Toren's Resto Rants: El Santo

“A Rip off” – Mom

El Santo (Mexican Restaurant)

Their blurb:  Contemporary. Social. Fresh. A restaurant experience that’s uniquely New West. This is a place for you to unwind. … And most importantly, to leave satisfied and happy.


Address: 680 Columbia Street, New Westminster, BC
Open 11:30am – 10pm
Booths? Yes.
When I dined: 6:30pm on a Thursday
Noisy? Very
Candies with your bill? Tiny spicy marshmallows
Lives up to it’s name? El Santo translates to “The Saint.” So…no.

My dear old Ma floated in to town on a cruise with a bunch of old folks. Her submarine parked in New Westminster and she asked me to come out for dinner. I skytrained out and met her at her hotel, which has a Boathouse Restaurant attached. The Boathouse got crap reviews so I polled my facebook feed to see what other dining venue we might explore. The top two suggestions were Re-Up BBQ and El Santo. I was warned Re-Up was not a sit-down restaurant so Mom opted for El Santo.

Entering the restaurant, it looked nice. They had big green booths where I wanted to sit. They did not sit us there. They had smaller tables isolated from other patrons where I wanted to sit. They did not sit us there. They sat us next to a couple who were ignoring their churros.

The menus were a bit of a chore to get through, especially if you don’t know Spanish – with the additional confusion of having a bunch of French words mixed in. The menus come on a clipboard with three sheets. To get to page 2 and 3 of the menu I had to unclip them all and suddenly I now have to clean up the table. More tragically for me, as I don’t really drink, those pages were all booze. Oh, I should probably say that part of the recommendation from my friends were the drinks. So maybe those would have been great…if I had come to New West to get drunk with my mom.

There was a starters section on the menu AND a ‘shared plates’ section AND a “to share…or not to share” section. Without looking too closely Mom assumed the $26 pollo a la granada (chicken & corn bread) plate would be ok for two people, not a terrible unreasonable assumption since the word “share” was used on the menu, and it was more than 15 bucks. I suggested ordering something else and Mom said we can order more later if we’re still hungry. When the entree showed up it clearly was not suitable for two people. The food was all prepared well and tasty. But while we were waiting the 20+ minutes for our dish a trio of musicians set up and started playing. We couldn’t hear each other. If ordering more food meant waiting another 20 minutes without being able to carry on a conversation, we couldn’t wait to get out.

BUT I had already ordered dessert, which came promptly. The chocolate empanadas were outstanding. $8 but worth it. Also could have been a bit bigger but maybe that was because the entree was so meager. Tough luck for you if you want to try this dish, as I was warned they’d be off the menu by the time you read this.

The single person bathrooms were fine and welcomed as always, except I couldn’t tell if the door was locked when I was in there, as there did not seem to be any visible mechanism. Luckily since I was only there to wash my hands after touching every clammy metal bar on the skytrain, there was no chance of Jonny Rando busting in on me with my knickers down. The downside of the single person bathroom is that after you have to put your freshly washed hand onto the doorknob to escape. Did you know that according to some probably flawed data I found on the Daily Mail site, 62% of men don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom? I couldn’t even use a paper towel as a makeshift glove to open the door, since the method of hand drying there is the space-age air-blowing dealio.

The service was very pleasant and efficient. Water flowed freely. The food while expensive was good, but this dining experience just didn’t work for us. As we walked back to my Mom’s hotel we passed Re-Up BBQ, which was just about to close up. We could have had some $10 beef brisket and enjoyed the ample seating and quietness. Next time.

Biggest Rave: Besides the dessert… the paper napkins were stellar. Firm, sturdy, and pleasant to the touch. We got three and Mom pocketed two of them. True story.

Biggest Rant: I don’t mean to single out El Santo for this, but why when there are five tables in a row does the hostperson have to sit me next to the one table that is already occupied by a couple? I don’t want to hear their conversations, and I’m damn hell ass sure they don’t want to hear mine. Put me at least one table away so I don’t have to suffer from conversational overflow. Also…restaurants with live music – cut it out.

