Burgers Etc. BBQ House – Burnaby, BC


Burgers Etc. BBQ House
4091 Hastings Street
Burnaby, BC
(604) 299-8959

Summer is here on the west coast and its amazing so far!  When this season comes around I believe that barbecuing and burgers for the most part, come front and center to many people’s eating patterns…

I hadn’t realized that this business along east Hastings was one that was so well covered already in the past by numerous other local bloggers, so I won’t delve too deeply into the history or general background in this post. The colorful exterior of this building is one that I’ve passed by many times on trips to the SFU area and I finally made a stopover after a morning spent out hiking in North Van. For a quiet Sunday afternoon, I was surprised to see a few customers already inside and a few more straggled in after me. Its not too large a dining area and tight fitting along the window perhaps. Simple and neat is how I’d sum it up. A typical burger shack.

With the single minded focus that I had to order a basic hamburger here, that is indeed what I called for when the portly waitress came to chat me up. I must admit though, I did flicker for a brief second when I saw the pulled pork as well as beef brisket sandwiches, considering I did see BBQ House on their front signage. Perhaps another day.

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Georgio’s Cafe & Pizzeria – Burnaby, BC


Georgio’s Cafe & Pizzeria
5236 Rumble Street
Burnaby, BC
(604) 568-6061

Situated practically across the street from Burnaby South Secondary School means a couple of things for places to eat in the area, of which there are a handful.  The lunch hour can be a mad hectic time for non-students to try and get in for a bite to eat.  As well, the eateries seem to make the wise decision of having special menu items which are priced and portioned accordingly for this hungry younger market.  Thankfully, they aren’t limited to the kids and us adults can indulge in these quick, cheap eats too.  One of these places is called Georgio’s Cafe & Pizzeria.

Despite the rather convoluted smattering of text and listing of offerings in their windows that seem rather mundane, a quick glance at the makeshift sign was what drew me in.  “Filipino style BBQ”?  What’s that I thought.  Sitting inside was a pair of teenage girls apparently killing time on a break between classes perhaps.  A man was behind the counter and I could hear some others in the back kitchen.  As I was scanning the photo-included menu board, I quickly spotted the pork and chicken skewered barbecue items, thus answering my call to action.

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Redwood Grill – Big Sur, CA


Redwood Grill
47200 Highway 1
Big Sur, CA 93920
(831) 667-2129

I love road trips to no where. They give you an opportunity to see new places, and explore areas that you would otherwise just drive by. Some of my favorite memories come from impromptu trips and destinations unknown.

The California coast line has some of the best driving vistas in the world. The stretch of Highway 1 from San Francisco down to Morro Bay has a great diversity of scenery – oceans, cliffs, redwoods, beaches, dunes, winding canyons, big surf. It also has some fantastic food finds like Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero. On an impromptu trip to Big Sur, I hoped to discover another find in the Redwood Grill.

Located in the Fernwood Resort, the Redwood Grill isnt exactly what I pictured. A restaurant inside a resort conjures images of white linen, stunning vistas, and well attired servers.

Driving through Big Sur, I almost missed it. What I thought would look like a resort actually looks like a motel with attached drinking hole. Pulling a quick u-turn, we slid into the parking lot.

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Central BBQ – Memphis, TN


Central BBQ – Central Avenue Location
2249 Central Ave.
Memphis,TN 38104
(901) 272-9377

Every Southern State (and sorry purists, I include Texas in the South – well, when it comes to BBQ anyway) believes their version of BBQ is the best. In travelling from State to State, I’ve come to recognize that the differences are not as great as they would have you believe. Yes, there are very fine differences in flavours, sauces, and ingredients, but most people would have a difficult time discerning these. These days, there has been so much cross-pollination of ideas and accessibility of ingredients, that i find BBQ is more about style, skill, and choice.

