With the pandemic still hanging around we’ve had a chance to try a few more Nanaimo takeout options. Here are our thoughts on some spots we recently tried for you.
Smokin’ George’s BBQ
We’ve been longing to try this place for ages. It’s so often recommended to us and constantly hyped online. We hadn’t yet eaten there because their location is weird (in an industrial area off Mostar) and they keep weird hours. Seriously, what’s up with closing at 7 pm on Friday and Saturday? Anyway, the stars finally aligned and we were able to place an order.
They don’t lie about their smoker. We ordered the pig only plate (pulled pork, ribs, and sausage) and the pulled pork poutine. These were some of the smokiest meats we’ve ever eaten. The BBQ flavour and smoke worked really well together and left a memorable flavour impression. In fact, our mouths (and fingers) were still smoky hours later. Peated whiskey comes to mind when thinking about that lingering smoke, but bourbon is likely the better choice here if you’re thinking of pairing. We particularly loved the sausage and would definitely order it again.
Aside from the difficulty actually getting this food that we mentioned, there was really only one flaw with our meal and that was is was just a bit too much. Not too much money – in fact, we paid a reasonable $35 for the haul you see above – but just too much meat; too much fat. If you’re 19 and can eat anything we’re probably losing you here, but for the rest of you we hope you understand. The meal did come with some unremarkable cornbread, baked beans, and coleslaw, but otherwise this was a fat fest that left us feeling a bit gross, despite not actually eating huge portions. There’s almost nothing on the menu you can feel good about eating. Maybe that’s the point. We don’t know.
We really wanted to like Smokin’ George’s more. It’s got great unique flavours, but the menu items on offer are just too over the top and rich for us to go out of our way to order again.
Hot Chai Café
Betcha never heard of this one. Hot Chai is on the corner or Wakesiah and Second Street. “Oh THAT place!” we can hear you thinking right now. It’s a quaint little joint with an extensive menu of Chinese-Canadian standards, a few more authentic Sichuan dishes, and some old North American standbys. For example, you can order sweet and sour pork, spicy mapo tofu, and chicken nuggets all at the same time. Neat. We felt like having a “traditional” Chinese food order on this occasion.
Sweet and sour pork. BBQ pork fried rice. And some veg to round things out. Don’t forget the crispy wontons! All together now.
There were a few highlights from our order. Hot Chai is clearly a mom-and-pop operation, but they use the Doordash platform for a slick takeout ordering system. There’s a good variety of choice on the menu, so you can solve the kids’ lame demands while ordering something more interesting for yourself.
One of our tests for a Chinese food place is where the chop suey/vegetables fall on the scale between crispy and slimy. Hot Chai’s veg was perfectly cooked with good crunch and no slime. We also thought the crispy wontons were a fun addition to an otherwise pretty traditional food order.
We don’t really have too many complaints. Like most Chinese food restaurants, it’s tough to order for two economically while also having a variety of courses. Hot Chai’s prices are good for Chinese food but overall it’s not a cheap way to eat.
We did find our food was a little less hot than we would have liked, but this may have simply been because our order was ready earlier than anticipated and we couldn’t quite get there right away to pick it up.
Hot Chai is a nice little spot that neither disappoints nor particularly impresses. The food is… good. The service is… good. The prices are… fair. We tend to look for more exiting or creative eateries, but sometimes we just want some competent Chinese food (and don’t even mention QF please – BLECH!) and Hot Chai can be that for us again for sure.
Gateway to India
Hoo boy do people have opinions about Gateway. Over the years this place has gone from total dump to rather nice dining room, but all the while has had service the ranges from bizarre do downright horrible. As long-time patrons we can tell you that when you hear criticisms of this place, they’re probably not wrong. But one thing Gateway has always had, in our opinion, is a a great menu and fabulous flavours.
Like Chinese food, ordering Indian for two can be tricky if you don’t want to break the bank or have three days of leftovers. We kept it simple this time with chili chicken, aloo gobi, some veggie pakoras, and some garlic naan to soak up errant sauces. We also cooked up a bit of rice at home because we’re cheap and don’t like to pay for it.
Aloo gobi. We pretty much always order this and Gateway’s is the best. The chili chicken. Good, but not as good as Flavours of India‘s. Veggie pakoras. Sexy glamour shot of the pakoras. Because we love them. Amazing garlic Naan.
As we said, flavour is king at Gateway. We’re pretty sure Gateway’s aloo gobi is the best we’ve ever had and we ALWAYS order it. We tried the chili chicken this time to see how it stacked up against the competition, and while very good, didn’t quite win the prize. The price for our food was around $45, which is pretty steep for takeout for two, but we did have a day’s leftovers, so we were comfortable with it.
While gateway has done a lot with their dining room over the years – seriously it’s a pretty classy joint – they can’t help their location, which is in a pretty seedy area at Fourth and Bruce. Parking is atrocious and the building looks like a meth house from the outside. For us, this is all cosmetic so not a big deal, but we know some well to do Karens (and Richards!) wouldn’t be caught dead here, so your mileage may vary on this one.
We have a soft spot for Gateway. It, like Mrs. Riches, New York Style Pizza, or Tania’s Diner is one of those old-school family run places that have been serving Nanaimoites good food day in and out for years and years and years. Gateway isn’t much to look at, and the service is rarely good, but the food is so reliably excellent that we find ourselves going back over and over again.