Popina

I think of Granville Island as one of the great places to visit in Vancouver, but being limited to weekend jaunts (I live and work in the Valley) means a slow crawl with the multitudes of others who also love the place. And while the variety of available good quality fruits, vegetables, meats and fish is amazing, prices are not overly impressive and so there is no reason for it to be on my weekly grocery list. The result is that we don't go very often.
One thing that has sprung up since our last visit is Popina! I knew it was there because it has been exploding on Instagram. This also means that I know that we are the last ones to try the place. Better late than never.
Our first choice was the Fried Chicken Sandwich (possibly the most Instagrammed) with which we ordered a side of Shoestring Fries.
It is fortunate that I am able to unhinge my jaw like an anaconda or I never would have gotten a bite of this thing! It was wonderfully crisp and yet so tender and juicy. Perfectly fried chicken and quite a lot of it. While the outside was perfect, as time passed and we got to the centre, the toppings had rendered the chicken less crispy but still tender and tasty.
We had a less spectacular experience with the fish and chips. Maybe a touch undercooked (not a terrible thing with fish), the coating while crisp for the most part was a bit mushy in places. We were less than thrilled with this and assume that the fish could have used a little more time in the oil. The fries were of the smaller sort and nicely crisp. The coleslaw that accompanied the fish was vinegar based and very good.
A nice little dining area is adjacent to the kitchen and has the wonderful view that we come to enjoy on the island. From pictures, I was under the impression that this was more or less a big tent but it is truly semi-permanent and pretty comfortable. Folks are friendly here and you place your order at the outside counter and pick it up inside.
For what its worth, we give Popina 3 1/2 out of 5.
Popina Canteen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dock Lunch Off Main

Stepping into Dock Lunch Off Main got me thinking about my being at my Grandmother's house in Newton back in the late 1960s. There is stained glass over front windows and over doors (OK that part is not my Granda's house but definitely from her era). Of the collection of six brass candle holders on the bookcase, two were matched. Mismatched comfortable chairs and silverware all contribute to a pleasant homey atmosphere, making you feel like are dining in someone's front room!
This welcoming atmosphere was added to by our down to earth, friendly and efficient server who was managing the room by herself on Saturday morning.
The menu at Dock Lunch is short and changes daily (they post it on Instagram and elsewhere I am sure). There are maybe two or 3 items and a couple of deserts many of which lean in the direction of southern soul food, This particular day we enjoyed Hoppin' John and Cornbread with a Fried Egg. This black-eyed pea dish had a generous amount of amazing smoked turkey along with tender vegetables. The cornbread was neither sweet nor cheesy but a more classic delicious version with some wonderful texture that paired perfectly with the stew.
We also enjoyed their Japanese Pancake with Octopus and Miso Black Cod. The pancake was the vehicle for the octopus pieces while it was topped with various seaweed, bonito flakes and a very nice creamy sauce. The cod was perfectly cooked and made us smile. 
We had room for dessert for a change and ordered a piece of their Lemon Custard Tart with Sumac Birch Syrup. This was a creamy not too sweet tart with a subtly lemony syrup that we enjoyed a lot.
We didn't leave overfed. The portions are reasonable and considering the craft and creativity involved without actually being tweezer food, the prices are very decent. All of this and the fact that the menu changes daily and the atmosphere is unique, this has to be considered a bit of a hidden gem.
Make a trip downstairs to the washroom, even if only to wash your hands. I chose not to post a picture of a toilet, but you need to see the claw foot tub. Be careful on the stairs. They were built before the building code considered the slope.
For what our opinion is worth, we give Dock Lunch off Main a 4 1/2 out of 5.