The greatest differences in BBQ come down to two key things: wet or dry, and choice of ingredient. While many people claim that Memphis-style BBQ is about wet (sauce) BBQ and pork, I found wet and dry preparations of ribs in most establishments. And while they also  serve mostly pork, there was some beef, and  there was a lot of  poultry (chicken, turkey) as well. Choice of wood, temperature, time, rub, I don’t feel there is  “regional” exclusivity any longer. I’ve even seen mesquite, traditional Texas smoking wood,  used in Memphis BBQ preparations.

So the question meat lovers need to ask is not “which state has the best BBQ”, but which establishment serves the best BBQ that they prefer.  Central BBQ is one place in Memphis trying to stake their claim.

Central BBQ has two locations in Memphis, but I was reassured by locals that the original location on Central Ave was the one to go to. As we pull up, we see a smoke shack in the back, billowing smoke into the atmosphere, a fragrant, delicious smell. Our appetites are immediately whetted.

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Gaucho Brazilian BBQ – Calgary, AB


Gaucho Brazilian BBQ
Review @ 3605 Manchester Road SE
New location @ 100 – 5920 Macleod Trail SW
Calgary AB
(403) 454-9129

I remember one of the first times I went for Rodizio. I spent the entire day sitting in a dark, curtained off room, drinking water to expand the stomach (it doesn’t work in case you’re wondering), playing xBox to keep my mind off the impending gorge.  All you can eat. Meat. Churrascaria. We rolled in at prime time, 7:30pm, and ate a few nibbles of Pao de Queso, and called on the meat. Needless to say, 4-5 lbs of meat later, we had the sweats, a stomach ache, and were barely able to roll ourselves back home. Thanks so much Fogo de Chao.

Needless to say, I’ve grown up significantly since then. But I did learn several things from that experience – primarily, Rodizio should be about the selection and the quality of the meat, period. Side dishes, salads and salad bar, and other filler are nice touches, but don’t add much to the experience. And if i have a choice, i’ll sacrifice some selection to get the quality i need.

Gaucho Brazilian BBQ is one of three Brazillian BBQ, and one of two Rodizio restaurants in the city of Calgary. Based on how busy both Bolero and Gaucho are, there is no doubt Calgarians like their meat.

Churrasco involves barbecuing meats on skewers over open heat. They are rotated slowly to ensure even cooking, and racked based on cooking time and where they are in the cooking process.

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Big T’s BBQ – Calgary, AB


Big T’s BBQ
2138 Crowchild Trail NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 284-5959

Barbecue.  Definitely one of those forms of cooking that is greatly underestimated for its difficulty, precision and variety…

Here in North America, its roots go back to the 1800’s when pork was the staple item used in outdoor cookouts in the southern United States, and it remains one of the most favoured ingredients even today.  Its true magic how skilled barbecuers can take lower quality cuts or portions of beef and pork, infuse them with flavour from intricate spice rubs and wood smoke over long periods of time cooking at low temperatures, to make them absolutely tender and full of flavour.

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Dae Jang Geum – Calgary, AB


Dae Jang Geum
1324 10 Ave. S.W.
Calgary, AB
(403) 228-1120

Foodosopher: If you look at how ethnic foods are introduced to a market, you’ll see a similar kind of cycle. The first few restaurants usually provide the “Cole’s Notes” version of the cuisine – a very general, “best of the best” overview. As a cuisine gets more popular, more and more of these restaurants start to follow. The diner gets a bit more sophisticated, and starts to expect better quality from their meals. Often times, this is as far as a cuisine gets – the next phase, which brings specialized restaurants that serve one specific kind of cuisine (Japanese and sushi, ramen, izakaya, tempura bar, for example), requires a certain amount of demand and sophistication before being able to support specialized restaurants. While it is exciting that specialized Japanese cuisine is starting to take hold, Korean food in Calgary seems forever doomed to be a big melting pot of dishes. From pajeon, to BBQ, to soondubu, most restaurants carry all diverse types of korean cuisine. So in order to fairly assess Korean food in Calgary, we focus on a couple aspects – quality, and value.

