Gastown Classic: Acme Cafe

I kind of can't believe I haven't written a review yet for my local favourite, Acme Cafe. If ever there was a place that was "my" place, it's Acme. It opened in April 2010, just months after I moved to Gastown in the fall of 2009, when things were really starting to take off here, It felt like we were in this together, rebuilding a neighbourhood we wanted to be a part of, and all of the staff at Acme, including its owner, Alan, have become familiar and friendly faces in the over five years that I've lived here. When their Lemon Meringue pie was featured on the cover of Vancouver magazine a few years back, they happily sold the famous pie to me for my 31st birthday party (my last name is Lemon, it seemed appropriate). I've had cookies and pie just out of the oven practically forced on me by chefs saying, "Just taste this and let me know what you think." It's like sitting in your mom or your aunt's kitchen. 

Located in the historic Paris block on Hastings, Acme hearkens back to the cafeterias and diners of old without being kitschy. It features a number of booths and a huge lunch counter for solo diners. As it's become more popular, they've squeezed a few more diner tables in as well, but it's still small enough that there is almost always a wait during peak hours.

The menu is straight-up comfort food. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, grilled cheeses, mac and cheese - this isn't pretentious West Coast dining and if you're not into carbs, this is likely not the place for you. The meatloaf plate is a favourite of mine, with a generous helping of meatloaf, accompanied by salad and mashed potatoes, if you're up for it. I also like the meatloaf sandwich, which comes on a pretzel bun. The "High Falutin' Grilled Cheese," featuring cranberry sauce as well as a number of cheeses, is also ridiculously decadent. I'm told the Shrimp Melt is to die for, if you like that sort of thing (shrimps = worms of the sea. I won't eat 'em). Sandwiches come with your choice of sides. Acme's coleslaw is worth asking for (which also comes with potato chips), as is the side of Mac n' Cheese if you have room for it - but please remember there's dessert.

Oh yeah, dessert. That's one of the main reasons to hit up Acme, and asking what pies are fresh BEFORE you order your main meal is always a good idea. The Lemon Meringue is ten feet tall, and if you're lucky enough to be there when they have a slice, order it. The chocolate cream pie with an Oreo crust is amazing, as is the Key Lime. There are also always a huge array of cakes, cookies and pastries on display at the espresso bar if pie isn't your thing (but if pie isn't your thing, we can't be friends).

There are always breakfast/lunch/dinner specials, and usually a soup and a quiche of the day.

Without a doubt one of my favourite spots in the city. Unpretentious, quality food and friendly people. In the new year I'm moving out of Gastown, and I'm actually sad that this place won't be right around the corner. However, I know I will definitely be making returns to my old 'hood to visit good old Acme cafe.

*this review originally featured on Yelp, where you can read my reviews on lots of places in Vancouver and elsewhere.  Thanks to Yelp for making me a member of their Elite Squad for 2014.

Dinner Time: Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai

I love, love, love this recipe from

My Fitness Pa

l.  This spaghetti squash pad thai is satisfying and tasty, and under 300 calories a serving.  I don't miss the noodles at all!

Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai


  • 1 pound Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breast
  • 1 large Spaghetti Squash
  • 2 large Carrots, grated
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4 Green Onions, thinly sliced + more for garnish
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup Cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 1/3 cup chopped Unsalted Peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup Chicken Broth
  • 1/4 cup Rice Vinegar (or substitute White Vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons Lime Juice
  • 3 tablespoons Honey
  • 1/4 cup Tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and guts. Drizzle the flesh side with olive oil and place face down on a baking sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes, until you can stick a knife in easily.

When squash is done, remove from the oven and let it cool for about 5-10 minutes. When it is cool enough to handle, use a fork to scrape out all of the spaghetti squash, until all you have left is the skin. Set the squash in a colander for about 10 minutes to drain all of the excess moisture.

In the meantime, make the sauce. Put all of the ingredients for the sauce into a small saucepan and whisk to combine. Put over medium-low heat to warm. Don’t let it come to a boil, just keep it warm while you are cooking the rest of the meal.

