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.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Enjoying Familiar Costco Grub in Vancity!

After landing in Vancouver, settling in and in search of a few necessities which also included lunch, I ventured forth to find the downtown Costco (605 Expo Boulevard, Vancouver) and it's famed Food Court.

First the hard part was actually find this place.  Based on my Google Mapping of the place it was supposed to be easy to find right near both BC Place and Rogers Arena.  Seemed simple enough.  

My first attempt saw me try going down Georgia Street and the Georgia Viaduct looking for a way around BC Place Stadium.  Big mistake as all I got were stunning views across False Creek to Science World and no exit in sight.  So I backtracked and decided to head down Beatty Street in hopes of finding a coffee shop with Wifi.

Before I could find a Starbucks or Tim Hortons for Wifi, I stumbled across a ramp leading to a parking garage with a sign overhead saying "Costco Wholesale".


...Not quite as I was on foot. Next to the ramp was a park with pedestrian entryway with stairs that looked like it lead to the parking garage.


...Not quite as the door was locked.  I turned around figuring I was snookered.  Should I venture down the parking ramp on foot to the disgust of many a driver?   Hmmmmm....  As I was thinking and scanning around I saw another Costco Wholesale logo which accompanied a map.  Apparently I wasn't the only one to question how to get to Costco from here.  But perhaps they could move the map to the opposite stairwell where I tried and failed entering Costco from there.

I followed the directions on the map around to the Dunsmuir Viaduct and took the stairs (next to the elevator) just before reaching Rogers Arena when heading from downtown.  A tip on accessing Costco from here:  Take the elevator down!  The stairs wind their way around the elevator shaft making them a little longer than necessary compared to the traditional switchback style of most staircases.

After a little shopping and exiting the regular Costco store,  I ventured over to the food court.  Yes, this is a different type of Costco Food Court as the restaurant access is located outside the store as opposed to within the membership checked area.

I waited in the short line to order my usual Costco cheap lunch for $4.86:

The Order: 1 Jumbo Hot Dog, Soft Drink and Fries.

After paying and assembling my food, I asked for the usual tray for the meal and got the weirdest answer from Costco:

"We don't have trays".


Apparently the trays have been stolen or used for other unmentionable purposes.

I made several valiant efforts to juggle my food over to the drink station, condiment station and back to the food counter to inquire about napkins.  Unlike other Costcos where the napkins are located directly next to the ketchup, mustard and relish dispensers, this Costco has it right next where you order.  I presume this is so customers and non-customers are supervised so they only take what they need.

Finally, after almost getting lost and ending up in the far reaches of Burnaby and shopping at Costco I could eat!

Costco Food Court Jumbo Hot Dog
Jumbo Hot Dog

The Hot Dog was the usual standard all beef hot dog that is very similar to what you would get at a baseball game or from urban downtown hotdog stand.  In fact at less than two dollars with a fountain soft drink included this hot dog puts Ikea's famous hot dog deal to shame.

Costco Food Court Fries
The fries were the usual Costco slightly breaded fries.  These, I would argue, could be improved by changing them to a more freshly sliced technique made famous by New York Fries (i.e. slice the potatoes into fries and fry them up!).  That is to say to improve on an already decent product to make it even better.  Perhaps though this idea was considered to be too time consuming or costly so shipping them in a unique breaded style was better. To say the least, Costco fries aren't my all time favorites, but they aren't my least favorite either.

Overall, this Costco's uniqueness of being outside the members only store is great for those in the area looking for a cheap quick bite to eat while not being a Costco member.  With average Costco fare along with decent service that Costco Members have come to expect, this is a great spot to grab a hot dog, fries, pizza and a drink.