Shokutsu: The all-encompassing format that prevails in many ethnic restaurants in North America, as noted above by Foodosopher, has its pros and cons.  Without the wide variety, the base introduction for many customers would never be achieved.  As their tastes and interest progress, I’ve found from working in actual restaurant kitchen environments that regular customers tend to find what they like and continue to eat their favorite dish, time and time again – despite the array of other menu choices they could branch out to if they so desired.  In the absence of specialized, one-type restaurants, I suppose this predictable ordering by those regular customers of a restaurant (which are so essential to its operational well-being), does become a quasi-specialized restaurant for them, in that they only get what they really want, every single time they dine there.  When it comes to Korean cuisine, from what I can discern in this day and age, this is quite limited to either barbecue or hot pots, as the only two singular dishes that are able to stand alone on an entire menu and potentially be the only item a bold enough restaurant could serve and specialize in.  Whether we’ll see more of these, remains to be seen.

Foodosopher: Dae Jang Geum is a relatively new entry to the restaurant scene in Calgary. Named after a Korean television show, it’s general claim to fame is as the restaurant that is “next to the Korean+Japanese grocery store”. Occupying the corner space of a small strip mall, it is quite easy to miss.  A small frontage actually conceals a very large restaurant on the inside – this place can hold a LOT of people.

The decor is dated – which i find surprising considering the restaurant itself is only a few years old. Struggle as i might, I am unable to remember what restaurant preceded Dae Jang Geum. If i had to guess, i’d say a Korean Denny’s. My biggest complaint with the restaurant itself is the layout – everything is structured into private booths, with entrances that point away from each other. This in itself is fine, except with the high backed banquettes, it is impossible for a server to notice you . This would be fine, if servers actually checked on you once in a while. In a couple visits, service has been atrociously slow. And extremely poor in terms of remembering to bring out all the dishes that have been ordered. If you go, don’t be in a rush – you have no idea when you’ll be able to leave.

Shokutsu: For some reason, in contrast to Foodosopher, the seclusion and relative sense of privacy the booths provide, was a welcome change for me whenever I ate here.  Perhaps its just a Western’s mindset and the fact that it is in stark contrast to the dominant, open seating (no walls) set up of most casual restaurants in South Korea (and even those Korean restaurants in North America), but I find this somehow refreshing.  Though it does probably have a negative impact on visibility with the wait staff – I’ve also experienced the service issue described earlier – but perhaps its also the prevailing style of Korean restaurants where once you are served, don’t expect much brown-nosing and chatter from the waiters.  This is the case when I’ve been with Korean speakers and not – there has rarely been a pronounced difference in attitude – so no bias here.

As someone who’s very familiar with the area where Dae Jang Geum is located and a frequent shopper of that next door grocery for some Asian ingredients I enjoy, I was always drawn by the overwhelming, amazing scent of barbecuing meat that would escape from the vents on the side of the building, cascading into the parkade.  As well, I do believe that the owners have positioned themselves well with the tourism industry as well as the local Korean community, as I’ve often seen huge tour buses stopping there and letting out loads of visitors to dine inside after a day out in the nearby Rockies.  [Note: Ginseng in Edmonton had the same cozy relationship with the major Korean tour companies, and this phenomena was seen a few times there as well].  And on weekends, inside I’d see groups from the local Korean community, mostly packs of men who appeared to be in golf attire (following a round, what’s better than a nice cold beer and Kalbi?) and families out together for a meal.

Foodosopher: Shortly after ordering, a great selection of Banchan are brought out. They are reasonably  fresh, though the Kim Chi lacked the complexity of flavour i like. It had a bit of heat, and that was about it. The beansprouts were fairly limp and disappointing too, but the the pickled daikon, my favorite, was excellent. Banchan I had finished were replenished throughout the meal – a definite plus in my books, even though the quality was only average.

On this day, i had ordered Sundubu Jigae – tofu stew served with rice. Sundubu is one of those dishes that is very comforting – silky tofu, with the rich pepper sauce (gochujang), vegetables, seafood, and my favorite part- a raw egg cracked over top. Unfortunately, this version of sundubu is lacking in several components. It’s not very rich, not very comforting, and there was no egg. The flavour was decent, but overall, it was fairly disappotining.

