Friday, February 5, 2010

My Top 5 Delivery Restaurants

Between working from home and being an unrepentant geek, I spend a lot of time in my apartment, and as such often indulge in my fair share of ordering in delivery. Luckily, Vancouver offers plenty of options for those seeking a relaxed and tasty meal at home. Soon visitors can enjoy a quiet night watching the Olympics in their hotel rooms or rented condos with some great delivery food. While there are plenty of great restaurants all over the city, here are my favorite five; order with confidence!

NOTE: During the Olympics, several key roads in Vancouver will be closed, which may interfere with delivery or impede it altogether. Be sure to phone ahead when ordering.

5. Fresh Slice Pizza
One of the cheapest pizza places in the city, Fresh Slice offers fresh ingredients and a slightly "healthier" approach to pizza in terms of baking. Finding the nearest restaurant for delivery can be tricky (or, at least, it used to be) but it's worth it. Also offers several great takeout options, like 8 slices for $10, or unbaked pizza to bake yourself. Website is here.

4. TIE - Panago and Pizza Hut
Most people already know of these two mega-franchises, and with pretty good reason; their pizza has proven very popular all over the world. I personally prefer Panago's pizza in terms of crust and toppings, especially their meat lovers and bacon double cheeseburger offerings, but their pizzas are a little more expensive as a rule. In contrast, Pizza Hut is a little more fatty and greasy (though still very tasty) but offers better deals. You can also check out their menus here or here (you can order online at Pizza Hut's website).

Whenever I'm in the mood for Chinese food, this is the restaurant I call. While it can sometimes be a bit difficult to communicate via phone, the rewards are well worth it, with tempura and battered dishes still crispy and warm as they arrive at your door. Sauces such as sweet and sour are served separately, allowing you to smother your dishes or use them as dip. Lin's also offers several dinner combo options. Website is here.

Probably my favorite pizza place in the city, Megabyte combines fresh ingredients and gourmet pizza flavors while still offering reasonable prices. Their side dishes are also delicious and worth the price of admission alone. Orders can also be placed via their website; there are even promotional offers where online orders receive free items. As of writing, their newest promotion is an Olympics special: order 2 medium 2 topping pizzas and get an order of (great) cheese garlic sticks for free. Website is here.

1. Shin Ju
Oh Shin Ju... I've ordered from this place so many times that the staff know the address by heart. Shin Ju offers really high quality Japanese dishes at an extremely reasonable price. I will be doing a full review later, as this is one of my all time favorite Japanese restaurants in the entire city, despite not being particularly famous or well-known among foodies. The take-out menu offers all the basics you would expect and a few surprises here and there; you can also ask for things from the main sit-down menu such as okonomiyaki or takoyaki. The delivery is also very fast; despite their humble insistence that it will take 45 minutes to deliver, they usually get it to me in 20. Of course, I'm one of their regulars! If you like Japanese food but can't be bothered to hoof it into the city, give Shin Ju a call. Website is here.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Granville Island Public Market - Part 2

Welcome back to my two part special on Granville Island Public Market! In Part 1 I covered several restaurants and shops that I’ve been meaning to try. Why haven’t I tried them yet? Well, several reasons… but mostly because I’m too busy going back to the places I already know and love!

Thus, for Part 2, I’ll be covering my favorites, the restaurants and shops that keep me coming back again and again. Let’s get started!

Gourmet Wok
This is probably my favorite place to eat lunch on Granville Island, bar none. Despite being just a “fast food” Chinese restaurant, the food is really fresh, tasty and well prepared. I have several friends who swear up and down that their fried rice is the best in the city, while I have a mad and passionate love for their Shanghai fried noodle and honey garlic pork. As per most fast food Chinese places, you can assemble your own combo, with rice or noodles + 3 entrees for $7.

Market Grill

Whenever I’m on Granville Island and in the mood for a burger, this is where I come; it’s also the best place for a savory breakfast, with breakfast sandwiches, scrambled eggs and so on. Great hash browns as well! As for their burgers, I am particularly fond of their Hawaiian burger, which features teriyaki sauce and a slice of pineapple. Note that the Market Grill is not in the main food court but rather across the outdoor courtyard.

Muffin Granny

As the name would suggest, this place offers plenty of baked goods such as muffins and cookies, but that’s not what I come here for. No, I come for the delicious crepes, made fresh while you wait. I particularly love their strawberry crepe with whipped cream; it’s a great breakfast or sweet dessert. Be warned, however, that the lineup for crepes can be quite long, and it takes a while to make the crepes.

