Belgian Fries – Vancouver, BC

Belgian Fries
1885 Commercial Drive
Vancouver, BC
(604) 253-4220‎

I have already proclaimed my love of French Fries in the past, so it should come as no surprise that I’m willing to try any and every place that serves french fries in the hopes of finding a great fry. Unfortunately, most places fail to follow the art of the great fry. So when i hear of a place that serves “great fries”, AND the best poutine in BC, i get excited. Very excited.

Now, for our non-Canadian readers, allow me to explain what poutine is. It’s a traditional Quebec dish that combines french fries with fresh cheese curd and gravy. At one point, it was rated the unhealthiest food for you in the world, which should tell you a few things. This is not diet food. And if taste is inversely proportional to health, poutine should taste darn good. And it does. Crisp fries with soft interior, covered in a light gravy with fresh cheese curds that should “squeak”. Any place, like Belgian Fries, that even suggests they serve the best poutine, is worth trying.

Located on a busy retail strip on Commercial Drive, Belgian Fries definitely stands out. Large awning, ample seating on a corner, it’s hard to miss.

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Windjammer Inn – Vancouver, BC

Windjammer Inn
3079 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 876-6446

Are you ready for another round of deep fried goodness? Oh, and I shouldn’t forget the pints of beer to go with it. Ah, life’s simple pleasures…

Despite the name that would suggest otherwise, the Windjammer Inn in Vancouver is no place to rest your weary head and bunk down in a strange bed for the night. Its a straight up pub, of the British persuasion (well a Canadian representation of which at least), located right down there on Main Street. So yes, this is another in the “Tasting with Tee” series.

Immediately seduced by the sandwich board outside that trumpeted a special on their 2pc. fish and chips, along with a wheat ale of sorts, our minds were easily made up. That was until the cheery server passed by our table with a plate of something that smelled very good and so we had to ask, “what’s that?”. A batch of slightly fiery, battered shrimp she replied, and our volley of “we’ll have that too”, was easily obliged.

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Captain Bob’s – Woodstock, NB

Captain Bob’s Takeout
3512, Rte 585
Woodstock, New Brunswick

Traveling along the Trans-Canada Highway we left the province of Quebec and entered into New Brunswick.  After quick stops in Edmundston and Grand Falls, we decided to take more scenic secondary highways and visit some of the many small towns along the  St. John River.  After we crossed the longest covered bridge in Hartland a couple times, this sign on the road caught my eye.


Just in time for lunch – we followed the cookie crumb trail of signs to this shack parked in the driveway of Captain Bob’s home.  A couple of kids were already ahead of us and had ‘honked’ (as per the posted directions) to let the Captain know of our arrival.

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Fatburger – Edmonton, AB

Fatburger (South Edmonton Common)
1755-102 Street NW
Edmonton, AB AB T6N 0B1
(780) 469-8180


What makes a good burger?  I’ve found this to be a tricky question to answer, because for me – there are too many variables (bun, patty, condiments, smells, sides, and atmosphere).

For example – an oversized bun, an overcooked patty curled up like a small dish, a slice of processed cheese, and ketchup squeezed out of a small package – served outdoors, with the smell of the BBQ, sun, and a park/campground/lake – makes for a great burger.  😉

The retro diner décor at Fatburger is nice, nothing over done.  With locations found throughout western Canada and the U.S., there are tidbits of information on how this chain started back in 1952 – through various photos and plaques on the walls.  There are plenty of booths and tables to sit and wait for your food to be served, with easy access to the self-serve drink station.

With only one till to order your food – it can be a little slow.  I’m sure this is done on purpose, as the addition of more tills wouldn’t make the burgers cook any faster.  Busy hours usually have a queue leading right out of the front door.

What I love about this place is that they have no fear of stating the truth.  With menu items named Fatburger, Double Fat, King Fat, and Crispy Fat Chicken – make sure you clear things with your doctor, as there is a possibility of becoming addicted to their burgers, which won’t do you much good in the long run.   For the health-conscious, there is a salad called the Fat Salad Wedge – with the first topping listed as diced bacon.


