Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fat Tasty Burger at Fat Burger

While flying in with WestJet to Vancouver in September, I noticed an advertisement for a "Fat Burger" chain in the airline's magazine.  I made a mental note to find a location during our forthcoming adventures in Vancouver.

Later, on my way to Costco, I happened to find a Fatburger (111 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver) at the corner of Beatty and Dunsmuir Streets.  A few weeks later, I decided to stop by and see what the hubbub was about.

I visited during lunch time to find a small restaurant with a patio outfront overlooking a some green space. Inside the restaurant had three large booth tables to choose from or perhaps a counter overlooking the window. Thank goodness it wasn't that busy as for sure there wouldn't be any seating left.

Fatburger Storefront
Fatburger Storefront on Beatty Street

My only downfall this visit, was arriving right after three university aged students who took their sweet time in ordering and asked at least ten different questions each.  Of course this was not the fault of the lady of taking the orders. But with only one cash register, there was no alternative.

Eventually, after what seemed to be an eternity, I was able to order.

The Order: 1 Baby Fatburger (single paddy burger) with fries and soft drink.

The employee printed my receipt, given my fountain drink cup and politely invited to have a seat for my order to freshly prepared.  When the burger and fries were ready it was brought out to me.

At $11.53 this meal rivaled in price to that of Five Guys Burgers & Fries, but would it in taste?  There was only one way to find out.

Fatburger Baby Hamburger Combo with Fries
Baby Hamburger Combo with Fries
The hamburger itself was a delicious juicy burger.  A little fatty tasting here and there, but a delicious juicy burger nonetheless. The toppings were satisfactory but not over the top fresh or special.  Just a solid made burger with a unique taste compared to the others in town offering similar.

The fries were average cut fries. Sure they were nice and hot but nothing special in terms of preparation.  Just straight cut fries with skin left on the tips like many other locales.

Overall, this Fatburger has issues during busy times with adequate number of space and an average menu.  Looking for something unique? Go elsewhere.  Looking for a solidly cooked burger and fries with nothing special? Fatburger is your place!  I'd return in the future as the service is friendly and food prepared in a timely manner.  But with ten or more people there? Forget it as there'd be no seats available!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Wendy's Says "Hey, I'm Still Here!"

One evening with my wife giving the evening off roam the streets of Vancouver all by myself, I ventured out.  I wandered down Robson Street reviewing my dining options.

Not feeling in the mood for much, I remembered that I had yet to find a Wendy's in my tips across Vancouver.   With a few places offering Free Wifi, I found my way over to a Wendy's at 1150 Alberni Street.

Paired with a Tim Hortons, this Wendy's is an anomaly in Downtown Vancouver, it is the only location still around!   Even in Ottawa, Wendy's is pulling out of the core with it's only downtown location on Elgin street closing in the spring of 2015.  It seems Wendy's is slowly giving up on it's downtown locations in favour of its more suburban locations with a few exceptions that stand out.

Wendy's Storefront
Wendy's Storefront on Alberni Street

Inside the Vancouver location, it looks like an average Wendy's that has yet to be renovated with the usual fast food style seating.  Perhaps this is why this Wendy's is still here, this location is not due for a renovation as a requirement for it's continued operating under Wendy's licensing yet.

I walked to the counter and ordered right away as there was no lineup.

The Order: 1 Single Cheeseburger with a medium fries and a medium Coke.

A short wait and my meal came together.  I ventured over to the seating area where only a handful of customers of both Tim Hortons and Wendy's were found.  With lots of choices to choose from, I settled into a table for one and unwrapped my burger.

Wendy's Single Cheese Burger
Single Cheese Burger
Like most fast food burgers, the first view of your food isn't that great.  A traditional thrown together and serve it concoction instead of the more professional serve it on a plate pub style offering.  But for less than $10 for a burger combo obviously the looks are what are sacrificed.  Sure the Wendy's corporate requirements were met (e.g. one piece of lettuce, one tomato, etc.) and I have seen worse at other locales in terms of toppings.

Wendy's Small Fries
Small Fries
 The small fries were average Wendy's offerings as well. Still warm, but just average offerings.  Nothing to write about if you've been to a Wendy's before.

Overall, this Wendy's continues the Dave Thomas tradition of serving up fast food tastes he pioneered.   Service was decent at the counter with not a long wait.  But with nobody in line, why should there be much of wait?  Hopefully this restaurant will stick around downtown unlike quite a few of it's other incarnations.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Lovin' Five Guys Burgers & Fries on Robson

A familiar sight was found on Robson Street, that of Five Guys Burgers & Fries (635 Robson Street, Vancouver).  My Mother-in-Law actually asked if we could visit Five Guys as no one else would go with her!  Um...Sure!

I arrived shortly after noon to for takeout.  Surprisingly this downtown Five Guys Burgers & Fries has a decent amount of space with a full kitchen and customer seating area. Along with the traditional decor, is the usual friendly service and free peanuts to consume while you wait for your order.

Five Guys Burgers & Fries Storefront
Five Guys Burgers & Fries Storefront

I waited two minutes while the customers in front of me ordered, paid and received their receipts to go and wait for their burgers to be prepared.

The Order: 3 Little Hamburgers and 1 Large Fries.

The cashier was impressed I knew exactly what I wanted.  Well, considering I've ordered from Five Guys Burgers & Fries at the Ottawa Train Yards, I'd hope I would have my order down by now.

I collected my receipt, some peanuts and a seat to wait for my order.  With a steady steam of customers coming in, there was about a ten to fifteen minute wait.   The funniest part of the wait was "order number 10" that was called out at least twenty times by the staff putting together the order.  After about five minutes of off and on calling out the order number, this slicked haired overdressed customers waltz's in from the street and, after showing the receipt, picks up his order and walks out.

Soon my order arrived at the counter and I picked it up, then headed for the doors.

After arriving back at the nearby condominium,  I unpacked our order from the usually grease stained paper bag.  The fries, in their usually loosely packed nature in the bag, were plentiful and probably double the amount I get in Ottawa!

