Memories… Misty Food and Beverage Memories

April 26th, 2012 by Emma Durand-Wood

I admit it. There are things about Vancouver I miss. Living within walking distance from the beach. A green-grocer just up the street. Stellar public transportation. And the food… oh, the food. And for some reason, lately, I’ve been compiling a mental list of food I really miss from Vancouver.

My sister-in-law, who I lived with for a year in Kitsilano, suggested I post my list here and get suggestions on where to find equivalents in Winnipeg. Not a bad idea! But in writing them all out, I realized that half of what I miss about each of these dishes is the memory of the dining companion, the tradition, the setting – things that have nothing to do with the food itself.

So your challenge, kind readers, is to suggest the places around town that meet or exceed the deliciousness of each item on my list. Or just tell me about your own food memories – in Winnipeg or someplace else — I’d love to read about them. I’ll go first:

Cinnamon buns at Solly’s Jewish bakery and deli. My roommates and I used to walk down to Solly’s on sunny weekend mornings and get a coffee and cinnamon bun, then walk back and enjoy them on the beach. (On Sundays, it was better to sit and eat there, because they played the Vinyl Cafe.) Pretty much everything at Solly’s was amazing. Honourable mentions to the chocolate babka,  rugelach, and bagels and schmear.

Chickpea fries at the now defunct Delilah’s. I had these once and still dream of them. Salty, chickpea-y, crispy and hot – I’ve tried to make them at home but it’s tricky without a deep fryer.

Shawarma at Falafel King on Denman. Everyone had their favourite shawarma/falafel place; this was mine. The tabbouleh was nice and lemonny, the shawarma flavourful, and the hummus bountiful. Apparently Winnipeg will soon be getting a restaurant devoted to shawarma (made with local free range chicken!)  – can’t wait for that place to open!

The Tommy “wet roller” burrito at Steamrollers. Steamrollers is a local chain whose claim to fame is steam cooking. It sounds weird, but it’s amazing. The Tommy is a spinach tortilla stuffed with spanish rice, chicken, and jack cheese, topped with garlic yogurt sauce and the restaurant’s famous tomatillo sauce. Load this baby up with the freely flowing and choose-your-heat hot sauce, and voila – pure perfection. Sadly, I’ve never heard of another place that does steam cooked burritos.

Butter chicken at India Gate (Robson & Granville). So many fond memories of this place. The time the wiry, elderly waiter called my mum a baby because she only wanted a #2 spicyness level in her lamb vindaloo. Or the time we had India Gate cater a Friday office wind-down, and somehow got them to provide containers of butter chicken sauce (sans chicken) which everyone used as a dip for papadums, pakoras, and basically anything else that could be dipped into it. Seriously – this stuff is the best, the standard I hold all other butter chickens to. I know plenty will say there is much better Indian food available in Vancouver, but I never had a chance to go to Vij’s.

Roll Dip at Vina (Pacific Centre Food Court). For the longest time I didn’t know what this item actually was, I only knew that it was delicious. Turns out a “roll dip” is just a deep-fried spring roll. It came with some sort of amazing fish sauce-based dip and rice noodles. Not the healthiest thing to eat in the food court, but definitely the most tasty.

Fries & garlic mayo at the now defunct Café Waazubee. I must thank a shortlived Lavalife suitor for introducing me to this dish. I don’t know what they did to make this simple combo so outstanding, but it was their signature dish for good reason. Skinny, crispy, hot fries and super garlicky mayo. Simple. Scrumptious. I’m sad I’ll never get the chance to eat them again.

Slice pizza at Uncle Fatih‘s. When I lived with former WoMHer Laurel, this was the closest pizza place to our apartment on East Broadway, and conveniently located just across from the Commercial Drive Skytrain station, which made it perfect for stopping at at the end of a night out. Or before heading out for the afternoon. Or whenever. The pizza itself was fine, but what made it awesome was squeeze bottles of ranch dressing and hot sauce that you could use to doctor your slice up. Spicy goodness, especially on a slice of Hawaiian!

