Chronic Tacos – Vancouver, BC


Chronic Tacos
382 W. Broadway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 709-8226

l’d say that I was among the early birds several months back to spot the disappearance of the former tenant at this location (that served horrible pho) and the pending notice that Chronic Tacos was going to set up shop – mainly due to the fact that I pass this Cambie/W. Broadway corridor very often.  As a result, I kept making a mental note to stop in once things got up and running, which I did hear about from a loyal reader when they themselves passed through their open doors.  A further few weeks passed since that heads up but I finally made my way in on a recent Sunday afternoon.  Coincidentally, as it was just past the 2pm local time kickoffs for several NFL matches, the place was rocking inside and all tables were occupied, which led me to understand that this joint has a serious sports bar vibe and relevant customers (many decked out in the uniforms of their favorite teams).  I thought this was interesting, not assuming the proprietors would take this angle, but it sure has proven to be a success judging by the boisterous room.  While glancing at some screens to get updated on the scores (I happened to be listening to the Seahawks game on the radio on my drive over), I made my way to the very back where the ordering and prep counter is situated.  I didn’t bother to check, but I don’t think there is any table service here, which one might expect given how busy the place was upon setting foot inside and how the seating layout was designed.

With no intentions of dining alone inside – not that there was even a single free chair – I got my order to go.  A few signs on the walls and a menu board are posted up high and are quite visible, and given its a fast food-type of place, its not rocket science to decide what you want and the choices run the usual gamut of popular North Americanized (despite the claims of authentic Mexican recipes) items such as burritos, the hilariously named “fatty” tacos (in reference to the whole chronic thing – “whatup Dr. Dre!”), and other assortments such as nachos and quesadillas.  I’m sure their website would reveal more history and the rationale behind the name, so will leave that to you to delve into and I won’t regurgitate anything here (urgh, that’s a really bad word to use when writing about food, but so be it!).

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Papalote – San Francisco, CA


Papalote Mexican Grill
3409 24th Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 970-8815

The Mission district has what I call a lot of “flavour”.  Colorful characters, simple ethnic shops, groceries  and eateries (many of the Latin persuasion), and a very “real” feeling about it compared to the more tamer parts of this beautiful city by the bay that I adore.  I headed down to this part of town to meet some folks before visiting their home on the edge of this area, and after being pitched a few options for something to get for takeaway chose the taqueria.  My local guide said this place was very well known and he’d had some good meals there so left it in his capable hands to drive us over after I arrived by BART.  The scene below is where I was standing waiting for my ride just across from the 24th street station, ironically in front of a McDonald’s…

So we soon ended up on the street by Papalote.  From the outside, it looked nothing special, sort of diner-like as I peered into the space where you can eat in.  Walk-in-and-take-out traffic seems to be heavy here too, as we were soon joined by a few people grabbing a menu card and giving their order to the cashier.  I was enticed by the many offerings, including the tasty sounding vegetarian ones, but in the end opted for the fish tacos.

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Sushi Bang – Vancouver, BC


Sushi Bang
500 W Broadway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 875-0131

Normally, I would just dump the poor pics shot with my cell phone and not even comment on an unforgettable meal like this and deny it in my mind that it ever even happened, but I just had to share this unique experience with our readers. I’m sure you’ve read online on other food blog sites, of the growing “taking photos in restaurants” issue that occurred with the burgeoning crowds of people interested in documenting their eating experiences on the internet and the proliferation of affordable digital cameras. I have heard opinions on both sides of the debate and concur and disagree with many of them, such as “its distracting to other diners”, “it steals the chef’s art”, etc. Honestly, everyone has an opinion on the subject and in the end, the proprietor certainly has the right to set the rules in their establishment as they please. It might be heavy handed or draconian in some cases, but as long as its under their roof (owned or leased), I figure they have a right to tell me their guidelines when it comes to photographing food, though I am sure there are those who say that if its the customer who is paying, they should own the privilege. I won’t digress further, but you are free to comment on it if you so desire…