The hamburgers were the usual tastiness that Five Guys is known for.  The only difference is the patties were little thicker than those found in my two visits to the Ottawa locations. The toppings were basically the same as well.

Overall, the service was friendly and respectably fast in assembling the order. The food was in slightly better proportions than normal.  If living in Vancouver, I'd be back!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Japadog Tourist Trap

Of course while visiting Vancouver one does have to try out some of the more popular food locales.  Over the past couple of years many have raved about Japadog and it's unique culinary take on the average hot dog.  Japadog takes the average hot dog and tops it with various unique toppings like meat, seaweed and other gourmet toppings.   Starting out with a single hot dog cart, this restaurant chain has grown into several more carts and a storefront location in the Vancouver area plus a couple of carts in California.

Japadog has been noticed by many food blogs and tourist guidebooks since it's first cart that routinely had long line ups.  Hence, my interest in trying at least once an culinary sensation from this popular restaurant family. With a Japadog storefront nearby at 530 Robson Street, it wasn't to hard to find my candidate location.

Japadog Storefront
Japadog Storefront overlooking Robson Street

I visited on a weeknight for dinner figuring it would be less lined up than on a lost tourist infused weekend crowd.  I was correct in my assumption and only found a relative handful of people there.   Being only second in line upon entering things moved fast especially considering the relatively cramped quarters of the restaurant compared to the more spacious Five Guys Burgers & Fries across the street.

The Order: 1 Love Meat Hot Dog (Japadog's home made meat sauce is fused together with melted cheese).

After ordering and paying for the meal, customers are issued a receipt with an order number on it.  Next customers wait for their orders to be prepared by the Japadog staff team.  This can take anywhere from a five minutes up to, I imagine, on busy days twenty minutes.  With a cramped kitchen area due to the small retail space, there are only so many staff members that can assemble orders.

My order was easily assembled and picked up in less than ten minutes. I left for the nearby condominium to grab a drink and other assortment of sides.  I could have ordered a side, but at $5.99 plus tax for my hot dog alone, it was a little steep.

Japadog Love Meat Hot Dog
Love Meat Hot Dog

The Love Meat Hot Dog was o.k.  the hot dog itself was an average street sausage you could easily find at the nearby Costco Food Court.  The most interesting part was the meat toppings. Interesting taste similar to a chili dog.  But perhaps the most impressive thing was before I was given the order, the Japadog staff member used a blow torch to melt the cheese sprinkled on top.

Overall, was the hot dog worth $6.00 plus tax? Not really, but it was a good one time experience that I can say I did while in Vancouver.  I wouldn't make this a regular trip as for the price of food for the amount received is a little lacking.  But for novelty sake, it is worth a trip if you're playing tourist.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tight Tim Hortons

On a tour of Downtown Vancouver and the 2010 Vancouver Olypmic Cauldron at Canada place with our stroller in tow, we tried to visit the Tim Hortons across from Canada Place.  But we couldn't figure out how to get the stroller down the stairs to that restaurant or even the McDonald's next door.   We even circled the building to the Cordova Street side only to find an escalator down and directions for Wheelchair access and presumably an elevator.  But the directions of course were incomprehensible as it only listed a side of the building we had no clue on how to get to.  With no map on the directional sign, we gave up and soldiered on.

A few minutes later, on our trek up Seymour Street, was another Tim Hortons location within the Harbour Centre (555 West Hastings Street, Vancouver). This location has ground level entrance without any steps to traverse which is awesome for those of us pushing strollers exploring Vancouver's downtown.   The only issue with this location is seating space.  Sure the restaurant has a long street front presence but it is not very deep meaning there is only really counters in the window style seating.

Not wanting to sit but wanting to continue on , I finagled the stroller inside the door.  The cash was free so I was able to order right away while also not obstructing the restaurant too much.

The Order: 1 Small Black Sumatran Coffee.

In the Vancouver area Tim Hortons had released a "limited batch" Sumatran Coffee blend that was slightly more expensive than their "Original" or "Dark" roasts.   To promote the new limited time blend offering Tim Hortons sent out coupons for a free small Sumatran blend at any participating Tim Hortons.  While staying in a condominium in downtown Vancouver, these coupons quickly accumulated in the recycling bin near the condominium building's mailboxes.  By the time less than a week had gone by, I had about forty of these coupons stockpiled!

The employee quickly took my order, scanned the coupon and I was off with the stroller racing up the hill on Seymour Street.

The Sumatran Coffee was hot and pretty tasty. A little richer than the regular Tim Hortons' Original blend.  But really not worth the extra money for the average coffee drinker.  Sure it's fine for a limited time to provide a special brew, but this one doesn't have the sticking power due to the price difference.  The Sumatran blend is just not that special enough to be offered on an ongoing basis.

Overall, this Tim Hortons location provides an easy to access spot for those in the Convention Centre and Olympic Cauldron area to grab a coffee.  However, don't expect to stay for long as the seating is limited.  This really is a tight Tim Hortons that is mainly great for a "grab and go" type visit.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Fly that Wedge of Pizza to the Trash

While working at the Vancouver Public Library's Central Branch, lunch was in order.  With a variety of coffee shops, gift shops and small restaurants within the library's atrium, I decided to peruse my choices and see what I could find.

I settled on the Flying Wedge Pizza (345 Robson Street, Vancouver) which promised freshly made pizza along with a "wedge of the day" which provides discount pricing on type of slice per day.  With plain old Pepperoni and Cheese being the "wedge of the day", I settled on that.

Flying Wedge Pizza Company Storefront at Vancouver Public Library
Flying Wedge Pizza Co. Storefront.

But where was the employee?  All I could hear was running water in a sink off to the left behind the pop machine.  I waited patiently about three minutes wondering if anyone noticed if I was there.  Should I cough or stomp my feet to make my presence known?   While I pondered this, a lady dressed in an a Flying Wedge Pizza apron emerged from behind the pop machine with a surprised look on her face like I had just been beamed down by Scottie.

I welcomed her to Flying Wedge Pizza and asked if she would like to take my order.  She smiled and listened.

