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By Brittany Tiplady

Perched on the corner of Fraser Highway and 64th avenue–smack dab in the middle Cloverdale’s burgeoning Clayton neighbourhood–sits Hugo’s Mexican Kitchen. It’s a bustling spot, and as growing millennial families make their way back from the city to the ‘burbs, it’s only getting busier.

Hugo’s Mexican Kitchen opened their Cloverdale doors in June of this year and they were welcomed with an overwhelmingly positive community response.

“We’re always busy,” says Hugo’s General Manager Sylvain Muschamp. “And because we are near a [residential neighbourhood] lots of people and families and can walk and enjoy some drinks and really have a great time.”

Pork, beef, and vegan tacos with hibiscus iced tea.
Pork, beef, and vegan tacos with hibiscus iced tea.

Hugo’s may be the new restaurant in town, but the roots of this operation go way back. The Garcia family immigrated from Mexico to Canada in 2002, and after settling down in Chilliwack, it was very obvious that they weren’t in Kansas anymore. Instead of searching for the flavours of home, the Garcia’s brought home to the Fraser Valley, opening up a food trailer in 2011 called El Pueblito, and later graduating to a larger space in a local gas station.

Hugo’s has made quite the impression on Chilliwack locals, and since opening up their first location, the Garcia family (Hugo Garcia, sons Dan and Josh, and the matriarch running day-to-day operations) has expanded across the lower mainland: opening up the Instagram-worthy, sweet-tooth favouring Hugo’s Tacos & Churros at the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet and most recently, Hugo’s Mexican Kitchen in Cloverdale.

The vibe at Hugo’s is trendy but warm. The decor, helmed by owner Josh Garcia, is chic and minimalist and most definitely not kitschy; a smart move for an intimate space. On a nice day, the dining room is sun-drenched, exposing the subtle Mexico City inspired details.

The menu, while still growing, is bursting with options for varying palates and dietary restrictions. After munching on tortilla chips and a trio of house salsas to start, Muschamp recommends the queso fundido ($12.75); a sizzling pot of cheese, grilled onions, tofu chorizo, and a side of tortillas. Moving onto the mains, tacos of course are the star of the show. I opted for the beef barbacoa, pork carnitas, and tofu chorizo (a vegan option!); $6 each or mix and match three tacos for $15. Both the beef barbacoa taco and the pork carnitas tacos (best enjoyed with the house salsa verde!) are fashioned with fresh ingredients and perfectly braised meat. The tofu chorizo, however, is surprise and delight. Topped with cashew cream, pickled onions and fried potatoes, this is guilt-free faux meat dish could fool any carnivore.

“A lot of people are asking for a fish taco,” Muschamp adds. “We hear that, and we are working on getting that on our menu for the spring!”

This tofu "chorizo" taco is completely vegan.
This tofu “chorizo” taco is completely vegan.

If you’re not in the mood for tacos (but like, why wouldn’t you be?) Hugo’s offers a large selection of main items. The Hugo’s bowl, which Muschamp aptly calls a burrito without the tortilla (vegan options also available for this one!); $14.75, and Taco Loco, a massive burrito/chimichanga love-child, are beloved amongst locals.

“The Taco Loco is a big fan favourite. It’s basically a deep fried burrito, and it comes out with lettuce, pico de gallo, crema and queso on top,” adds Muschamp.

The drink menu doesn’t disappoint either. Hugo’s selection of local draught beers and cocktails were certainly calling my name, but I opted for the Jamaica Iced Tea: Muschamp’s own refreshing and delightful concoction of housemade cold brew hibiscus tea and simple syrup.

For dessert, the churro, served with a pot of dulce de leche, is a no-brainer.

“The feel of the restaurant and the room–especially when it’s a busy night– is a really good time. People are enjoying their food and their drinks and their company. This community is growing like crazy, and [the locals] have really embraced us both personally, and on social media.”

Hugo’s Mexican Kitchen
19181 Fraser Hwy, Surrey
Open Tuesday-Sunday, with happy hour everyday from 3-5:30

By Catherine Dunwoody

El Santo, Spanish for “the saint”, was a masked legend of Mexican sports, a famous luchador (wrestler) and it is the two-year-old restaurant founder Alejandro Diaz’s childhood hero.

For Diaz, choosing Vancouver-born Chef Sam Fabbro to helm his New Westminster restaurant’s kitchen made good sense. When it came to creating a menu that focused on the freshest seasonal West Coast ingredients available with a traditional, Mexican slant – Fabbro gets it.

Image courtesy of El Santo

While still in high school, Sam hopped on a work experience opportunity at Cobre in Vancouver’s Gastown, then known for its real-deal Latino cuisine. After landing stints at Raincity in English Bay and Cin Cin; El Santo is where you’ll find him now.

Chilaquiles | Image courtesy of El Santo

Always inspired by Mexican cooking, Fabbro spent time in Jalisco, Mexico to immerse myself in the food and culture, and brought some authentic ideas back to El Santo.