A La Mode

A La Mode specializes in pie, be it savory pot pies or dessert pies.  Actually, pot pie is a bit of a misnomer, as the taste and presentation is often more like an incredibly thick and creamy soup in a bowl, covered with freshly baked pastry. Either way, it’s absolutely delicious. Like many other restaurants in Granville Island Public Market, A La Mode also offers frozen versions of their dishes to take home and cook; you can look through three freezers full of different pot pies and desserts. Note that, like the Market Grill, A La Mode is in a separate area than the main food court.

A pleasant little café at the end of the food court, Blue Parrot Espresso Bar offers one of the nicest indoor seating areas, with picture windows on all sides overlooking False Creek and the beautiful views of downtown. The food and drinks themselves are also very nice, with fluffy muffins and good coffee. I particularly like their steamed milk with vanilla.

Nons Drinks to Go

Another café, this one near A La Mode and Market Grill. It offers the usual round of espresso, cappuccino and so on, but what I really like are their Italian sodas. Customers can select and mix several fruit flavored sodas to their liking, resulting in a fizzy drink that’s far less sweet than regular pop. I am partial to a mix of orange and vanilla, but next time I intend to try strawberry and vanilla instead.

Nestled deeper in the market, Granville Island Tea Company is the perfect place to go if you are a tea aficionado, or just feel like trying some unusual organic teas. Boasting pots of every kind of tea leaf imaginable, this place has a timeless, classic quality to it. If a tea exists, chances are they serve it. Bonus points go to them for their incredibly authentic matcha blend.

Stuart’s Bakery

Moving away from restaurants and cafes into actual shops, I’m a big fan of Stuart’s Bakery. It is, unfortunately, a bit expensive, but the desserts, breads and pastries on offer here are fantastic. I am a particular fan of their cinnamon bun loaf, an entire loaf of bread smothered with icing and baked with a cinnamon spiral inside. Their cookies are tasty and their other breads are always fresh and satisfying. But mostly I just love them for creating one of the best things ever: apple caramel cheesecake. That alone keeps me coming back again and again and again…

Candy Kitchen

If your sweet tooth tends more to the chocolate and candy side, the Candy Kitchen is a great place to visit. It has a lot of rare candies (not to mention collector Pez dispensers) so you may find some old childhood favorites here and nowhere else.

Olde World Fudge

More chocolate! This is a lovely little fudge producer that offers some really nice flavors, like cookies and cream or maple fudge. The best part is that you can buy samplers of fudge as well as entire slices.

If you are looking for some culinary souvenirs of your Olympic visit but don’t want to go with overpriced or touristy packaged salmon, why not give this place a visit? Edible British Columbia’s main purview is selling any and all foods, drinks and snacks produced in British Columbia. This means you can find anything from marinades to syrups to chocolate and back again. Also, if you’re really interested in indulging in culinary pursuits during your stay, EBC also runs tours of Granville Island Public Market to help budding chefs get the most out of their visit.

Dussa’s Ham and Cheese
Everyone I know raves about Oyama Sausage, but for some reason I prefer to go here for my meat. I’m not sure why… force of habit? Faster service? Whatever the reason, their pancetta is really good, and they do some of the best honey garlic pepperoni I’ve ever tasted. If you’re looking to save money, pick up one of their assorted meat packs; they’re great for sandwiches.

La Baguette  et L’Echalote Bakery

Technically I’m cheating by including this, as it’s not in the market itself; rather, it’s directly outside one of the main entrances. I like it enough to make mention of it, though, as it offers some really nice bread at more reasonable prices than Stuart’s.  A bakery with a distinct French vibe both in the service and the food, La Baguette offers tons of different options for bread and pastries. My personal favorite is the bag of half-baked French rolls; they’re cheap, and when you bake them at home, they fill the whole place with a mouthwatering aroma. Also, check out the little courtyard in front, as there are often buskers and musicians performing here.

Lee’s Donuts

Ah, Lee’s Donuts. I’ve saved the best for last. Lee’s does fantastic donuts in general, including some unusual flavors like mango or marble chocolate. They also allow you to buy frozen donuts to stash in your freezer for a later date. But really, they deserve fame and fortune for one really, really good reason.

They make the largest apple fritters in the universe.

I’m dead serious. I cannot fully convey to you how freakishly, awesomely huge their apple fritters are. These things can be used as flotation devices.

To give you an idea, here’s a picture of one, with a pencil beside it for comparison. Also, the plate in this picture is a dinner plate.

Not only is it absolutely huge, but it’s also ridiculously tasty, with a crispy sugary outer skin and real apple filling. Oh, and did I mention this monster of a donut is only $4?

I love Lee’s Donuts. 

Thanks for reading, and remember to check out the Granville Island directory for more info on these restaurants and on the island itself.

