More than 20 years ago when I first arrived in Vancouver, Chinatown was the place to be if you wanted a bowl of comforting congee alongside an array of familiar dim sum plates over which I shared my latest antidotes of bad first dates. Although some of the iconic places such as Floata Seafood still remain, it’s also become the breeding ground for small eclectic establishments such as Mamie Taylor, Bodega on Main and Torafuku who offer cozy intimate interiors with good solid eats at an affordable price point.
Pork Belly Cabano: mojo pork, ham, Swiss cheese, shoppe pickles
And tucked in the quiet side street of Union Street is The Tuck Shoppe, a new cafe opened by Adam Merpaw and Zach Buckman (both formerly from Tap ‘N Barrel) whose menu albeit small, offers food that is fresh with vibrant flavors such as the Pork Belly Cabano ($10) which came with crunchy Ciabetta buns from Mix Bakery that weren’t even soggy the next day when I ate the other half despite the fact that a whole whopping pile of meat with homemade pickles were sandwiched in between. My Pork Belly Cabano which came without Swiss Cheese due to my allergy was nevertheless very tasty and satisfying.
Kale & cauliflower with quinoa, chick peas, radish , hemp seed, honey lime ($10)
A perfect salad in all respects as kale doesn’t absorb salad dressing like other leafy vegetables so it doesn’t become over saturated. The sweetness of the honey with the citrus of the lime offsets the earthiness of kale. Textures from the cauliflower give it the crunch factor which just takes it to another level of yum. I could eat this salad every day, it’s that good.
For dessert, I had to forego the custom-made Shoppe Ice Cream S’more but tried the in-house fruit leather which isn’t as sweet as that which you buy at stores as its au naturale. Delicious
Other menu items that sound interesting are the French Onion Dip (24hr brisket, swiss, caramelized onions, fresh horseradish, onion jus) which owner Adam says is one of their top selling items along with the Tuna Katsu (panko crusted rare albacore tuna, wasabi, daikon, soy ginger).
To wash it all down, there’s a few options which won’t rob your wallet blind like the dry apple cider that is overly sweet like the store-bought ones, which was only $3.50 and craft beer is only at $3 for half a pint and $7 for a pint and wine is just $7 a glass. These are their every day prices which is the same or even better than some happy hour specials at other establishments. There’s now happy hour specials from 3-6pm: $5 for all taps 20oz beer & cider, glass red or white wine.
And while you’re eating, take in the Wall of Pez which you can also buy to take home along with paddle boards, Popeye candy cigarettes or a box of Cracker Jack which might or might not have that hidden prize on the bottom. Then, if you should ever find the streets of Chinatown flooded, cut loose the canoe which is secured overhead.
What I found even more interesting was that the kitchen was not enough a quarter of the space, possessing none of the usual commercial sized grills or ovens. “We wanted to keep the menu simple and just offer a few items on the menu that we do well instead of offering so many choices.” says Adam.
The Tuck Shoppe may be small in space having only 24 seats, but it is certainly big in character and even bigger in taste as they have served 1,500 people in the first two weeks since opening day proving that Keeping It Simple and Tasty is the secret of success.