Along The Mighty Fraser
Just two weeks after the launch of the North of the Fraser Ale Trail, I was sent on a mission to visit New Westminster and discover what the former provincial capital has to offer.
Living in the Lower Mainland, I’m no stranger to the area, but as you will see, there is so much more to this city than I’d ever known. This trip was destined to be full of surprises.
The city of New Westminster is on the traditional territory of the Qayqayt First Nation and the Coast Salish Peoples. The city was selected to be the first capital city of the new colony of British Columbia in 1859 for its easy access to the river and railroads, until the city of Victoria was named the capital in 1866. New West has a few notable neighbourhoods, such as Downtown, Uptown, Sapperton and Queensborough.
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We wanted to start our trip right and a breakfast at Angelina’s Dutch Corner was exactly what we needed. I’ve been there a couple of times before, even to its former location, and I love how bright and spacious the current location at River Market is. With our Mixed Fruit & Whipped Cream Waffle, we counted 11 types of fruit piled high on our waffle: pear, persimmon, gooseberry, strawberries, banana, kiwi, orange, cantaloupe, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. It’s incredible! Of course, you can’t visit Angelina’s without their pannekoeken, the giant Dutch pancake. We ordered the Big Pannekoek for its abundance of breakfast meat, including bacon, ham, sausage and bratwurst, plus two perfectly cooked eggs and crispy potatoes. This is a dish best served shared!
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After a satisfying breakfast, we walked across the street to the New Media Gallery at the iconic Anvil Centre. When I visited the gallery last fall, the space looked completely different. I learned that this international gallery works with the artists on display to reconfigure the space before each new exhibit, to ensure cohesiveness of the artwork and to optimize visitor experience. It’s no wonder the New Media Gallery welcomes 30,000 visitors every year, and its current exhibit has all viewing appointments fully booked. Named Assembly, three artists present the idea of order and the desire to organize, the chaos that ensues, and how new order is established. I was most fascinated by the installation by Zimoun. 278 motorized cotton balls have created a rhythmic pattern together, while each of them keeps its own unique beat. It sounded rather chaotic when I stood in the middle of the installation, listening to all 278 cotton balls drumming at the same time; yet putting my ear to just one of the cardboard boxes gave me a sense of calm and tranquillity. Was that what Zimoun intended to achieve, showing the voice of one amongst the chaos of many? How brilliant!
In one of the rooms, Fiona Tan’s Archive provided us with a first-person-view digital rendering of what Paul Otlet’s lost archive, Mundaneum, looked like. Otlet (1868-1944) was known to be the father of information science and he created an information retrieval system using index cards (think old-school library catalogue). The Mundaneum was supposed to house files, documents, and 12 million index cards of all knowledge ever existed at the time. It’s basically the physical form of the internet in the early 1900s! The Mundaneum was destroyed by the 3rd Reich in 1940, and Tan took us on a virtual tour of the black-and-white reimagination of the archive. Lighting and shadows played with your eyes, adding to the realism of the “found footage”. A haunting experience of a world that never was.
On the other side of the gallery, A Restoration by Elizabeth Price played in a loop in another room. We listened to a digital voice narrating Arthur Evans’s restoration of the ancient city of Knossos, while our eyes catalogued the images of artifacts, photo evidence and written records of the process. The flashing of bright colours on screen and the lyrical, yet mechanical narration left us with an indescribable uneasiness.
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From there, we decided to go for a stroll along Westminster Pier Park. Because of the construction in the area, we had to take a detour via Columbia Street. It was for the best because it gave me an opportunity to check out some of the many boutique shops and eateries. Columbia street is especially known for its bridal boutiques. In fact, Mr. and I rented my wedding dress at White Day, one of the bridal shops on Columbia, and hired their photographers for our wedding!
As we were roaming the area, a couple of shops really caught my attention: The Found Boutique carries a wide variety of new and donated items, and its revenue supports the Union Gospel Mission and its services. There was a wonderful selection of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, home decor, bath and beauty products, and more. Heading into the holiday season, I also spotted many locally made artisanal products perfect for gifting, such as jewelry, bath bombs, art pieces, and drinkware. There were also affordable, adorable holiday decorations that were calling my name.
Two doors over, I walked inside Mila + Paige and my eyes immediately went to this sign that said, “There is a shade of red for every woman – Audrey Hepburn,” and sure enough behind it, a display of clothes in various shades of red. Many brands are featured here for your work attire and casual wear needs.