Toren's Resto Rants: Sal y Limon

A sauce for each life of your gato

Sal Y Limon

Their blurb: Sal y Limon is a gathering place for sharing food and ideas in an organic way that is significant. Yes, it’s casual dining but we feel the experience should be fun and inspiring..


Address: 701 Kingsway Street #5, Vancouver, BC
Open 11:30am – 9pm
Booths? Half-booth along some walls.
When I dined: 3pm on a Tuesday
Noisy? Not really
Candies with your bill? No
Lives up to it’s name? There was salt on the table. I didn’t see any limes. Where are they?

Mexican food! This is the kind of place where you order at the counter and they give you a number on a tiny flagpole, then you find a table for yourself. In fact most of the restaurant is self serve with sauces, cutlery, water, etc. They have a Taco Wars best taco award on the front counter.

I ordered four tacos – beef tongue, slow roast chicken, slow roast lamb and pulled pork. Cheese on your tacos is extra (to the tune of 25-40 cents) and I decided to opt out. Next time I’ll add the cheese. How long should it take to prepare 4 tacos? It wasn’t busy when I visited but it still took 15 minutes. That seems like 5 minutes too long.

Horchata is available and it comes in different varieties, including rum-chata! I had the coconut horchata and it was very nice, if a bit small.

The size of the restaurant is decent. The tables are small…and too close together in places. The ambience was fine. The music was mostly but not exclusively Mexican and it was at a reasonable volume. For some reason they had baseball on the TV above the counter. The decor is a lot of Day of the Dead paintings and wooden folk art. There is a children play area/stage but luckily there were no kids while I was eating, since the table I chose was directly adjacent.

Most of my tacos were delicious, but I would skip the beef tongue. I will definitely go back and try some more selections from the menu. And this time I’ll find those pesky limes!

toastBiggest Rave: I got 10 cents off because the clerk didn’t have change. Woohoo! At first I didn’t see the selection of sauces at the back. It’s not a bad place for them (clears up the front area) but I wish someone had pointed them out to me, as I had to search. There were nine sauces and all the ones I tried were delicious.

Biggest Rant: The lineup to order is super awkward. As soon as you enter the restaurant there’s a little cubby hole to the right where they’ve cordoned off a line, but as soon as you get through the door you’re already blocking the line. The first time I came in, I saw the queue and got in it, and I was the only one. Before I was even acknowledged by the staff, a pack of four crowded in right behind me and I immediately felt like I was at an Iggy Pop concert (note: I’ve never been to an Iggy Pop concert). I browsed the menu but it wasn’t an enjoyable feeling and I fled the scene, coming in a couple weeks later to try again.

Resto-Rants: Seasons In The Park

If you didn’t enter this restaurant with a reservation, you’ll have plenty of them by the time your meal is served.

Seasons In the Park

Their blurb: none, thankfully.


Address: West 33rd Avenue and Cambie Street, Vancouver, BC
Open 11:30am – 10pm
Booths? No
When I dined: Victoria Day (Monday) at 2pm
Noisy? No
Candies with your bill? No
Lives up to it’s name? Seasons? The service made me think of a long cold winter, and the food had all the freshness of autumn. Spring and summer were not present.

I came here with a friend and her family, four adult diners. When we arrived on time for our reservation the hostess was expecting 3 adults and a child, but that got sorted without difficulty and we were seated by the window overlooking the park and with a view of the city. This is the selling point of the restaurant I suppose, and luckily the staff can’t fuck that up short of pulling some blinds down.

It wasn’t very busy when we arrived and it became less so as we waited. It was some time before our server showed up and while he was very pleasant, his presence was frequently missed. Throughout the visit I pined over my oft-empty glass of formerly water.

We ordered the vegetarian tasting board, which was the only item to arrive promptly. Everything on the board was listed on the menu but it was mostly very sad. The grilled asparagus, as lifeless as it was, was still probably the highlight of the dish. A tiny bowl of mixed nuts and tiny salty pickles made me shake my head. There were only three small pieces of bread that came with. If it weren’t for the complimentary bread that came some minutes afterward, we would have had to dig in to the mediocre camponata and hummus and eat it off our cutlery or filthy fingers. That complimentary bread, by the way, was good and warm, but the butter that came with was cold and hard, prompting me to tear open the bread and bury a chunk of butter inside the bread in a vain hope that the butter would at some point become spreadable.

