Save on Meats – Vancouver, BC

Save on Meats
43 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 569-3568

Early adopters, supporters  and enthusiasts of many things in our grande old world are an interesting lot.  Its safe to say they love being in on the ground level, before things really take off and get established in the mainstream.  Often at the cost of being scorned or mocked for their fervent adoration for whatever it may be that strikes their fancy as others cannot yet understand why, and for which they are often stringently dedicated to defending.  Places to eat certainly fall among those categories where fanatics make themselves known, but then when their beloved spot gets popular, they are filled with mixed feelings.  Part glad that their views are vindicated, but also saddened that their special place will now be flooded with those catching the word-of-mouth and covered in public sources of media.

The previous incarnation of Save on Meats and today’s refurbished edition are an interesting pair to compare.  Suffice it to say, the new edition is a lot more “user friendly” to say those folks who are hesitant to venture to this part of downtown east, especially once you get in through the front door.  The decor has a definitively retro slant, complete with adornments such as the old school candy dispenser and juke box situated near the main entrance’s waiting area.  Even the signage has the decades-old look and feel to them, that might remind the older generation of days gone by, but are clearly with the styling of an era that is beyond my early days on this planet earth.

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Dairy Lane Cafe – Calgary, AB

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.

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Katie’s Crossing – Strathcona County, AB

Katie’s Crossing
22137 Township Road 530
Strathcona County, AB
(780) 922-7008

Seeking out the rare and unusual is something we strive to do here on foodosophy.  The information on such spots can come from various researched sources or personal recommendations, but at times its also just pure circumstance and random finds that lead us to these discoveries.  An impromptu drive out in rural Alberta just outside the city of Edmonton resulted in one such outing recently… Katie’s Crossing.

Part diner, part antique attraction and facility, along this long connection of train cars is where you can find the cramped order counter and kitchen emitting the smells of cooking food.  Converted from an actual steam engine train, the novelty of opening the still operational heavy iron door to access the counter is a real treat.  For those who grew up as fans of modes of transportation like this, it never gets old.

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Lost in the 50’s Drive-in – Burnaby, BC

Lost in the 50’s Drive-in
7741 Edmonds Street
Burnaby, BC
(604) 521-2813

December 2010 re-visit post here

Original post below:

Lost in the 50’s, indeed.  That was my initial thought as I zipped past this lot that housed what appeared to be – in a brief, nonchalant sideways glance out of my moving car – an old school diner.  Without giving it any much thought, I continued on my way out of town and didn’t really think about it again until I came across it this week while out in the area again, now several months later.  In actuality I passed it completely, despite the fact that this time I actually concentrated on locating a visible sign for the business.  As I made my way further northeast and began heading down eastward into New Westminster, I was positive it couldn’t have been this far down Edmonds Street and made a swift u-turn.  As I slowed down to the intersection at Canada Way, this is what I saw (coming from the other direction of course)….

Exactly.  I know what you’re thinking – no more sign!  Or was there one to begin with?  And was this place even open?  A small commercial neon OPEN sign suggested it was still truly in business, and I pulled into the nearby parking lot, albeit from the wrong direction (I think I drove right into the ‘going out’ side of their drive-in lane).  Lucky for me, I was the only customer. 🙂

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Helen’s Grill & Restaurant – Vancouver, BC

Helen’s Grill & Restaurant
4102 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 874-4413

Despite being called “the most important meal of the day”, I often find myself skipping breakfast and making due with a cup or two of coffee in the morning.  I applaud those that make the effort to start their day with a hearty meal instead of doing without, or just wolfing down whatever last night’s dinner leftovers might be lying around.  On weekdays, I just can’t gather the energy to make breakfast, and even on weekends, despite the luxury of more time, its not one of my favorite things to do from a food perspective.

Also, is it just me or is it getting harder and harder to find a local joint that serves up a quality, satisfying breakfast service, AND at a reasonable price?  Just my opinion but I get the sense that too many places are trying to “get with the times” and make this part of the day more “fancy” than is ever needed.  Which in turn, results in one plate breakfasts breaking the ten dollar and over barrier, which is something I can’t fathom.  To me, some eggs, potato hash, bacon/sausage and some toast should (or at least I wish) hover around less than half that.

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Moderne Burger – Vancouver, BC

Preface: I am not familiar with the previous editions of this business. Nor have I ever eaten at this establishment before their latest setback/closure. This visit was conducted approximately two months after their re-opening in late-June 2008.

