If you’re at all familiar with the food scene in Vancouver, you’re probably aware that this post is long overdue, since the food cart festival is a summer event. (And obviously for good reason, what with all the rain we get). I actually visited the festival in September with Sam and Pickles, when all of us had returned from our summer travels, so this post is actually only four months in the making. What with school and work and life in general, it can be a bit difficult to keep on top of things…that’s my excuse, anyways.
Despite the burgeoning food cart scene in Vancouver, I often find it difficult to seek out the specific ones that catch my interest. Many of them are open for a limited time during the day, or only at a specific location that is out of the way of my usual commute. Well, thank goodness for the food cart festival, then, which conveniently gathers Vancouver’s most popular food carts in one area so that folks like me can get to pig out to our hearts’ content. In 2013, the festival was hosted in a lot right by False Creek, which made it easily accessible by SkyTrain for us car-less folk.
The three of us split up to consider our options, and Sam ended up with a Sourdough Pepperjack Cheese Sandwich ($8) from Mom’s Grilled Cheese. She had tomatoes and double smoked bacon added to her sandwich for $0.50 and $1.50, respectively. She quite enjoyed her sandwich, as the bread was fried up nicely on the griddle, making it crispy but not too greasy. Meanwhile, the sandwich itself was quite hot, so the cheese had that perfected melted consistency that we all look for in a grilled cheese sandwich. The sandwich is also served with chips, which were stuffed at the bottom of the paper cone, making the chips themselves soggy. Sam noted that she’d had the sandwich and chips served on a plate before, which was much better, as the chips didn’t get soggy. Still, the tomatoes and bacon nicely enhanced her sandwich, making it an enjoyable meal. Sam also indulged in a Ginger Mint Lemonade ($2.75), also from Mom’s, which tasted mostly of ginger with only a slight tint of lemon. It also had a slight enjoyable fizziness, and was an enjoyable drink for the very hot day that we were enduring.
Meanwhile, Pickles and I wandered over to Yolk’s Breakfast. I’d wanted to try Yolk’s for a while, but simply never had the chance to. I’ve now had their food twice, once here and once at the actual restaurant now open on Hastings Street, but there was a time when I used to drool over some other fortunate soul’s Instagrammed chicken and waffles or soft-poached egg sandwich.
The wait was long and arduous, but we finally received our orders and, luckily enough, found a shaded table to sit down and munch. Pickles had the Chicken and Waffles, which didn’t look super pretty but definitely did the job. The chicken was crispy, juicy, and flavourful, and came in large pieces. I’m a big fan of fried chicken (and pretty much every other deep-fried food), and I often find that I get more batter than actual chicken, but that certainly wasn’t the case here. The waffle itself was nice and buttery, but a little too soft for her liking, although it might have been softened by the hot weather and the fact that it took us a while to find a table to sit at. But then again, Pickles was fresh from her trip to Belgium at this point, so perhaps her waffle standards were a bit too high.
Meanwhile, I had an item that I’d longed for for quite a while, a Poached Free-Range Egg Sandwich ($7.50). They have a beautiful flowchart where you can customize your sandwich, and I had mine with hand-carved honey ham, fresh spinach, dijon, hollandaise, one poached egg, all on an English muffin. There were quite a few flavours going on here: the saltiness from the ham, the tartness from the hollandaise, and a nice, comforting savouriness from the egg yolk. The English muffin was soft to begin with, and only got softer once I broke the egg yolk. This resulted in a super messy sandwich to eat, although it wasn’t a huge problem once I decided to fork-and-knife it. Breakfast sandwiches are my favourite type of sandwich, and this one was certainly yummy, but I’m not really sure if this particular combination was worth the hype that often accompanies any talk about Yolk’s.
It’s just not breakfast without potatoes, and at Yolk’s these come in the form of a Truffle-Lemon Hash Brown Skewer ($3.50). At first bite, my hash browns were quite tart, with a very strong lemon flavour, but after that, the flavour seemed to mellow out, which was good. I think I waited too long to eat mine, as they got quite soggy, but other than that, these potatoes did an excellent job.