In other visits, I have had the opportunity to try other dishes – the most memorable for me being the Pajeon and the Kalbi/Galbi. The Pajeon was good, nice and firm egg and fragrant toppings, and reasonably priced. The meat was good too, but lacking in that sweet-smoky flavour – a result of a poor marinade job. However, the biggest problem is an order of Galbi, rings in at a ridiculous $42.95. Compared to a $13.95 price at Bow Bulgogi, this is highway robbery.

Shokutsu: My comments here are not from the same visit as Foodosopher, however I can comment that the Kimchi Jigae that I have had here was very disappointing in terms of flavor.  There was no depth to it at all, which harkens back to the likelihood that the kimchi being used is not that great, the banchan can confirm this too, I never enjoyed it.  [As an aside, the kimchi next door at the grocery is also nothing to write home about, even the home made stuff that is sold there.  For this, I would always get it at this tiny little Korean grocery store located in the area just east of Centre St. S and somewhere between 12 Ave ~ 15 Ave SE.  The Korean grandmother who makes it there in shop run by her grandson, makes an excellent flavorful cabbage kimchi as well as fresh Korean mochi].  The barbecue was good as well (though expensive) as well as the seafood Pajeon (very delicious and great portion size).  Lastly, I was pleasantly surprised by how well they do the Mul Naengmyeon in the summer – its such a hard dish to get right, especially the soup.  Based on this dish alone, I suspect they have someone in the kitchen who has some skills, just perhaps not translating through to all the other dishes available.

Foodosopher: My overall opinion of this place is to give it a pass. If you are selective, and looking for some very specific, more obscure Korean dishes, then you can probably get in and out for a reasonable sum. The more obscure Korean dishes are actually quite good, and fairly reasonably priced. However, if you’re looking for a general Korean experience, which typically includes BBQ, both price and service make me cringe. As Shokutsu has pointed out, the quality is decent, but for me, the value is rock bottom. You’d do much better to eat at Hangkang, or Bow Bulgogi, where they have both quality and value.

Dae Jang Geum on Urbanspoon

Cho Sun – Vancouver, BC


>Cho Sun B.B.Q. Korean Restaurant
3486 Kingsway
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (604) 434 1222

December 2009 re-visit post here

Original post below:

Second chances.  Be it the delinquent teenager caught skipping class yet again, the friend who’s let you down after promising to do something for you, or a restaurant that has disappointed you on your first dining experience there… they all deserve one.  In the latter case, I’m of the more generous type.  By that I mean, I usually give restaurants the three-strikes-you’re-out policy, unless my virgin visit was insanely horrible in some aspect (food quality, service, etc.) and I cannot rationally justify in my own mind to ever go back.  This has happened only rarely.

Although its a neighboring city, I don’t often travel to Burnaby from Vancouver.  I have only a few friends who live out there and generally we meet somewhere in downtown Vancouver for most get-togethers, nor am I a SFU alum so I have no ties academically to the region either.  Suffice it to say, I just think of Burnaby as being the place with “the mall”.  But on the occasions that I do make the drive, I simply take the commuter thoroughfare known as Kingsway.  It’s on these journeys that I randomly scan the sides of the road, seeing if there is anything that interests me from a food perspective.  Indeed, through this method I have discovered some.  I’ve written about a few already on Foodosophy and have a more in my personal editorial backlog.  Suffice it to say, Kingsway is my little foreign silk road of wonder.

Through one of these travels, I had discovered Cho Sun B.B.Q Korean Restaurant about two years ago.  With the objective to get some basic Korean-style barbecue meat, I ended up being unimpressed with the meal I had then.  Sure, the smells were amazing as I stepped inside in the spartan decorated room, and the menu was fully loaded with the staple cuts of beef, pork and chicken, and there were Korean speaking proprietors running the establishment.  But when it came to the taste, it was lacking.  The marinade was marginal and came off as weak through the finished table-cooked product.  Prices were a bit on the higher side for the same amount of meat compared to other Korean barbecue places in the city as well.  It was not bad, just not enough to warrant a repeat.