But in this case at Sushi Bang, that I dropped into for a simple take away meal after spending the day on the beach volleyball courts at Kits, the “reason” I got from the waitress who ordered me to stop taking photos – that I was doing very casually since I was waiting for my order and frankly had nothing better to do – just perplexed me. While checking some text messages and lying my phone on the table, I angled it upwards to snap a shot of the wall facing me. Figured I could use an interior shot if I ever decided to post about this, which was quite low in terms of possibility given the quality of the offering here. Its no place that readers need to bother with frankly, as its so run-of-the-mill and the kind of the place you can find just about anywhere in Vancouver. When suddenly, I heard a strong voice from the side, coming from a female waitress saying I had to stop taking photos. I’m surprised she even saw me doing it, as I wasn’t even looking at my screen and was actually aiming blind up at the wall. She must have had her eye on me for some reason, which I guess makes sense as I was the only customer this early summer evening.

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Triple O’s – Burnaby, BC


Triple O’s
6038 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
(604) 568-4538

I can imagine the instantaneous reaction this post will receive. So I’ll come out and say it.

The fast food burger that I’m enjoying of late is from Triple O’s.

Having not grown up in British Columbia, I don’t harbour the long lasting childhood memories of others, who have had the food from White Spot and the like that seems to be true of many Vancouverites, from their very early days (and perhaps teenage years?).

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Chicken Delight – Burnaby, BC


Chicken Delight
7624 6th Street
Burnaby, BC
(604) 521-2121

Another completely random, TOFTT kind of outing.  As I dug up the Urban Spoon reference for the address to be included in this posting, I was amused to see that someone had beaten me to this place – er, make that rather bewildered that somebody had actually decided on their own to have a meal here before my impromptu visit.  Surprise, surprise, it was none other than the adventurous author of I’m Only Here for the Food!

Chicken Delight only stood out as I drove by looking for a quick daytime bite to eat because of its gaudy, outdated colorful signage.  You know the kind, complete with windows plastered over in uncoordinated posters trumpeting various deals, combos and specials you can get inside.  A funny thing though, after I stepped inside (and became the only customer) I learned that one of the items on their posters wasn’t even available.  False advertising at its finest.  Its you can’t order it, take it down please.

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Asa Sushi – Burnaby, BC


Asa Sushi
7608 Royal Oak Avenue
Burnaby, BC
(604) 419-0233

It has been a while since this visit, but one that I’ve not forgotten for its hilarity. I thought it would be an amusing way to begin the work week, by examining some seriously dysfunctional sushi preparation…

Cradled at the far edge of a small commercial complex that houses a convenience store, a bakery and what I think was a veterinarian office, is Asa Sushi. With very few sushi options that were open for a quick takeaway in the same area (another across the way was closed on this day), but still not willing to give up on having this for something to eat, I headed inside. A crawlspace of a joint, with a few tables and chairs and surprisingly at least six customers.

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Handi Cuisine of India – Vancouver, BC


Handi Cuisine of India
4432 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 738 3186

Dining solo has been a topic that’s come up from time to time in posts as well as in various comments.  Lately, when I’ve had to eat alone, I’ve tended to go the take away route.  Perhaps I’m being influenced by those who cringe at the thought of eating on their own, whereas in the past I had not been so self-conscious…

Handi Cuisine of India situated in the Dunbar neighbourhood (with another location in West Van) is a place I’d driven past many times over the years but had not yet gone inside to order.  It seemingly has a strong local following and reputed solid service, so my expectations were good.  Recently, I was finally able to find out for myself by dialing ahead and placing an order for pickup.

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Thai Terrace – Vancouver, BC


Thai Terrace
2872 W Broadway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 738-2824

The delectable intricacies of the mouth watering cuisine from the Kingdom of Thailand – a country that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting at least ten times in my lifetime – sadly gets undue respect here in North America.  Perhaps its the fear of the “exotic-ness”  that many people associate with the food from this southeast Asia nation, or the complexity of sweet, savory, spicy, sour and bitter that permeates so many of its fine dishes that is confusing to locals more accustomed to meat and potatoes, which results in a “let’s dumb it down” approach that native-Thai proprietors are forced to take in order to survive and try to establish a beachhead for their cooking in a foreign land.