After finishing our food, the three of us took a nice walk along False Creek and enjoyed the sunshine. This was back in September, mind you, when Vancouver was enjoying sunny weather rather than the dreary, foggy dampness that we’re enduring now. Summer is always a season I look forward to, but the food cart festival definitely adds to an already perfect time of year.
Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck
800 West Georgia Street
As a kid, my family would drive by Save On Meats every once in a while, since it was on our way to Harbour Tower or Stanley Park. This was considered the “bad” part of town, and I suppose for some it still may be–there would be lots of haggardly dressed men and women wandering the streets, pushing shopping carts and looking “scary”, and I was never, ever to go here. Basically, this part of Vancouver was just Chinatown, Gastown and Downtown, and the part in between was not worth talking about, or visiting, at all.
Many years later, I still find myself being extra wary when I’m in the neighbourhood, and I know that while I should be careful, there is no need to cast such negative eyes on the residents of the DTES. Sure, some may have habits that aren’t very appealing to me, but their misfortune shouldn’t be a reason for me to not venture here– in fact, I think I could stand to learn quite a bit. So, with just a little bit of trepidation, Samson and I travelled together to grab a bite at this Vancouver landmark on a cold winter day before class.
The interior of Save on Meats is quite simplistic– there’s the typical bar and a long row of booths that characterizes diners. We chose to sit along the bar for the fun of it (the seats looked extra cushy), and were immediately, enthusiastically greeted by our server. And when I say enthusiastic, I mean that he was so happy and eager that I was worried he might start breaking out in song and dance. Actually, that would have been pretty cool.
The menu offered up simplistic classics as well, but it was a long read– I really couldn’t decide on what to get! We opted for a classic diner experience and decided to share a Strawberry Milkshake ($5) to start. This was super creamy and thick, and sucking on the straw gave me a bit of a headache. Our server put in quite a few scoops of ice cream and syrupy strawberries and I loved that we got to watch it all get made before our eyes. I’m a sucker for novelty stuff like this.
Samson had already decided that he would be having a burger, so all we really needed to do was find one on the menu (under the Sandwich section). His Save On Meats Burger ($6.95) came in a toasted brioche bun, loaded up with bacon, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes, and was accompanied by a coleslaw on the side, which he chose instead of fries. He thought that the burger was quite juicy and delicious, the barbecue sauce helping to make this typical burger a little more special. While this tasted good and was a pretty good deal, I don’t know if we’d order it again, since there are so many other things to try on the menu.
For myself, I picked something old-timey and classic (I can imagine an elderly man, looking like Carl from Up, ordering something like this) in the Smoked Turkey Pot Pie ($12.95). I didn’t really give the description a good read, and it turns out this was featured of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives– not that I watch the show anyways, so it wouldn’t have helped my decision all that much. I also got to choose a side to go with the pot pie, and out of creamed corn, mashed potatoes, coleslaw and carrots and peas, I chose the mashed potatoes. Housed in a flaky, buttery pastry shell, the smoked turkey stew within was savoury and steaming hot. There was an abundance of fillings, including carrots and green peas (which I won’t eat unless they are stewed like this), and the dark turkey meat was moist and flavourful. I was honestly expected the turkey to be on the dryer side, but this was actually very well executed! The mash was a little too healthy tasting, needing a good dose of butter, cream and pepper, but I did like that there were still small chunks of potato in it. The gravy, which came on a side dish (props), did help alleviate the health issue.
There were so many options for delicious-sounding food and drink that I would not hesitate to go to Save On Meats again, if I didn’t need to be on the ice for 3 hours afterwards (that way I can eat more!). I loved the atmosphere, the workers and the clientele (there was an eclectic mix of businessmen and women, as well as students and families), which all made for a fantastic experience. Another thing of note is that Save On Meats has a meal token program, where individuals can buy tokens to give out sandwiches to the community (either by themselves or through other organizations). Even though Save On Meats is by no means a complete representation of the DTES, I found my opinion of the area changing just a little bit– I’ll even be volunteering there this weekend!
