If nothing else, being sick affords an incapacitated food blogger the opportunity to reflect on past meals and experiences. As I flip through my notes for articles still to be written, by mouse cursor stops on the folder for George's Taverna. Should I? I don't have any photos for it. Forgetting to make sure my camera battery was charged was one of my early mistakes as a beginning food blogger. Still, something about the experience has remained in my memory, begging to be shared.
When Cat and I were last in British Columbia, we visited the historic Steveston Fishing Village. At the turn of the century, Steveston was a major fishing and fish processing center populated primarily by Greek, Italian, and Japanese immigrants. The village thrived until World War II when, partly due to the internment of its large Japanese-Canadian population, Steveston entered a period of decline. Modern Steveston is part quaint fishing village and part tourist trap. Thankfully, Steveston continues to be far better at being a charming than it is at ensnaring befuddled vacationers.
(Part of the Steveston Docks and the Fraser River beyond them.)
Less than fifteen minutes south of the Vancouver, Steveston was a favorite summer retreat for Cat's mother's family. Whenever Cat and her parents visited her grandparents for the summer, they would try to make their way to Steveston for fish and chips. In order to continue the family tradition, Cat and I blocked some time during our third day in British Columbia. We walked along the worn streets in the village's downtown area, visited a cozy used bookstore, did some shopping, and had some frozen yogurt at scenic Garry Point. It was a brisk day, so Cat brought along one of her favorite sweaters to wear if it became too cold.
(The lake in the center of the Nitobe Memorial Garden.)
Early in the afternoon, we left Steveston and headed over to the University of British Columbia. We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting points of interest on the large campus and walking in the beautiful Nitobe Memorial Garden.
As afternoon gave way to evening, we decided to turn our steps towards dinner. The discussion of where we were going to eat, and whether or not we were hungry, was interrupted when Cat decided to put on her sweater and realized that she didn't have it. Cat had had the sweater for a long time. It was one of her favorites, and she became upset and deeply disappointed with herself when she realized that she had lost it. Since I knew how much she had liked the sweater, I suggested that we drive back to the university and attempt to retrace our steps.
(The Steveston Fisherman's Memorial honoring all of the Steveston fishermen who lost their lives at sea.)
An hour of frantic searching later, we had ruled out all the places we'd visited at UBC. Deeply depressed, Cat suggested we give up. However, I stubbornly maintained that if the sweater wasn't to be found on UBC's campus, it must be somewhere in Steveston.
(Garry Point. Cat is sitting on one of those benches waaaaay off in the distance.)
When we finally arrived back at Steveston, it was already late. The sun was just settling on the horizon and almost all of the shops were already closed. Cat and I retraced our steps down still, dark streets, our eyes scanning the sidewalks and gutters for fluffy pink redemption. We covered the entire downtown area to no avail. As we neared Garry Point, I quipped, "In an ideal world, some kind soul would have found your sweater and hung it somewhere visible." Just then, I saw something pink and fluffy draped over one of the wooden posts lining the road. There, against all odds, was Cat's sweater. Some kind soul indeed.
(Man + Dog + Clouds + Sweater + Sunset = Perfect.)
With the sky dark and our stomachs growling, Cat and I returned to downtown Steveston in search of something to eat. At that hour, the only place still open was a loud, chintzy-looking Greek restaurant called "George's Taverna". We weren't expecting much, but Cat loves Greek food and I was starving.
George's Taverna was founded over ten years ago by a Greek immigrant named, obviously enough, George. A bald, cheerful man with a bushy grey moustache, a chest like a tank, and arms like small tree trunks, George started his new life in Canada working as a fisherman. During his varied career, he also worked as a carpenter, bouncer, and cook. Originally from a small fishing village in Crete, George's dream was always to open a restaurant of his own and bring the flavors of Crete to his Canadian neighbors. When he got the opportunity, he took it, securing a small business loan and building much of the restaurant with his own hands.