Then we discovered the Antique Alley just under the overpass to Westminster Pier Park. Confession: I have never been inside an antique shop before. It was a treasure trove of oddities and household items from another time. I didn’t know where to start and what to look for. Wandering up and down the aisles, I saw shelves full of china, dishware and silverware; various generations of antique appliances and apparatus; old vinyl records; furniture and light fixtures; and apparently CRT TVs are antiques now. I often hear from other food bloggers about finding great deals on photography props at antique stores — I totally understand the appeal now.
It’s been a wet fall so far, but we were blessed with sunny, crisp weather that day. When we arrived at Westminster Pier Park, we were treated to a clear, gorgeous view of Patullo Bridge looking east, and a scenic, panoramic waterfront to the west. A fishing boat sped by. Many others were jogging and walking along the boardwalk, stopping at the railing to take in the riverscape. Some working folks grabbed a coffee and took their laptop out to work in the sun. Young families were spending quality time at the playground; even Mr. couldn’t resist from hopping on one of the swings. There’s something for everyone at this community space. Its popularity is well justified.
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We took a slightly different route back to the River Market for lunch. As a marketer, I’m intrigued by River Market’s FOOD 360 vision. According to their website, “the first floor of the Market is about food for your body and the second floor is about feeding your creativity.” Turning learning and running a business (there is a coworking space on the second floor) into “food” for our minds is a genius marketing positioning and rather fitting for the Market.
So, in addition to an assortment of local food retailers such as The Great Wall Tea Co. and Origins Chocolate Bar, the first floor of this riverfront public market is also home to a number of eateries. While some have their own space, the food court layout with a communal sitting space is what I love the most: I could order from multiple places and enjoy them all at the same time! Case in point, I was torn between Re-up BBQ and Longtail Kitchen, and so the answer was simply both. Re-up BBQ specializes in southern style, “low and slow” BBQ, and we sampled its Beef Brisket and BBQ Ribs paired with pit beans and coleslaw. From Longtail Kitchen, we went for some Longtail Wings and Fried Cauliflower with Spicy Mayo. Their wings were crispy yet juicy, and the dipping sauce had an addictive savoury quality. They are easily one of our favourite wings in Vancouver. And bonus points for Longtail for carrying Steel & Oak beers.
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Speaking of which, time for a beer stop! Steel & Oak Brewing has been a New West staple since 2014, and back then my friend Bryan had written a guest post on my blog when he had a preview brewery tour and an interview with co-owner Jorden Foss. Fast forward 7 years, Steel & Oak has grown to be a local favourite and a fixture in the community. Since COVID, they have added a beautiful outdoor patio on the curbside and it was an awesome spot for an afternoon cheer with friends. S&O brings in different food trucks on the weekend, and we were bummed that we had to save room for dinner and didn’t get to order some food with our beer. My eyes kept darting around, catching other patrons bringing in sandwiches and wings and fries. It brought back memories of last summer, when I took my parents to S&O for their weekend collaboration with DownLow Chicken on Commercial Drive. Nothing like good beer and fried chicken to build a lineup around the block for a seat in the taproom. The DL spicy fried chicken sandos were a perfect pairing with the beers. I have no doubt S&O knows how to pick their food partners.
When there’s a large beer menu, it’s really difficult for us to narrow down to just a few. Starting with a flight each, Mr. and I sampled almost everything on tap. Vibrant Things was by far my favourite at S&O, with a hint of tartness and tropical note. It’s a great summer sipper and a refresher in the fall. The coffee note in Dark Lager and First Press, as well as the smoky sweetness in Smoked Honey Doppelbock made these beers worthy of an encore for us as well.
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We had a late dinner reservation, so we did some more shopping in the area. The Refill Stop strives to contribute to eliminating waste and single use plastics by selling refillable, environmentally friendly household and body care products. We saw dish and laundry detergents, soap and cleaners, as well as reusable products such as bubble tea cups and beeswax wraps. Some of the products have cute prints, and would make great gifts for small children, to start educating them about the concept of Reuse, Recycle and Reduce.