The Order: 1 Pepperoni Pizza Slice with Dr. Pepper.

I paid for order, $5.60 and left to eat in the library's atrium where there is adequate restaurant style seating.

Pepporoni Slice with Ranch Pesto Dipping Sauce
Pepporoni Slice with Ranch Pesto Dipping Sauce

I sat down to dig into the Pepperoni slice.  The cheese was a little thin but the bready tasting crust was very evident.  In fact, it tasted similar to a frozen pizza freshly warmed from the oven.  As for freshness?  Forget it, with barely enough cheese to cover the slice and average pepperoni the slice was a pass.  Heck, I'd rather have a pay even more and walk across the street to Fantastico Pizza 2001.

The pizza slice came with a Ranch Pesto Dipping Sauce as well.  Good thing as after eating most of the slice, I wasn't in the mood to eat up a pizza crust without a little assistance for my taste buds.  The dipping sauce was creamy yet with a little bit of slight spicy kick from the Pesto.  Nice additional offering to set a pizza place apart by offering dipping sauce for the crust.

Overall, Flying Wedge Pizza has a good story and idea behind it, make fresh tasting pizza with loads of toppings. Add on dipping sauce and the menu looks even better.  Sadly, this location doesn't live up to that with bready tasting crust that tastes like it was fresh from oven but from a pizza box.  For $5.60, for a discounted pizza slice I'd rather go elsewhere.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Robbed on Robson by Subway

Looking for a quick evening bite to eat that wasn't a hamburger or pizza, I headed over to Subway (260 Robson Street, Vancouver).

Upon entering, this location looks like any other modern upgraded Subway with a long counter to order at one end and present your cash at the other. In between is the usual sandwich counter where the culinary sandwiches are manufactured in an assembly line format.

I reviewed the menu quickly to find most of the prices to be higher on each sandwich than in Ontario. I ordered anyway though wondering how all this would turn out once sales taxes were calculated and added to the Subway price.

Subway Storefront on Robson Street.

The Order: 1 foot long (12") Cold Cut Combo

At $7.20, the Cold Cut Combo sandwich seemed almost the same price as the sandwich in the Ottawa area.  The main difference in price is because the British Columbia provincial sales tax (PST) somehow didn't apply to this sandwich as it was not charged.  The federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) was charged as per usual.  So in reality, with Ontario's portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax being the difference, Subway has jacked up pricing by eight percent in BC instead of giving the savings to the customer.

The sandwich was the usual Subway quality.  However, another difference between Ontario and British Columbia Subway stores is they don't offer Swiss Cheese as an option in BC.  Interestingly enough Subway charges more for a sandwich but provides fewer topping choices to it's BC customers.

Overall, sure this was an average Subway location with average service.  But corporate head office must review the pricing in the Vancouver area along with it's topping options.  Perhaps the difference is in the tax structure and others between the two provinces.  But after doing the math, an eight percent difference in price while carrying fewer sandwich toppings seems a little off.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Delicious Beef Brothy Pho at Delicious Pho

Stopped in with family to try out some Pho in Vancouver.  We had tried a few places that seemed to be lined up on a Friday afternoon for lunch.  With a small, but bearable line-up we chose Delicious Pho (255 Robson Street, Vancouver).

Delicious Pho, located mere steps away from BC Place, is a medium sized restaurant with a modern interior painted in a spring leafy green.

Upon entering, if there is a wait, customers are requested to add their names and number of people in their party themselves to a dry erase board.  The problem though is the dry erase board is only viewable if you are looking out the window as opposed to entering the store. So many customers miss this and staff, periodically stopping by to fill tables, constantly remind people to put their names on it.  Perhaps a small sign on the wall just above the first tables nearest the entrance might help resolve this issue.

Delicious Pho's Storefront on Robson Street
Delicious Pho's Storefront on Robson Street

We were seated within ten minutes of entering, adding our names and waiting to be seated.

I perused the menu and then ordered with a wait staff member.

Delicious Pho's Interior overlooking Robson Street.
Delicious Pho's Interior overlooking Robson Street.

The Order: 1 Beef Ball and Rare Beef Pho and 1 BBQ Chicken Sandwich.

Like most Asian restaurants, tables really don't have a set waiter or server. Instead, once needing service, someone at the table raises their hand or otherwise signals to one of the roving employees to venture forth to address the issue.

The food took a respectable ten minutes to arrive at the table after ordering.

Delicious Pho Small Rare Beef with Beef Ball Pho
Small Rare Beef with Beef Ball Pho

The Pho was a little different than what I was used to.  Sure there was the usual rare beef and beef balls in decent quantities along with the noodles.  But the broth was an interestingly beefier broth and darker in colour than normal.  Nothing wrong with this rendition, just a little different from most others.  As for quantity? I was decently full on a small bowl.

Delicious Pho Vietnamese BBQ Chicken Sandwich
Vietnamese BBQ Chicken Sandwich

The BBQ Chicken Sandwich was an interesting Vietnamese sandwich itself.  My only prior try of Vietnamese sub sandwiches was at Ottawa's Co-Cham.  So this was going to be interesting.   The Delicious Pho sandwich was served on a regular white french bread with BBQ'd chicken, shredded carrot, a type of unidentifiable sauce to may palate and other garnishes.  A nice tasting sandwich about the equivalent of a regular 6" sub in size for $4.50.

Service at Delcious Pho is pretty good most of the time.  Like most Asian restaurants with the service by committee set up, there is sometimes a lag of when someone is available to take your request instead of responding to others.  So be patient as sometimes it can get pretty busy.

Overall, Delicious Pho is a satisfactory modern style Asian restaurant with decent pricing and decent portion sizes.  Staff move fairly quickly to clean tables and get you seated as fast as possible.  When in Vancouver, I may return!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Was it an A&W Mama or Papa Burger?

With coupons in hand, I recently visited the A&W (450 Robson Street, Vancouver).  This modern interior looking A&W has a decent sized seating area for a downtown location with the counter near the rear of the store.