Dock Lunch Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Top Pot Hand Forged Donuts - Bellvue

Vancouver has Cartems (among others), Portland has Voodoo Doughnuts (also among others) while Seattle has Top Pot (among...well you know). The original location complete with the iconic vintage repurposed "Topspot" neon sign is downtown but the Bellvue location (one of about 10, I think) was only a block from our Hotel. Perfect!
One thing for sure that all Top Pot locations have in common is really good coffee and amazing doughnuts. There is not a lot of the novelty doughnut stuff that you will find for example at Voodoo. We had a couple of doughnuts and some very good coffee.
I cannot resist their Old Fashioned Glazed. The icing soaks just enough into the doughnut to make it a near perfect experience. Marie's weakness is the Apple Fritter.
This is another offering worthy of some kind of award. Just enough actual apple inside and just a little taste of cinnamon. Very Nice!
Such a pleasant environment. Blond wood chairs and a library if you can actually separate yourself from your laptop.
That being said, I wouldn't criticize you for bringing your laptop and enjoying the surroundings while working. 
We got a couple more to go, the names of which I do not recall. Both were the filled kind. I tried to carefully split one in half and you can see they are not cheap on the filling.
At least once per visit to Seattle we make a stop here for doughnuts and coffee.
For what it's worth, we give Top Pot 4 out of 5.
Top Pot Doughnuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sopra Sotto - Burnaby- Vanfoodster's Pizza Challenge

I get excited about each new Vanfoodster Challenge but I seem to have some bad luck with them. Once, I was served the wrong burger, another time someone had run out of tacos, another restaurant was not aware of the challenge, and at yet another, the 'guy' was not there who was the only one who could assemble the featured item! Sigh! Not smart enough to give up and being a lover of pizza (who isn't ?), Marie and I have embarked on the difficult task of eating pizza!
We had already visited, reviewed and loved Sopra Sotto On Commercial Drive, so we thought we would try the Burnaby location this time.
Another beautiful and comfortable restaurant, we were happy to be seated adjacent to the wood-burning pizza oven where we could watch the pizzaiolo ply his trade.
Sopra Sotto's Pizza Challenge offering is called the Cortadina. It features my absolute favourite cheese in the world, Taleggio! It also had smoked pancetta, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and green onions. "There is no sauce", Marie commented as we watched the pie being assembled, and it was true. The pizza was not dry however and the generous amount of cheese and the tomatoes were just enough and allowed the wonderful crust to shine. We watched it bake for almost exactly 120 seconds. 
Upon arrival, we quickly each took a piece and folded it to eat New York style. It was wonderful except...no Taleggio! I asked the pizza master (as he was creating right next to me) and he mentioned that they were out of Taleggio and he had used Raclette. My disappointment must have been palpable as our wait person came around soon and insisted that they give us a discount (about 20%) which was not necessary but a very professional way to handle things. Stuff gets used up and sometimes you just don't get restocked on time. I understand that. While disappointing (and I have another  Vanfoodster challenge story) the pizza was amazing and we loved it.
We also enjoyed their Friturri Misto which was squid and prawns (they were out of smelts as well). Salty, hot and crispy, this was also very good and made a nice companion to the pizza. I chalk it up to timing and assume that usually, all the ingredients are available. I would not hesitate to recommend either of the Sopra Sotto locations!
For what it's worth, we only give this location 4 out of 5 due to the lack of ingredients.

Sopra Sotto Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Jack's Fish Spot and Crab Pot - Seattle

On the first sunny, beautiful Saturday of spring, I would normally highly recommend staying away from Pike Street Market. Like the tourists that we are though, we jumped right into the crowd. Well at least find your coffee from somewhere other than Pike Street Starbucks. It's Seattle and you can get decent coffee at a lot of places without lining up for 2 hours.
You can get decent food at a lot of places too, without the lineup but no, again, we had to immerse ourselves in the market experience. Actually, I'll tell you a secret. We arrived at Jack's Fish Spot and Crab Pot at just a little after 11 and hardly waited at all. Just plan it so you're hungry by then and you will thank me!
Jack's is a real treat of an experience. First of all, you just know the guy taking the orders works for free. He loves talking to people and telling stories. We shared an exchange focused on how crossing the border is a stressful experience these days compared to many years ago! Marie and I started with a good old fashioned Shrimp Cocktail with sweet little shrimp and spicy house-made cocktail sauce. Very nice!
A half dozen freshly shucked oysters were only $9.99. These were small and very mild tasting. Briny and sweet with a squeeze of lemon or a touch of cocktail sauce they were delicious!
And finally, there was Halibut and Chips. Wonderful meaty halibut was cooked to perfection and served with a tartar sauce with lots of dill. We substituted garlic fries and were happy that they were not of the raw garlic explosion type that they serve at the Mariner's games but something a little more subtle and very tasty. 
Pike Street Market is an enjoyable experience but you have to be prepared for and except a couple of truths. 1) There will be ridiculous crowds so calm down and don't rush and 2) bargains are rarer than you would expect (unless you are buying fresh flowers). Time it right though, and Jack's can help you by-pass those truths and get amazing fresh fish at a very fair price.
For what it's worth, we give Jack's Fish Spot and Crab Pot 4 1/2 out of 5.