Burger n’ Brew (AND) Siamese Dream Pizza at Nevermind. Nevermind was my local pub for a couple of years when I lived in Kits. Burger n’ Brew was a weekly feature, where you’d get your choice of burger (I always chose chicken), sides (you could even order half fries, half salad for the best of both worlds!) and a pint of beer for 10 bucks. Laurel and I spent many a Wednesday night there having “angry browser rants” about Internet Explorer  [Yes, we’re nerds like that] and ogling the hot bartender. The Siamese Dream (brought in from Hell’s Kitchen) was this amazing peanuty chickeny pizza topped with a spiral swirl of sriracha. We got to be pretty good at recreating it at home and now our little clan of friends has a bunch of variations of what we call “killer pizza” – check out Courtney’s here.

Tropical (coconut & pineapple) or Carribean (hot & spicy) dipping sauce from Flying Wedge. Dipping sauce for pizza? Evil genius. The extra calories from either of these dips were 100% worth it. Most pizza places offer dipping sauces but Flying Wedge is the only place I’ve ever noticed that makes theirs in-house. Mmmm.

Hummus from European Delicatessen (Davie). Former WoMHer Aaron once worked just down the street from European Delicatessen and introduced me to The Best Hummus in the World. I still dream of it. Insanely creamy, no overpowering flavours… would someone please bring me some?

Tuna melt at Benny’s Bagels (West Broadway). Who knew such a simple dish could be sublime? At Benny’s, you’d choose your bagel (I liked jalapeno) and they turned it into something stellar. I think they put a layer of cream cheese under the tuna salad, then topped it with more cheese. And probably sprinkled it with unicorn dust.  Not too many places you can get an out-of-this-world tuna melt, and a pint of beer, and listen to the Be Good Tanyas at 1am. Benny’s was that place for me.

Jalapeno Bottle Caps from Vera’s Burger Shack. Okay, almost forgot about this one – I don’t know how. The premise is simple: take jalapeno rings, batter ’em, deep fry ’em. Like onion rings only even more awesome. They’re served with a garlic mayo sauce. Grab an order, walk a couple blocks to English Bay and enjoy the ocean view – I only did it a couple times, but man. So good.

Okay, that was quite the trip down memory lane. If you’re still with me, I’d love to hear your suggestions for where I can some of these dishes locally. And which restaurants and dishes colour your memories of a particular stage of life – favourite ice cream shop as a child? Best value for dollar as a broke student? Go-to fast food place for late-night post-bar debauchery? I want to hear them all – Winnipeg or otherwise.

7 Responses to “Memories… Misty Food and Beverage Memories”

  1. james tanasiuk says:

    Just discovered your blog tonight as I was searching for driving advice from Vancouver to Lethbridge (I too escaped 🙂 Been in Vancouver for 7 years now and still haven’t been to all the places you’ve listed but from your list (and I have to add a few):

    Solly’s is still fantastic. I think VGH even used them for a time when providing Kosher meals for patients.

    Vina is still very fresh, and have opened a stand in Metrotown as well.

    Falafel King is great, but the best Shwarama is just two blocks away from VGH. Don’t think the restaurant even has a proper name 🙂

    Uncle Fatih’s is still going strong providing burnt out hipsters and various Commercial Drive malcontents with affordable nutrition (and is still far superior to the Megabite just next door).

    Vera’s and Fatburger are still waging war on Vancouver’s vegan soul. Best burgers are still tucked away in New West at Burger Heaven though.

    Davie still continues to consistently renew and reimagine. Banana Leaf has opened a satellite restaurant there and is doing wonderfully.

    Now, for what I miss from Lethbridge :))

    The Beefeater (defunct, now The Blarney Stone.) Great steaks prepared perfectly.

    O’Reilly’s pub and restaurant. Never a bad time, many fond memories with friends and workmates.