I waited for the customer in front of me to order and receive her food.  Problem was she was being offered options like cheese and bacon to which, English not being her first language, she did not understand.   Eventually the cashier gave up and asked for the money total.  Another round of confusion ensued about what amount of money was being asked.

A&W Storefront on Robson Street
A&W Storefront on Robson Street

Another employee came over to another cash register and asked if I was going to pay by credit or debit.  Cash was my sad answer and I rolled my eyes as he shrugged and left.  I waited another two minutes until, somehow, the customer ahead of me paid and I was able to provide my coupon and order.

The Order: 1 Teen Burger and 1 Mama Burger with 2 Fries and 2 Soft Drinks.

I waited as my order was quickly put together.  After obtaining my paper bag with the burgers and fries along with the two drinks, I headed for the door.   Not quite yet able to leave though.  I was called back saying I may have the wrong order.  I handed over my paper bag.  Was this a Papa burger instead of a Mama burger?  They scrolled through the order screen and the cashier skeptically looked at the kitchen burger assembler.  After much discussion (and sighs by me), the original sandwich was put back in my paper bag and I made quick work of crossing the real estate between the counter and the front door.

Back at the apartment, I double checked the order.  Yes, one Teen Burger and One Mama burger both with the same sized fries and two drinks.  Yes there was even ketchup packets, napkins and straws.  Everything was there.  Not sure why it needed a university level discussion group to figure out.

A&W Teen Burger
Teen Burger

The Teen Burger was average for A&W with nothing special or anything missing, just a little over exuberant on the lettuce. My wife's Mama burger went down o.k. as well.  Nothing new or special either.  Both burgers seem to be made to corporate specifications.

The fries were average taste and temperature with the usual amount of A&W oversalting provided.

Overall, the food was average A&W quality at this location.  The service was sub-par with nobody seeming to know what a basic Mama Burger consisted of.  This despite the corporate specifications probably being at the kitchen assembly area.  The lack of ability to ensure two tills could take cash to help bypass the customer in front of me was just plain annoying. For this A&W, I will not be back.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Triple Play at Triple O's

After having a delicious burger at White Spot, later that week I decided to try out White Spot's "sister brand", Triple O's (700 Hamilton Street, Vancouver).  This Triple O's is located on the ground floor of the CBC building at the corner of Georgia and Hamilton Streets.

Despite being in an urban downtown area, the Triple O's is actually a spacious 50's or 60's diner inspired inside with a  service counter at one end.  Add to this a condiment and drink counter along another side the entire interior set up is like a McDonald's forced to combine operations with a diner.

Triple O's in the CBC Vancouver Building
Triple O's in the CBC Vancouver Building

Being 11:30 a.m., I walked up to the counter and ordered right away.

The Order: 1 Bacon Cheddar Cheeseburger with Fries and Coke.

After ordering and paying, I was promised the order would be brought out to me but here was my soft drink cup that I could fill up at the fountain pop machine nearby.

Triple O's Interior
Triple O's Interior

I filled my cup up and found a seat nearby.  I logged into the free wifi to catch up on my usual rounds.  But before I get much further, amazingly my order was being brought out!  Who would of thunk it that ordering at a McDonald's like restaurant would let their customers go and sit with their drinks while their order was prepared and then bring it out them?

Triple O's Bacon Burger Combo with Fries
Triple O's Bacon Burger Combo with Fries

The burger was similar to Harvey's hamburger except a little more juicier.  Of course, the "Triple O's Sauce" added a little more to a usual burger topped with cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato. A decent burger experience.

Triple O's French Fries
Triple O's Fries
The fries were similar to the Harvey's & Swiss Chalet fries I've enjoyed in Ontario except a little thicker cut.  Pretty good temperature and taste wise pretty good with a small dose of ketchup.

Triple O's Original Hamburger
Triple O's Original Hamburger

Overall, Triple O's has been a favourable experience.  I've since been back a couple of times to this location to find friendly service a decent prices.  Tuesdays are the best days to go if you're looking for simple hamburger as they offer a Original Burger, fries and drink for $7 to $8 including taxes.  When in Vancouver, I'll return!

Enjoying the Smooth Waves at Waves Coffee

This morning I ventured down Robson Street to Waves Coffee (211 Robson Street, Vancouver) a location of a Vancouver area coffee chain.

This location is on a ground floor of a modern condominium building a couple blocks up Robson Street from BC Place.  The cafe features large windows and high ceilings to allow lots of sunlight in.   It was a pretty quiet 9:30 a.m. visit for us as there was only a few university or college students enjoying the free Wifi along with a few tourists enjoying their morning brews while studying their maps.

Waves Coffee Storefront at Robson & Cambie Streets
Waves Coffee Storefront at Robson & Cambie Streets

I ventured to the counter and ordered.

The Order: 1 Medium Black Coffee, medium blend.

The two friendly employees behind the counter worked as a team to quickly pour the coffee and collect payment of $2.20 (taxes included) from me.

I ventured over to a table to enjoy my coffee and catch up on my e-mail.  I connected to the free Wifi but had forgotten to write the free wifi connections password.  I returned to the cash and copied it down.

Waves Coffee House Medium Size Coffee
Waves Coffee's Medium Size Coffee

Back at my table I settled in with a few sips of the coffee.  A pretty smooth medium blend that I actually believe is better than Tim Hortons Original Roast they've been perfecting for fifty plus years. A fresh smooth blend that has a slight hint of chocolate taste. Size wise the coffee is about the same size as a Tim Hortons medium cup but a little more pricier.  It really comes down a better fresher tasting cup of coffee for a slightly higher price at Waves vs the regular Tim Hortons.

Overall, the service is friendly and fast.  This location has lots of seating to both people watch out the window or have a quiet conversation with others over a fresh brew along with perhaps a baked item or two.  If I was living in this area on a regular basis, I'd be sure to stop by on a regular basis.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Original Culinary Delights at Original Joe's

ast night for dinner our family headed out to Original Joe's (294 Robson Street, Vancouver) a new west coast chain restaurant.  The location within the Rosedale on Robson Hotel at the corner of Robson and Hamilton streets, opened at the end of August 2015.