Market Grill on UrbanspoonGourmet Wok on UrbanspoonMuffin Granny on Urbanspoon
A La Mode on UrbanspoonBlue Parrot Espresso Bar on UrbanspoonGranville Island Tea Company on Urbanspoon
Stuart's Bakery on UrbanspoonDussa's Ham and Cheese on UrbanspoonLa Baguette et l'Echalote on Urbanspoon
Lee's Donuts on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Granville Island Public Market - Part 1

If there’s one place in Vancouver that is a mecca to both locals and tourists, it’s Granville Island Public Market. A large scale waterfront market in the same line as Pike Place Market in Seattle, this Vancouver landmark offers fresh produce, unique culinary items, beautiful art… and of course, great places to eat! After mentioning the food court not once but twice in other reviews, it’s time to cover it properly. In this two part post (second part to be posted tomorrow), I’ll be covering some of the restaurants Olympic visitors should check out, as well as some recommendations about where to buy great food if you’re planning to do a bit of cooking yourself.

For the first installment, I’m going to deviate from my usual approach of covering my favorite places and instead cover places that I have not eaten at but know through reputation. As such, I cannot give my personal guarantee of satisfaction for these stores… but I can say that they are very popular and always look VERY tempting! Tomorrow I will cover some of my personal favorites, but for now, let’s look at some tempting distractions…

Celine’s Fish and Chips

There’s something about Granville Island that attracts fish and chip shops; I’ve already covered two in this very blog! As such, I haven’t had the chance to try this one out. Having said that, its menu has always been rather eye-catching, with things like oyster burgers on offer. If you’re unable to make it to Go Fish or Tony’s Fish and Oyster Café, this would be an excellent third option.

I confess that I’m not a huge fan of curry, but there’s usually a small lineup at this food court outlet.  It also caters to people looking to prepare curry in their own home.

A great option for vegetarians and healthy eaters, Fraser Valley Juice and Salad offers a selection of organic juices and various kinds of salad, including fruit, bean, pasta and so on. There are a few noodle dishes too.

Kaisereck Delicatessen

For those looking for hearty sandwiches or German meat, this is probably the best place to go in the market. You can build your own sandwiches, or order sausages, bratworst, and so on.

La Tortilleria

I have a friend who always eats here whenever we go to lunch on Granville Island. Not only is it affordable but the portions are generous and the food is satisfying without being overly greasy.  Good Mexican food for those in a hurry!

Omi Japan

Despite my adoration of Japanese food, I’ve never tried this place… probably because I always go to my favorite places like Gourmet Wok and Market Grill! Omi Japan still offers a decent selection of Japanese dishes, with prepackaged sushi or hot dishes like teriyaki and yakisoba.

Pizza Pzazz

This restaurant offers a standard selection of pizza that can be bought by the slice. What sets it a bit apart is that it also offers some great gelato and other desserts in the cooler. 

The Perogy Place

The name says it all! Perogy lovers and Ukranian cuisine fans should definitely give this place a try, as it offers dishes like cabbage rolls, blintz, Kiev chicken cutlet and so on. Not only that, but you can buy frozen food here to take back to your kitchen or kitchenette.

The Stock Market

This store doubles as a stock and broth shop for cooks as well as a soup bar. The Stock Market usually offers three daily specials; one meat soup, one seafood and one vegetarian. I’ve never tried their soups personally, but I have bought lots of dips, marinades and dressings from them and have always been impressed.

An organic bakery located in the main food court, Terra Breads offers plenty of unusual loafs, muffins and other pastries. Expect lots of natural ingredients like flaxseed, olive oil and nuts. No eggs or shortening are used.

This is not a restaurant; rather, it’s a meat and cheese store that is very popular with foodies and chefs. There are plenty of esoteric items here such as duck breast, headcheese, and cheeses you’ve never even heard of.

Looking for fine dining but don’t want to break the bank? This is a recent addition to Granville Market and offers a fantastic option for those Olympic visitors who are renting condos or have access to a kitchen. You can purchase fresh prepared meals or frozen entrees to cook back home. The options are incredibly high quality, with dishes like southwestern organic squash stew with cornbread, butter chicken with jasmine rice, coq au vin with pearl onions and bacon, and balsamic glazed duck breasts. Entrees usually go for around $30 and serve two, making this a very economical option for those wanting something more sophisticated for their buck.

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow, where I talk about my own favorite places on Granville Island! In the meantime, find out more at the Granville Island Public Market directory.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

More great Vancouver food bloggers and sites

Time for another post extolling the virtues of Vancouver restaurant and food blogs that aren't me! ;-) 

Cheap Appetite is definitely a must-see blog for anyone looking for budget food in Vancouver. Like me, the author has been making a point of covering cheap but delicious food in Vancouver (and occasionally further afield!), for everything from fast food to international cuisine (we share a love of sushi, it seems!) 

Vancouver Food and Wine focuses mainly on local food and "locavore" trends, so anyone looking for fresh produce, wine and ingredients that come from the Vancouver area specifically would do well to check it out. I particularly like their guide to Olympic eating here. They've even crossposted some of my own articles!