Jack's Fish Spot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pink Lotus Vietnamese Cuisine - Fleetwood

We have had a nice stretch of warm weather but the rain is returning. Time for pho! Not that pho is all they do at Pink Lotus and not that rainy weather is the only time for pho, but it makes for a sensible lead into talking about our visit to Pink Lotus Vietnamese Cuisine at Fraser Hwy and 160th Street.
We arrived on a busy Sunday afternoon but there was a table for two just waiting for us. We started as we often do, with Deep Fried Wonton.
No big surprises here. A decent little pork meatball was tender and not overcooked while the wrapper was crisp. A sweet chilli sauce was served on the side.
Marie had the Pho which was actually quite impressive. Number 36 with brisket tendon and tripe had a decent amount of meat including some very nice tendon pieces. It was a decent rich broth also. The usual sprouts, basil and lime were on the side.
I had the Beef Stew as I often do at Vietnamese restaurants. This one came with rice on the side rather than the pillowy white bun that I had been dreaming of but that's OK. There was a generous amount of beef here but to be honest it was not very tender. Could have used a couple more hours of low and slow.
We also ordered a Bahn Mi to go which I poorly photographed later at home. Here was the pillowy bun that I had been dreaming of complete with a slightly toasted and crunchy crust. Again they were generous with the beef and lovely crunchy pickled vegetables. I feel like Pink Lotus is a family run place (although I didn't ask). They were very nice folks and look after their customers.
For what it's worth, we give Pink Lotus 3 1/2 out of 5.

Pink Lotus Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ezell's Famous Chicken -- Bellvue

Ezell's has long held a place in my heart as being the source of the best fried chicken on the planet. Admittedly, it's been years since I had last been to one of their restaurants namely the Skyway (Renton) outlet. My memory is of amazing crispy but tender juicy chicken with a nice spiciness. You know, what we always hope for! And I knew that Oprah was never wrong!
I have been meaning for a long time to take Marie and prove that it was superior to her beloved Jollibee. So we got a chance to try their stuff at the Bellvue location this past weekend.
Obviously, we ordered chicken. Four pieces comes with 2 sides and 2 buns for $12.99 so decent pricing. The Mac and Cheese had a melted cheese topping which made the whole thing rich and comforting. The slaw was creamy and refreshing. You can only ask so much of fast food sides.
We also ordered Deep Fried Okra. This is made to order and so takes a few minutes. It would not be good to have these things waiting under a heat lamp. They were crisp on the outside but of course its okra so it wouldn't stay that way long. They could have used salt but we enjoyed these little bites anyway with some hot sauce.
Finally to the chicken. We asked for 2 pieces of spicy and 2 pieces original. I grabbed a piece of original and tucked in. My expectations were largely met (memories tend to get exaggerated over time) as the meat was tender and juicy as advertised. On my partner's face, however, was a look of less enthusiasm. "What's wrong?", I asked. Surprisingly, her piece of spicy chicken was on the dry side...like tough dry! The other 2 pieces were somewhere in the middle. So while I got the best piece, the rest, by luck of the draw, were nowhere near as good. My guess is that some of the pieces had been under the heat lamps for too long. Picture me with a disappointed face!...Well the buns were really good!
Someone alert Oprah! Win-Win Chicken in Steveston remains our favourite. Yes, Jolibee is number two! And Ezell's (and Heaven Sent; made by the same guy Ezell) falls mightily to number three. Make sure that you specify or have a hand in getting freshly cooked pieces!
We give Ezell's Famous Chicken 3 out of 5.
Ezell’s Famous Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

About Us

Are you guys eating again? At some point Marie and I became the kind of people who take pictures of everything we eat, whether in a restaura...