Queensborough is a shopping destination many are already familiar with. One of my favourite stores there is Bulk Barn, where I can find all kinds of nuts, baking ingredients, spices and more, at the quantity of my choosing. The new Take the Cake Bakery nearby makes a great coffee stop with treats such as shortbreads and sliced cakes. We brought home a lemon tart and salted caramel chocolate tart. I liked them both, for different reasons. I long for a good balance of acidity and sweetness in a lemon tart and this one delivered it. The salted caramel had just the perfect amount of salt in the otherwise gooey caramel filling. I can’t wait to go back to try some of their other confections!
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Arriving at Piva Modern Italian at 8:30pm, the restaurant was bustling. The level of energy rivaled what I experienced at restaurants before the pandemic, and that feeling of normalcy was heartwarming. This was one of the best dinners we’ve had in recent times. Our server Iain was approachable but experienced. We are not familiar with Italian wines, so Iain gave us some samples to inspire our wine choice, and gave us his personal experiences with each. The Dolcetto ended up to be an excellent recommendation. Their amazing appetizers inspired confidence for the rest of their menu. The portion size of the Carpaccio was generous; the meat was buttery, and the crispy capers added the right amount of texture to each bite. The Calamari Steak was tender and complemented well with the briney, spicy pomodoro sauce with olive and capers.
Our table had a direct view of the kitchen, and every time I saw a plate of Carpaccio being prepared (you couldn’t miss it because it’s a plate filled with bright-coloured, thinly sliced deliciousness), I was excited for the next diners who were about to enjoy it as much as we did.
Our jaws dropped when we saw the big slab of truffle butter sitting atop our Ribeye, and it was definitely the highlight of our dinner. The steak was juicy, cooked to perfect medium rare. The truffle butter was fragrant and as it melted into the steak, it brought on an extra layer of decadence to the dish. The Modern Italian Pizza was faultless. The dough was the right amount of chew and crisp, and the combination of alfredo, shredded cornish hen and pesto really sang. Even the complimentary focaccia was amazing!
Piva usually closes at 10pm on Fridays. At 9:55pm a table of four arrived and the team happily seated them and went about with the service. What great hospitality! Finally at 10:30pm, the last plate was served, the kitchen shut down for the night and the back-of-house staff went on to perform clean-up.
The dessert menu might be tempting, but we seriously ran out of room for a sweet finish to our exceptional meal.
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And thankfully, our home for the night was only steps away at the Inn At The Quay.
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Games, Beers, and Burgers
Waking up in our room at the Inn At The Quay, we were ready to start the day.
The hotel is built on pillars so it’s situated right above the Fraser River. It’s amazing that every room has a balcony and a view of different parts of the river. Our room had tasteful and modern decor, a comfortable bed and a balcony that faced the west and looked towards the Alex Fraser Bridge.
I immediately drew open the curtain to enjoy our river view. A tugboat was hauling what seemed like miles of logs. It reminded me of the tugboat Boomer at the Quayside Park playground. This tidbit of information popped into my head thanks to my participation in Quest New West last year. Downtown New West BIA held a scavenger hunt style challenge for a number of Fridays in the summer, where one was to explore the neighbourhood to seek answers to a number of questions. We were asked, “There’s a new tugboat in town! He’s parked at Quayside Park. What’s his name?”
Boomer — and it’s a reference to the log booms of the Fraser River, according to the person who entered this name in the tugboat naming contest held by the city.
We had a restful night of sleep. The day might seem a bit gloomier than the day before, but it’s not dampening our mood even one bit.
Since our first day was filled with lots of eating and drinking, we thought we should prepare our bodies for a repeat with a lighter breakfast. Near Westminster Pier Park, Old Crow Co. serves up coffee from a great selection of roasters such as Bows and Arrows, Phil and Sebastian, and Timbertrain Coffee. Its food menu is plant-based. I really liked the addition of the garlic oil on their thick Avocado Toast, giving it an extra oomph to balance out the creaminess. The housemade mac n’ cheese sauce in the Grilled Chez was surprisingly tasty as well.
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The biggest discovery on this trip was, hands down, Capital City Classic Arcade. I never knew that there is a classic arcade in New West, or anywhere for that matter! There are 70 original arcade games at Capital City from the 90s or older. There is Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Bubble Bobble, Tetris, Tron, Frogger, just to name a few. The older generations find it nostalgic, but the younger generation would consider this new and exciting. The best part? Drop-in here is paid by the hour with unlimited plays, so we didn’t have to stress over buying extra quarters! I remembered going to an arcade in Seattle with a few friends a couple of years ago, and I ended up spending a lot of money because my characters kept dying! Like kids in a candy store, the hardest part here was to actually pick out which games to try. Mr. and I played on our own, teamed up to fight the big bosses, and fought against each other in a head-to-head battle. He laughed at my car crash, and I teased him about his space ventures. We might not have grown up playing much at the arcades, but being here still made us feel like a kid all over again!