Whatever the case may be, its a darn shame I say…

On a busy strip of West Broadway populated by many local shops and restaurants, I was completely shocked to see the signage for Thai Terrace while driving past in the early evening and in the middle of a downpour.  I traverse this section of Vancouver often and it surprised me that I had not seen this place before.  With a few diners already inside eating and a couple waiting at the til (apparently to order to go), I decided to turn my car around and stepped inside.

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York Fresh Pizza – Vancouver, BC


York Fresh Pizza
3630 West 16th Avenue
Vancouver, BC
(604) 731 1112

York Fresh Pizza on Urbanspoon

Pizza… I think we can all agree is a clear cut winner when it comes to good and generally cheap eats.  Its been profiled already a few times here on Foodosophy, and I am sure it will again in the future.  From the classic bubbly-crusted thin style Neapolitan to the thick crust/deep dish-style that Chicagoans prefer, through to the floppy variant favored on the east coast, and all of the other types that lie somewhere on that matrix that is the world of pizza, it is a true gastronomical delight.

Depending on my mood, and more so the strength of the pangs of hunger that hit me, my preference can range from thin crust with very basic toppings all the way (and back again) to the thicker crusted and heavily topped selections out there.  On days, when until the even hours my entire day’s diet has consisted only of a cup of coffee, the latter more heavily mounted style clearly takes precedence and due to shear luck, I found my way to discovering York Fresh Pizza.

Entrenched inside the first floor of an older structure along W.16th Avenue, just before the turn onto Dunbar Street, this pizzeria could easily be missed when driving down this road, especially when one is more concerned about navigating the curve on to the more populated Dunbar.  With limited seating inside the waiting area in front of the counter, it truly is a more take away/delivery type of pizza joint, although the available by-the-slice options seem to be popular with the youth market (while I was getting my order, the place was packed with a bunch of rambunctious local teenagers).

The House Specials caught my attention as I tried to make my choice, and being it was my very first visit, I thought I would choose from there.  In the end, I decided on the York’s Special, complete with a primarily meat-heavy lineup that included the following: salami, sausage, pepperoni, bacon, green peppers, onions and mushrooms.  Talk about hearty!

You can also be creative and “make your own pizza” by choosing anywhere from 1 to 4 toppings (made up of 5 difference cheeses, 2 types of seafood, 9 types of meat, and 16 types of vegetable) in a small (10 inch) to large (14 inch) size, with prices ranging from $10.48 all the way up to $23.81; with discounts on the price per pizza if you buy 2 or more.  The House Specials, of which there were six, ranged in price for a small ($14.29) to large ($25.71).  Of course, you could also ask for more extra toppings ($0.95 for a small; $1.90 on a large).

I was generally quite satisfied with the overall package, as the large amount of toppings was generally spread over the entire face of the pie, and made each slice a meal in itself.  That didn’t stop me from having my fair share (the image is of a large size), with plenty left over for the next morning.  The crust was just right, with a good crispiness to it but not overly so that it was brittle and crumbly.  The base crust was also spot on, not too soft so that it wouldn’t be able to handle the weighty toppings, and not overcooked so that it became a hard sheet of cardboard.  If I had to raise a negative point, I’d say that perhaps the tomato sauce was a touch on the blander side.  But with all the flavors on top, I hardly noticed.

Judging from the busyness of the dine-in area, the trio of drivers who were being shuttled in and out the kitchen space by the two busy managers who also seemed to be manning the phones, it would seem that York Fresh Pizza has its loyal followers, and I think that in my part of town, it will be on my top three list for delivery in the coming year.