    Top’s Pizza (Lethbridge) and Dilo’s Pizza (Coaldale) great pizza but better hangouts. Two jukeboxes that never changed tunes 🙂

    Humpty’s. There. I said it. Nothing similar in Vancouver (Denny’s doesn’t count) after a late night out after last call.

    Great blog you have and excellent design:)

  2. Emma says:

    Oh my goodness, James — it’s like we have lead crazy parallel lives! Thanks so much for the update on my beloved Vancouver joints. Really great to hear that most of them are still going strong!

    As for your Lethbridge picks, I love that you mentioned Top’s Pizza! When I was young, my family’s favourite restaurant for special occasions was Treat’s, but our close friends favoured Top’s, so it was always really fun when we got to go with them.

    O’Reilly’s — I have lots of memories of baskets of fries and NTN in that smoky bar, where I spent a good chunk of time before I escaped the ‘Bridge 🙂

    And lastly – I’m right there with you on Humpty’s. My best friend and I soon realized that the Penny Coffee House didn’t stay open nearly late enough and made the switch to the Humpty’s on Scenic. There, we guzzled gallons of coffee and plates of crisy panfries. When I go “back home” we always make a point to meet up there. It’s crazy that such a place could have such great memories, but it does. And I completely agree – to those who say Denny’s is on par – they’re dead wrong!

    Thanks for this!! Have a safe drive home 🙂

  3. Courtney says:

    Oooo… good picks! A cinnamon bun from Solly’s is always a must (we had such great times there) but I LOVE their cottage cheese muffins. So stinkin’ good! I occasionally dream about the Tommy burrito from Steamrollers, but I can’t believe WaaZuBee is closed! 🙁

    My fav Vancouver food memories – breakfast at the Lion’s Den on Kingsway & Fraser; butter chicken at All India on Main & 49th; the lamb burger at Five Point on Main; shawarma at Falafel Maison; garlicy hummus at Kalamata; miso gravy at The Naam; boozy nights at The Whip; chocolate-ginger gelato at La Casa Gelato. I could probably go on and on given enough time. 🙂

  4. Emma says:

    Oooh!! I forgot about the roasted garlic and goat cheese macaroni & cheese at The Whip! And how could I have forgotten about the cottage cheese muffins at Solly’s??? SO GOOD! And of course, gelato – my favourite place was Dolce Amore on the Drive… and what was the lion’s name at The Lion’s Den?

    Oh boy… so many good memories!

  5. I am too hungry after reading that to think straight and add my two cents – when I recover I will try to give my Winnipeg suggestions!

  6. rosannavep says:

    Ha…this post is amazing. I think I went to almost all of those places with you! Nevermind was good!

    Man…I miss all the BC food! Especially sushi, Vietnamese & Indian. Ooh and Nando’s. Nothing in SoCal, Alberta or Ontario that we’ve ever tried has been as good, and nobody understands! BC food is SOOO good! We did have shawarma in Ottawa that was awesome (there is a big Lebanese pop. there) but it was so good in Langley too. Norm and I walked out of India Gate in Vancouver after being seated with waters and seeing the prices on the menu. Haha we are so cheap! Ashoka in Langley continues to have the best butter chicken we’ve ever tasted…and it’s only $10 🙂

  7. Nex says:

    My favourite food haunts over the years have for the most part closed or changed hands(food changed). I will forever miss the original “Pure Lard”, with their late night hours, yummy and affordable vegetarian food, cool atmosphere, and fun times with friends.It was the first place I’d ever had Chai, and they had tasty fries with Garlic aoli.

    The Underground Cafe is well worth a visit, if you’re in the Exchange District on a weekday, they are not open in evenings.
    Must try the Rorie Street Sunburger, with it’s wonderful dill sauce.

    -For Hummus, Felafel, and potato pancakes I recommend Falafel place at 1101 Corydon Avenue. It’s really affordable too.
    -Great whole wheat cinnamon buns can be bought at Wild Grass Prairie (on Westminister & at the Forks). Also Johnnie’s Sticky buns at 941 Portage has many different gourmet buns.

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