So right now it’s Dine Out Vancouver, the Tourism Vancouver answer to Restaurant Week, a way to get bums in seats during the quiet January-February stretch.
It’s a way to try new places, perhaps spendy places you normally wouldn’t go, without spending a ton of money, too; or at least that’s how it started. I heard someone last night describing it and he was working from old information, so I remembered back to when I started going, and it was $25 for 3 courses, and a very affordable way to have a nice evening out.
It’s a little different now. It’s a conundrum for restaurants: they want to participate and get the bums in the seats, but they still want to make money. Fair enough! but in addition to that, they still feel the need to present a menu that represents their strengths and is enticing enough to bring in people who have more than 100 budget options available to them. So after finding dull menus, and phoned-in desserts, and hard to find reservations, the bloom had pretty much gone off the Dine Out rose, for me. I don’t mind paying full price, and I’d rather do that less often than have a meal that isn’t as good as it ought to be just because the place is slammed and they’re not taking the care with each plate that they ought.
That all said, I’ll still go if you twist my arm, even though the meals now range from $28 to $38 at dinner, which, while not unreasonable, kind of escapes my definition of a cheap dinner.
This year, an alternative sprang up to Dine Out: Feast Van, which centres on East Vancouver restaurants, and donates $1 to a food bank for each meal sold, to benefit East Van, which is among the neediest neighbourhoods in the country. So that’s an added reason to go out. The price point varies by restaurant, but so far we’ve seen them at $30- $35 for three courses. So when I heard about that, and that one of our favourite restaurants was participating, I thought well, let’s do that instead, since it gives to a good cause and all!
This week, we ended up having four dinners out: two Dine Outs and two Feast Vans. One more than intended, but that’s OK
Meal one: Feast Van, Fray on Fraser. This was last Saturday, our first time at a new pub that’s pretty easily accessible to us on the bus. We had their Tuna Niçoise salad (fantastic quality of tuna), I had a burger and he had Wild Mushroom Ravioli, and he had Orange Panna Cotta for dessert, and I can’t remember what I had! LOL. Anyway. Food was good, service uneven, but I think they were unexpectedly slammed. We’ll go another time, and spend less than $30 a head for supper, but with moar drinks, no doubt
Meal two: Dine Out Vancouver, Chambar. My mother unexpectedly joined us this week, so she also joined us for dinner at Chambar on Wednesday. We had an early supper because of the William Gibson reading that night, but had a very good meal. I started with a beet and fennel salad, she had the duck foie with housemade brioche (which is like a brioche sponge cake, fantastic) ($8 supplement), and he had the venison carpaccio. He was confident that he won the course, but I liked mine just fine. For mains, Mummy and I had mussels and fries: me Congolaise, and she au vin blanc. He had the Arctic Char, and again felt as though he’d won. She was drinking tempranillo and I was drinking Liefman’s draft kriek, which is nice and fresh but not too fruity. He had a succession of beers and ales made by monks and nuns. For dessert she had the meringue and lemon thing, which she was very happy with, and he and I had the chocolate and salt and PRETZEL ICE CREAM. We both won that. It was a good meal, although at $218 including tax and booze for three, not something we can afford to do very often.
Later that night we took a detour to The Union Bar, for our second visit: drink and a Banh Mi for him. We love this place. Arthur Wynne has crafted some fantastic cocktails, and we like the menu too. It’s part of the group that includes The Cascade Lounge, where we go for drinks and quiz night from time to time, and Habit and some other spots. We like the people and we like their spaces. The Union is also participating in Feast Van, and we may head there next week if we can scrape a few dollars together.
The third dinner, added at the last minute when Mummy announced her arrival, was a Dine Out at Hamilton Street Grill. The owner is a friend, and we had a very tasty meal: two $38 dinners and one $28 one, bottle of wine, a beer. Two steaks, one Halibut, a side of bearnaise (cause that’s how I roll) and the cutest shepherd’s pie you ever saw, for a very successful dinner.
Last night capped off a heavy work week (and heavy dining week!) at a Feast Van participant: Cafeteria, our special occasion restaurant. We hadn’t been since New Year’s Eve. Most unusually, we had the same dishes for two courses: the Endive salad and the Teriyaki beef tenderloin. Both were, of course, excellent. For dessert, we had the apple crepes and the peanut butter pie, and shared. A very good dinner. He had two glasses of Hendry pink, and I had most of a glass of Argentinian Cabernet Sauvignon.
I can recommend you try any of these places. Particularly interested in going back to Fray, since they’re easy for us to get to and they have a mid-week quiz night that has a little easier timing for us than Cascade’s. We’ll see. Meanwhile, I’m cooking this weekend