Sandbar Seafood Restaurant 1535 Johnston Street Vancouver, BC (604) 669-9030
Much like an undercover agent infiltrating a tightly closed society, there are times when I deliberately jump right into the most touristy spots I can think of to try and get a sense of what drives non-locals to visit such eating establishments. More often than not, these kind of places are always touted and raved about by the native city’s mainstream media and publications, that surprisingly have far reaching audiences. Chalk it up to the incredibly connected and digital world we live in. In the past twelve years, I’ve had the pleasure of setting up a home base in four major cities now and in each one, I’ve conducted a similar exercise just for fun. Here in Vancouver, The Sandbar rated high on my list of tourist traps.
However this time, I had some out of town visitors in tow with me as I guided them around the markets at Granville Island and rather than bother with making a long stroll back to the vehicle we came in, I popped inside up and up the stairs to see if we could get a table on short notice. Being that it was a beautiful summer day, I had my doubts we could get one on the outdoor patio and that ended up being the case. Instead we were seated just inside, but the view of the water below was pretty much obscured. For visitors, provided you get a good stroll around the Island ahead of dinner, I think you can pretty much picture the view you could have if seated on the rail on the patio.
29th Avenue Cafe 4441 Boundary Road Vancouver, BC (604) 558-2271
Situated in a completely unexpected location is the reincarnation of the former Yoshoku-ya that lived along Denman Street downtown and was home to many fans of the homey Japanese-Western cuisine of the same name. I was surprised to spot the bold signage trumpeting its opening on a drive along busy Boundary Road and popped in for a dinner earlier this summer. With ample parking in a lot nearby (or on the street in front or behind in a residential area), visiting this place with a vehicle is much more easier on one’s sanity than it was back in its previous spot in Vancouver.
If you happen to walk by, the big glass windows can give you a clear sense of what to expect – a no nonsense, rather simple decor with ample spacing between tables so as not to feel overly close to strangers. I guess when you leave the downtown core, the cost per square foot for rent drops dramatically, thus allowing a proprietor to be more generous with the elbow room, which is certainly appreciated by some. Added to the welcoming tone is a big poster of the dishes you can find on the menu, including an array of photos of the actual plating as well. I imagine this can come in handy for those who have no idea what is meant by the advertised yoshoku cuisine.
Zaytinya #701 9th Street NW Washington, DC (202) 638-0800
As I am sure many of you are aware, the northeastern States have endured quite a few battles with Mother Nature this summer – including some blistering hot heat waves, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, and Hurricane Irene. Fortunate for me, I was only around for one of those events and managed to get safely in and out of the nation’s capital, and enjoyed some good eating along the way. While this will be a pictureless-post due to my not wanting to whip out my cell phone during this particular meal, I still wanted to put some thoughts down and share my experience at Zaytinya, which offers Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisine.
Mediterranean cooking is not something I indulge in a great deal but when I do, I am always pleasantly surprised by the boldness of flavors that can be captured by a talented kitchen. In the case of Zaytinya, their celebrated chef is José Andrés, recently named this past spring as an “Outstanding Chef” by the James Beard Foundation at their annual awards gala in New York City. The restaurant is clearly on the popular destination list by locals and visitors alike. Without a proper reservation, we had to wait a little while at the bar (where you can still get food), before a table opened up for us later in the night.
Go Fish Ocean Emporium 1505 W 1st Avenue Vancouver, BC (604) 730-5040
“Thirty minute wait for anything fried and ten minutes for the grilled items”. That’s what was being hollered out to the still not fully depleted lineup as the last business hour of the day approached this fine sunny weekend day. With hungry bellies, our rat pack of five quickly huddled and decided we’d opt for the healthier and quicker grilled menu choices, and that was by no means a default as these creations as you’ll see here did not disappoint or a downgrade to the more popular deep fried dishes like their fish ‘n chips.
In reality, the wait was indeed longer than advertised, but I assumed their time clock began once they could actually begin cooking your order, and not from the point of time when the order was actually received and paid for at the til. But with the nearby bench seating providing a view like this, the clock moving slowly isn’t all bad…
Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge 601 Queen Anne Ave. N. Seattle, WA (206) 432-9069
Booze with breakfast. Sad but true, that was the criteria upon which some research was done as I had a thirsty companion who was riding shotgun on this trip. Trying to get our drink on well before the night game at Safeco Field, this place popped up as the sole option. Surprisingly, it also turned out its a pretty well known joint. Dodging the lineup and delaying our entry into the place with a coffee from down the street, we were able to get a pair of stools at one of the rectangular communal tables – fittingly right in front of the beautifully stocked bar. As it said on the menu, “daytime drinking has never been so dignified, fun and guilt free…”.
There was a special pricing event going on during the hours we were here, so it did knock a few green bills off the total tally. With a section devoted to some more uncommon creations, my dining partner and I chose from that area, skipping past the usual eggs/toast combos, that we might have otherwise chosen. Our picks: the cured pork cheeks confit hash and the smoked salmon and asparagus hash.
Dairy Lane Cafe 319 19 St NW Calgary, AB (403) 283-2497
Nestled on a quiet street situated close to a residential neighborhood (from what I could see behind the parking lot of the building where the car I arrived in was parked), the Dairy Lane Cafe was our choice for an impromptu lunch just ahead of the madness which is the start of Stampede. As such, I was quite surprised to find a packed inside seating area, as well as all the available spots being taken up on the uncovered tables situated on the sidewalk in front of the building.
It didn’t seem like it was anywhere near any walk up traffic from the office worker crowd, but yet still busy at the noon hour. Scanning the relaxed attire of those eating already, it was clear to me that this was a casual, homey spot for clean honest grub for those who might more often than not, just live around the corner – some younger ladies who seemed to be out for a bite to eat with their girlfriends, to some guys who obviously fell into the hipster genre given their tight fitting attire and attitude, as well as strangely enough, some rougher dressed fellows who if I were to assume from the paint on their overalls, were some tradesmen on break for something to eat while on the day job.
The spot came recommended by locals and was described to me as a throwback to simpler times and with operators very keen on the whole “produced local” attitude, and knowing where their ingredients came from. The space was not very large inside and staffed seemingly by just two busy servers. Some large framed pictures hung on the wall reminded me of a by-gone era in rural Alberta, catching my eye enough to snap a photo myself. If I were to compare the looks and feel of this place to anywhere in Vancouver, I would say something like Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe & Pie Shop in Kits comes to mind.
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.