The QE Burger, according to my friend, was ok – not great. I tried one of his fries and they were nothing to write home about. The brunch pizza with roast potatoes, egg, bacon and onions sounded and looked promising, but a bland, floppy crust neutered it. Only the zesty dill cream cheese offered any redemption there. Apparently the seafood linguine carbonara was the winning dish of the meal, but since I don’t eat seafood I didn’t touch it. My loss.

My own food consisted of two items.

Firstly, cauliflower gratin, which was reasonably priced for brunch but was seriously underwhelming. I left half of it uneaten.

The lowlight of the meal was, for me, easily the stir-fried chicken with soy sesame sauce. Friends, I am here to tell you, this dish was an insult to my mouth, my pocketbook and probably all Asians everywhere. You know that hole-in-the-wall Chinese fast-food joint Buddha’s Orient Express at the Commercial/Broadway skytrain station? The place that is basically mall food fair Chinese “cuisine” but not as good as most mall food fair fare? Season’s was a quarter step above that. Now I don’t consider myself a food snob – maybe you like Buddha’s Orient Express and if you do, more power too you. But I ate there once. ONCE. And Season in the Park’s stir-fried chicken with soy sesame sauce is some low budget sloppy-ass prison food.


Biggest Rave: Now that I have experienced the view and the lackluster food here I can look forward to a bright future of never having to come here again.

Biggest Rant: The menu here is more expensive than I’m used to, so I hoped that the food and service would match the cost. My hopes were drawn and quartered. Before I got my food, I held great resentment for the couple next to us who arrived well after we did and were served their food well before us. After I got my food, I held great resentment to everyone else.

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Resto Rants: Red Wagon

They say the signature dish is the pulled pork pancakes with Jack Daniels syrup, so naturally I ordered something else.

Red Wagon

Their blurb: “A neighborhood joint”


Address: 2296 E Hastings St, Vancouver, BC
Phone: (604) 568-4565
HOURS: All over the place. Look it up.
Booths? Tragically no, since this would be the perfect place for them.
When I dined: Saturday afternoon
Noisy? Yes.
Candies with your bill? No
Lives up to it’s name? I didn’t look very hard but I didn’t see any wagons, red or otherwise.

There were no tables available when my group of three arrived so we elected to take a seat at the bar vs waiting for a table. I’m not a fan of sitting at the bar but it’s definitely the lesser of two evils since waiting for food is never preferable. Once there, the stools were fairly comfortable but there was no room for my bag and I sat next to a pile of menus. Fair deal, I suppose.

I had the 3-egg omelette with mushrooms, smoked brie, caramelized onions and arugula. The omelette was fine, the sourdough toast was good (hard to screw up), and there were lackluster homefries (all one word on the menu).

Overall, not impressed but I would absolutely give it a second chance. They seem like they’re trying hard. The website says Red Wagon Restaurant but the URL is – what’s the deal Red Wagon? WHAT ARE YOU???!!?

Biggest Rave: I liked that when I asked for peanut butter they didn’t give me a tiny disposable plastic tub but rather a steel bowl with a scoop of PB from a giant jar. The other best thing about this restaurant is that there’s a bubble tea cafe on the same block that makes an excellent matcha slush. This bubble tea place also offers passport photos.

Biggest Rant: The ‘homefries’  did not taste good. I’m not sure what it was, but I recognize the flavor of not-good potatoes. It’s very distinct. I don’t know what causes it but I suspect freezer burn. I had to pour a fair amount of ketchup on them to disguise it. Sadness prevailed, since potatoes are usually the best part of a breakfast.

This photo comes from Yelp. Yelp allegedly has atrocious business practices so I allegedly feel okay about stealing the image.
This photo comes from Yelp. Yelp allegedly has atrocious business practices so I allegedly feel okay about stealing the image.

