Timber Gastropub; Eating in the City

On the weekend I happened to be downtown Vancouver and seized upon the opportunity to visit one of the restaurants that I follow on Instagram – Timber Gastropub.

From Timber’s website –

Timber is Chef Chris Whittaker’s second West End Restaurant. Timber pays tribute to British Columbia’s rich timber history and the tough people who built this ‘True North Strong & Free’, one two-by-four at a time. The menu reads like a roadmap of Canadian comfort food. Looking for a place to grab a mug of local craft beer and a bison burger while you curse the hockey refs on TV? This is the joint for you.

And I have to say, for a joint on Robson Street, just down from where all the high end fashion shops are located, Timber is a very cool and casual place to eat.

Timber
Smoked Pickled Egg

I started my lunch experience with a smoked pickled egg. Now before you go “EWWW” I have to admit that I was a feeling a little of the “EWWW” myself.

When I was a young man, a buddy and I traveled around BC visiting small towns. We often ended up in the local watering hole wherever we were and the one thing I remember about bar we visited was that there was a gallon jar of pickled eggs on the jar. I never had the courage to try one back then. So my Saturday visit to the Timber Gastropub was my day to finally confront the pickled egg.

Holy crap. They taste great! A good balance of smoke and pickle flavour and an egg that is cooked just safely past a soft yolk but not into the green yolk realm. I liked it. I am still not sure I would take one from a jar in a small town bar though.

Timber
Bison Burger and Fries

Pascal, the server who helped me choose my lunch was very helpful with the menu. He advised me on the strengths and weaknesses of the menu while giving me confidence in the kitchen’s ability. He is a true professional who clearly demonstrated how important the front of the house staff are to a restaurant’s success (or failure).

Timber Gastropub
Bison Burger

But enough about Pascal; back to my lunch. I opted for the Bison burger and fries.  I was assured that it is one of the top three burgers in the city. Well, it is definitely on my top five list of burgers.

One of the factors that works in this burger’s favour is that they cut and chop the burger meat in-house. Therefore, they ask the customer those magical words; “how do you want your burger cooked?”

The truth is, there is no comparison between a burger in any other joint and a burger cooked medium rare. If you do not cut and chop the burger meat in-house you have to cook it to well-done. Once well-done there is no moisture left in the burger and you may as well be eating a charcoal briquet.

But a burger, especially a bison burger cooked to medium rare, with a thick slab of real cheddar cheese and three thick pieces of ultra-crispy and a sort of sweet bacon like my Mom makes…burger heaven at Timber Gastropub.

And the fries…swoon. Super crisp on the outside with the texture of real potatoes inside – obviously cut in house. Beautiful. Truly beautiful.

Timber Gastropub
Townsite “Perfect Storm” Oatmeal Stout

I didn’t have time or room for dessert. But you can bet that when I return to the west end of Vancouver, I will be stopping at the corner of Robson and Jervis for more good eats.

  • The bison burger and fries with a starter of a smoked pickled egg and a glass of beer came to just under $30.
  • Timber Gastropub is located at 1300 Robson Street in Vancouver.

Langley’s Hilltop Diner

This summer I am making a point of exploring some of the classic eateries in Metro Vancouver. First was the Ovaltine Cafe, and now I can say that I have also visited another classic, the Hilltop Diner in Langley.

Hilltop Diner
Hilltop Diner

I can also say that although it felt like I was on a very long day trip to get out to the Hilltop Diner, the drive out to the far reaches of Langley, almost into Aldergrove, was definitely worth the drive.

Seeing as I made it out to the diner after breakfast hours were over, my brekkie choices were limited, so I went for the lunch menu. I asked the server what their most popular burger is and she pointed me to the Hilltop Burger.

Hilltop Burger
Hilltop Burger

The Hilltop Signature Burger has a 5 oz, hand formed beef pattie with crumbled double smoked bacon, fried mushrooms, fried onions and a thick layer of melted cheese. It is served on a bun with mayo and their Signature Hilltop sauce and topped with crisp lettuce, and a thick slice of tomato.