Now cook the chicken. Cut the chicken into small pieces and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the chicken with 2 tbsp of olive oil, stir occasionally until chicken is lightly brown.

Add the peppers, carrots, green onions and garlic, and saute for about 3-4 minutes, until vegetables are tender-crisp. Add the drained spaghetti squash and the sauce to the skillet and stir until evenly distributed.

Remove from skillet and put the squash mixture into a large bowl. At this time, add the peanuts, and cilantro. Stir.

To serve, garnish with a few more peanuts and cilantro.

Nutrition Information


 6 |  

Serving Size: 

3/4 cup

Per serving: 

Calories: 290; Total Fat: 13g; Saturated Fat: 3g; Monounsaturated Fat: 5g; Cholesterol: 43mg; Sodium: 801mg; Carbohydrate: 23g; Dietary Fiber: 4g; Sugar: 14g; Protein: 21g

Nutrition Bonus: 

Potassium: 174mg; Vitamin A: 97%; Vitamin C: 56%; Iron: 13%; Calcium: 6% 

Neighourhood Food: Finch's Tea and Coffee House

I discovered Finch's, located at the corner of West Pender and Richards, in 2007 and it's been a favourite ever since.  I used to be able to spend a leisurely Saturday morning/afternoon reading my book, sipping on a steamed soy milk with maple syrup, and picking away at a delicious sandwich, but now it's so busy you can't get in the door a lot of the time - which is really my only complaint.

  NO, I do not mind that it takes a long time for my food to be made.  It is fresh, carefully crafted, and always delicious.  If you're in a rush, this isn't the place for you and the food isn't meant to be enjoyed quickly anyway!

I highly recommend the Pear Baguette (prosciutto, pears and blue brie, with walnuts and olive oil), but also really enjoy the Applewood Smoked Cheddar baguette (filled with fresh lettuces, cucumber and tomato and liberally sprinkled with salt and pepper).  The oatmeal chocolate chip cookie is my favourite (beware: it has raisins), but somehow the cookies are always magically warm and gooey.  

The decor here is also charming, cozy and non-pretentious.  Great for breakfast too.  While it may not look like much from the outside, Finch's is a great place to have a meal or spend time with friends.

The Smoked Applewood Cheddar Baguette.

The Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip cookies.  Somehow always magically warm.

* This review appears on my Yelp page, which you can visit at

for more reviews.  Thanks to Yelp for making me Yelp Elite '14!

Neighbourhood Food: Cadeaux Bakery

A beautiful little spot tucked away at the edges of "respectable" Gastown, at 172 Powell Street, 


is mostly a working kitchen and a counter featuring the daily spread, but there are a few places to sit down, and if you can manage to snag one it's a great place to sit and have a leisurely coffee or tea and chat with a friend.

The London Fog cake is hands down my favourite item here.  A vanilla layered cake, the hint of bergamot is truly evocative of a warm tea latte, and the whipped frosting is not too heavy - it's like the foam on top of that latte.  It's still a super-rich, decadent treat, but you won't feel heavy and weighed down after eating it - just totally, completely satisfied.

On our visit today my fella had the Bacon Swirl - a cinnamon twist featuring bacon.  Now THAT was rich - and S. remarked that he couldn't actually taste the bacon, as opposed to say, the Maple Bacon Fritter at 49th Parallel/Lucky's Donuts.  It was definitely there, but the buttery pastry and the cinnamon really overpowered any accent the bacon could have provided.

The only reason this place doesn't get a 5 stars from me is the lack of sit-down seating, the limited range of take-home treats, and the fact that the coffee is not as great as it could/should be to accompany such sweet treats.  But the baking itself is divine, and the staff is lovely.

The Bacon Swirl.  Yep.

Try one of the truffles if you're looking for a small sweet.  This is Salted Caramel Pecan.

Neighbourhood Food: Nicli Antica Pizzeria

Having spent a fair amount of time in Italy, I like to think I know pizza.  So I am gratified that local neighbourhood joint Nicli Antica Pizzeria, at 62 East Cordova (just before Columbia), also knows pizza.