“My dishes are always changing and that is just a characteristic of my cooking. The El Santo huevo is a popular dish,” he says. “We take on the Scotch egg but instead use a lot of Mexican flavours. We wrap our egg in a housemade chorizo and make a batter of masa harina.”

Rajas Con Crema | Image courtesy of El Santo

If that isn’t enough to make you say ‘uno mas por favour’ consider the Pescado Veracruzana. “It combines Spanish influenced Mexican cooking with local BC seafood. It is a dish that incorporates a pan-seared rockfish, chilis, capers, olives and roasted tomatoes, served with our housemade herb-infused rice.”

Image courtesy of El Santo

With a seasonally changing menu using locally sourced ingredients, expect some surprises each time you visit. That, and a great list of tequilas and mezcals, plus a cool room you’ll want to hang out in – muchas gracias Chef Sam and El Santo.

El Santo
680 Columbia St.
New Westminster, BC
elsanto.ca

By Jackie Dives

Commercial Drive is a hot spot for food and shopping. Head north from your ride along the Central Valley Greenway for plenty of food options. 

At Commercial Drive and East 7th you can grab a casual yet stacked burger and beer at Relish. It has a bit of a cafeteria vibe, so if that’s not exactly what you’re looking for try Jam Jar.

Burgers galore for omnivores and vegetarians are on the Relish menu. Pictured is one of the veggie options.
Here’s a beefy burger option at Relish.
Welcome to 77k Freeze.

For a completely new experience head a few stores down to 77k Freeze, where they make custom ice cream to order. This is a gem for people who have particular allergies or eating restrictions, as you choose the ingredients and they freeze the ice cream on the spot using liquid nitrogen.

Freezing ice cream with liquid nitrogen!

Custom ice cream for any taste.

As the Greenway goes through Burnaby it takes more of a backroad detour. Still, there are a few places to stop and grab some treats to-go that are nearby.

Onwards to Burnaby!

In the summer, you may find blackberries along the way.

If chocolate is what keeps your legs pumping, stop at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate factory (open weekdays) down Douglas Road and then hang a right on Still Creek Drive.

If you need a sugar jolt you can grab a handful of Mexican treats and a Jarrito from El Comal on the way down to take a rest at nearby Burnaby Lake.

Interior of El Comal.
Some of the Mexican treats available.

I would also highly recommend grabbing some of their made-fresh-daily soft taco shells and any other Mexican food you can manage to carry back on your bike to make dinner with.

Authentic Mexican ingredients to take home.

They hope to be re-opening their restaurant soon so phone ahead, as you may be able to eat lunch there too!  

Elsa Lourdes Nuñez Gleeson, owner of El Comal.

From East Columbia Street, turn down Holmes Street and onto Tenth Avenue on your way to New Westminster and you’ll find Paradise Vegetarian Noodle House, where Vietnamese food goes vegan.

Spicy lemongrass gluten at Paradise Vegetarian Noodle House.
Back on the bicycle and we pedal back to the Greenway an on to New Westminster next!

This is part of a 3-part series.

Part 1: Vancouver Olympic Village
Part 3: New Westminster’s Central Valley Greenway

By Kristi Alexandra

The River Market is thriving with multicultural cuisines, and really is a bon marché of sorts. From Hainanese poultry to European sweet treats, the River Market is a hot bed of gastronomic discovery, so you can live the life of a travelling gourmand without the pricey plane ticket. Bon appetite… or should we say bon voyage?

Italian

Aa a country built on its reputation for personal pleasure, it’s no secret Italians pride themselves on their indulgences. Those “indulgences” include fine cheeses, cured meats and, of course, gelato. Grab a made-to-order Italian sandwich at the La Grotta Del Formaggio’s deli counter inside Donald’s Market, along with some plum olives, and enjoy it as a picnic at the adjacent Pier Park. A scoop of Tre Galli Gelato’s homemade lemon gelato in a waffle cone will transport your tastebuds to Florence.

rivermarket_tregalli_frominstagram

Thai

Fitting that traditional Thai coastal cuisine should be located right on a body of water. The River Market’s Longtail Kitchen serves up steaming bowls of curried seafood, like the geng gati southern turmeric curry of mussels and the dom ka hot & sour coconut soup of clams. For a taste of Bangkok fusion, try fried fish balls with sweet chili sauce or crispy oysters with nam jim sauce. Dig into these dishes with a dream of tropical Thailand at the Pier Park Beach while you watch tugboats and fishermen traverse the Fraser.

Hot and sour soup | image courtesy of Longtable Kitchen / Instagram
Hot and sour soup | image courtesy of Longtable Kitchen / Instagram

Hainanese

Ditch the supermarket rotisserie chicken in favour of some Asian-inspired fare from Freebird Chicken Shack. Order a quarter or a half chicken, complete with its take-out fixings: rice and pickles or rice and papaya salad. Less in favour of the ethnic flavours of Hanoi? Take a bite of Freebird’s Vietnamese-style chicken bahn mi. Grab your pack and head down to Pier Park’s volleyball courts to share with friends. Boom box blasting Lynryd Skynryd optional.