George decorated the interior of his new taverna with the immense collection of nautical and Greek curios he'd amassed through the years (and that his Canadian wife wanted out of the house). Parts of the restaurant, including its unique patio, were built from sections of a fishing trawler named after his wife, Penelope. The ceiling was adorned with shark jawbones, plaster crabs, toy boats, fishing poles, ropes, and fishing nets. The walls sported a mix of Greek artwork, anchors, and nautical items. On display along the windowsills were boat radios, a sonar, and other assorted odds and ends. The entire restaurant resonated a sense of fun and a deep love for the sea.
The menu was fairly generic, composed mostly of different kinds of souvlaki and a few specialty items, such as the ubiquitous avgolemono soup. The waitress, who I suspected was George's daughter, started us off with an order of pita bread and tzatziki, a yogurt-based sauce made using cucumber and garlic. George's pita bread was excellent and unlike any other pita bread that I'd ever tasted. Instead of being flat, stretchy, and barely leavened, the pita bread at George's came in thick golden rounds with a crisp, buttery crust and a light, fluffy crumb. I think they fried it on a buttered grill instead of baking it. Paired with the garlicky tzatziki, it was a great way to start the meal. Cat remarked that she preferred the flatter, chewier version of pita for its texture. I agreed. However, George's pita was an excellent bread in its own right.
It was at this point, trying to photograph the bread, that I realized that my camera battery was drained. I cursed my luck and tried my cell phone, but the restaurant was too dimly lit. It was a novice food blogging mistake, and one I was cursed to repeat on several occasions during the trip.
Next we ordered an appetizer of Keftedes, which were meatballs made with lamb, oregano, and cumin. The plate arrived with a hefty number of keftedes, each the size of a golf ball. They were meaty, juicy, and quite nice. The cumin did a good job controlling the gaminess of the ground lamb, and the oregano added a spicy floral component. When combined with the tzatsiki, the keftedes were a taste sensation.
For my entree, I ordered the Grilled Salmon Platter. A fist-sized piece of juicy salmon, which was in season when we were in Canada, arrived perfectly grilled on a bed of flavorful rice. It was served with a rustic Greek salad and the most delicious potatoes I've ever eaten. The potatoes had been peeled, halved, boiled, drained, and tossed in a profoundly simply sauce made from melted butter, salt, and lemon juice. They were soft, fluffy, and flakey. I could have eaten an entire plate of them. I ended up eating all of mine and half of Cat's. The salad was also delicious, composed of tomatoes, bell peppers, olives, cucumber, herbs, and feta cheese. Drizzled with a light vinaigrette, it tasted fresh and invigorated my appetite. The rice was perfectly cooked and al dente. Each large kernel was separate from the others. It paired very well with the flaky and juicy salmon.
Cat ordered the Grilled Prawns Platter. Here we had a problem with minor lingual differences. In the States, we're used to prawns being fairly large, meaty creatures. In Canada, the word "prawn" seems to be synonymous with "shrimp". What Cat got was a small bowl of shrimp roughly half an inch across, which had been cooked in a light, buttery broth instead of being grilled as she had expected. We figured that a mistake had been made but, as hungry as she was, Cat opted not to send the plate back. The prawns were delicately flavored and quite acceptable. They were served with the same sides as my salmon. Overall, Cat was pleased with her dinner, but a little disappointed since she'd been expecting meaty, grilled prawns and gotten small, braised shrimp.
As I ate the last of the buttery potato on my plate, an enormous feeling of contentment came over me. After a long, difficult day, the homey Greek food at George's Taverna was just what I needed. I was happy with the day's events. Sure, we'd spent the better part of the evening traipsing across UBC and Steveston, but we'd also been witness to an example of the small kindnesses that humans are capable of showing one another. It was enough to fill both body and soul.
George's Taverna - The quirky little Greek silver lining to our cloudy day with tasty food, affordable prices, loads of kitsch decor, and some of the most delicious potatoes I've ever sampled.
Bill (for two):
I was so tired and sleepy after dinner that I left the receipt at the restaurant. However, I believe the entire meal came out to around this total.
Total ~ 35.00
George's Taverna (in Steveston)
3760 Moncton Street, #130
Richmond, BC V7E3A6