Friday, February 18, 2011

Bellingham's Notorious Waterfront Tavern

If you are anything like me, you enjoy ending your day with a $1.50 glass of Bud Light, a crazy pull-tab sesh, and a round or two of Big Buck Hunter Pro. All of this can be yours by patronizing Bellingham's glorious Waterfront Tavern at 521 West Holly Street. Located just outside of downtown, on a dark road near the water, beside the city's crisis homeless shelter, where many of your fears and nightmares reside, the Waterfront Tavern has been a popular spot for decades because of the cheap drinks and seedy hospitality. Having served such prominent social figures as Ted Bundy and the Hillside Strangler, the Waterfront possesses a disturbing je ne sais quoi that attracts locals and visitors alike.

I actually do enjoy beginning or ending the night at the Waterfront because it is a no-nonsense watering hole that serves its drinks just-chilled and its grub greasy. Do not, however, spend an extended period of time here or you will likely end up depressed, or maybe dead. Seriously though...I do try to drink at the Waterfront every time I visit Bellingham. As a Vancouverite, I appreciate any establishment that allows - nay, encourages - its customers to drink without ordering food. There are bylaws in British Columbia that tie alcohol sales to food orders, thus restricting the amount of alcohol businesses can serve. Canada lacks taverns, and I find the expectations of food orders very annoying in this country. 

If you are wanting to order food at the Waterfront, or if someone (literally) holds a gun to your head and makes you select an item off the menu to consume, just avoid all seafood. While this is likely a no-brainer for most, one really shouldn't taunt the Salmonella gods by taking a flier on the fried oysters. You are pretty safe with the burgers and fries, but why would you ever subject yourself to this mediocrity when considering the plethora of solid restaurants in the city? It is worth noting that the Waterfront is close to Chuckanut Brewery, which serves decent pub food and is also the city's best microbrewery. I love the 'Welcome Bikers' banner in the photo. Classic. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Best Cinnamon Buns in Vancouver - God Said So

I am going to make a bold claim: cinnamon buns are the best pastry to consume with coffee. Yes, I believe that they are better than doughnuts (because of their absorbency resistance), cookies (due their structural elegance and complexity) and cherry pie (despite what Dale Cooper thinks). The sweetness of cinnamon buns counteracts the bitterness of coffee, and the earthy characteristics of the cinnamon reflect the fuscous flavour of the beans that must be roasted and ground to create a cup of joe. I have waffled on this issue for many years, but having completed hundreds of tests - utilizing baked goods from around the world - I can scientifically state that God wanted humans to eat cinnamon buns with their daily grind.

Fortunately, I have some excellent cinnamon bun providers in my vicinity. The interesting thing about this fact is that all of these providers offer unique and distinctive products:


A Jewish bakery with locations in Kits, Cambie Village, and Main Street, Solly's offers more bagels, knish, and rugoleh than you can shake a shtekn at. I really dislike the management and service at all three locations, but I keep going back because I love guessed it...cinnamon buns. With their concentrical construction and caramelized tops, these tight buns are packed with cinnamon. Their lack of icing and their thin layers also trick you into thinking that they are *slightly* better for you than a Cinnabon, but I doubt it. 

Grounds for Coffee

I have been going here for years because a) I am a professional student and b) this cafe is right beside the 99 B-Line stop where I catch the bus up to UBC. They have been making moist (ya ya...we all hate this word, but it is really appropriate here), sloppy cinnamon buns for more than a decade, but they actually expanded their business about five years ago in order to ramp up production. They now deliver their archetypal, icing-laden, puffy delights all over town. They are good, don't get me wrong, but they lack defining features.


I hate Calhoun's. It's always packed with loitering UBC students, the food is average, and the uber high ceilings obliterate any hope of having a meaningful conversation or comfortable coffee break. Having said this, they regularly serve these dense, quick-bread-esque cinnamon buns that remind me of highschool Home Ec (because this is the one recipe that I remember actually working out for me). Similar to a scone in consistency, this type of cinnamon bun can be surprisingly satisfying when cut in half and embellished with butter.

Urban Fare

Although they are not available all of the time, Urban Fare's raspberry and blackberry cinnamon buns are refreshingly fruity. I am pretty conservative when it comes to the pastry standards - such as croissants, cinnamon buns, and scones - but I was pleasantly surprised by the addition of these juicy drupelets. The dough is often light as well, and they never go crazy with the icing.