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Resto Rants: Old Spaghetti Factory

A place where white people go.

Old Spaghetti Factory

Their blurb: “Fresh Food, Refreshing Prices”


Address: 53 Water St, Vancouver
Phone: (604) 684-1288
HOURS 11am-10pm, except on weekends.
Booths? Yes
When I dined: Weekday lunch
Noisy? Only when it’s busy.
Candies with your bill? No
Lives up to it’s name? There was spaghetti and it did taste like it came from a factory but I hope it wasn’t old.

I’ve been here many times, mostly in the distant past killing time between sound check and hitting the stage with my Lovecraft band. More recently I’ve come for lunch. Previously I was seated in the old timey train caboose that they have, which is kind of fun but whenever the server boards the car everything jiggles a bit. The host never asks whether or not I want to sit in a booth, which is unfortunate, because I always want a booth, and on my most recent visit she sat me in a dark corner next to the the server station.

I asked the server what was the tastiest thing on the menu. She told me the ribs (NOT the spaghetti!). I could have gotten fries or spaghetti as my side and I normally prefer fries but since it was the Old SPAGHETTI Factory I thought I should try them out for this review. It came very quickly. The salad here is nothing special, even the blue cheese dressing couldn’t make it exciting. The spaghetti, which as I said I’m never a huge fan of, was fine, nothing special. it needs cheese and there wasn’t any at my table. They should do that thing where they bring a block of parmesan and grate it right at your table like other restaurants do.

The servers here are generally attentive and courteous.

Biggest Rave: You get a fair amount for your money. Most meals come with free bread with 2 kinds of butter, coffee/tea, and best of all, a bowl of ice cream – I always choose spumoni because it is clearly superior to the other option vanilla.

Biggest Rant: They played the worst song in the world “Big Yellow Taxi (Pave Paradise, Put Up A Parking Lot).” Apart from that the music was straight up pop and about 20% too loud.

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Resto Rants: Incendio Pizzeria

I went to a pizzeria and ordered anything but pizza.

Incendio Pizzeria

Their blurb: “Specializing in brick oven-fired thin-crust pizzas and pastas, Incendio is Gastown’s original pizzeria, having served the neighbourhood since 1996″


Address: 103 Columbia St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2R4

Phone: (604) 688-8694
11:30AM–3PM, 5–10PM weekdays except Friday till 11pm, Not open during the day on Saturday, other weird hours on Sunday.
Booths? No
When I dined: Weekday lunch
Noisy? Kind of, from people.
Candies with your bill? No
Lives up to it’s name? I suppose

First off the main doors aren’t the main doors, the side door is the main door. Luckily I came with a friend the first time otherwise I may never have made it into the restaurant. The restaurant is a decent size (I’m so over tiny cramped restaurants in this town) but the tables are still a little too close together in some areas.

I have been to the restaurant twice, both times they seated me in a corner, which is fine and actually usually preferred, however it was very cold in the restaurant. The service has been fine both times I’ve been to Incendio.

The wait for the food was not excessive. The food was ok. I had a caprese salad the first time I went and it was decent. The second time I had the lasagna (they don’t specify whether it’s meat or vegetarian on the menu – it’s beef) and it was disappointing. It wasn’t terrible but for $17 I expected much better. Or if not better tasting, than probably 25% more volume. My companion asked what vegetables were in a pasta dish she wanted to order and the server gave her a list that did not include onions. The dish came with onions which she can’t digest so that was another disappointment, also she said the onions seemed past their prime.

In short, there’s nothing in this restaurant that will have me coming back when there are so many other restaurants in the area, like Sitar or even Old Spaghetti Factory, which while not a purveyor of the highest quality pasta at least you get a bunch of other stuff including ice cream for the money you pay.

Biggest Rave: The bread with olive oil & balsamic vinegar was tasty.

Biggest Rant: Why is it so cold in your restaurant? With a name like Incendio, i shouldn’t need to keep my jacket on.

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Toren's Resto Rants 12: Mein Mao

At least they’re open late?

Mein Mao

Their blurb: “Discover authentic Chinese cuisine in the heart of Vancouver!”


