Category Archives: Sandwiches

Sorry, We’re Open

Grande Prairie 16

This roast-beef sandwich, at Soups in Beaverlodge Alberta, was definitely worth a year’s wait and 3,000-km-plus of driving

Thank God for persistence. Or pig headedness.

Last summer, we drove 1,000 kilometres from Calgary to near Tumbler Ridge, in northeast B.C., for a backpack. Just past Grande Prairie, Alberta, we stopped at a recommended lunch spot, called Soups, in Beaverlodge. Closed for the week. Strike one.

The bad luck continued when at the very trailhead, after a long gravel-road drive, was a hand-made sign: trail closed because of wildfire. On our way back through smoky Beaverlodge, a week later, we stopped again at Soups. Still closed. Strike two.

Grande Prairie 2017 7

1,000-plus kilometres of driving leads to this surprise

Because we’re dim-witted creatures accustomed to suffering, three of us headed back this summer for another crack at said backpack. Of course, we stopped at Soups for a mid-morning break. Closed for a staff break. Strike three.

IMG_6135

Would you like that beaver smoked?

The smoke in the mountains was still rather thick, but the Monkman Pass trail was open and we persevered through a wonderful week of waterfalls and alpine lakes. So things were looking up when we stopped at Soups, on the way home. What do you know, it was open.

Monkman 89

Hiking amongst the tarns in Monkman Provincial Park

Packed to the rafters, in fact, at mid-week lunch. Who knew so many people lived in little Beaverlodge? Or made it their favourite place for a bite out?

Grande Prairie 12

Soups is a bustling place, when it’s open

We grabbed the last free table and watched the bustling staff deliver house-made soups and hefty sandwiches to the expectant diners. Many of the sandwich meats are made in house, as is the thick, soft bread; customers are, charmingly, asked if they want their sandwiches on “white or brown.”

What we wanted, after a week of hiking and dehydrated meals, was big, fresh and tasty. And Soups delivered on all counts, serving up honking sandwiches of roast beef and bayou chicken. Chased with a fresh-baked cinnamon bun.

Grande Prairie 18

“Take that picture and let me chomp down on this bayou chicken sandwich”

And then into the line at the till, where long-time owner Luvie Castro chatted with all the customers, at least the ones paying the bill.

Who knows if I’ll ever go through Beaverlodge again. But if I do, it’s definitely worth a stop to see if Soups is open.

Soups
908 2 Avenue, Beaverlodge, Alberta
Weekdays 7 am-3 pm. Closed weekends
780-354-3111

Advertisements

Huge Bites in Chilliwack, B.C.

B.C. West Coast July 2018 17

Gee, I wonder why they call this the Oinker? At Bubba’s Big Bites in Chilliwack, B.C.

I walk into Bubba’s Big Bites, in Chilliwack, B.C., with a deer-in-the-headlights look as I survey all the lunchtime dining options.

“Your first time here?” co-owner Julie asks after a glance at my slack-jawed face.

B.C. West Coast July 2018 18

Julie and Sascha are the fun-loving couple who own Bubba’s

“Yeah. What’s your signature sandwich?”

“The Oinker.”

Let’s see: pulled pork, ham, crumbled bacon, a couple kinds of melted cheese, bbq sauce—all squeezed inside a thick, half loaf of bread and, if that’s not enough carbs, served with a side of potato wedges. Having just backpacked about 100 kilometres, I’m feeling rather piggish, so let’s go.

Sadly, I’m still not up to the task. The five wedges, from a rather large potato, are a meal in themselves. And thank goodness there’s a hefty serrated knife thrust inside the sandwich, because there’s no way I’m getting my jaw around the whole thing.

B.C. West Coast July 2018 19

Half the fun is reading the big board

It’s all great, fresh stuff. Still, I take half to go, and that wonderful sandwich is still feeding me a couple of days later.