Chinese Fusion

You can get dim sum anywhere from Vancouver to Surrey, but in traditional Chinese custom, you won’t be able to get it past 2 p.m. Enter Wild Rice, where Asian-inspired small dishes come with local flavours (and no time limit). Chef Todd Albright sources BC-raised pork and coastal spot prawns for his Sui Mai dumplings, and goes for Chinatown-style curried steam buns, stuffed with local root vegetables and sitting in coconut curry. These small plates are best enjoyed on Wild Rice’s own patio along the Quay boulevard.

Image courtesy of Wild Rice / Instagram
Image courtesy of Wild Rice / Instagram

Southern American

Flip open the tailgate and watch the river pass in the quay parking lot – The River Market’s Re-Up BBQ is the closest we’ll get to Memphis. Grab a slow-cooked pulled pork sandwich, complete with in-house coleslaw; tack on a side of pit beans and sip on some clear, homemade cola. Alternatively, Re-Up BBQ offers up bring-home combos of pulled pork or smoked brisket and sells their signature buttermilk biscuits in packs of 12. All the fixings needed for a southern feast up north.

 Pulled pork | image courtesy of Re-Up BBQ / Instagram
Pulled pork | image courtesy of Re-Up BBQ / Instagram

Mexican

Perhaps best known for its fresh-baked breads and irresistibly beautiful sweets, Pamola Bakery doles out a little taste of Mexico to those in the know. Bag up some fresh loaves to take home, but snack on Pamola’s tacos or a three-enchiladas combo. Your bag of sweets and Mexican hot chocolate are best enjoyed under the city’s iconic W sculpture at the very end of the Pier Park boulevard.

Enchiladas | image courtesy of Pamola Bakery / Instagram
Enchiladas | image courtesy of Pamola Bakery / Instagram

River Market
810 Quayside Drive
New Westminster, BC
rivermarket.ca

By Kristi Alexandra

Often hailed by locals as the future “little Brooklyn” to Vancouver’s NYC, Downtown New Westminster has undergone significant revitalization in the past few years. Along with it came a new shopping centre, Shops at New West, located right inside the New Westminster Sky Train Station. The transit hub — populated by shops, restaurants and even a movie theatre — has become its own culinary destination, with a plethora of regional cuisines to choose from.

We took a trip to the Shops at New West to bring you five food pairings on offer for under $15.

Four Tacos & Café Mexicano at Originals Restaurante Mexicano

(Pictured above.) For $11.50, Original’s Restaurante Mexicano offers up four traditional-style tacos. You can mix and match your flavours from nine options, including pastor (pineapple marinated pork), Baja Fish (chipotle-crusted tilapia with cilantro and avocado), barbacoa (lamb) and lengua (beef tongue). We washed it down with an authentic Café Mexicano (think Americano brewed with beans from Tapachula Chiapas) for $2.75.

Night Market Poutine & Beer at the Spud Shack

Try a funky place to eat Canada’s national culinary creation. Spud Shack serves up 10 unique styles of poutine, most notably its locally-inspired the “night market”: a veritable tower of kimchi, ginger beef, green onions, and spicy mayo all atop a bed of fries, cheese, and gravy. A small size runs you $8.75. Pair it with a $5 craft beer for the ultimate nationalistic guilty pleasure.

Spud Shack night market poutine
Spud Shack night market poutine

Happy Hour Appies & Wine at the Hub

There’s a whole lot you can get at The Hub (what an apt name) for less than $15 if you time it right. The spot’s happy hour runs daily from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and from Sundays to Thursdays from 10 p.m. to closing. Mix and match appies such as the wok squid ($6), chicken karaage ($6), or Italian meatballs ($6), while sipping on $5 house wine or $4 craft beer. A straight-from-the-oven pazookie ($8.75) — the signature Hub dessert — is a fabulous shared treat if you’re looking for a fresh-baked sweet.

Happy hour appies at The Hub
Happy hour appies at The Hub

Waffles & Bubble Tea at BobaCabana

If happiness had a taste, you would find it on the menu at BobaCabana. Locally famous for its Belgian waffles, which range from the Parisien ($6.95) with savoury brie and green apple to the sweet Banana Nut-ella, and bubble tea, this sweet shack has seemingly unlimited heavenly pairings. We tried a strawberry slush with pearls ($3.75) and a liege waffle ($2 each).

Waffles and bubble tea at BoboCabana
Waffles and bubble tea at BoboCabana

Won Ton Soup with Noodles & Canned Juice at North Noodle House

Where dim sum joints and places to get won ton soup are a dime a dozen in Greater Vancouver, a rarity is an authentic northern Chinese noodle house. At North Noodle House, all noodles are made in-house and by hand. A six-piece won ton soup with noodles ($8.95), complete with baby shrimp and vegetables, tastes even better knowing each ingredient is hand-sourced. Complement your northern noodle bowl with a can of Chinese peach juice ($2.50).

Hand-making noodles at North Noodle House
Hand-making noodles at North Noodle House