Open 11am to midnight, later on weekends
Booths? No
When I dined: 8pm on a Sunday
Noisy? Very
Candies with your bill? no
Lives up to it’s name? Mein apparently means ‘noodles.’ Mao was leader of the Chinese Communist revolution and president of the People’s Republic of China (1949-1959). I saw noodles but I did not see Mao.

MY REVIEW: This new restaurant popped up so my friend and I went to check it out. A very small restaurant with small tables set close together. Large TVs everywhere playing hockey and some triathlon that was distracting and out of place.

Not much on the menu appealed to me so I ordered the chicken skewers. It seemed expensive but when it came it was 8 skewers, which is too much for an appetizer. I would have preferred three or four. The chicken was fatty and oily and not terribly pleasant and the sauces were also lackluster. One of the sauces was a dark grey/green color and a bit too spicy for me and the other one resembled the black goo from X-Files and made me want to barf. Luckily our meal came with three tiny spring rolls that came with other sauces I could dip my chicken in to try to squeeze some enjoyment out of my food. One of the sauces was a nice chili sauce and the other was …Worcestershire sauce. Apparently the server claimed that the Worcestershire sauce was soy sauce. It was not soy sauce. I have had both.

I tasted my dining partner’s noodle soup and it was bland.

The service was attentive and very pleasant and when they came by to ask if everything was alright I didn’t have the heart to tell them their food needs a lot of work. For that, I feel shame. The good news is that Ninja Bubble Tea was just a block away so I wiped away that shame with a different kind of shame of having too much sugar.

Biggest Rave: Great logo!

Biggest Rant: The music was pretentious modern jazz with swirling piano and saxophone that made me feel like I was falling up/down an M. C. Escher staircase. It was distractingly loud, and I have hearing damage so I know of which I speak.


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Toren's Resto Rants 11: Siddhartha's Indian Kitchen

A white guy who can’t handle spice finds even this Indian fare to be on the bland side

Siddhartha’s Indian Kitchen

Their blurb: “Give a Flavours to Your Taste Buds” (their words, not mine)

This photo comes from and is used without permission


Address: 2066 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC V5N 4A9
Phone: (604) 215-7556
Open 11:30am-10:30pm every day
Booths? No
When I dined: 3pm on a Tuesday
Noisy? No
Candies with your bill? I didn’t get my bill so no.
Lives up to it’s name? Siddhartha is the birth name of the founder of Buddhism. I did not see him when I went in. If he was there, perhaps he had shape-changed into the server.

I wanted a place with good-size tables to work on some drawings and I saw that Siddhartha’s was completely empty. I have actually had food here twice before, both times it was takeout, and both times it was disappointing. The first time they actually gave me someone else’s order which I found out when I got home and opened the bag. I walked the food back to the restaurant (luckily it’s less than 2 blocks from my home) and when I got my replacement food I found that they had still got the order wrong.

This time, however, I ate in. I was served right away, which was not surprising since I was the lone customer. They had lunch specials but it took some finagling to get an order of butter chicken with naan substituted for rice. I ordered pakoras and they were delicious. The chai was fine and I think it came with the meal. The butter chicken was only satisfactory, fairly bland, but the naan was outstanding, perfectly crispy, not too doughy, with a thin layer of oil.

The place looks a bit upscale on the inside but who really cares? Despite the lack of clientele I could have used a bit more attention from the staff. I was only offered water at the tail end of my meal, and I had to get up to find out about the bill. This is not a deal-breaker but did not impress.

The price for what I ordered was surprisingly low. Maybe it’s a lunch special deal. Or maybe they made a mistake. Lucky me!

Biggest Rave: I was not distracted by the presence of customers

Biggest Rant: The music was annoying whispering nonsense semi-new age wankery. Even if they had played pleasant music, it would still have been 20% too loud.

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Toren's Resto Rants 10: Volcano Sushi

Yes! It’s not just a phase! Or if it is a phase, here’s an extension to the phase!”