We arrived at 6:30 P.M. with stroller in tow.  We, like our previous trip to White Spot, were looking for s restaurant big and willing enough to bring our daughter along for the ride. Original Joe's was a great choice as they have, via the hotel, an accessible door with plenty of tables that a stroller or even a wheel chair can be accommodated at. The interior was quite roomy with a bar near the front area and restaurant tables scattered throughout over a bi-level (to take in the difference in elevation running along Hamilton Street) restaurant setting.

Original Joe's Restaurant storefront on Robson Street
Original Joe's Restaurant on Robson Street.

Our waitress came by quickly after the hostess seated us with the menus. She took our drink orders (1 Coke and 2 waters) and then left.  Shortly thereafter we saw her again serving a couple of other tables before leaving.  We were a little worried this chain restaurant, like so many other chain restaurants before them, was already suffering from a case of the forgotten customer.    It took ten minutes to get our simple drink order from our table to the bar and back again.  Not sure why as our waitress was only serving at most three tables and there was more than enough other wait staff on duty.

Once our drinks arrived we were ready to order.  My order....

The Order: Applewood Salmon Club (oven roasted applewood salmon, served on a toasted brioche bun with roasted red pepper aioli, lettuce, tomato, peppered bacon and fresh avocado) with fries and Caesar Salad sides).

The food arrived a reasonable 20 minutes later from the kitchen along with the waitress stopping by two minutes after we dug into our meals to check in to make sure we had everything we needed.

The Applewood Salmon Club sandwich was excellent.  Originating from the kitchen in half so customers could add whatever condiments they wish (e.g. ketchup, mustard, etc.), it was a delicious sandwich with adequately fresh lettuce, tomato and avocado.  Interestingly was the taste contrast with the red pepper aioli and the avocado commingling along with the bacon.  A great restaurant menu offering that is quite different from an average pub or bar.

The fries were straight cut fries, with the odd piece of potato skin on the tip, served at a respectable temperature. Great to go with the ketchup or the complimentary dipping sauce.  During this meal, I tried the Dill Pickel dipping sauce that proved a creamy tastiness similar to a regular dill pickle potato chip dip offered in stores.

The Caesar Salad came in a small bowl already premixed with bacon pits, shredded cheese and Caesar Salad dressing. A thoroughly good tasting Caesar Salad.

The only bump, we forgot to refill our drinks until halfway though the meal.  The waitress was hard to find while we were eating until we finished our meals and she was ready to clear the tables.  But hopefully this can be ironed out as the food was good.

Overall, Original Joe's is a welcome addition to the Vancouver area.  On the outside it may appear as an average bar or pub, but the menu begs to differ.  Sure the usual burgers, wings and other bar food is in there but dig just a little deeper and you will find a few chef inspired specialties like my dish plus a few Asian inspired dishes. Sure the service may have been slightly off on my visit but the food was excellent. Hopefully with a few tweaks, service and food will superb.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Grab a Book and Try Not To Enjoy Various Blends at Blenz Coffee

One of my regrets of my time in Vancouver so far was not checking out the various coffee places. I guess being a born and bred Toronto area person transplanted to Ottawa, my loyalty to Tim Hortons is ingrained.

To make the most of my time, yet to remain fairly sane looking to passers by on the street, I decided to try a couple of different places spread out over a couple of days.

The first place I'd seen multiple locations of was Blenz Coffee.  At the Vancouver Public Library's Central Branch (345 Robson Street, Vancouver) there are a variety of small coffee and food places lining the library building's atrium. One of them is a Blenz.

Blenz Coffee Entrance at the Vancouver Public Library
Blenz Coffee Entrance at the Vancouver Public Library

I visited just before the Vancouver Public Library's Central Branch opened at 10 a.m. to find two Blenz employees behind the counter and a couple of customers gradually having their orders assembled or finishing up their coffees in the restaurant's seating area.

I was able to order right away but took a minute to review my options.  Blenz is similar to a Second Cup of Southern Ontario with different flavoured coffees available on top of their regular medium or dark roast offerings.

I settled on one of their special blends of the day, a Medium sized Columbian Sunrise which is apparently a "medium blend".

I waited for the gentlemen behind the counter to not only ask, in an up-selling way,  if: "would you like something to eat with that?" and my polite decline.  Next, he finally poured my coffee and brought it over to the counter.

I headed out to the tables in the library building's atrium where there are several tables shared amongst the stores and the library patrons.

Blenz Coffee Medium Columbian Sunrise
Medium Columbian Sunrise

The Columbian Sunrise coffee straight up (black) was a disappointment.  It was almost coloured water.  I went back later to add cream to it which help add a little more taste to it, but still for $2.25 it's not worth it and I would choose another blend.

But all is not lost, I've previously visited this Blenz location for a regular run of the mill black coffee.  It was a decent straight up coffee that rivaled a Tim Hortons Original blend but a little pricey again at $2.25 for a medium.

Overall, this Blenz Coffee location needs to watch it's coffee consistency.  Serving up flavoured water weaker than a green tea is not accepted in the coffee world.  Staff though were friendly but more interested in trying to up-sell rather than just getting the coffee and serving the customer.  I may try another Blenz Coffee to see if this is a continuing theme or I may not as there are several other coffee shops I'd like to try.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

All Star Disapointment at All Star Wings & Ribs

On a previous adventure up Robson Street I stumbled across something  I haven't seen in a long time, an All Star Wings & Ribs (808 Bute Street, Vancouver).  I bookmarked the location (corner of Robson & Bute Streets) in my head and decided to check it out later on.

Located on the second floor of the building on the corner, this is All Star Wings & Ribs' first location outside of the Greater Toronto Area.  Having been a repeat customer to their Richmond Hill location, I welcomed the opportunity to try them again.