It appears that Moderne Burger‘s traditional popularity with Vancouverites has not abated at all, as seen by the plethora of people visible inside as well as in lineups stretching outside their front entrance on West Broadway. A as a first timer to this place, it sure seemed to me that this is a tribute to the loyalty of their fans, forgiving nature and hungry desire to have their favorite burger joint back up and running after what I understand has been a long period of downtime. I wanted to figure out for myself if I’d enjoy the product offering as much as these diehards, and this review is based on a recent takeout order that I had.

The place was packed aside from two empty stools around 1pm. Approaching the cashier, placing my order was easy enough, although the young woman still seemed a little lost with the cash machine and at one point was obviously scanning around for some experienced help. I guess it has been about two months since the re-opening, but it did seem like they were still working out a few things, including staff training and customer attention. I did find it interesting while waiting for my order and observing the scene, that eat-in diners had to go to the same till after their meals and pay – no bills were brought to tables by their servers.

The simple decor was pretty much as I expected, though with more subdued colors (teals, grays, silver) and tones than what I am used to seeing in similar ’50s style diners in the States. The assortment of period trinkets and pieces such as some model cars, telephones, etc. in the showcases that made up the counter space near the cash register were eye-catching, as was the ever-present jukebox. There was no music playing however, which made the atmosphere less joyous, again perhaps just a stereotype image in my head of what these places are usually like. Customers sitting down in the booths or along the counter bars didn’t seem greatly affected as it looked like everyone was having a good time, engrossed in conversations – all in all, it seemed that people found it a good place to have conversation as well as the food. After about a twenty-minute wait, my order was good to go, and I took it home and opened my package.

Knowing that the drive time might have a detrimental effect on my burger and fries, I did my best to open up the bag and shoot these images as soon as possible (about ten minutes after I left Moderne Burger). The top bun was remarkably not soggy, which was my biggest fear as I unwrapped it from the foil wrapper and plated it. The fries (handcut, skin on) held up very well too, even more surprising since they weren’t overcooked or overly crispy to begin with. Actually, it was a tremendous volume of French fries, well salted and nice and soft inside, and apparently fried in a canola/oil oil blend. My order was the Moderne Steak (100% beef) burger – juicy and just the right thickness for me so as not to feel the patty was too skimpy, nor too overwhelming to bite through. Moderne Burger says on their menu that they are handmade fresh daily, and this was clear to me as it was not that hard and overly dry consistency you find in frozen and/or pre-made product. Moderne Burger also takes pride in not using any fillers and preservatives in their patties, and I was pleased, as you can definitely taste the difference. Some might say it lacks seasoning, which is probably a valid point, but for me it didn’t bother me as I was getting more than enough salt from the chips.

Other than the beef patty, they offered up choices such as turkey, salmon fillet and vegetarian. Standard toppings were lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mayo and a special BBQ sauce. Where is the rest, you ask? Well, that’s where Moderne Burger is weak, well in the eyes of those more fiscally responsible burger lovers, as extras like cheese (cheddar, Swiss), bacon, grilled onions, and mushrooms all came with a $1.25/each price tag. They even had a dipping sauce, but I am not sure how that works with a burger. I did end up choosing some cheddar, bacon and mushrooms just to ensure I had a more complete representation, though seeing the bill, it did make me think this was getting kind of expensive for “just a hamburger”, or just seemed like it was since you are building up from a “base” and working upwards. $10.95 for the burger/fries combo plus the extras, and tax – you add it up.

overcooked and messy Vera's doubleburger

overcooked and messy Vera's doubleburger

Overall, I’d say I much prefer Moderne Burger’s patty compared to say Vera’s Burger Shack, which is just too crumbly, brittle and overdone/burnt on every occasion that I’ve had it – despite all that “works” toppings that they try to cover it up with, which also just makes the total combination a drippy, wet mess.

Those critical of Moderne Burger’s offering will no doubt raise points such as the reduced salt/pepper/seasoning in the patty, and the price tag that rises with the extras. For something that is standard fare in my mind, a hamburger, I guess you can go either way. If you want to get your fast food variety, a more pricey option, one that’s more subtly flavored or over the top – its really up to you to decide. As I don’t have burgers very often, I think I’ll make my choice Moderne Burger as it suits my tastes the best (so far in my Vancouver burger prowling).

Moderne Burger
2507 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604-739-0005
Hours: Tue to Sun, 12pm to 7:45pm

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