Eat Me Here in Vancouver is another great restaurant blog with a cute and quirky method of reviewing (using adorable smiley/frowny faces instead of number scores). It's an amazing looking blog too, with easy navigation and fantastic pictures of the food in question!

There are also some non-blog websites that international Olympic visitors may find handy:

Food Vancouver serves as a sort of database for Vancouver restaurants, with each restaurant page having a list of quick facts such as price range, opening times, etc. 

Urbanspoon is an invaluable resource for visitors, foodies and food bloggers alike. Like Food Vancouver, it serves as a database for almost every restaurant in Vancouver, but trades off comprehensive information for more polish and user input. Many restaurants have professional and blog reviews listed as well as user-submitted comments.  I highly recommend this site.

Visit Vancouver's dining site is nowhere near as comprehensive as others, but if you are looking for a short quick list of some recommended locations, it's not a bad selection.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Irish Heather - my first gastro-pub experience

And now for something completely different!

Among the various unusual restaurants you can experience in Vancouver, one that’s gaining a good deal of attention is the “gastro-pub,” a rather fancy name for, well, a pub you can eat at. Unlike places like Wings and other sports bar/restaurants, however, the food and atmosphere at gastro-pubs is much higher class, with rarefied ingredients and high quality cuisine. I’ve never really been to one before – “too rich for my blood,” as I told my friends! – but a recent meetup with the maintainer of Follow Me Foodie has opened my eyes to a whole new way of dining that doesn’t break the bank. Thanks Mijune! ;-)

The Irish Heather was a great first experience: steeped with a certain mystique and sophistication while still offering hearty, delicious food that anyone with tastebuds can appreciate.

About the restaurant: The Irish Heather actually comprises of three linked but distinct establishments:
-                    The Irish Heather is built in the style of a traditional Irish pub, right down to the oak finish… the hardwood floor is from the Guiness brewery in Dublin! This is the area most strongly identified as “gastro-pub” where the emphasis is equally on good drinks and authentic from-scratch meals.
-                    The Shabeen is a whiskey parlour in a separate building, accessed via a small courtyard out the back door. In contrast to the Irish Heather, this is a slightly smaller establishment with much greater focus on the drinks.
-                    The Salty Tongue actually doubles as a café as well as the main “dining room” of the Irish Heather. Boasting a more modern look than its counterparts, its main focus is a 40-ft long communal table made of solid reclaimed wood. During breakfast and lunch, an assortment of muffins and sandwiches are available here. During the evening, diners (especially those with children) can sit here and enjoy their meals. Also hosts the long table events.

All three locations have friendly wait staff and a pleasant atmosphere.

The food:  My visit to the Irish Heather was unusual in that I did not order from the menu; rather, our group took part in the Long Table series, a set menu event hosted during the month of January and ending, unfortunately, before the Olympics begin. Having said that, I’m sure their main menu is as high quality as the meal I enjoyed.

Our meal was smoked pork chop with bacon braised cabbage, crisp potatoes and apple-raisin gastrique, along with a glass of apple cider. The pork chop was one of the sweetest, most tender cuts I’d ever tasted, with a texture and taste close to cured ham or bacon. The cabbage shared the same taste thanks to the liberal use of bacon chunks, and it made a wonderful moist bed for the pork chop. The crisp potatoes were actually close to fries or potato chips in crispness and provided a crunchy counterpoint to the otherwise soft textures, and the apple-raisin dressing gave a strong, sweet kick when mixed with the cabbage or chop. All ingredients were fresh and smooth-tasting, and blended perfectly together. It was one of the best pork chops I’ve ever tasted!

In contrast, dessert – a Boston Cream pie – was somewhat underwhelming; while it wasn’t bad, it was not particularly memorable, and the chocolate was a little undersweet. The cider, which was produced in the Okanagan, was very strong, and a bit too alcoholic for my tastes.

My favourites:  Have only been once, but the aforementioned pork certainly qualifies!

Cost:  For the Long Table Series, the meal + cider cost only $15 per person. On the regular menu, entrees cost $14 without drink, with desserts and appetizers coming in at $5-7.

Take-out?:  No.

Delivery?:  No.

Licensed?:  Yes. As befits such an establishment, The Irish Heather offers a robust variety of ales, wines, whiskeys and other alcoholic beverages.

Location(s):  In Gastown, on Carrall Street. Link to Google Maps.

Website and menu: Here.

Summary:  If this is a taste of what gastro-pubs have to offer, then both Olympic visitors and I will have to give this more of a shot! If you’re looking for a more esoteric experience for your money, give the Irish Heather a try. You may not look at Irish pubs the same way again!

Irish Heather on Urbanspoon