All Star Wings & Ribs Main Entrance
All Star Wings & Ribs Main Entrance

 I walked up the exterior flight of stairs, entered and found a sign at the vacant hostess booth directed me inside.  I ventured inside thinking nothing of the vacant hostess booth as it was a light crowd inside with only two waitresses covering everything from the tables to the bar.  Later on Saturday I've walked by to find the same hostess booth as barren as I found it.  Odd, even on the busiest of days the hostess booth is not utilized to provide a kind customer welcome.

After following the directions on the sign at the empty hostess booth, I found my way into an almost empty sports bar with only two tables occupied by two couples.  The place was so desolate a tumbleweed could of rolled by without anyone noticing.

All Star Wings & Ribs Bar
All Star Wings & Ribs Bar

I was greeted by the lady behind the bar slinging drinks.  She asked if I'd like a table or a booth.  I said it was her choice and she showed me to a booth that I estimate could seat six average people. She handed me a menu. She asked if I would like anything to drink and she was off.

I reviewed the menu choices, skipping the other dishes knowing I wanted chicken wings.   With over 100 flavours it's hard to make a single choice, but I persevered!  I flagged down the waitress, who had already since returned with my drink and left, to place my order.

The Order: 1 single serving of Ranch Wings and 1 Coke.

All Star Wings & Ribs' Coke
The wings came within ten minutes of ordering.  The service seemed speedy and happy with both waitresses tending bar and waiting on tables as customers walked in, food arrived and tables were cleaned.  It worked like clockwork as each traded off tasks and kept moving.

All Star Wings & Ribs' Single Serving Ranch Wings
All Star Wings & Ribs' Single Serving Ranch Wings 

The wings were a disappointment.  Sure the ranch sauce was correct but that wasn't really hard to mess up considering this ranch sauce was probably just Ranch Salad dressing.  But underneath the ranch sauce, the chicken wings were the thinnest least meatiest I'd ever seen.  It was a disgrace to even serve these wings from a chicken who seemed to have graduated (with Honours!) from the school of Jenny Craig.

While eating, service took a turn for the worse. A large tour group of at least thirty students walked in to take over an entire section across the front.  On the way in the group leader even waved and smiled at the two waitresses like he knows them.  This means he probably comes by frequently with large groups who are touring the Vancouver area. So I suppose the restaurant knew he was coming and still short staffed the restaurant with two waitresses during this time period.

The bill took at least twenty minutes for me to find the waitress and for her to return.  At $15 and change the bill was a little much considering the wing quality I received. What took place next was a little weird.

I placed a twenty dollar bill with the receipt in hopes one of the waitresses would come back with or make change at the table.  Another ten minutes later and I was being asked by the waitress how much money do I want back?   For the slowly declining service and food quality I asked for three dollars
which left them two and change.

Overall, this All Star Wings & Ribs dearly needs a visit from Head Office in Toronto.  This is not the quality nor service level I've come to expect from them.  Perhaps the distance from head office and the fact this is the only non-Toronto area location is the reason proper head office management has not taken place.  I know for one I will not return to this place.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Can It Be? Yes a Marvelous McDonald's!

Just wanting average boring old fast food and a waft of coupons in the mail from "The Golden Arches", I stopped off at McDonald's (275 Robson Street, Vancouver).

Upon entering I was welcomed by a manager like person who said:

"Welcome to be McDonald's how will be paying?"

A little confused I held up my coupon and said "Cash and coupon?"

He pointed me towards the till and a small line.  In line, I reviewed why the manager was asking for payment after welcoming customers and, heck, why was there a manager in the front door anyway?

McDonald's Storefront at Robson and Hamilton Streets
McDonald's at Robson & Hamilton Streets

McDonald's is field testing automated order systems where customers type in their own orders on a touch screen computer and pay using credit card or debit.  The self serve systems are supported by a McDonald's employee (hence the white shirted manager hero type) to guide customers through the system.

At this McDonald's, perhaps ten percent of visitors used the system.  Otherwise we merely enjoyed being welcomed to McDonald's with the exterior door held open by a smiling yet welcoming employee.

I slowly moved up the line to order at the cash with another welcoming employee.

The Order: 1 Big Mac Meal with Medium Fries and a Medium Coke.

The employee took my coupon and cash.  Then proceeded to hand me a receipt with an order number on it and directed me to the left to watch the screen and listen for my order number to be called.

This was a little different from the usual McDonald's set up where the cashier put yours order together or takes the next order after you and then puts yours together.  This can be frustrating at times as other customers take their sweet time in ordering or the cashier is given an order that is unable to be punched in.

 Sometimes McDonald's locations augment their cashiers with runners who gather the meals.  Depending on how busy this is the runner can be overwhelmed and the cashiers being useless. I've seen times where the cashier has finished taking all the orders and just stands their looking off into space as I can see my order is third in line but the runner is gathering the first order.  There is nothing more maddening at the fast food style restaurants than seeing your complete order ready but no one is available to pick it up.

Two employees were working the pick up counter.  They were impressively moving that food twice as fast as any runner under the old system of order could.  Numbers were flashing on the screen and being called out.  The only slow down was customers who were dazed and confused about what their number was or what they ordered.  

I quickly picked up my order and headed for the front door.  Why was I eager to leave the restaurant?  This location, across from the Vancouver Public Library's Central Branch, has a nice set of patio seating with overhead electric heaters.  It's a great spot to people watch those coming and going.

Big Mac Sandwich
Big Mac Sandwich
I dug into my Big Mac to find it just the way I always remembered it.  Decent temperature with adequate secret sauce (is it really a Thousand Island dressing concoction?).  Of course there is always the leftover lettuce to munch on afterward.

Medium McDonald's French Fries
Medium French Fries
The fries tasted like they were right out of the fryer and dished up.  Perfect composition and no sogginess.  Cold fries are my number one complaint about McDonald's.  I hate it when they serve up fries that have been sitting there for so long.  But not at this location, perhaps with the ordering system customer wade through plus a screen above the fryers showing what is required, things move along in an orderly fashion speeding up the process.

