Aling Mary’s Filipino Store
2656 Main Street
Pillowy-soft little packets of sweet-savory goodness. That’s my shorthand description of what you can get at Aling Mary’s Store on Main Street in Vancouver, just off the busy Broadway zone. I can still remember the first time I wandered in here randomly and getting engulfed in the fabulous smells that only a fresh bakery can provide, and walking out with two dozen of their popular Pan de Sal. I’ve heard them referred to as Filipino bread rolls, not sure if that’s 100% accurate, but regardless, they are something every Vancouverite should try once in their lifetime.
Honestly, I’ve been back at least a half dozen times since that virgin visit, and even found them being sold in Richmond of all places too. White flour, whole wheat, tried them both. Nothing better though then getting then right out of the oven, timing is important, and I’ve had hits and misses when I’ve gone inside here, depending on their baking schedule and how voracious other customers are in walking out with batches of them. On my last weekend morning stop, I got lucky.
Georgio’s Cafe & Pizzeria
5236 Rumble Street
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.
Pin Pin Restaurant
6113 Fraser Street
Filipino food has a bit of a PR problem. Not unlike many other cuisines, Filipino food revolves around family gatherings and religious feasts – not around restaurants. Essentially, it is “potluck” cuisine: the best food isn’t prepared by chefs, but by various aunties, grandmas, grandpas, uncles, dads…all with their own specialties. Filipino restaurant cuisine in the West has not evolved beyond the all-too-common buffets (“turo-turo”). Unfortunately for many non-Filipinos, buffets – where the food is of dubious freshness – are their entry into this cuisine . It really doesn’t come as a surprise that non-Filipinos find this food either: unappetizing, or mysterious.
Pin Pin is one of the rare restaurants that prepares their food fresh from the kitchen – no steam tables here. (So far, I know of three restaurants that do this here in the Vancouver area…there may be more.) Pin Pin labels itself as a Chinese-Filipino restaurant, and the menu has a Chinese section at the back. (As a matter of interest, Pin Pin is the name of one of the streets in Manila’s Chinatown – established in the 15th century, making it the world’s oldest.) I prefer to order the “straight” Filipino food, however.