The burger shown above is the Double Fatburger with add-ons of cheese, and bacon.   Oh yeah – plus gravy on the fries!   My lunch companion opted out of the gravy, but added a fried egg to his burger and thoroughly enjoyed his Real Ice Cream Shake.

This is a well constructed burger:  the bun is just the right size – keeping everything together nicely.  The patties are packed loosely providing a nice texture, and the standard condiments are balanced nicely.   Overall – I thoroughly enjoyed this burger!  The gravy on the fries was good, although the fries themselves were not the greatest.

Definitely more expensive than your neighborhood fast-food joints, with your closest comparable being Red Robins.

Not trying to stir up any controversy, but there is a lot of advertising on how the beef is never frozen, and that they use the highest quality USDA approved beef.   I could not find anything to tell me whether this applies to the franchises in Canada?

Fatburger (SouthEd Common) on Urbanspoon

New Brighton Pool Concession – Vancouver, BC

New Brighton Pool
North Windermere Street
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (604) 298-0222


(This is a bit of a “drive-by” post, but I think it is worthy.) We are now in the midst of our summer here in Vancouver, and to me, that means it is time for some fries at the public pool.

The concession stand here at New Brighton Pool in East Vancouver serves my favourite concession fries in the Lower Mainland. Crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside with just a tinge of delectable greasiness. Most concession stands at Vancouver parks serve up atrocious fries – very greasy and tasting of old, unfiltered fryer oil. Not here….it tastes fresh every time.

Adding to that gastronomic experience is the view that is quintessential East Van – the industrial port in the near distance, bounded by train tracks and the Horse Stables at the Track by the PNE to the south. Summer in the city.

Where is your favourite concession chip stand?

Springfields Cafe – Calgary, AB

Springfields Cafe
4-1715 27 Avenue NE
Calgary, AB
(403) 250-8283

Springfields Cafe on Urbanspoon

Every industrial park, office building in every city i’ve ever been in has the ubiquitous breakfast/sandwich/burger/chinese food cafe. Typically run by industrious immigrants, I can grudgingly respect their “all things to all people” approach – a departure from my usual philosophy, but after all, they can’t really afford to pass up any sales. Usually, for some strange reason, I love their grilled cheese and fries. Frozen fries fried in a t-fal fryer, process cheese melted between two heavily buttered pieces of Safeway toast. Usually $3-$4. Yes, there, i said it. I really like that junk. What can I say – being denied processed cheese as a child has made me a minor addict.

Anyway, all things to all people aside, i’ve found most of these cafes are run by Asian immigrants. And all without fail, they serve some form of wor wonton soup. The popularity of wonton soup is almost universal – safe, generally a little bland, and a nice balance of vegetables, meat, and broth. My issue is you can seldom find an actual good bowl of wonton soup! Simple things, after all, are some of the hardest to make.  If you think about it, there are a lot of components that are key to a good bowl of wor wonton soup. Nice broth – rich flavour without too much msg or sodium. The right egg noodles – firm, and chewy, that maintain their texture in the hot broth. Good crisp vegetables, cooked slightly in the heat of the broth. BBQ pork, fresh and fatty. And of course, the wontons. Nice silky skins, that hold their structure in the broth, with a rich, fatty filling of meat or seafood, with bursts of flavour (i like garlic and sesame oil).  Of course, i spent 3 months looking for a great bowl of wor wonton soup in Calgary, and have yet to find it, so most times, i’ll take a few positive things about the bowl and move on. That was the extent of my hope for Springfields Cafe.


Anyway, I ordered the grilled cheese and fries ($3.75). Believe it or not, the fries were not very good. The straight frozen kind, they had the chalky texture of mush on the interior, and not crispy enough on the exterior. The grilled cheese was ok, though i think they used margarine instead of butter. All in all, that part was a bit disappointing.

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Rocky’s Burger Bus – Calgary, AB

Rocky’s Burger Bus
1120 46th Ave. SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 243 0405
Monday-Friday, 10am-3pm

Rocky's Burger Bus on Urbanspoon

When people talk about restaurants as institutions, it usually refers to a place that has maintained their longevity, and quality. In Calgary, people usually talk Peter’s, or Caesar’s, or Chicken on the Way.  They certainly have had their longevity, but I question the quality. For me, there are places not as well known that I also consider to be true Calgary institutions – and Rocky’s Burger Bus is one of them.