York Fresh Pizza on Urbanspoon

Pita Star and The Curry and Kebab Grill – Vancouver, BC


Pita Star
146 East 3rd Ave
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604-874-1524

Pita Star on Urbanspoon

I love getting tips about great places to eat…especially holes-in-the-wall. So when a friend called me the other day and said that he had a tip about a new Indian place from a reliable source, we jumped at the chance to try it out. The tip came from a friend of Indian descent, so this place must be solid…or so we thought. As it turns out, it was a food counter that is being run within Pita Star, a place I used to frequent when they served some of the best falafels in the city.

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Pita Star is a storefront for a small-sized family run pita baking operation. You can get their bread at various grocery stores and supermarkets around town. I have purchased pita and Falafel sandwiches from here on in the past (I then make another stop at Swiss Bakery which is right across the street). I hadn’t been here in a while because they closed their storefront and focused on their wholesale business. It looks like that has changed.

A secondary operation called The Curry and Kebab Grill has taken over the food bar in front. (They also sell frozen Indian meals to go…which is interesting). We had a quick read of the chalkboard menu suspended over the counter. They have Curry and Rice specials for $5 and an assortment of Indian dishes.

pita_star2

We ordered a Butter Chicken and their Platter Combo 1. The Butter Chicken was…well…disappointing. It had the familiar neon-orange sauce found in food court-grade Butter Chicken. The sauce was much too sweet and lacked complexity.  The meat was very dry and flavourless…they had used chicken breast (probably a bulk Costco pack of boneless and skinless breast).

pita_star3

The Combo Platter was a selection of deep fried items which included Beef Kebab, Mogo (cassava), Nylon Bhajia (dollar potatoes) and Samosa. It also included a triplet of dipping sauces –  Tamarind, Coconut-Cilantro Chutney, and Green Chili Chutney.

pita_star4

The Samosa, Nylon Bhajia and Mogo were decent – fresh tasting and not at all oily despite being deep-fried. Nothing out of the ordinary, really. The Kebab tasted pre-fried, stale and dry.

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My lunch companion picked up a frozen curry meal to go. He reported later that it was “decent.” It was packed into a vacuum sealed microwavable segmented container  resembling a TV dinner (remember those?)

pita_star6

Clearly, I had my expectations set too high. Perhaps if I wasn’t so picky, I would probably enjoy this food. This area which is at the edge of a light-industrial zone is a little thin of good eating (the truly amazing Argo Cafe is just around the corner, however) so this cafeteria probably fills the bill for many people working within walking distance.

A tip like the one I had most often leads to hidden gems…not this time, unfortunately…not for me anyway.

pita_star1

Pita Star on Urbanspoon

Mr.Pickwick’s Fish and Chips – Vancouver, BC


Mr.Pickwick’s Fish and Chips
8620 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 266 2340

Mr Pickwick's Fish & Chips (Granville) on Urbanspoon

To me, in many ways, restaurants can themselves almost be thought of as people. They each have their own personalities, special abilities, unique characteristics, and even credentials. I suppose in some ways, all of the things that you read and hear before your first visit, do help to shape your impressions as if the restaurants were an actual human being that you are interviewing for a job in your company.  I’d like to ask our readers, how much stock do you put in all the accolades that restaurants receive through more “official” channels such as local print and online media, in doing your “reference checks”?

Personally, I’ve always taken these with a grain of salt, or two.  Or three… well, you get the point.  Especially when they are overtly displayed inside the establishment (okay, one or two clippings I don’t mind, but more than that and all framed with pride – a bit overboard) and/or digitized and clearly displayed on their website.  If you’re like me, then Mr. Pickwick’s Fish and Chips might not be called in for an “interview”, as their small space (one of two in the city) was covered in framed certificates from sources such as the Georgia Straight, The WestEnder, and other local business and tourist organizations.  The fact that the business also had a human face associated on all of their branding and signage, made it all the more “personal” – which I think contributed to me feeling like I was not going to like this “person”.