S. and I went for brunch today and found the place nearly empty at 1 p.m.  S. ordered the Funghi - a pizza with a tomato base featuring basil, mozzarella and mushrooms - and I had the Basil Pesto BBT, which has bacon, basil and baby cherry tomatoes.

The pizza dough, this time, was perfect: chewy but crispy where it had been roasted on the outside edges, and the ingredients were fresh, as always.  My only complaints would be that sometimes the crust is hit or miss - I've had some pizzas delivered to the table on previous visits that were too charred or my liking - and that the BBT was swimming in oil from the pesto - I would have preferred at tomato base for this pizza at the end of the day.

Aside from the food, the atmosphere is great (minimalist white decor, white crisp linens, shining silver flatware and fresh flowers), the service is attentive without being annoying, and the price point is good for a date night or work lunch.  And $5 mimosas for Sunday brunch?  Yes please!

These oils added some colour and warmth to the otherwise white and minimalist table.  Unfortunately my BBT pizza was too oily to warrant giving these a try...

On Donuts.

So you may recall my

earlier post

on local donut celebrity

Cartems Donuterie

.  My adorable friend Louisa has a food vlog where she talks about all things yummy - here's her latest, on Cartems:

Speaking of Cartems, yesterday amazing corporate food delivery service

delivered my a half-dozen of these babies at work, free!  Thanks for the free donuts,!

Free Cartems!  Thanks,! is a free service that takes care of everything from staff birthday cakes, to team lunches to casual beers.  Their staff (who hand delivered my donuts yesterday) were oh-so-friendly and full of suggestions of great places to eat...give them a try if you're ordering for your workplace or a large crowd.

The Shop Around the Corner: La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop

It's probably old news that

La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop

has the best tacos in Vancouver.   Its two locations, Cambie & Broadway, and Hastings Street (near Victory Square), are always packed, and I'm always happy to wait for their delicious little tacos.  "Pinche tacos" are Mexican street tacos - smaller than the giant tacos we normally see here in Canada, served on corn tortillas.  La Taqueria uses local, organic and sustainable products where possible, and I have yet to be disappointed by any experience there.

I have a few standbys when it comes to choosing a taco.  I love the De Picadillo - which is ground tofu in a "secret sauce," and the traditional Frijoles Charros con Queso - refried beans with cheese.  I also enjoy the Pollo con Mole, when I'm in a meat-y mood (which is not very often, but sometimes) - that's chicken in chocolate mole sauce.

My tacos: two Pollo con Mole, one De Picadillo, and one Frijoles Charro con Queso.

Unbelievably, Andrew had never been to La Taqueria, so we stopped by last night for a late dinner.  Ignacio, who co-owns the Cambie location, was working at Hastings last night and Andrew asked him to pick the four "best" tacos for him to try - he got a nice selection of various cow parts, which anyone who knows Andrew (this man constantly complains that there aren't enough "meat flavoured drinks" in the world) can tell you was a very good choice on Ignacio's part.

As for me, I got my "usual", as listed above, and Ignacio asked me if I wanted him to make them up "his way" - in terms of the various hot sauces and pickles that La Taqueria has on offer.  I said sure, and it was amazing how the different sauces Ignacio chose changed the flavours so much!  They were delicious - although Ignacio was worried that he had made them too spicy and kept asking me if they were OK and to let him know if they weren't OK and he'd make new ones for me.  He also very helpfully wrote down the name of a friend's hotel in Tulum when I mentioned that my friends and I are off on our now-annual Mexican adventure in August.  The staff is friendly, and so are the customers - whenever I've been at La Taqueria, I've always had a good conversation with someone, either waiting in line, or fighting for space at one of the counters.

Andrew is much happier with his tacos than he looks in this photo.

La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop is open Monday to Saturday, 11:00 - 9:30, at both locations.  Stand in line, it's worth it.

New to the Neighbourhood: Catch 122

It seems like every week, a new place opens up in our little Gastown village.  One of my latest favourites,

Catch 122

, at 122 West Hastings, has been open for a few months now, and is quickly becoming a favourite brunch and lunch spot for the neighbourhood.