Rocky’s Burger Bus is literally that – an old transit bus parked in the middle of an industrial area in SE Calgary. Most people have heard of it, but many people I’ve talked to don’t seem to have an idea of where it is. They proudly serve AAA Alberta beef, and their customers proudly eat it. On any given day, +20 or -20, come lunch time, there is a huge lineup. Get there early or late. Lunchtime is a zoo. You’ve been warned.


The menu is a pretty basic thing, consisting of all your typical greasy spoon items. Burgers. Fries. Onion rings. Poutine. Smokies and hot dogs. Bacon on a bun. Milkshakes. Pop. It’s nothing earth shattering, but you don’t expect that from a place serving greasy spoon out of a bus.

The big thing here is burgers. Hand formed patties made from fresh 100% Alberta beef, cooked on a griddle in their own fat and juices.  They make them by the hundreds, and cook them when they are ordered. If you peek inside the bus, you’ll see dozens of burgers cooking at any one time. The smell of beef is unmistakable.

The burgers themselves are a generous size – i’d guess 1/3 of a lb, precooked weight. Maybe as large as a 1/2 lb. They come in 3 configurations – plain($4.50), with cheese ($5.00), or with cheese and bacon ($5.75). You can also make it a double for slightly less than double the price. Standard condiments are mustard, relish, and onions. They are juicy, and lack the texture of having been mixed with a lot of filler, even though they are all cooked to well done. The buns are standard store bought buns, and aren’t good, but don’t detract from the burger.


In most cases, i have some issues with well done. I like my burgers medium. Meat that has been freshly ground does not have the contamination issues that store ground has. So not only are burgers cooked to order generally better quality, but they taste better too. Canadians, however, seem to be very bacteria phobic, and prefer them all well done. Or establishments use inferior beef, and can only cook to well done. Regardless, it is typically a sign of a very average burger. But I will concede that these are a decent well done. Not bone dry. Retain some flavour. It’s about as good as i would expect well done could get, without the inclusion of a lot of pork fat 🙂

Any good burger place has some critical accompaniments. For me, the most important is fries. Fresh cut, they are fried to a crispy consistency., yet retain a nice bite with great potato flavour. The interior structure of a well cooked fry is important. It cannot be hollow, and it cannot be like mashed potatoes. These are an excellent representation of fresh cooked fries, though for $3.00, i would like a lot more fries. The order is a bit skimpy.


Fries, of course, can be improved with an excellent gravy, and this is where Rocky’s Burger Bus shines. Made from what i gather are the beef drippings off the griddle, this is probably the best gravy i’ve had in Calgary thus far. Beefy, rich, fatty, not overly thickened from flour or corn starch, the gravy stands out on its own merits. Definitely a bit oily, it isnt for the faint at heart. But I do prefer the gravy to the malt vinegar and salt, which says a lot.

Of course, thanks to our Quebec cousins to the East, there is another way to improve fries. It’s to add gravy, and cheese curds! Poutine, rated the worst food for you on the planet by some health study a few years ago (right above deep fried mars bars, which are also delectable), is considered a point of Canadian pride, and a staple for all grease lovers. The Rocky Burger Bus rendition of Poutine is excellent. Real cheese curds, complete with a little squeak, and a nice quantity, along with their rich beef gravy, and crispy fresh cut fries makes for an excellent poutine. Not quite on calibre with Montreal, but a fine rendition for the West.


In your mind, an institution or not, Rocky’s Burger Bus delivers on the vast promise that a greasy spoon in a bus should. Greasy beef, crispy fries, and an otherwise artery clogging menu that tastes so good, a food coma is almost a given. Even though there is no seating, and large lineups, they consistently serve up quality burgers and fries to the masses that visit day in and day out. And I believe  it’s the consistency, the quality, and really, the bus, that make it an institution.

