KwaTay’s – Seattle, WA

KwaTay’s Restaurant and Lounge
315 1st Ave. N.
Seattle, WA
(206) 588-2070

Is there a more enduring food service concept, fraught with both lovers and haters of it, than what is popularly known as “happy hour”?  Clearly this novelty was established to generate some needed revenue during the lull of the early to late afternoon, especially for bar proprietors that also serve food who have an interest in filling their cash registers as much as possible before the night rush happens.  In some more refined locations it seems to be a dying breed, but like a pesky cockroach, it will find a place to scurry into and stay for as long as possible until its flushed out and the life is stomped out of it.

The key allure of happy hour is definitely the reduced prices of regular menu items.  Food and drink inclusive.  At times, ridiculously low that even some drab surroundings, dubious service and a sense that you wouldn’t have stepped foot inside had it not been for the prices, are not enough to deter you from walking back through the entry door.  As you can see by the spartan space pictured above, that was more dance floor than restaurant dining area, you wouldn’t come to a place like this for the ambiance.  I’m sure you wouldn’t be at all shocked to hear that this is the kind of place that offers beer by the bucket as a crowd drawing special.

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Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur – Reykjavik, Iceland

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
101 Reykjavik
No Phone

Within every food culture is a fast food identity. Foods of convenience. Cheap, quick, and often one of the tastiest experiences you can have. At a minimum, it provides very strong insight into a slice of a nation’s identity. In Iceland, that food is the Pylsur.

Near the Reykjavik harbour lies one of the most famous “hot dog” stands in the world. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur can claim Bill Clinton, and Metallica as some of their fans. But really, morning, noon, and night, this is THE place in Reykjavik to get a pylsur – and you’re likely to meet lots of locals and tourists alike.

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur translates as “the best hot dog in town”, and it really is.

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Shoryumen – Richmond, BC

Shoryumen Noodle House
7100 Elmbridge Way
Richmond, BC

It has been a while since I was last in this area of Richmond. In fact, my main purpose of driving out there was for other reasons and I just happened to come across this hijacked car park that is now devoted to three separate food trailers and is chain-link fenced off in its own little private prison yard.  I’m curious to see if there is any further expansion or perhaps a more properly cordoned off area, perhaps with some increased commercial sponsorship to make this more than just a stand-and-eat attraction.  If anyone can do it, its those astute, savvy, well-monied Chinese business people who have made Richmond a well known foodie destination.

Of the trio of stands currently occupying this space, the one serving up the most familiar (to most) food is perhaps Shoryumen.  Quick and easy Japanese soup noodles.  With all of the competition in the Vancouver area for ramen being prepared in more proper environments, I had my serious doubts that anything remotely adequate could be made out of the back of a trailer.

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Speed’s Neighbourhood Pub – Delta, BC

Speed’s Neighbourhood Pub
4943 Chisholm Street
Delta, BC
(604) 940-2245

Ever felt like you were about twenty years too early for something? Sort of like the complete opposite of a Hot Tub Time Machine misadventure. Well, that’s what we felt like on a random stopover for a quick pint while driving out in the netherworld of Delta.

Located right on the river’s edge opposite Lander Harbour Park and northwest of the Ladner town site, it has a decent view of some docks and the natural water fowl that populates the area.  But the clientele in this area is pretty much above my age bracket – easily most people were in their fifties/sixties, with a distinct blue collar, country feel about them.  In a way, it felt like we were intruding on their home turf.  The exasperated sound of the curt waitresses’ voice after we inquired about what’s on tap, just seemed to explain everything to us – you had to be known and local to really fit in here.

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Damien’s Belgian Waffles – Richmond, BC

Damien’s Belgian Waffles
2-3891 Chatham Street, Steveston
Richmond, BC
(604) 304-2884

Perhaps one of the most personal (other than through immediate family and personal travels) exposures that I’ve had to international cuisine was during my days as an international college student. For a time, I had the pleasure of having a rotation of roommates in my dormitory flat – a four bedroom space that had a shared kitchen and dining area for our own personal use. I can still vividly remember each one of the fellows I shared my quarters with (will use nicknames here): first there was “D-dog” (from Minnesota, USA), “Dai” (from Osaka, Japan), “Franc” (from Paris, France), “GQ” (from Seoul, South Korea), “Afro” (from Ontario, Canada), “Vocal” (from Massachusetts, USA), and lastly the fellow who was there for my entire stretch of time in that residence, “Gelato” (from Brussels, Belgium).

Through each of them, I was able to learn about their family traditions and meal favorites, as we’d routinely have group chowdowns where we scrambled for cash to come up with grocery money after too many nights out drinking our savings and parents’ money away. But it was French-speaking “Gelato” who probably opened my eyes most to his country’s food culture. In my mind, I had some stereotypical images of what Belgians ate. And lo and behold, this fellow provided a living example in the flesh, as he would regularly be chomping down on bricks of dark chocolate, tartines with cheese, frites, and of course waffles. Some of these he would get sent to him as care packages from his mother in Belgium, and other times he’d venture out and get them at available supermarkets. The dude even had a waffle iron.

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Delicias de Alicia – Burnaby, BC

Delicias de Alicia
4854 Imperial Street
Burnaby, BC
(604) 569-1575

Since the dawn of the ancient world, human beings have always flocked to establish settlements near sources of abundant and clean water.  For without this life providing and replenishing liquid, we would all perish.  Water brings with it the ability to generate all kinds of necessities, one of the most important being food and edible nutrients.  As you look around at the societies around the world and the relative priority they have placed on developing and maintaining a rich food culture, I for one feel that for the most part, those that are closer to the world’s oceans tend to have a slight edge in terms of the diversity and overall sense of pride that they have when it comes to their country’s food.  For landlocked regions can have their vegetables and four legged animals, but what is missing is the bounty of the seas.

Coupled with the actions of man through its exploration of the world’s seas and establishment of colonies in the New World, these places near water have benefited greatly from their interaction with a constant flow of new ideas, ingredients and more established Old World food cultures and has brought about some interesting hybrids.

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Gnocchi’s Ristorante – Calgary, AB

Gnocchi’s Ristorante & Dining Lounge
1238 – 8 St. SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 262-2887

I was introduced to Gnocchi’s during a business lunch a few years back, and it continues to be a favorite spot to enjoy a glass of wine and some fantastic food while we pretend to work over the lunch hour.

“The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you’re hungry again.”    George Miller.

As we are usually only here for lunch, we tend to skip appetizers in favor of a bottle of wine – but we decided to splurge today and start with the Italian sausage in a mustard brandy cream sauce.  I can’t repeat some of the inappropriate comments made by my colleagues over how amazing this sauce is, but trust me – it truly was fantastic, and there was not a drop left anywhere in sight.

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