Save on Meats
43 W Hastings St
I suppose that for many, that Christmas Eve itself is exciting, but for me, it’s usually a bore: my extended family all lives in Korea, so there’s not much in the way of new stimuli. We’d planned a Christmas Day dinner with our next-door neighbours, which I was looking forward to, but I was lacking plans for Christmas Eve. So I was glad when Pickles, Dolph, Sam and I decided to meet up for brunch and exchange some baked goods in honour of the season. And at Pickles’s suggestion, we decided on The Templeton, a kitschy diner on the corner of Granville and Helmcken.
The Templeton is a small, busy, bustling, classic diner, complete with a jukebox and pictures of Elvis grinning up at you as you eat. There was one server on duty, who was impressively efficient, and the decor was eclectic, but in a comforting way. The menu itself echoed this, with breakfast options that had a dash of creativity but weren’t too abnormal.
Dolph and Pickles both opted for the Mangled Eggs ($9), three eggs scrambled with garlic, bacon, and brie inside a toasted croissant, served with rosemary potatoes. Pickles had regular bacon, while Dolph decided to try the veggie bacon. Both enjoyed their breakfasts, especially the potatoes. Pickles noted that while the menu stated the addition of garlic, there was very little garlic flavour. Everything was especially delicious with Sriracha sauce, which was provided for each table, along with a bottle of ketchup. As for the potatoes, they were a big hit with all of us, with the addition of rosemary really adding an extra dimension of flavour. These seemed to have first been boiled, then pan-fried, and although I usually prefer string hash browns, these were excellent. As for the real versus veggie bacon debate, Dolph regretted her choice of veggie bacon, as it tasted more like tofu than anything else. You can’t beat real bacon, I suppose…
I had the Trucker’s Breakfast ($9) and Sam the Big Ass Breakfast ($12). My breakfast included 3 eggs, a choice between turkey sausage, bacon, or veggie bacon, rosemary potatoes, and toast (sourdough or whole wheat). The Big Ass Breakfast was the same, except for the addition of cinnamon French toast or blueberry banana pancakes. I had my eggs scrambled, and Sam’s over easy, and as you can see, we both decided on the turkey sausage. We ended up getting one order of the sourdough toast and one order of the whole wheat, with Sam choosing the French toast over the pancakes.
We both enjoyed our breakfasts. The scrambled eggs were fluffy and perfectly cooked. The turkey sausage was rather grainy, and a little bland. Although we realize that The Templeton has a focus on organic and vegetarian-friendly foods, we would have preferred if they offered regular breakfast sausage. The rosemary potatoes were lovely, having a nice crust without being oily. Our toast arrived buttered, but I would have preferred to have buttered it myself, as it was a bit too much for me. As for the French toast, it contained raisins, and was served with powdered sugar. We both enjoyed our breakfasts, and felt that they were of a respectable portion size considering the price we paid.
The four of us really enjoyed our breakfast at The Templeton, and I think this would be a great choice for breakfast with some vegetarian friends. Sadly I tend to be a bit carnivorous, and the one complaint I had was that they didn’t serve regular breakfast sausage, which is one of my favourite things about breakfast. Still, the food was tasty, especially the rosemary potatoes, and the service was a bit harried but friendly. Also I found the seats a bit uncomfortable and cramped, but it was part of the charm of the place. I would definitely recommend The Templeton as a tasty and inexpensive breakfast spot downtown.
1087 Granville Street
One thing I love about wandering Main Street is that you get to stumble upon so many little restaurants and shops that you’d normally miss if you were just driving or transiting by. On one of our Girls’ Day Out shopping excursions, we happened upon Lucy’s Eastside Diner on Main, about a block away from the Chevron on 12th. Unfortunately, it was quite late at night and so we’d already had dinner (up the street at Burgoo), but I thought I would like to make a visit here sometime.
Fast forward 4 months, and I’ve finally had the time to go. My lunch date for the day was Emo, who had actually just helped me move some furniture, so of course I had to treat him to lunch for being so generous. Lucy’s was a few blocks away from where we were that dreary day, so we quickly found ourselves some street parking, and made our way into the restaurant.
