their ramen, and has expanded this love of ramen and keen dedication into a motto that serves to remind their entire network of stores and staff of their purpose. Loosely translated, I would say in English this would be “Warmly Satisfied in Both your Stomach and Heart”. Yeah, that didn’t come out well, but I think you get the point.
382 W. Broadway
l’d say that I was among the early birds several months back to spot the disappearance of the former tenant at this location (that served horrible pho) and the pending notice that Chronic Tacos was going to set up shop – mainly due to the fact that I pass this Cambie/W. Broadway corridor very often. As a result, I kept making a mental note to stop in once things got up and running, which I did hear about from a loyal reader when they themselves passed through their open doors. A further few weeks passed since that heads up but I finally made my way in on a recent Sunday afternoon. Coincidentally, as it was just past the 2pm local time kickoffs for several NFL matches, the place was rocking inside and all tables were occupied, which led me to understand that this joint has a serious sports bar vibe and relevant customers (many decked out in the uniforms of their favorite teams). I thought this was interesting, not assuming the proprietors would take this angle, but it sure has proven to be a success judging by the boisterous room. While glancing at some screens to get updated on the scores (I happened to be listening to the Seahawks game on the radio on my drive over), I made my way to the very back where the ordering and prep counter is situated. I didn’t bother to check, but I don’t think there is any table service here, which one might expect given how busy the place was upon setting foot inside and how the seating layout was designed.
With no intentions of dining alone inside – not that there was even a single free chair – I got my order to go. A few signs on the walls and a menu board are posted up high and are quite visible, and given its a fast food-type of place, its not rocket science to decide what you want and the choices run the usual gamut of popular North Americanized (despite the claims of authentic Mexican recipes) items such as burritos, the hilariously named “fatty” tacos (in reference to the whole chronic thing – “whatup Dr. Dre!”), and other assortments such as nachos and quesadillas. I’m sure their website would reveal more history and the rationale behind the name, so will leave that to you to delve into and I won’t regurgitate anything here (urgh, that’s a really bad word to use when writing about food, but so be it!).
153 Waterfront Street
Oxon Hill, MD
Mexican cuisine in Maryland you say? This chain of nine restaurants concentrated mainly on the east coast (with a lone western outpost in Los Angeles) was chosen among the limited within-walking-distance places to eat a late dinner by our traveling group after a long day. Coincidentally, the troop included a native Mexican, who we consulted about Rosa Mexicano. According to him, he had heard it was not Mexican food in the traditional sense, but had some dishes listed on the menu near the front door that he considered quite unorthodox and amused him enough to say, “let’s give it a try”! And so with that directive, we did just that…
This particular location was situated in a new development of commercial and residential buildings in National Harbour, and sat on the banks of the Potomac River – although the direct view was obscured from the outdoor backside deck where we were sat. Water taxis could be ridden back and forth across to the beautiful Old Town district of historic Alexandria, Virginia, making this area a prime piece of real estate.
Le Pain Quotidien
922 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY
Artisan breads, sweet pastries and pantry goods like coffee and jams are what you can expect to find in the burgeoning outlets of this chain of bakeries where one can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner items that are carefully prepared with a health conscious outlook. Organic ingredients are incorporated in many of their menu items, as well this ecological philosophy is apparent in their building design and construction as well – loved the reclaimed wood that permeated the interior, giving it a very welcoming and warm touch despite being smack dab in the middle of a concrete jungle, albeit with Central Park only a few short minutes away.
The Le Pain Quotidien empire has now spread out across the United States (mainly on the east and west coasts) as well as places in western Europe and the Middle East. The Canadian outlets seemingly only sprouting up in the Toronto area. I imagine it would be a good fit in the Vancouver area as well given the local climate and penchant for things with a healthy and organic twist.
I can imagine the instantaneous reaction this post will receive. So I’ll come out and say it.
The fast food burger that I’m enjoying of late is from Triple O’s.
Having not grown up in British Columbia, I don’t harbour the long lasting childhood memories of others, who have had the food from White Spot and the like that seems to be true of many Vancouverites, from their very early days (and perhaps teenage years?).
Cockney Kings Fish & Chips
1005 Columbia St
New Westminster, BC
The relative newness of the building that contrasted against the old school script of the signage was what grabbed my attention the first time I laid eyes on Cockney Kings, during a visit to the burger joint across the street. While the distinct scent of deep frying goodies permeated the air, we stuck with our mission of getting some ‘burgs, and I had to save a visit here for a later day. I thought it would be fitting to squeeze this one in now, following last night’s uploading of a fish & chip meal.
For those who are travelers to the north side of Burnaby, there is another outlet of Cockney Kings up there, which I assume is the older, original one. I’ve only driven by myself perhaps twice and seen it after my visit to this New West branch.