I stopped in by myself for a quick lunch at the counter about a week after their opening, and had the pulled pork grilled cheese.  The staff were incredibly friendly and often stopped by for a quick chat on their way to and from their tables.  I also met executive chef Walter Messiah, who stared at me for a minute, and then announced that he recognized me from my very first visit to all-time favourite

Acme Cafe

, which he helped establish a few years ago.  He remembered I was a lawyer.  I knew I had recognized him from somewhere, but was astonished that he recognized me.  Walter's delightful daughter Jade is also on staff at Catch 122 and we became Twitter buddies after my first visit.  

A welcoming environment goes a long way, but you also need to have some great food in over to win over the discerning Gastown locals.  And Catch 122 doesn't disappoint.   The menu isn't going to change the world, but the food is well-prepared with attention to detail.  The pulled pork grilled cheese was amazing, and the coffee (thanks to barista Steven) was delicious.  My friend Cathy and I stopped by the next week for brunch, and we each had "The Hastings" - sunny side up eggs, crispy bacon, melted goat cheese and yukon potato hash.  Being a Woodwards resident, I can't wait to try "The Woodwards" - caramelized red onion and chives omelette with yukon potato hash and swiss cheese toast.  

Walter also stopped by our table at brunch to say hello and offer us yogurt parfaits, which were delicious.  The portions (at both brunch and lunch) are generous without being too much.  The food is what I would call traditional comfort food, with a bit of an upscale twist, which is often thanks to one or two luxury ingredients: poutine is not just poutine, it's


 poutine.  You get the idea.

There are plenty of tables at Catch 122 and families are welcome - there is a special kids' menu.   You can also stop in for coffee and a pastry to go, or to pick up a ready meal.  I'll be interested to see how things go when Catch is open for dinner as well - which I'm told should be very soon.  

Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese with Pommes Frites.

The great bar and coffee space.  

Photo courtesy

Barista Steven makes good coffee, but he thinks it should be better LOOKING.

Catch 122 has plenty of tables, including some round tables for large groups and a long social table in the back.  

Photo courtesy

New Neighbourhood Treats: Cartems Donuterie

Last Saturday I braved the pouring rain at an ungodly hour of the morning to visit our latest Gastown treat-peddler,

Cartems Donuterie

, who have set up a pop-up shop in the Hotel Pennsylvania, at the corner of Hastings and Carrall. The donuts have been selling out as quickly as they can bring them in, so I thought I had better go bright and early to make sure I got the donuts I wanted! Lucky for Cartems (but unlucky for me), they had been

featured in the Globe and Mail

that same day, so they were already low on stock by the time I got there, about 20 minutes after opening.

Some of the donuts on offer at the pop-up shop.

I told proprietor Jordan Cash, who was greeting everyone with a smile, while serving


working the cash desk, that I was interested in sampling all the flavours he had on offer that day (there were 5). I bought a half dozen, to share with my pals Zach and Ryan at the Juice Truck. As he put my box together, Jordan explained that many of their ingredients are sourced locally, and that the donuts are fried in coconut oil, which is a healthier choice (as far as deep fried baked goods go). Since there were 5 flavours and I was buying 6 donuts, I asked which donut flavour I should double up on, and Jordan suggested I take 2 of the Earl Grey, which features Earl Grey tea from Granville Island Tea company and fresh local mallow flowers.

Clockwise from top left: Triple Chocolate Threat, Sweet Snow, The Bee Sting, Earl Grey x 2, The Classic

Over at the Juice Truck, Zach, Ryan and I chopped up the donuts and had a bit of a taste test. We all enjoyed the Sweet Snow, a coconut confection with a white chocolate glaze. The Triple Chocolate Threat, with chocolate ganache and chocolate pearls, was almost too rich for words. The Classic had a really rich white vanilla glaze which was almost crunchy - I had been expecting something more like a traditional honey glazed donut and this was too heavy and icing-laden to really qualify. Ryan wasn't brave enough to try the Bee Sting, a honey donut with parmesan and black pepper. Zach and I thought it tasted like a fancy sandwich. We called it the "Lunch Donut." By far, though, our favourite was the Earl Grey - a really distinctive flavour that will likely put Cartems on the map. We all thought the texture of the donuts was great - not too heavy, a little more cake-y than your average Tim Hortons donut, and hand-rolled.