Tim Hortons Tribulations at Ottawa Airport

On an early morning last week saw myself on an early flight to Vancouver. After clearing security with minimum time to spare and no breakfast as of yet, the Tim Hortons (2nd floor beyond security in domestic departures of the Ottawa International Airport at 1000 Airport Parkway, Ottawa)

I waited in the lengthy line at this Tim Hortons storefront off the main hallway leading the airport gates.  The line at times never seemed to move.  Quite a few people nervously looked at their watches or phones to see if they should stay in the line or run for their flight without one last Timmies fix.  I stayed in line patiently but quite frankly the two cashiers seemed overwhelmed while the single employee at the sandwich counter was fantastic in keeping her orders moving.  Add in the odd customer who gets to the front of the line to ask six different questions of the cashier before ordering and whole families ordering their breakfast meals things were slow to a crawl.  To make matters worse there was only one single employee at each of the two cashes meaning they were also preparing the drinks, donuts and muffins preventing other orders from being taken.  Not sure why this occurred as at other Tim Hortons locations normally when there is usually two employees per cash during busy morning rushes. But eventually things progressed and I was able to order.

The Order: 1 Medium Black Coffee and 1 Cinnamon Raisen Bagel, toasted with Cream Cheese

After picking up my coffee at the cash and being impressed with the speed the bagel was prepared at the sandwich counter, I was off to my gate with little time to spare.   Thank goodness you're allowed to bring food and coffee onto the plane purchased post security checks.

The bagel was still warm and similar to what I get elsewhere.  To be fair it is hard to screw it up as Tim Hortons ships everything in and the preparation really comes down to cutting the bagel, toasting it in the automated conveyor belt toaster.

The coffee was also as expected corporate quality that any Canadian would appreciate.  But again, nothing special cause it really is pour the coffee grounds into the machine's filter, etc. and change the pot every 20 minutes.

Overall, this Tim Hortons could do well as it is highly visible right after security. The promise of success is even better as there is a captive audience of airport passengers who now have time to wait for their flight with possibly a drink and something to eat.  Sadly, though Tim Hortons' fails by not adequately staffing this location to keep the line moving in an adequate fashion. If there were just a couple more employees many more customers would instead be enjoying a fine cup of coffee instead of leaving in disgust sans le java to barely make their flight.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

MMMMM...Burger at Kelsey's

Earlier last week I was able to take my father out for a beer and dinner while using a Cara Gift Card we had recently acquired by redeeming some Scene points.

We headed to Kelsey's (Elmvale Shopping Centre, 1910 St. Laurent Boulevard, Ottawa) to check out how well this location does in a dated local area shopping centre vs the traditional big box store format.

We entered on Monday evening to find a couple of tables occupied by customers and greeted by what we presumed to be a hostess who promised to be with us in a minute.   Turns out the hostess was also a waitress as she would later be serving us our food and drinks at our table while another person worked the bar area.

We were shortly seated at a booth and handed presented with the menus.   After a quick review of what was on tap and little bit of a wait longer than expected for our beers we ordered our food.

The Order: The Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburger (Double stacked 4 oz. sirloin patties topped with double-smoked bacon, peameal bacon, cheese, fresh tomatoes, crisp leaf lettuce, red onions and mayo spread on a toasted pretzel bun) with fries and a Shock Top Belgian White beer.

Shock Top Belgian White Beer
Shock Top Belgian White Beer

The Shock Top Belgian White beer was perfectly cold and refreshing.  Served in an appealing tall glass with an average fresh orange slice to add a little more flavoring, the beer goes down easy yet tasty.

After a reasonable short wait of 15 minutes of pleasant conversation our orders arrived.  

Kelsey's The Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburger with Fries
The Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburger with Fries
The Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburger was pretty good. For presentation purposes, the burger was skewered by kitchen grade knife to hold it together while sitting on a plate alongside a small bowl full of fries.  The burger itself was pretty decent tasting with the melted cheese, adequately cooked bacon and juicy burger.

The fries were average bar fries at best.  Nothing great but not the worst I've had.  Cara restaurants, including Swiss Chalet and Harveys, though aren't really known for their fries.

Overall, this Kelsey's is similar to a neighbourhood pub as opposed to a destination their other locations are at the big box store plazas.  With a low key leisurely feel it was nice to have a no rush quiet dinner and drinks plenty of space between you and the next table over.  This location serves up average Kelsey's fare along not overly great but not terrible service. It may be worth a return visit on a busier Friday or Saturday evening in the future to see how things change with a few more customers coming through the door.

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