B.C. West Coast July 2018 15

This is about all the seating at this hole-in-the wall spot

Bubba’s is a fun, lively place, thanks to the energy and personalities of its owners, Julie and Sascha, who run the whole show. It’s only about five minutes off the Trans-Canada Highway, traffic willing, and is a great, tiny place for a quick bite, or a hundred, before hitting the “don’t want to get off the highway” mob scene of greater Vancouver.

B.C. West Coast July 2018 14

Here’s the diverse menu; many of the meats are house prepared

Bubba’s Big Bites
101, 5885 Vedder Road, Chilliwack, B.C.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 11 am-7 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11 am-8 pm. Closed Monday
604-858-0020

Build it Right and They Will Find You

Tucson 2017 189

Roma Imports is out in the middle-of-nowhere industrial Tucson

One of the unexpected pleasures of getting to obscure food and drink establishments is driving through interesting neighbourhoods you’d otherwise never discover.

Of course, heading into the boondocks means occasionally getting lost or turned around. And in every new city I explore for great, cheap eats, there’ are at least a couple of times I mutter, “This café can’t possibly be located on this residential/industrial street.” Until suddenly, there it is.

Such thoughts come to mind as we’re trying to find Roma Imports, an Italian deli and grocery southeast of downtown Tucson. We’re driving around an industrial district, with no sign of any place selling food. Just as I’m thinking we’re lost, thar it be, all by its culinary lonesome.

This is definitely the right place, judging by the line of cars out front and the stream of customers emerging with plastic bags of takeout. This impression is confirmed as soon as we enter the front door.

Tucson 2017 188

The deli looks small until you keep walking back and back

The building is narrow but goes on forever. On the right are coolers filled with fresh Italian meats and cheeses and scads of interesting appetizers (roasted garlic, prosciutto-stuffed figs, balls of fresh mozzarella, cauliflower fritters). The long left flank is jammed with frozen takeout items: lasagna, tiramisu, curries, cookies, saag paneer.

Tucson 2017 186

Italian deli sandwiches don’t get better or cheaper than this

Way at the back are tables, where we tuck into hefty Italian sandwiches ($8), featuring plentiful meats and cheeses stuffed into crusty slabs of baguette. There’s enough for two meals here. We then load up on sufficient marinated goodies for a light supper of appetizers.

Tucson 2017 184

Roma has scads of interesting, unusual deli items

As we head out, I ask our server how long Roma has been in this out-of-the-way location. “About 18 years,” she says. So, if you build the best Italian deli in Tucson, people will find you, even if, like me, they’re not sure where they’re going.

Roma Imports 
627 South Vine Avenue, Tucson, Arizona
Monday to Thursday 9 am-6 pm, Friday-Saturday 9 am-8 pm. Closed Sunday

Meat & Bread: Simply Superb Sandwiches

BreadMeat 3

Succulent meatball sandwich at Calgary’s Meat & Bread

As a longtime Calgarian, it pains me to promote any import from Vancouver, even though I briefly lived there many years ago. But when said import considerably elevates Cowtown’s sandwich game, who am I to protest?

The sandwich shop in question is Meat & Bread, which I enthusiastically reviewed shortly after it opened in Vancouver’s Gastown district in 2010. It delivered everything I look for: delicious, innovative sandwiches, made to order yet produced so efficiently that the lunchtime line moves swiftly.

BreadMeat 2

The lunch-hour line moves quickly

Such a sandwich shop was sorely lacking in Calgary, at least until a Meat & Bread location opened in June in the historic Grain Exchange Building, along downtown’s busy 9th Avenue. While it’s a franchise (there are currently two other locations, in Vancouver and Seattle), it’s in the capable hands of Eric Hudson and wife Bao Nahn. Most importantly, the experience and quality is essentially the same as at the flagship restaurant in Vancouver.

The keys to success are deceptively simple. First, there’s a very short menu of sandwiches—on fresh ciabatta buns—including a few standards, such as the outstanding signature porchetta, with its crunchy cracklings, and a barbecue beef. On a recent Friday, I opted for the special: three substantial, moist pork and beef meatballs topped with parmesan aioli, a chopped herb condiment and kale ($9.50).