The order board that hangs above the main counter had sort of a retro look with the old school fonts and magnets that are used to list items and their accompanying prices.  The lit up photos of their most popular fish and chips combos, just your regular run-of-the-mill fast food variety.  Being able to see entirely into the small kitchen and prep area, made me think of those narrow spaces that some of those french fry specialty places in shopping malls operate out of.  I’m not sure how it is every day or during more busier times, but the space was occupied by a single person who was doing the phone answering/order taking/frying and bagging duties all alone.

The menu featured the standard choices of fish in the cod (source: North Pacific; incidentally I believe its the eastern Atlantic cod that is facing extinction), halibut (source: Queen Charlotte Islands), haddock and salmon.  These could be ordered as 1pc, 2pc, 3pc and even 10pc sets.  You can also “mix and match” by selecting the West Coast (halibut & salmon), East West (haddock & halibut) or Whitefish (cod/haddock/halibut) set deals. As well, there were other seafood options such as oysters, prawns, clam strips and popcorn shrimp.  Further, probably in an attempt to differentiate themselves, there was a section called “sides and treats” which featured yam chips, poutine, “Newfie” chips, deep fried dill pickles, Mushy peas, and even a Deep Fried Mars Chocolate Bar!

In the end, I went with the tried and true cod and in a hungry mood chose the 3pc set ($10.98).  Personally I find the fattier, buttery texture of cod which “flakes” in larger pieces better and is more pleasing in deep fried food like this, as compared to say halibut (which I tend to associate more as a grilled fish).   The batter was indeed light and crispy as advertised, and I was quite glad as there is nothing worst than a thick, cake-y layer of  deep fried batter that seems more thicker than the actual fillet of fish inside.  The side chips were similarly light but still crispy and definitely not over-fried.  They were not really seasoned however, but I suppose that’s what the self serve packs of salt and pepper were for, but would have hoped they would have done it when they came out of the oil nice and hot, so that it would adhere better.

The tartar sauce which they dub as Rayana’s Tartar Sauce was fairly standard and nothing too different from many other tartar sauces I’ve had over the years with fish and chips.   They did give me a generous two portions with my order though, and two slices of lemons in my take-out order, that was wrapped up in a large sheet of paper and placed in a bio-degradable plastic bag.  I think Mr. Pickwick’s Fish and Chips are playing up their efforts for sustainability, as in the waiting area they had clearly displayed that they were involved in the Oceanwise sustainable seafood program, as well as working in a network called Green Table, which includes restaurants that are working to reduce their operations impacts on the environment… hence all that eco-friendly “packaging”.

I really need to do more exploring in Vancouver for comparable fish and chip offerings, as it seems thats my thing these days.  If you have any, please do drop me a note in the comments section, and I will be pleased to go try them out.

Mr Pickwick's Fish & Chips (Granville) on Urbanspoon

Tazza Grill and Deli – Calgary, AB


Tazza Grill and Deli
1105 1st St. NE
Calgary, AB
Tel: (403) 263 5922

[Prologue] A brief three day stay in the southern Alberta city has ended for me.  It was a whirlwind of activity, and in between actual work stints I managed to squeeze in a few new and repeat eating experiences – many in the company of the Foodosopher.  Suffice it to say, the Foodosopher is one of those folks who is willing and able to join you on dining escapades on any given day and at any given time – be it the unknown (a new spot), the recommended (by others), and even the dreaded (that rank in the mostly expected-bad category).  Kudos to the Foodosopher for another entertaining few days of sharing meals and I look forward to our next meeting and discussing our plans for Foodosophy.

Tazza Grill and Deli was the first place that the Foodosopher introduced me to in the Calgary food scene several years ago, during a quick lunch break meeting.  Though my memories have faded since that first visit, I do remember that it was not a place that I minded going to again, and hence, my first pit stop on this recent Calgary trip.  As far as I can tell, the Bridgeland area of the city has blossomed into a distinct neighborhood featuring many solid food and restaurants choices, and one that I enjoy visiting. Despite the growing development of the area, it still retains a cozy feel and I think this is reflected in many of the businesses and the people who run them.