In talking with the owner Maryanne, I found out it started out as a passion project for her and her husband since they are big fans of arcade games. They have steadily built a collection over the years and decided to open up an arcade to share their love and joy. They opened their doors just before COVID-19 hit, and weathered the storm like everyone else. She told us stories of private birthday parties at the arcade, where the dads were the last ones to leave. How the tide has turned! Maryanne and her husband have big plans for the arcade, including themed nights, special events, tournament leagues, etc. I can already picture the excitement in the room as people old and young cheer on each other while competing for the top spot on the leaderboard.
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We needed some refreshment after a series of well-fought battles, so we swung by Another Beer Co. for some drinks. Located in Sapperton, ABC has established themselves in an area with a rich history of brewing. After all, the first commercial brewery in BC had operated out of Sapperton. I’ve had beers from Another Beer Co. before but it’s my first time visiting their brewery. I love their warehouse space, especially the loft style sitting area. ABC doesn’t offer beer flights. Instead, you have the choice between half pours (8oz) and full pours (16oz). So you can start with a half pour as a sample before indulging with a full pour.
ABC just launched the Brew Blackberry & Peach Pastry Sour, and as big sour fans, it was on our list to try. It didn’t disappoint; the tart fruit note, combined with the addition of lactose, reminded me of a fruit crumble. Sours tend to be a summer beer, but the flavour profile of Brew is actually fitting for the fall weather. Their Tactical Turtleneck Oatmeal Stout was appropriate for the light drizzle outside. It was smooth, nutty, yet not overly rich. The Paul Rudd inspired Hey, Look At Us DDH IPA was very easy drinking, too.
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To wrap up our trip in New West, we went to a local hidden gem called IT Char Burger. Nestled inside the Royal Square Mall, this unassuming burger joint dishes up classics like a Cheese Burger, but you will also find some interesting interpretations such as Korean Spicy Burger and Teriyaki Burger.
Behind the counter you will find the owner and chef, working to take orders and cook all by himself, with great care. Mr. thought it was the real life Bob’s Burgers, minus Linda and the kids.
Everything was flavourful, the patty was juicy, our faces were smeared with sauces, and napkins were littered all over our table. You also have to try the Butter Chicken Fries, and don’t be afraid to double up your burger patties if your heart desires.
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It’s wonderful that New Westminster is now part of the North of the Fraser Ale Trail. The city has a lot to offer to beer lovers, and this trip has proven it. Come for the beer, and stay for the food, arcade, shopping, art, scenery, and so much more. Take your vehicle with you, or simply hop on the Skytrain and you will be right at the heart of it all!
Some New West Tips/Ideas:
Driving to New West and spending the day around downtown? Park your car for the day at the River Market or Anvil Centre. Downtown New West is walk-friendly so you can easily hop between places on foot and don’t have to worry about finding parking. Steel & Oak is also within walking distance from there.
Looking for evening activities? New West has a comedy club, a speakeasy magic show and live music at pubs. We were a bit too late in our planning so everything was sold out for the time we were in New West. Don’t make the same mistake!
Wanting to experience the Fraser River? You can take the Q to Q Ferry between Quayside (by River Market) and Port Royal Boardwalk (in Queensborough). Be sure to check the schedule because it’s a commuter ferry and only runs at certain hours.
Hoping to take home some craft beer? In addition to buying beers to-go at Steel & Oak and Another Beer Co., you can also visit local liquor stores for other local craft beer. Harbour Wine and Spirits by the Paddlewheeler Pub and Jak’s are two popular options among craft beer lovers.
Bubble tea fan? Many popular brands hailed from Taiwan, along with local independent stores, have opened in New West. They are scattered all over in the city, with a cluster of them right in downtown.
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New Westminster is located in the heart of Metro Vancouver. The oldest city in Western Canada and the first capital of BC, New Westminster offers an abundance of experiences from history, arts, culture, food, entertainment and shopping. Situated on the Fraser River, we boast an active boardwalk along with a working riverfront and plenty of public parks.