Second, everything is freshly made each day by skilled “chefs, not sandwich artists,” featuring quality ingredients. Indeed, there’s no freezer on the premises.

BreadMeat 1

A friendly, efficient crew

Finally, and crucially at lunch hour, there’s a highly efficient crew assembling these four or five sandwiches. Such that our counter order is delivered to a high table in scant minutes.

The sides are similarly limited—a daily soup and a salad and a handcrafted chocolate bar for dessert. Nice to see a small selection of beers from Calgary microbrewers.

“It’s simple,” the company’s mantra goes, “we make sandwiches.” What more do you need?

BreadMeat 5

An innovative way of labelling dry provisions

Meat & Bread
821 1 Street SW, Calgary, Alberta
Monday to Saturday 11 am-5 pm. Closed Sunday

Old-School Diner in Snowville, Utah

Mollie's Cafe is a classic diner just off the interstate in tiny Snowville, Utah

Mollie’s Cafe is a classic diner just off the interstate in tiny Snowville, Utah

A woman peers over the high counter as I enter Mollie’s Cafe in Snowville, the last Utah outpost on the I-84 west before it enters Idaho.

“Are you a salesman?” she asks, perhaps noticing the nylon briefcase slung over my shoulder. “Because if you are, I’m not buying.”

“But, hey,” I counter, “aren’t you selling something? Like, maybe, food?”

“I’m just the cook,” she laughs.

Lots of barstools and red vinyl booths. What's not to like?

Lots of barstools and red vinyl booths. What’s not to like?

Mollie’s is the kind of place you enter as much for the colour, the character and the conversation as the food—and the food’s pretty damn good for a classic country kitchen.

I go for a classic BLT on sourdough, lots of crunchy bacon to offset the tomatoes. Nicely done, with a side of chunky vegetable and beef soup. There’s nearly a dozen fresh fruit and cream pies to tempt, but with hours still to drive, I don’t want to fall into a food coma.

The classic diner fare is bountiful and affordable

The classic diner fare is bountiful and affordable

Of course, the soup comes with crackers

Of course, the soup comes with crackers

Mollie’s Café
15 Main Street, Snowville, Utah
Daily 6 am-10 pm
435-872-8295

High Seas Coffee on the Alberta Prairie

High Seas Coffee is in the middle of central Alberta farmland

High Seas Coffee is in the middle of central Alberta farmland

I’m not expecting a coffee roaster in a rural Alberta village. Certainly not in a community of 725 souls, with a strong Mennonite heritage.

But then Linden, 100 kilometres northeast of Calgary, has always punched above its weight. Witness a strong agricultural manufacturing industry. And, from a culinary perspective, the longstanding Country Cousins, which attracts folks from Calgary and beyond for its Mennonite meals (think sausage, perogies and cabbage rolls) and legendary peanut butter pie.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to find High Seas Coffee serving fresh-roasted java in a little main-street café. It opened this spring, when Krista Boese took over the former Global Grounds, adding it to an existing roasting business she started with her brother Tyler.

Yes, High Seas is a local hangout, with customers chewing the fat around a cluster of tables. But it also has a big-city vibe that includes small-batch roasting of fair-trade organic beans (pick up a pound of Farmers Blend) and cold-brew coffee.

The small-town coffee shop and roastery even has a patio

The small-town coffee shop and roastery even has a patio

The short menu starts with fresh-baked pastries like Danishes, cinnamon rolls and croissants. Heartier fare includes a French toast breakfast sandwich and a lunchtime pulled-pork Cubano sandwich.

You can even text in your order so it’s ready for pick up on your rural road trip. But I’d much rather grab a corner seat, sip an excellent Americano and soak up some small-town character.

High Seas Coffee
107 Central Avenue, Linden, Alberta
Monday to Saturday 6 am-6 pm. Closed Sunday
403-546-2007