Wednesday, January 13, 2010

White Spot (and Triple O's) - BC family favorite since 1928

It’s time for another Canadian institution… or in this case, a British Columbia institution. White Spot has been a popular destination for almost 75 years, but things have come a long way from the simple Vancouver fast-food and family restaurant it once was. Now you can enjoy high quality steak, pasta and rice dishes or take a bite of the classic burgers that started it all.

About the restaurant: The history of White Spot is a quirky and amusing one.  It was founded by a man named Nat Bailey, who originally transformed his 1918 Model T into a travelling lunch counter to serve tourists at Lookout Point. At some point, one impatient driver leaned out his car window and yelled, “Why not bring the food to us?” This inspired Bailey to hire his first “carhops” to take orders from cars and deliver them straight to the drivers. The model caught on, and in 1928, Bailey opened the first drive-in White Spot. Since then, it has remained a popular family restaurant for British Columbians. Recently, however, the restaurant has shifted slightly away from this model in favor of a more social, trendy approach, with more elaborate dishes and alcoholic beverages.

Not to say that the burgers and chicken strips have disappeared! Not only are they still available at the main restaurants, they are also served at White Spot Triple Os, the chain’s “fast food” branch usually found in food courts etc. Triple Os is much more focused on the classic fried family fare that once made up the original branch’s menu, and offers it at a fast pace and affordable price.

Both White Spot and Triple O’s have clean and comfortable restaurants, with the former boasting a bar area with big screen TVs (perfect for Olympic viewing!). The atmosphere is very welcoming and casual, with no pretentiousness. The servers are always friendly and quick, and often quite willing to gush over their favorite dishes or particular recommendations.

The food: White Spot once focused almost exclusively on burgers and other fried entrees such as chicken strips and fish’n’chips. In recent years, however, they’ve revised their menu significantly and now focus on a healthier, more “high class” selection of food, likely to compete with restaurants like Milestones and Cactus Club. While some veteran fans are not happy with the change – finding the extra sophistication and higher prices off-putting – the upside is a very wide variety of things to choose from. This is a perfect restaurant to go to when everyone in your family likes different things. There are entrée-sized salads for vegetarians, grilled chicken and seafood dishes for the health-conscious, Asian-inspired dishes like teriyaki rice bowl and ginger beef for ethnic cuisine fans, standard fare like steaks and chicken pot pies… and of course, tons of burgers for the burger fans! These deserve particular mention as they are A) a White Spot tradition, and B) always well cooked, juicy, and packed with plenty of toppings; the special Triple O sauce is heavenly. The other dishes are perfectly respectable as well, with fresh salad and good chicken especially standing out. White Spot’s desserts are also excellent, especially their milkshakes.

Special note to families: White Spot offers a very popular children’s dish called the Pirate Pack, a smaller portioned meal served in an adorable cardboard pirate ship. I spent many happy dinners as a child playing with mine, and it certainly is a hit with kids.

My favourites:  Dippin’ Dinner (chicken strips and fries; not on the menu, ask for it), The Legendary burger, butterscotch milkshake.

Cost: Unfortunately, with the shift to higher-end food came a higher-end price, but White Spot is still quite reasonable. Most entrees go from $10-15, with some of the grill items going for $25. If price is a concern, there are plenty of low cost options.

Take-out?:  Yes. Not only that, but you can now place an order ahead of time online; just choose the nearest restaurant then go to pick up the food.

Delivery?:  No.

Licensed?:  Yes, at the main restaurants. An exclusive local beer, Nat Bailey’s, is available, as well as several other brands and a selection of cocktails. Note that Triple O’s is NOT licensed.

Location(s):  Multiple locations all over Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. Link to Google Maps.

Website and menus: Here.

Summary: White Spot is worth a visit, not only for its good food but for its uniquely British Columbian history. And in my estimation, every tourist should get to experience at least one Legendary burger! Drop in, or at least try out a Triple O’s if you see one.

White Spot on Urbanspoon
White Spot on Urbanspoon


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