To be honest, I wasn't really familiar with chowmenow. Did it have anything to do with food or was it a questionable website? Well, with an invite to attend their Feast for $5 on West 4th sitting in my mailbox, I took the plunge to finally check it out. Interesting concept really if you think of it - looking for the best eats for $5 in Vancouver. Somewhat challenging, yet doable in their books as evidenced by their extensive list of West 4th establishments each offering up $5 items.
With that, we set out to sample 4 of them and their wares on a food tour of West 4th. We began our journey at Gypsy Rose for some crepes. With an awning that seemingly suggests years gone by, the place was quaint and bustling with activity from the brunch crowd. We ended up sitting outside where we were served a few samples of 3 different crepes including Cinnamon Sugar, Nutella (not pictured) and Ham & Cheese. I found the crepes to be sufficiently thin and light with a slight resistance. Not particularly sweet, the cinnamon sugar was good while the Nutella tasted well, like Nutella. The ham & cheese was more substantial with plenty of cheese.
Next up was Tractor Foods where we were treated to a refreshing Lemonade to go with our 6 salads. Starting from top left and clockwise, there was the Arugula with grilled pears, candied walnuts, blue cheese and lemon champagne vinaigrette; Roasted Red and Yellow Beets with green beans, pistachios, goat’s milk feta and walnut vinaigrette; Grilled Asparagus with broccoli, butternut squash, pecans, ricotta cheese and champagne vinaigrette and Kale with granny smith apples, julienned radicchio and white balsamic vinaigrette. My favourite of these 4 was the kale salad. There was a fresh crunch (while not chewy) from the kale where there was the right amount of acidity from the vinaigrette. Although the beet salad is supposed to be one of their more popular salads, I much preferred the kale. To me, the beet salad was like most other beet salads.
The next 2 salads were the Organic Quinoa with portobello mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, golden raisins, goat cheese, parsley, cilantro and white balsamic honey dressing; and the Organic Red Quinoa with arugula, dried apricots, pistachios and citrus vinaigrette. In addition to the salads, we received 2 sample plates of sandwiches including Ham with European ham, emmental cheese, kale slaw, house made mustard on herb focaccia bread; Veggie with kale, roasted crescendo peppers, grilled zucchini, tomatoes, asiago cheese and pesto aioli; and Chicken with Rossdown Farms free run organic chicken breast, tomato, fennel, basil, provolone on cranberry bread. I thought the sammies were solid with plenty of fresh ingredients. Lastly, we had the Double Chocolate and pistachio gluten-free cookies. Other than being a bit more crunchy, I wouldn't have known these were gluten-free.
Heading over to the Noodle Box, we were served only one dish being the Spring Rolls. Either this was the only $5.00 item on the menu or they knew we had a lot of food at Tractor already... Anyways, these were crunchy and hot with a loose, yet moist meat filling. Loved the dip as it was spicy and easy on the sugar. Onto our last stop, we headed upstairs to Pepitas where we were started off with some tortilla chips and salsa. The chips were light and crispy while the salsa was fresh with only a mild spice. That served as a precursor to the larger Nachos with chicken, black beans and melted Jack cheese accompanied by guacamole, fresh cut salsa and sour cream. Despite the large amount of toppings, the chips underneath retained their crunch. I liked how there was plenty of melted cheese that did not produce a substantial amount of grease.
Now the nachos were a bonus of sorts because it was more than $5.00. The same could be said about the Gambas al Ajillo (Prawns in sizzling garlic butter and served with bread) as it was $9.95. They were good though with a nice meaty snap accented by a flavourful garlic butter. Our last item was indeed under $5.00 being the
Papas Bravas (Fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce). These reminded me of the ones at La Bodega (which is more Spanish Tapas). They were fork tender while exhibiting a slight chewy exterior from the frying and subsequent toss in the mildly spicy tomato sauce. In the end, I was not really sure the food tour was exactly representational of chowmenow and their $5.00 items, but it did give a taste. Now, given the monetary restriction of $5.00, not everything can be a main dish nor that large. However, it is nice to see there are cheaper options out there in a city full of expensive eats.
*All food and beverages were comped*