Lucy’s looks quite quaint and diner-y (or at least what I think is quaint and diner-y. I’m sure that differs from what you picture in your head). There are chrome tables with the tops painted a bright orangey-coral, the requisite breakfast bar area, and a few cozy booth seats in the back. We chose to sit at the bar on the turny stools, and even ordered some classic diner-y items so that I (we?) could get the full experience.
We started our meal off with a Strawberry Milkshake, which came with a refill tin. Since we were at the counter, we got to see our waitress make the shake; unfortunately, all we saw her put in was a few scoops of ice cream and a drizzle of strawberry syrup. Maybe my expectations were a little high (diners are typically known for their quickly-served dishes and not for their fancily-made food), but I was disappointed that they didn’t put any actual strawberries in it. I understand that strawberries and other fresh fruits may be on the expensive side, but I honestly wouldn’t have minded if it was just the stewed-in-syrup kind either. Oh well. Since there weren’t strawberries blended in, the milkshake was very smooth and creamy, but a little lacking in flavour– all I could really taste was the vanilla ice cream. It was also less thick than I prefer my shakes (I kind of like the struggle, and I’ll always remember Peter’s Drive-In in Calgary for their amazing shakes that one summer). For the price ($5), I’ve certainly had better, but I suppose it wasn’t too bad going down.
Emo and I each decided on a meal each– that way we could sample a bit more of what they offered. He chose Lucy’s Homemade Mac n Cheese, which was quite a decently sized dish for $6.50. Emo ended up adding bacon for an extra cost (I believe it was about $3) so that he’d have more than just cheesy carbs on his plate– not that bacon is really that healthy anyways, but who can hate bacon? I thought that the Mac was nice and creamy, and was on the milder side of the cheesy scale. I liked that it wasn’t a nasty, radioactive colour (a la Kraft Dinner), which made eating it much more enjoyable. However, I didn’t find the bacon, which was crispy and tasty, to be worth that much extra, but then there was still quite a bit of food for under $10. This was probably one of the better macs I’ve had recently.
For myself, I love a good omelette, and was pleasantly surprised by their extensive and eclectic filling options. I was stuck between the caramelized onions, mushrooms (!) and bacon and the Artichoke Hearts, Marinated Roasted Peppers, Mushrooms and Goat Cheese 3-egg Omelette, but I chose the latter instead. I liked the different choices available for the filling– no boring, plain old Denver omelettes for me! This omelette was packed full with ingredients, all of which tasted fresh (well, as fresh as a marinated pepper can be). The eggs were fluffy and the goat cheese provided a good salty kick to the plate, and it all just worked well together. Along with the omelette (not very nicely presented, but whatever) were some hashbrowns and toast. I’d have to say that the hashbrowns were a bit of a fail, as they were far too potatoey for my taste and were quite bland despite the seasoning you see– I had to use a ton of ketchup, which isn’t something I normally do. The toast was alright and well, toast-ish. I liked the main better than the sides in this dish, and I’d gladly come back to try their other omelettes too.
So this visit to Lucy’s was a hit-and-miss. I liked some aspects, and disliked others, but overall it was an ok experience. Perhaps if I find the time to go back (maybe during school, since it’s close to the 99 route) I’ll try a different drink and another omelette, or their other offerings of burgers, hot dogs and other diner-y entrees. It certainly helps that Lucy’s in open 24 hours, so if I’m in need of a place that is both meal- and allnighter- material, I have one more place to go.
Lucy’s Eastside Diner
2708 Main Street
With nothing to do until 12 on a sunny Saturday morning, grabbing some good eats was a no-brainer! Three friends and I decided to go to The Red Wagon to try out that oft-talked-about restaurant. Unfortunately for Bruce, life intervened, and he wasn’t able to come with us; but no matter—nothing will stop me from eating food!
So I took the 135 down to The Red Wagon, a small diner in East Van that was recently featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (I had actually heard about it from my friends Earl and Helena). Upon getting off the bus I could see how popular the restaurant was—it opened a mere half hour before I got there, and there was already a line out the door! I ended up having to wait for about 20 minutes for a table… good thing it was sunny out!