Fast forward to this month, while driving on this same street and looking for a dinner location, I spotted the ever present sign of this restaurant once again.  The small parking lot was full but I managed to see an empty stall so decided what the heck.  I’d shunned them long enough since my first meal there, and felt it was time to step into the batter’s box as any true food athlete should.  A smiling man was coming out of the door – who I later saw re-enter the premises and appeared to be the manager – so that struck me as a good sign.  The incredible scent of cooking barbecue hit me like a tidal wave when I opened the door, which overwhelmed my senses and had me salivating immediately.

Seated in one of the partitioned booths with a ready-to-use grill cook top, my attention turned right away to the booth to my left.  On their table was this large round stone hotplate, with nice thick circular shaped cuts of beef short ribs that was covered in a thick looking sauce.  I knew I had to have this.  But after reading the menu, I had no idea what it would be called.  This was where my fortune turned, as my dining companion could read the Korean writing on a handwritten piece of paper that was hanging by the cash register bar.  Maun Kalbijim, was a new menu item that could be ordered on this night (and not yet in the proper booklet).  “Maun” means spicy, “kalbi” means “beef ribs”, and “jim” means braised.

Though I am not a fan of having my meat dishes in a Korean barbecue restaurant cooked for me in the kitchen instead of at my table by myself, this was an exception.  Maun Kalbijim, needs to be slow cooked/braised over many hours, as the marinated beef short ribs need to break down causing the meat, fat and gelatin to tenderize and create the body for the sauce.  A mixture of both sweet and spicy properties, this rich dark brown glaze, that appears as dark as a cola, is just packed with sugary flavor with the heat coming at the tail end on your taste buds after you’ve had a bite.  This double-whammy of flavor from the sauce had me floored.  The ribs themselves were very tender and you could easily separate it in a ring shape from the rib bone itself.  We were required to order a two-person serving to get this dish and I could have easily eaten it all by myself.  As I was finishing off my last piece, I had to restrain myself from scooping up spoonfuls of the delicious sauce to pour over what remained of my bowl of steamed rice.  I even wondered out loud if they would sell me a bottle of this sauce.  It’s been a long time since I’ve ever expressed something like that in a restaurant environment.

To compliment our meal on this cold rainy autumn evening, we ordered a single bowl of Soondubu.  As easy as this dish appears to be, I struggle to find many places that do it well and to my liking.  Often the problem arises from a general flavorless soup that is too watered down and not spicy enough, or an obvious restraint by the cook to fill it with good quality seafood ingredients to enrich the flavors, or just simple a poor consistency in the soft tofu.  Unfortunately, the Soondubu at this place fell into the disappointing category.  Perhaps it was just also overwhelmed by the incredible success of the Maun Kalbijim, but the gap in satisfaction we had between that dish and this Soondubu was enormous.

A sign attached to the wall of our booth showed that there are several lunch specials here as well, that look very appetizing.  At a reasonable ten dollar price point, they look promising – though I have no idea of the quantity, especially of the meat component of some.  The customers on this night were mostly Asian, and surprisingly virtually all were speaking Chinese.  I think Korean-style barbecue is popular with this group, as there were multi-generation families there as well as younger couples and groups of friends.  We were lucky to get a table when we did as the flow of customers inside well after 9pm was astonishing, many had to wait outside in line.  Perhaps the word of this outstanding Maun Kalbijim had spread already, and I was one of the last to know.  I’m just glad I did find out about it in time.  A strong recommendation from Shokutsu here, you must try this dish!  I am so glad I gave Cho Sun a second chance to impress me.

[October 31, 2008 Update: The Spicy Braised Beef Ribs is now appearing in the restaurant’s menu booklet. Serving sizes for 2 and 3 people available.]

Cho Sun Korean on Urbanspoon