Hilltop Burger and Fries
Hilltop Burger and Fries

I have to admit that when the burger was brought to my table I thought it looked small. And then I started eating. My goodness, it is a very filling meal! I was barely able to finish eating the burger and the fries (the fries were phenomenal – crisp on the outside and potato-like inside without any mushy mouth feeling. Really nice.)

One thing that surprised me was that the cheese on the burger was a slice of processed cheese and not cheddar.

Flapper Pie
Flapper Pie

Seeing as I had driven to the eastern edge of my world to eat at the Hilltop Diner I felt it was imperative that I at least try one of their desserts. So I asked which one of the MANY pies that they have was the “lightest” and least filling.

The server told me that the Flapper Pie was probably my best choice because it is the lightest pie they serve.

Their Flapper Pie has a graham cracker crumb crust with a very thick layer of vanilla custard and a meringue cover. Honestly, it was an amazing experience. And be aware, they do not serve small slices of pie – they are very large. However, I would drive back to the eastern edge of my world for a slice of that pie.

I told the server, after I had eaten a little of the Flapper Pie, that it is “light” like a 5 ton truck is “light” when compared to an 18 wheeler. Oh my. I didn’t even come close to finishing the pie.

I will definitely be returning to the Hilltop Diner – when I can. If you want to make the drive out to the diner, it is located at 23904 Fraser Hwy in Langley. It is worth the drive.

 

Big Smoke Burgers SFU

Yesterday afternoon I took my little bears up to SFU for a walk about and a burger at the SFU location of Big Smoke Burgers and I’m sad to say, while the walk about was fun, we were not impressed with the burgers.

Big Smoke Burger
Big Smoke Burger Menu

First off, perhaps I am getting to be a grumpy old man but I did find the music in that location of Big Smoke Burgers to be far too loud. Yes, it is a burger joint on a university campus but there were more than a few families with little kids in the place and the music was actually so loud that it was difficult to hear the conversation at our table.

As for the food, well, let’s just say that my little bears said they would prefer to go back to our usual Friday afternoon burger joint – A&W.

Big Smoke Burger
The Big Smoke Burger

I will admit that while my kids did not like the burgers, I did like the beef in the burgers. It tasted good and although a little too lean, it was a generous portion (I got the 6 ounce beef) and had the look and feel of a hand formed beef patty.

I asked the server which burger best represents their burger place. I added in that I was planning to write a blog post about the food blog. She told me that the Big Smoke Burger is probably the best. So that’s what I had.

It was skimpy on the caramelized onions but had a great chunk of lettuce and tomato in it. I asked for the pickle slice to be added inside the burger.

The smoked Canadian cheddar melted onto the beef patty was too thin to have any impact on the flavour of the burger.

Big Smoke Burger
Cheeseburger and Fries

 

Anyway, my bears are at a point in their lives where they don’t want anything green or resembling “salad” in their meals so they each had a cheeseburger without lettuce or tomato or pickles. I combo-ed the kids burgers, adding fries and a fountain drink to one burger and onion rings and a drink to the other. Side note, they don’t have root beer as a fountain drink option.

Both kids asked for mustard on their burgers. And wow did they get mustard!

The burgers were oozing mustard. Even from picking it up the mustard dripped out of the burger. There was mustard smeared on the paper the burger was served on and there was mustard all over my kids hands from the start. Ugh.

Big Smoke Burger
Onion Rings

While very visually appealing, when we bit into the onion rings, we found the coating to be crisp but then the entire onion came out of the coating in one molten hot ring of onion. The onion part of the onion ring was not cooked well enough and the batter had a strong bitter after taste.  The kids would not eat any of them after one bite.

The fries were good. Probably the best part of the meal and there was a generous serving of them for a side dish.

It is very unlikely I will return to Big Smoke Burger on the SFU campus. Three burgers with fries, onion rings and two fountain drinks for $33…not good value. As my bears said, everything about the A&W burger experience is superior. I tend to agree with them in this case.