Volcano Sushi (Commercial Drive)

Their blurb: “Volcano Sushi is a cornerstone in the Vancouver community and has been recognized for its outstanding Japanese & Asian cuisine, Sushi, and excellent service and friendly staff”


Address: 1861 Commercial Dr
Phone: 604-676-8809
Open 11:30am-10pm weekdays, 12-10pm weekends
Booths? Yes!
When I dined: Weekday evening and weekend
Noisy? No
Candies with your bill? No

I live close to here so I’ve been a few times, including takeout. I really should stop doing takeout. There’s so much waste, especially with sushi restaurants — plastic, styrofoam, chopsticks, packets of sauce. Oi! Okay, BUT…with regards to takeout they do offer online ordering. So at least all that waste is convenient to make. On the other hand they do NOT give you disposable chopsticks in the restaurant, so that’s a plus for good old planet Earth.

So this restaurant is fairly small. Service is hit and miss. One time my water was refilled promptly, another time I had no refill throughout the entire meal. Their food is decent, not great. Of all the times I’ve been there, there haven’t really been any standout dishes. That said, the dishes seem reasonably priced, portion size seems good, and the lady I usually go here with knows more about sushi and she keeps coming back, so it can’t be too bad. They seem like nice folks and they have never been rude.

Oh, also – they have a giant neon sign and it spreads red light all over the tables at the front of the dining area. If you like the feeling of being in an adult theater while you eat, choose these tables.

Biggest Rave: They’re open every day of the week until 10pm.

Biggest Rant: Banana tempura ice cream was on the menu. I ordered it. They said it was not available. But I wanted it. But I couldn’t have it.


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Resto Rants Volume 9: Miura Waffle Milk Bar

Sando me? Sando YOU!

Miura Waffle Milk Bar

Miura interior
Miura interior

Their blurb: We offer fresh, made-to-order savory and sweet waffle sandos with flavoured yoggy milks and milkshakes for drinks. If you are an adventurous foodie just like us, you will enjoy our signature savoury waffle sandos like Hoisin Sausage”, or “Wasabi Salmon”. We use fresh ingredients for all items in the menu and make almost everything in the house. ”


miura cutlery Address:  2521 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T 3E5
Phone: (604) 687-2909
10am to 10pm every day except closed at 9pm on Sunday.
Booths? Single long bench seat along one wall.
When I dined: weekday lunch
Noisy? No. They played a top 40 radio station but not too loudly.
Lives up to its name? Yes you will be barred from milking the waffles.
Candies with your bill? No.

I enjoy sweet waffles. I enjoy chicken regularly. The idea of savory waffle doesn’t appeal to me, and I feel the same way about chicken & waffles as I do about chicken on pizza – it’s weird and not for me. That said, I am always open to trying new things and this venue is definitely one of a kind in Vancouver.

So in this place they make sandwiches where the bread is a waffle. They call them “sandos.” Weird, right? I have been in this establishment three times as of this writing and tried something new each time. I’ve had the bananarama, the BLT and most recently the hoisin. Of the three I actually liked the hoisin best – it was like a Vietnamese sub with a waffle. I think they forgot to put the pork sausage on my sando but I actually didn’t care – it was quite good the way it came.

They also have milkshakes and yogurt drinks, with the option of adding booze! Recently (to my knowledge) they added the option of adding pearls and coconut jelly to the drinks. As a bubble tea connoisseur I was very excited about this. I kind of love this place and will be coming back to try more stuff off the menu.

Service was friendly enough and fairly prompt.

Ok so there's a two syllable word 'sandwich' which had two more syllables added in Japanese, and you shortened it back into a different two syllable word. Good for you!
Ok so there’s a two syllable word ‘sandwich’ which had two more syllables added in Japanese, and you shortened it back into a different two syllable word. Good for you!

Biggest Rave: The chocolate wasabi milkshake is amazing. Make it a bubble tea and you’ve stolen my heart forever!

Biggest Rant: Sign says “NO PUBLIC WASHROOM” but there is a washroom, and I used it. It was awkward to get into and when I turned on the light it strobed so intensely I actually had to close my eyes while I peed. It was like a very tiny rave without the other good stuff.


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