You don’t know how bad French fries can be until you have amazing French fries. When a number of locals were all atwitter and agog to learn that the Spud Shack Fry Co. was opening up at the Shops at New West Station, I kind of shrugged my shoulders. I mean, I didn’t get why this was a big deal. They’re just fries, right?
Call them fancy French Fries or call them by their proper name of Belgian Frités, but either way, you need to head to Spud Shack and become one of the converted, just like me. Owner Dan Close has perfected the art of the deep fried potato stick; both crispy and fluffy, perfectly salted, and well portioned, the hand cut Belgian frités are, in a word, superb. The Spud Shack has quickly woven its way into my brain as one of the best places for a meal and a brew in New Westminster.
Nachos made with Belgian frites
My frist trip to SpudShack I tried the cod and chips ($11). Served in simple metal trays, the meal featured a big portion of fish (Dan cuts and weighs each piece by hand), delectable batter, and a generous serving of frités, with a pretty amazing tartar sauce. I’ve tried the frité-chos ($10 for the small) – nachos on a tray with generous and unexpected toppings such as pickled red onions – and found them really satisfying. I’ve gone for the poutine ($5 for the small) and found it the perfect ratio of gravy:curds:potatoes. We’ve had the naked frités on their own ($4 for a medium), too, with a side of bacon mayonnaise ($1) for dipping that was great.
The Spud Shack offers high quality craft beer on tap and in bottles, as well as craft sodas and juices, and just recently started serving desserts. Right now there are two on offer – a chocolate pot de creme with brown sugar whipping cream ($4), and a house made donut with almond praline served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce ($7). It is, as Briana said, “the best dessert on offer in New West. Period.”
Housemade donut with marhsmallows, chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream, and house made almond praline
Now, for me, what makes a place a favourite isn’t just the menu or the location. I think I’m a pretty decent cook, and I’m willing to travel to inconvenient places for good eats, so those factors are nice, but they aren’t the be all end all for me. What wins me over is a compelling combination of factors – selection and quality of the menu and liquid accompaniments, price, location, decor, and ambience are all standard criteria. The Spud Shack does a good job for me on all fronts. The wood decor and murals look good, there are multiple seating choices including a cozier low table set up and standard wood tables and chairs. I’m grateful they don’t succumb to the temptation to use styrofoam tableware and instead opt for paper cones and actual ceramic bowls and metal plates, metal cutlery, and glasses not made from cardboard, emblazoned with a logo, or featuring a plastic lid. While there are TVs (a pet peeve for me when I eat) the social atmosphere and high placement of the TVs make them mostly unobtrusive.
What will ultimately tip a place into “favourite” status for me is something a bit more than the food or how a place looks. I believe favourite haunts are welcoming and encourage you to visit rather than simply patronize. These are places we see in pop culture: Boston had Cheers, the Friends cast had Central Perk, and The Beachcombers had Molly’s Reach (I’m dating myself with that one, aren’t I?). New West needs those, too. A place where everyone is welcome, and where the ownership “gets” the community. Places that are open and receptive to feedback.
Cases in point: when I stopped in on my first visit, I asked about a kid’s choice on the menu. While my 4 year old is a good eater and likes fries, the fish and chips is a bit too big for him. Dan was incredibly accommodating, and said next time we were in to mention we wanted a kids’ portion and he’d fix us up. And he did – small fish nuggets on a smaller portion of fries at a reduced rate. He also picked up a couple of high chairs and is happy to put one of the TVs on the cartoon channel for his younger diners if requested. When we enquired if wine was going to be offered (thinking about future drinks-and-desserts potential), he showed us where the shelving was going to be installed. When we asked about a size between the small and medium poutine, he said he was hunting for the right bowl. When local vegan crusader Melissa approached him about keeping vegan “cheese” on hand so vegans could enjoy his poutine too, he said “where can I buy it?”
This is the kind of business I can get behind. There are others in our community doing it well already that I try to celebrate them, and I’m excited to have another one I can choose from. As an owner, Dan is positive, optimist, and welcoming. He’s not trying to fit New West into his vision, he’s trying to fit his vision into New West.
And he makes magic with potatoes.
The Spud Shack Fry Co is located at 352-800 Carnarvon Street, on the east bound Skytrain platform at the Shops at New West Station. Give them a call at 604-553-2582, or check them out on their website, Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter.
We’ve organized a Family Day evening meetup at the SpudShack this Monday coming, February 11th, from 5pm onward. Dan’s agreed to offer some special combos and menu items. Check our Facebook event for details and to RSVP.