Tazza fits precisely into this category as a family run operation. I am sure the Foodosopher could give a more detailed history on the establishment, but I will leave it at this. Its clear the moment that you step inside and give your order, that this place has the process down pat, almost military in its precision. Looking for an item to go, Chicken Shawarma (or on the wrapping, called a Chicken Shistawouk) was my choice – which strangely has replaced Vietnamese Pho as the most commonly had simple lunch item for me of late. The large chalkboards hanging on the walls near the entrance had that old school feel that contributed to that homey feel I had tried to describe earlier about this neighborhood.

Unable to eat it until about fifteen minutes later once I had settled into my accommodations for the night, I was pleased it was still somewhat warm and the extra grilling time to harden the wrap had held up as well. I can easily sum up the flavor after taking the first bite – a complete and well balanced mixture of creamy sauce, crispy vegetables, and both harder and softer pieces of chicken meat. I am sure it would have tasted even better had I eaten it on the spot, but even still, this was one of the best shawarma’s I’ve ever had. The regular size was probably just right for a meal, though the larger variant would be easy to devour on an empty stomach.

A delicious start to my Calgary eating. More reports to follow soon…

Tazza Deli & Grill on Urbanspoon

Babylon Cafe – Vancouver, BC


Babylon Cafe
716 Robson Street
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (604) 677 3522

On Foodosophy, we’ve already hit up a number of places serving up shawarmas/donairs.  I think this is due in part to it being an easy, tasty, and convenience take away lunch item; something that both the Foodosopher and I appreciate when we are rushing from place to place during our work days.  Though on a recent off-day, just before checking out a movie at the nearby Vancouver International Film Festival on Granville Street, I passed by this establishment, the Babylon Cafe.  Actually, I should say that it was the amazing smells of the meat cooking on the spits that were being vented out of this small business that drew me inside like a snake charmer.

A very cramped narrow space in front of a serving counter is what makes up the Babylon Cafe.  With about six people working inside, I could see they needed all the manpower to keep up with the lineup that had already built outside.  No doubt, some of these were being drawn in by the smells like I was, as a first time customer.  I was standing at least four people back when I could see one of the men inside waving at me to give my order.  I shouted it out but by the time I got to the counter, someone else had begun making it, and then again, my final wrapped product was handed to me by a third person who I handed my money over to.  A pretty timely affair, and it was obvious they had this process down pat, but for the newbie, perhaps a bit confusing with all the switching and never knowing exactly which one behind the counter being put together is in fact your order.

As I agree wholeheartedly with the Foodosopher’s take on what makes the “perfect” shawarma/donair, as he so conveniently described here, I will just report on the components of the Chicken Shawerma Wrap ($5.70) that I had…

Pita – Non grilled, and a little dry/stale.  Surprising considering the turnover they have.

Meat quality – Contained both the preferred softer and crispier pieces, providing that much needed balance.  Seasoning was a little weak in my opinion.

Mean quantity – Below average, in comparison to the amount of the other fillings.  This was not filled to the brim so to speak either.

Vegetable fillings – Good range as I asked for the “works”, so no point deductions here.

Sauce – More than adequate amount of the creamy Tzatziki.  As I was drink-less and about to step into a movie theatre, I passed on the also available spicy.

I’ve heard that this place had a loyal following, or at least used to.  It is in a high traffic location, and I can imagine that it does brisk business both during weekday lunch hours, as well as the night crowd that streams in and out of the nearby bars and clubs on the weekends.  For a one-off visitor like I am, I didn’t see anything that would draw me back unless I just happened to be in the immediate area and really craving a shawarma again.  Next time, I am sure I won’t let the incredible scents of the meat that dominate the entire block overtake my common sense.  In other words, a lot more “bark” than “bite” in the case of the Babylon Cafe’s shawarma, which comes in with a final grade of “incomplete”.

Babylon Cafe on Urbanspoon