Overall, this McDonald's has improved processes to speed up customer wait times at the front counter.  Hopefully this will help increase the number of customers being served at the counter.  I know if I walk in to find a whole bunch of customers waiting to order and waiting for their orders along with seemingly incompetence behind the counter, I bail.  Along with surprisingly decent service, this location provides your burgers and fries just as you come to expect, warm and with all the advertised toppings, etc.  I'll be back to this location during my trip for a quick bite to eat.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Tasty Pizza with Pzzaz!

After an earlier bagel at the Granville Island Public Market, I was still hungry.  After waiting a little bit while others went to find their own food choices and return, I was able to go in search of another delicious delight.

I settled on Pizza Pzzaz (1689 Johnston Street, Vancouver) after seeing them earlier. With at least six pizzas to choose from in their display case all seeming freshly made, it's hard to choose which one to start with.  After a little while of narrowing down my choices I approached the cash to place my order.  Since the pizza place was surprisingly not that busy despite it being a busy Saturday, I was able to order right away.

The Order: 1 Meat lovers slice.

Surprisingly the slice came to me instantly without first making a detour to the oven to be heated.  Perhaps it was freshly made and recently put out?  Only way twas to return to my seat and take a bite.

After sitting down I took a bite....  why is the slice lukewarm? Yup, they failed to either keep the slice warm under heat lamps or reheat the slice in the oven to make it at least an acceptable temperature like most pizza parlors would.

Taste wise, the toppings tasted fresh and the cheese wasn't overdone in quantity or skimped on.  No complaints there but obviously the lack of temperature held toppings and pizza back from reaching their full taste potential.

Overall, Pizza Pzzaz is a little pricy at $4.25 at per slice served cold.  But the potential if those slices are served at the right temperature as gourmet New York style pizza slices is promising.  Service is prompt and variety of menu options is sufficient.  But will someone please turn on the heat?

"Granville" Siegel's Bagels

Had a recent visit to Vancouver's Granville Island for a walkabout of the island including a stop off for a lunch at the famous Granville Public Market.

The first noticeable problem with dinging at Granville Island's Public Market is finding a table or bench to sit at.  There is very little seating available for all the ready made food options indoors.  Add to this a small section outdoors would seem to help alleviate the problem.  However, with large crowds, especially on weekends, all the available seating merely isn't adequate.

After touring the food options at the market and settling in our family to hard to find Saturday afternoon available seating, I returned to my first choice.

Siegel's Bagels (1689 Johnston Street, Vancouver) has a nice spread of freshly baked bagels laid out in a display case.  Siegel's makes wood fired Montreal bagels similar in nature to Ottawa's Kettleman's Bagels.  These bagels can then be prepared with your choice of cream cheese, sandwich topping choices and of course toasted.

Pack your patience at this Siegel's Bagels, as not only the Public Market crowds lead to decent lines here but also add in preparation time.  This is not merely a fast food joint!   I waited for three customers in front of me to order.  The worst had to be the last customer who couldn't figure out what she wanted while also asking questions left, right and center.  Finally, though she just stood there and let me go first.

The Order: 1 Cinnamon Raisin Bagel with plain Cream Cheese.

The order took about three minutes to put together which, along with the five minute wait to order, totaled eight minutes altogether.

I returned to my seat which had been hovered over a couple vulturous customers a couple of times asking if it was free, to enjoy my meal.

The cream cheese had melted slightly in the still warm freshly baked bagel.  This presented a nice tasty treat to go along with some coffee I picked up at another Granville Public Market stall.   The bagel was the usual soft chewy type that characterizes Montreal style bagels.  The only sad part?  I ate the bagel too fast.

Overall, Siegel's Bagels provides a fresh tasting bagel ready to be eaten right out of the wood fired oven.  Decent counter service for the size of the establishment is also there but do expect to wait a bit on busier days.  The only main issue that is really out of Siegel's Bagels control, is the lack of seating.  So be prepared on busier days to have to go elsewhere beyond the indoor seating to find a spot to eat your bagel delight.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Reconnection with Whitespot

Recently, our family had the opportunity to visit a west coast family dining establishment that has done significantly well in British Columbia, White Spot (405 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver, BC).

The Dunsmuir Street location is reported to be the biggest of the chain's stores when it opened in 2014.  Upon entering this location doesn't disappoint with it's wide open airy main floor restaurant with lots of space.  This was awesome as it's hard to find a Downtown Vancouver restaurant that is able to accommodate a stroller for our little one. This White Spot?  NO PROBLEM!

We were met by a cheery hostess who welcomed us to White Spot and showed us to our seats.  She paid special attention to selecting a table that could easily slide a stroller next to it.   Our menus were handed to us with a smile and the usual promise that our waiter will be shortly.

White Spot Restaurant Storefront
White Spot Restaurant Storefront

Sure enough our waiter was there within five minutes to again welcome us and take our orders.

The Order: 1 Legendary Combo (1/4 lb. beef burger with Triple "O" sauce and fries) and a Pepsi.

Legendary Burger Combo with Fries and Coleslaw
Legendary Burger Combo with Fries and Coleslaw
The food came fairly quickly.  My burger platter looked a little thin in quantity of fries.  But the menu seemed reassuring by advertising "unlimited fries".   Everything else looked satisfactory with an adequate amount of Coleslaw and a decent sized burger.

The burger though did have one issue, where exactly is the lettuce and tomato?  Our server was so interested in trying to annoy me in upselling me on adding cheese or bacon, somehow we missed the traditional: "and what would you like on your burger?"  But getting past the burger topping mistake, the burger itself was a decent 1/4 lb piece of meat with an interesting "Triple O's sauce".  Sure the burger wasn't gourmet over the top, but for an average family dining locale, it was decent.

The fries were a solid attempt at impressing the customer.  Straight sliced from a potato the odd potato skin was still evident.  Taste wise it was pretty potatoey with not a sign of sogginess.

The coleslaw was the traditional mayonnaise mixed with the usual vegetables. This concoction was a nice creamy tasting salad.  With a decent quantity compared to other family dining establishments, it was nice touch.

During our meal our waiter was not shy at refilling our soft drinks.  This was refreshing considering at some locations with free refills it seems like customers are conveniently forgotten.