Rocky's Burger Bus on Urbanspoon

Smoke’s Poutinerie – Toronto, ON

Smoke’s Poutinerie
218 Adelaide St. W
Toronto, ON
(416) 599-CURD (2873)

Ah poutine… a traditional comfort food right up there with pizza or Mac & Cheese. Now I know what many of you are thinking: a specialty restaurant for a side dish of fries with cheese and gravy on top? Why? Bear with me on this one…

Most people have had poutine at a school cafeteria or local greasy spoon and not really given it a second thought (aside from dealing with the heartburn afterwards). Or perhaps like myself, at some all-night diner after a night of bacchanalian activities — just to round out the bodily abuse. But don’t let the fact that cafeterias and diners across Canada simply put some shredded mozzarella cheese and generic gravy on fries convince you that there’s nothing more to know about poutine.

Having grown up in western Canada, I have to admit that I’m hardly an expert on the finer points of this Québécois-native comfort food. In fact, I don’t think I had even tried it until I was in university. However, having made a number of road trips to Mont Tremblant and Montréal over the years ever since moving to Toronto, I’ve definitely put away some fine plates of poutine. And while I wouldn’t say I’m a full-fledged poutine aficionado, I can definitely differentiate an authentic plate from the standard diner fare.

Unfortunately, outside of the province of Quebec, it seems hard to find restaurants with the same sense of tradition and dedication to the dish. So I was pretty excited to hear about the grand opening of Smoke’s Poutinerie here in Toronto, and their plan to import real cheddar cheese curds from Quebec for their poutine. Not surprisingly of course, their first choice of location was in the heart of the club district.

Smoke's Location

Located directly above Burrito Boyz (another fine comfort food establishment) on Adelaide, it’s a fairly unassuming location. The interior could be mistaken for any fast food chain aside from the chalkboard for the post-club crowd to add their wisdom and insight to (“I love you Stephen Harper” was the word from the street when I went) and Smoke’s distinctive logo/face plastered on the walls in a kind of punk-rock caricature way. It was also not-so-subtly guerrilla-branded around town in preparation for the grand opening.

Smoke's Brand Image

It’s a pretty small place designed for people who want grab a quick bite on the go. Bar stools line the windowed areas, and a few small tables in the remaining space. I’d say the location seats about 40 people max, but I’d imagine that most customers take their poutine to eat on the go.

But let’s get to the heart of the matter — the poutine. Now Smoke’s has a number of interesting takes on the dish: Bacon Poutine, Curry Chicken Poutine, Nacho Grande Poutine. However, I felt that for my first visit, the traditional style would be the best way to judge the quality and authenticity of Smoke’s.

The Poutine

So there it is in all it’s greaseful glory. For $5.95, you get a serving which should be hefty enough to soak up the last couple of drinks you shouldn’t have had, or to satisfy the munchies. I wouldn’t plan on needing anything else to eat afterwards, so it’s definitely good value for those on a budget (and eating healthy is secondary).

The verdict? The cheese curds were perfect — fresh, squeaky when you bite into them, mild flavored (unlike the orange cheddar which is used on many poutines around Toronto) so that they combine well with the gravy. The fries were also superb — made in house fresh daily using Yukon Gold potatoes and double blanched in sunflower oil. The size of the fries was just right for me. Slightly larger than McDonalds’ fries so that they can hold up to the gravy, but not so large that you end up with a bland potato center.

The one downside was the gravy. While it was good, it seemed to be lacking in flavor slightly and tended to disappear in the dish. I’ve discussed this with others and we can’t quite put our finger on what exactly it’s missing. Seasoning? Or perhaps it hadn’t been reduced enough (like it didn’t have enough time to stew)? Regardless, it didn’t seem to measure up to some of the other poutine gravies I’ve had. My wife also said that it had a bit too much cinnamon flavor for her.

Nitpicking aside, I can say that it’s the best poutine I’ve had outside of Quebec. I’m not sure how big a compliment that is given that I really haven’t found many restaurants around Toronto (or otherwise) in which it’s more than a sidenote. However, it certainly fares well even among the ones I’ve had in Quebec.

So if you have a craving for the real deal, want to find out what all the fuss is about, or are just looking for the comfort of three types of grease in one meal, Smoke’s should live up to expectations.

Smoke's Poutinerie on Urbanspoon