Cartems' logo combines the 3 elements of Jordan's vision for the brand: donuts, smiles and conversation.

These babies are 3 dollars a pop, and Jordan seemed almost apologetic about that as he explained the donuts to customers. I don't think he


be apologetic - these donuts can't even remotely be seen to be competing with frozen Tim Hortons old-fashioneds, and so they should cost more. We think nothing now of dropping $3 on a fancy cupcake (or macarons, which are the new cupcake), so why not a handrolled, premium-ingredient donut? I think the price point is more than justified by the quality of the product.

Today my friends Duncan and Rebecca came to visit and brought me a Flourless Bouquet from Cartems - their gluten-free donut with a berry tea glaze. Hot damn, was that donut good. Probably my favourite of the whole bunch. The glaze was not too rich, almost yogurt-y, and the texture of the donut was amazing - moist and cakey. We have a winner!

Cartems is located at 408 Carrall Street, and is open daily from 10 - 3 (11 - 3 on Saturday). You can also order


for bicycle delivery. Welcome to the 'hood, Cartems! We hope you'll stay awhile!

Hot Chocolate Festival: Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France

3 days left, 3 locations to go. After Sunday brunching with a friend at the Whip, we headed up the street to La Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France to sample their entry into City Food Magazine's Hot Chocolate Festival. The tiny store was already packed with other festival followers, which is great - in the first few weeks of the festival it seemed like me and my companions were the only ones participating!

As we stood in line to order I snapped a photo of a glass jar containing truffles on my iPhone. A staff member looked at me angrily and said "Non!"

"Oh, you're not in the picture," I explained, thinking she objected to me taking her photo without permission. "I wouldn't take your picture without asking. It's a picture of the store. I'm blogging the Hot Chocolate festival, I'm taking a picture to blog about the store."

"Non," she said again, and pointed to a small sign on a nearby display shelf that had a picture of a camera with a line through it. I was a little dismayed. A man in front of us in line (with a much more professional camera than my little iPhone) turned to me with a rueful smile and said he was also there to blog and had also been similarly shut down. The reason we were not allowed to take photos was not explained to us. Nor were we offered store-approved photos to use on the blog (which I'm always happy to do if a location prefers).

After a long wait, we finally received our hot chocolates, which we had opted to take "to-go" after the frosty reception from the woman at the counter. To be fair, another woman who was very friendly approached us while we were waiting in line and offered us samples of the dark chocolate lavender bar, which was absolutely to die for. This same woman also served our prepared hot chocolates to us with a smile, so we didn't leave feeling totally unwelcome.

We ordered the Hot Chocolate Festival entry of the day, which was Jasmine, and a regular menu offering, the Rose Petal Hot Chocolate. The people in line ahead of us had been informed that they were out of vegan options so I had to go full dairy. Ugh. Both hot chocolates were served with mini chocolate tarts (one with orange blossom was a particular favourite) which were sinfully rich and delicious - you really only needed a mini-size to feel decadent. I'd show you a picture of these delightful little treats, but, well, I'm not allowed.

As we drove home, the car began to smell positively floral - the jasmine scent was almost overpowering. At home we divided the hot chocolate up and we each tried some of the rose and the jasmine. We should have perhaps tried a floral flavour and then something completely different, such a the anise hot chocolate - the rose and the jasmine were very similar in taste, although the rose was more subtle. I had been afraid, given how strongly the jasmine smelled, that it would be too strong a flavour, but it was delicious.