Overall, this White Spot provides friendly attentive service.  Perhaps next time I'll be sure to ask about lettuce and tomato to make my burger truly "Legendary".

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fantastico Pizza at Fantastico Pizza 2001

Last week I had the chance to check out some of Vancouver's Robson Street near BC Place after doing some work.

Despite having pizza the previous night, I decided to try out some of Vancouver's more Mom & Pop style pizza shops.  I selected Fantastico Pizza 2001 (320 Robson Street, Vancouver) which had a couple of seats outside on the sidewalk and open sliding glass door.

The interior seating has a couple of large long tables that permit either a large group to use or more communal seating. Being tight for spice in a downtown urban location, most of the seats are utilized for individuals to grab a slice and find a drink.

I visited the counter where customers can order any two pizza slices and a soft drink for $6.25.  Not bad considering I'm used to paying $5.00 for only a single pepperoni pizza slice and a drink back home in Ottawa.

Fantastico Pizza 2001, 320 Robson Street, Vancouver, BC
Fantastico Pizza 2001 Storefront on Robson Street

The Order: Two Deluxe Pizza slices and a Can of Dr. Pepper.

2 Deluxe Pizza Slices & Dr. Pepper

After ordering and paying, I found a seat and sat down two spots over from a lady engrossed in a book while slowly munching on a pair of slices.

I dug into my Deluxe Pizza slices to be fairly impressed.  A decent amount of reasonably fresh toppings on a thin New York style pizza crust. Instead of a crunchy pizza crust, the crust is a more traditional doughy texture.

Service here is a little questionable.  The lady I ordered from I could barely understand when I asked if the combo came with a can or bottled soft drink.  I had to ask two times before I made out "can" in whatever she was saying.  Perhaps she was filling in for the day or perhaps this was her regular spot as one of the owners of the small business, I'm not sure.

Overall, for a quick slice or a bite to eat Fantastico Pizza 2001 quality is pretty good. Tucked in busy section of Robson Street, this restaurant has a prime location being just a hop skip and jump from from BC Place.  But with this easy access comes a downside, seating is at a premium so during busy times expect to have to look elsewhere for seating. If the food quality continues to be as good as I experienced, Fantastico Pizza 2001 will remain a Fantastico place for pizza for a while to come.

"Seymour" Burnt Pizza at Dominos

Recently my family had a pizza party along with other nearby restaurant offerings.   The pizza was ordered from Domino's (916 Seymour Street, Vancouver) and picked up on time from the store.

The Order: 1 Deluxe Pizza and 1 Thin Crust Pepperoni Pizza.

After taking the pizzas back home things seemed hopeful.

The Deluxe Pizza was hot, cheesy and tasted like any customer has come to expect from Dominos anywhere in Canada. The toppings were not skimped on and the cheese was perfectly layered.

The Thin Crust Pepperoni Pizza though was a disappointment. Sure the temperature was great, but the whole thing tasted burnt.  Yes, thin crust pizzas usually have a more crispier crust compared to their traditional counterparts. But this one wasn't borderline about to about turn black and disintegrate.

The issue with the Thin Crust Pepperoni Pizza seemed to be the cooking method.  The pizza crust, obviously being thinner, does not require as much cooking time as more thicker crust pizza.  So in this case the thin crust may have been cooked as long as the Deluxe Pizza in the same oven. Hence the extra crispiness of the thin crust pizza.

Overall, this Dominoes needs to step up it's game. Sure it turns around the pizza for pick up in a respectable time.  But the lack of attention to food preparation in terms of cooking time to ensure optimal taste outcomes is a little concerning and may drive away customers. Perhaps it was a single slip up but it could be a regular occurrence.  Only the chance of another order would answer that question.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Tempting Tim Hortons on Robson

After arriving in Vancouver last week I needed a familiar pick me up. I ventured out to take a walk on Vancouver's famous Robson Street and to generally get the lay of the land.

A couple of blocks later and a big sign beckoned to this Canadian.  Was it mirage?  Was it a miracle?

I walked up the block and in the front door to the famous Canadian institution located 463 Robson Street, Vancouver, Tim Hortons!

Tim Hortons Storefront
Tim Hortons Storefront
 This Tim Hortons takes full advantage of it's downtown slightly tight urban setting.  As soon as you walk in the front door a sign directs you to the spot to line up.  The que area can hold maximum three customers only waiting for one of the three cashes to become available.  Normally this set up works but if one of the cashes is closed or there is a hold up due to customer errors or filling a large order, customers may end up quing out the door.

I was able to make it the front of the line and order my usual order:

The Order: 1 Medium Black Original Blend Coffee.

The coffee was quickly poured and I paid.  But a lingering question remains....

How come in Vancouver the Tim Hortons Medium Black Coffee is $1.80 as opposed to in Ottawa being $1.70?

To further add intrigue, how come in Vancouver and Ottawa a Tim Hortons Small Black Coffee is both $1.50?  Why the additional $0.10 difference for the medium as opposed to the small?

Tim Hortons Medium Black Coffee
Tim Hortons' Medium Black Coffee

Anyway, I enjoyed the medium black coffee as any Canadian would.  The coffee was made to specifications in terms of warmth and strength in a standard issue Tim Hortons cup.  It would make the President of Tim Hortons himself smile!

The seating areas though needed some attention.  Despite this being a downtown urban location, this Tim Hortons had more than adequate seating to handle the volume of customers.  However, unlike many other Timmies worship locales, this location's seating area was dirty with crumbs and coffee stained tables.  It appeared nobody had been hired to ensure tables were wiped or the floors swept and mopped on a regular basis.  I've since returned this location a couple of times and was forced to strategically select a cleaner table wherever possible.

Service wise the location is impeccable.  Short waits in line and a sandwich bar preparer who always seems to keeps things moving.

Overall, this Tim Hortons location has excellent counter service while serving average "nothing special" corporate Tim Hortons fare.  A few tweaks around the edges to affect cleanliness of the seating area would help make this location an all start showpiece of Tim Hortons' family in the Vancouver area.

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