A&W Burgers for Lunch 

A late lunch of A&W burgers, actually an after school snack, with my little Bears today.


The classic Teen Burger with a couple of Buddy Burgers, a side of fries and another side of onion rings.

To me, the Teen Burger is the best fast food burger available in our city.

Lunch at the Northern Cafe and Grill

For my last lunch out and away from New Westminster I decided to hit up the Northern Cafe and Grill one more time.


I went there earlier in the summer for a breakfast and the owner told me to come back again to see him to try the burgers he makes. He told me he grinds the burger he uses right there in the cafe and that his burgers are the best in the city.

The burger was really good, but it was not the best in the city.

The burger patty was excellent. Good consistency and cooked just beyond medium rare but not to the hockey puck stage.

The additions to the burger were appreciated. Three large pieces of bacon, big chunks of fried onions, mushrooms, and a thick slice of cheddar cheese were all melted into a tasty mass of flavour that worked perfectly in unison.


The patty was sitting on two thick slices of very ripe tomato and a chunk of lettuce.

A perfectly delicious burger package. My kids declared the side of fries to be “extraordinary”. Myself, I found them to be great but not extraordinary.

The Northern Cafe and Grill is located in the upstairs and back room of one of the buildings in the Northern Building Supply lumber yard located at 1640 East Kent Ave in Vancouver.

The Horn of Plenty Cafe

I made it into the Horn of Plenty Cafe in Agassiz today before 3pm so I had one of their kangaroo burgers.


It was very cool. The server told me they cook kangaroo burgers medium rare because the meat is so lean and I’ll say I’m glad it they only cook it medium rare because the meat was incredibly lean. And full of flavour!

When I cut a chunk of the kangaroo burger off and tasted it without any bun or sauce it did have a pretty strong taste, but when I closed the burger up and ate it burger-style, it was amazing. The strong flavour of the meat combined with the burger sauce, tomato, onion and lettuce to make a really tasty burger.

Oh, and the home cut fries were excellent.

Next time I’m going through Agassiz I’ll stop at the Horn of Plenty Cafe and try the ostrich burger.

The Horn of Plenty Cafe is located at 2406 Lougheed Hwy – it is at the corner where if you turn one way you go up to Harrison Hotsprings and if you turn the other way you go to Agassiz.

Rogue Wetbar – Waterfront Location 

I happened to be downtown Vancouver and needed a place to eat after a morning meeting and decided to re-visit the Rogue Wetbar’s Waterfront Station location. I was impressed with the friendly and informed customer service that we received as well as the food we were served.

For food, we ordered a selection of starters to share at the table; I will only cover the top three of them here although we did have the Kale and Quinoa Power salad, the brussel sprouts which had beautiful flavours but are NOT photogenic!

First were the nachos; good, but not great. The plate was loaded with nacho chips absolutely covered in cheese melted. A pleasant flavour sensation were the chunks of mango and thin slices of jalapeno on the nacho chips.

The salsa was okay. Nothing special.

We also had the Rogue trio of fries – one with poutine, another with Gorgonzola cream and bacon and the third one had truffle oil and Parmesan. I found the truffle oil fries a touch too strong but the other two, especially the Gorgonzola cream fries were amazing.

 

 

The other really outstanding thing we ate at the Rogue Wetbar was the oversized apple pie with a caramel sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This thing was definitely over-sized!! It almost filled the plate – a dinner plate!!

 

 

Overall, we had a great time at the Waterfront Station location of the Rogue Wetbar and will happily eat there again when we are downtown.

Cactus Club Serves Up a Winner Dinner

Last week I wanted to go out for a family celebration with my mother and sister and we agreed upon the Cactus Club restaurant on Kingsway across from Metrotown. As it turned out, our choice was a good choice.

I have not been in a Cactus Club restaurant for quite some time and I was pleased to see the influence that Rob Feenie, Canada’s first Iron Chef and current Executive Chef of the Cactus Club chain of restaurants has had on the Cactus Club restaurants.

The menu items created by Chef Feenie all have an RF listed on the the menu – and that is what influenced my choices. That, and the information that our very informed server brought to our table.