The hot chocolates were good, but not our favourites of the festival so far. I was still a little too perplexed by the "don't take pictures" policy to really concentrate on the hot chocolate. I can understand wanting picture approval, or permission, or a link to the store included in the photo - hell, I'm an intellectual property lawyer, I of all people understand those requests - but I'm also a blogger who has been met by nothing but enthusiastic responses from those businesses I've supported through this blog, Facebook, or Twitter. I'm at a loss to understand how some sort of infringement might happen through a photo posted on a blog, where the origin of the photo is credited and includes a link to the shop - especially when they've agreed to participate in a festival that is being fuelled by social media, a festival that encourages participants to tweet and post photos of their selections to win prizes. I've mulled it over and I've been hard pressed to find a reason why this otherwise charming little shop would make photos of their exquisite products interdit. Perhaps my blog isn't exclusive enough? Oh well, c'est la vie.

Hot Chocolate Festival: Leonidas


recently opened in a great location, on the Waterfront underneath the new Vancouver Convention Centre. After a two week long illness hiatus, I'm back frantically blogging the last few locations on my list of participants for

City Food Magazine

's Hot Chocolate Festival, proceeds of which are supporting the Downtown East Side Women's Centre.

Leonidas was very busy managing both Hot Chocolate Festival foodies like myself, and Groupon holders, but the shopkeepers (this is a family-run business, by the looks of things) kept their cool and enthusiastically described their menu of hot chocolate flavours to every customer who walked in the door. After much hemming and hawing, I chose their dark chocolate raspberry hot chocolate, which was served with a belgian waffle.

This is my favourite hot chocolate of the festival so far. Creamy, flavourful, not too rich, and with just the right amount of raspberry to make it tart and fresh. I sincerely hope Leonidas keep this one on the menu long after the Hot Chocolate Festival is over. Amazing!

Victoria Visits: Nourish Garden Bistro

I spent a few days in Victoria this week, hanging out with my brother Alex. He and my sister-in-law Laura had asked me to come over to help them pick out some decor for their house in the Cook Street village and I was more than happy to oblige - my brother is one of my most favourite people in the world and I'm always happy to have an excuse to spend time with him. Also - shopping with other people's money?! Well, I'm happy to do that too.

I headed over on the ferry early Wednesday morning, and Alex and I immediately started our rounds of shops: Urban Barn, Homesense, Nood - anywhere that carried *stuff* really, including the Maritime Museum in Bastion Square, where we satisfied Al's craving for an antique map of some kind to hang in his office.

We also satisfied my craving for yumminess by visiting

Nourish Garden Bistro

("Local! Wholesome! Yummy!) at the Glendale Gardens. My friend Mike had given me an excellent review of the place, and even though it was a little out of the way, I was eager to try it, as it's vegan and GF friendly.

We were immediately charmed by the decor, set in the grounds of the gardens in a little annex covered with plants and flowers:

"Secret Garden" entrance to Nourish.

Repurposed barbecue.

The menu at Nourish is small, local and seasonal. Alex and I both ordered gluten-free wraps - Al had a chicken sausage wrap, and I had "Summer in a Sari," which features hummus, apples and veggies (the original comes with goat cheese, too, which I omitted). Both came with enormous fresh salads, and the wraps themselves were amazing! GF breads can be hit and miss, but we both agreed we'd be happy to take home the wraps plain for our own cupboards, they were so good.

Part of Nourish's charm comes from its unique locale, set in the middle of Glendale Gardens. It is pastoral and serene - almost


serene for this Gastown girl - I could hear myself chew, it was so quiet!

The view from Nourish's patio dining area.

The view from Nourish into the Glendale Gardens. Even on a cloudy day it's pretty spectacular, non?

For dessert Alex and I took one of Nourish's GF brownies to go, as we needed to continue on our shopping mission. The staff asked us, repeatedly, if we only wanted


brownie, to the point where Al joked, "Ask me that again and we'll take two." We got in the car and took off, breaking the brownie out of its bag as we pulled out of the parking lot. We took one bite and looked at each other, laughed, and chorused, "Oh,


." Let's just say, you don't want to share these brownies. Moist, delicious, amazing. We should've ordered two. Or a dozen.

You can visit Nourish's website


. They're open 10 - 4 Tuesday through Sunday, and definitely worth the trip out to Glendale Gardens.