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.