The incredibly friendly hostess sat us down, and we were immediately greeted by another waiter, who took our drinks requests. HT ordered a cup of Coffee, and we were taken aback by how small the cup was, since we didn’t know that refills were free til later in the meal. Taste-wise, the cup was pretty much what he expected it to be—nothing spectacular, but still pleasant to drink. The waiter came by with refills 3 more time during the meal, so HT did end up getting his fill.
I had the Orange Juice, and was also surprised to see that it came in such a tiny glass. I paced my drinking so that I wouldn’t be lacking a drink towards the end of my meal, so I don’t actually know if refills for that was free as well. Again, the juice was on the generic side—it was tart but sweet, and had lots of pulp, so I did enjoy my glass (even if it was rather dinky).
For eats, HT ordered the Pulled Pork Pancakes, which were featured on DDD. This was a 3-pancake tower with pulled pork sandwiched between the layers. The buttermilk pancakes were probably the best ones I’ve ever eaten—thick but still fluffy, these pancakes put IHOP to shame. I’m not really a pancake person, but these really made me rethink my stance in the pancake-waffle debate. Yum. The pulled pork between the pancake-y goodness had great texture and flavour; they were pull-apart tender, with a very light hint of spiciness amidst the sweet and barbeque flavours. This was all topped with a generous pat of butter and a ton of house-made, Jack Daniels syrup. However, we remarked that the dish would have been better if the syrup was on the side, since the bottom pancake soaked up most of the syrup. This was a unique and delicious offering (I’ve never had anything like it before), so I’m sad to say I got sick of the dish pretty quickly. I only had half of HT’s stack, but I found myself unable to finish all of it—I think the salty and sweet flavours got to be too overwhelming. I would definitely order this again, but would share it with a few more people (or I could get someone else to order it and take a bit from their plate… hmm…).
I chose the Spinach and Mushroom Benny, which was served with a large portion of homefries on the side. The English muffin base tasted homemade and buttery, and wasn’t too greasy tasting. The spinach and mushroom mix over top of it was cooked perfectly—flavourful, but again, not too salty or greasy—and the eggs were poached perfectly (for me), with the yolks only slightly runny. My favourite part was the hollandaise that was overtop all this: in terms of presentation, it was a pleasant light yellow colour (which let the runny yolks stand out), and there was enough of it so that every bite was flavoured by it. Taste-wise, it was creamy but light and only slightly lemony, and it’s definitely one of the better hollandaise sauces I’ve tasted. The homefries (translation: potato chunks) tossed with green onion were soft, mildly flavoured, and not too greasy, so it didn’t take away from the actually Benny. I liked that the potatoes were cooked like this, as it’s a nice change from regular old hashbrowns. My only complaint for this dish is that there wasn’t quite enough filling in the Benny… a few more pieces of spinach and mushroom would have really hit the spot.
Of course, you can’t go to The Red Wagon without also trying their housemade Pork Belly Confit. After seeing their feature on DDD I wasn’t too sure that my arteries could take all that fat… but oh well. I’ll just work out more, haha. Anyways. Because Bruce wasn’t there, we couldn’t order a third main (the two we ordered were almost too much for the both of us already!), so we just decided on a side order of Pork Confit instead. The piece we had had a healthy chunk of fat (ironic sounding, huh?) attached to it that gave it a ton of flavour and moisture. The meaty bits of the slice weren’t too salty, and though they were on the dry side, eating it together with the fat solved the problem. I’ll admit it was a little weird just having a slab of fatty meat on the side, but it went along great with my eggs benny. Whether it was worth the extra $4, though, I’m not too sure. If I get this again (I do like my fatty meats…), I think I would get it as part of a main to justify costs.
I really like the funky atmosphere of the restaurant. I’ll probably get flack for calling it a little “hipster”—not that it’s like, underground or anything, what with all the media exposure—but that’s honestly the feel I got from the place (maybe I just have a skewed idea of what “hipster” really is?). The staff were very chill, but they made every effort to make our experience great. I did get the sense that they were rushing us a little bit, but that was completely understandable considering the long lineup outside. Nevertheless, I think that The Red Wagon is a great place to meet up with friends; you do have to be prepared to wait quite some time for a table to free up, but the homey feel of the restaurant, plus the food and the service, really make up for it.
The Red Wagon
2296 East Hastings Street