Middle-class food is better in Canada than the US. I see it in the salad.
I was reminded of this when, waiting to get loaded in Langley last week, we dashed to a British Columbia, middle-class, chain restaurant, White Spot, which is 85-years-old this year. White Spot, which also has locations in Hong Kong, is one of my must stops when in Metro Vancouver along with Dim Sum and sushi.
I have lived in the US for more than 10 years and I’ve eaten in every one of the Lower 48 states, giving Urban Spoon a workout trying fast food, mall chains, neighborhood favorites, farm-to-table foodie restaurants and occasionally ones labeled $$$$.
While Iceberg lettuce is still served and eaten in Canada, the middle-class restaurant food readily accessible to Canadians — even those away from major centers in places such as Hay River, Northwest Territories where we had a great dinner salad at The Back Eddy — offers better, more nutritious salads.
This month there’s a burger and pie special. The Legendary burger with Triple O sauce, and I added lettuce and tomato and a multigrain bun, the Spot’s signature salad and Blueberry pie is $12.99 per person plus tax and tip.
White Spot offers a delicious, soft, slightly chewy multi-grain hamburger bun for its burgers at no extra charge. The signature salad is a medley of loose leaf greens sprinkled with sunflower seeds, sliced almonds and dried cranberries and dressed with a light vinaigrette, each lettuce leaf had texture and bite. The Cesaer has big chunks of deep green, sun-soaked Romaine leaves and fresh grated parmesan.
In the US, particularly beyond what I call the Lettuce Line, which is about 100 miles out from the two coasts, middle class chains, including the TA truck stop buffet, rely on pale, cardboard-like, rust-stained Iceberg lettuce and call it salad. It takes 10 cups of Iceberg lettuce to get the same nutrients in a 1/2 cup of loose leaf lettuce, lettuces where the leaves grow open to the sun. Half of all Americans, we’ve read, have never eaten another lettuce other than Iceberg. This summer I’ve been stuffing MacGyver’s sandwiches with red leaf lettuce on special for as low as $1.29. Good lettuce is succulent and moist and virtually eliminates the need for mayonnaise or Miracle Whip or other sandwich dressings.
The White Spot’s season’s treat is blueberry pie. Unlike a typical blueberry pie which is a mass of processed purple goo with a few blueberries thrown in, the berries in this tart are tossed in an ethereal, barely sweet glaze. Each berry retains its individual shape in the pastry cup, revealing both its sweet and tart side with each bite. It’s worth breaking the no-sugar ban.
No, not the cheapest meal. The cheapest, chain meal we regularly eat, every couple of months, is Denny’s pot roast which we find, conveniently, at the Flying J truck stops. It’s $8.99 before tax and tip, not including a salad or dessert. It’s okay. A generous serving. The meat is tender and the gravy is not too salty. But it does not come with the heaping portion of bright orange carrots and seagreen celery that’s advertised rather it usually has about three carrot nuggets and one piece of nickel-sized celery. Talking with the manager at the Houston, Texas Flying J on I-45, we wanted to know why there weren’t more vegetables, like the photos show.
“Everybody asks that,” she said.
Memo to Denny’s brass. Do something about that.
White Spot, which has a full menu, is excellent value.