For starters we ordered four items from the Cactus Club Happy Hour menu: Szechuan Green Beans, Crispy Dry Ribs, Sea Salted French Fries and Crispy Yam Fries.

Schezuan Green Beans
Schezuan Green Beans
The Szechuan Green Beans are flash fried so they are cooked until crispy and then drizzled with a wickedly delicious balsamic-hoisin-sesame oil glaze. The super thin slices of jalapeno, fresh cilantro and sesame seeds are an added flavour bonus.

Crispy Dry Ribs
Crispy Dry Ribs
I’m not usually a fan of Crispy Dry Ribs but my sister loves them so we ordered them in spite of my voiced concern. Each rib had a generous piece of meat that was nicely seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. I would actually order these again.

Yam Fries
Yam Fries
The Sea Salted French Fries and Yam Fries were good but a little boring. The little side dishes of aioli with a hint of chipotle seasoning were the awesome part of these appies.

For mains we ordered the Rob’s Hunter Chicken, the Peppercorn Sirloin, and a Cheddar Bacon Burger.

Rob's Hunter Chicken
Rob’s Hunter Chicken
Rob’s Hunter Chicken has shiitake, portabello, button and crimini mushrooms with a demi-glace drizzled over and around the entire meal. The chicken is grilled skin-on making it just that little bit more sinfully delicious. Under the grilled chicken breast were more crispy green beans and Yukon Gold potatoes.

This was the meal that our server told us is her favourite and I now understand why.

Peppercorn Sirloin
Peppercorn Sirloin
We asked for the 9 oz Peppercorn Sirloin cooked medium rare and I was impressed to see it was cooked perfectly medium rare. It was a bit tougher than I was expecting but the pernod peppercorn demi-glace, buttered mashed potatoes, and roasted asparagus were all lovely. The asparagus spears, like the green beans on my plate were cooked so that they were a bright green but no further. My favourite.

Cheddar Bacon Burger
Cheddar Bacon Burger
My sister’s Cheddar Bacon Burger on a gluten-free bun looked amazing. Unfortunately I only had a little taste of the burger patty and not enough to say anything from an informed point of view. I can say that the gluten-free bun was light and crispy. You wouldn’t know that you were eating gluten-free buns if you didn’t know it.

Honestly, my favourite part of the burger was the massive slice of a dill pickle that came with it. Super crisp.

Overall, the meal was beautifully presented, perfectly cooked, and a wonderful celebration for our family. We will definitely return to the Cactus Club restaurant.

Local Omnivore Pop-up Restaurant

The guys from Local Omnivore YVR hosted a pop-up restaurant on Friday night in an old restaurant space at 337 E Hastings St.

  
I had their cheeseburger with bacon and a side of fries. 

  
First let me say, the fries were hands down the best fries I’ve had in Vancouver. Crispy beyond belief with a snap of hot sauce that I won’t soon forget. 

  
The burger was just as epic. A hand formed beef patty covered with a slab of melted cheddar all draped in well cooked bacon. Well cooked but not crumbly-crispy. 

Speaking of well cooked, the beef patty, because it is fresh ground beef sourced out of the Pemberton Valley can be cooked medium-rare so that it has a good flavour and is not your typical over cooked beef patty-hockey puck. Another benefit of shopping and eating local! 

The zippy sauce they add to the burgers adds just enough snap to make you pay attention to what you’re eating. 

Out of curiosity I asked the guys in the kitchen for a sample of the roasted cauliflower they put in their vegetarian option. 

  
They roast it to bring out the nutty flavour of the cauliflower and then grill it to make it hot. They then toss it in a bowl with a generous helping of their burger sauce with an extra dose of the heat. 

I’ll be sampling the roasted cauliflower sandwich next time I’m visiting theLocal  Omnivore, whether that is at their food truck or their next pop-up restaurant. 

If you are like me and prefer to stay closer to home, be aware that the Local Omnivore crew will be back at Yellow Dog Brewery in Port Moody on Friday May1st.