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Hy's Steakhouse - An Indelible Memory...

Growing up in Vancouver, in a family that loved and celebrated good food was a joy that I am grateful for to this very day. We enjoyed many varieties of ethnic foods whether dining out or making it at home and if there is one place on the planet that was a haven for food lovers it is and was - Vancouver. Soggy, mildew covered, bumper to bumper traffic - Vancouver.

In the 70's Vancouver was coming into its own as a whistle stop for the culinary wagon train and by the end of that decade and into the 80's it had blossomed into a major stop for that same culinary wagon train and along with a few other world class cities, it's now arguably one of the leaders of the world in food celebration and diversity.

In Chinatown there was great Chinese food to be had.  In Little Italy there was of course great Italian food (Nicks comes to mind) along with Portuguese food to be enjoyed. Scattered throughout the Lower Mainland were other ethnic foods served up by immigrant chefs that were to die for, all you had to do was find them and that could be a real challenge. It seems that when a great restaurant or deli was operating the patrons were loathe to let the location be known to the rest of us great unwashed, but my dad could find them, he had a nose for that.

For a regular dinner out it would most most often be for Chinese food at Chinatown's Ho Inn or one of our other favourites. Occasionally or rather rarely, it would be for pizza at Veronas (not traditional - North American style) and The Spaghetti Factory (I know, I know) in Gastown for pasta to name but a few. On special occasions there were two restaurants we would go to; Hy's Encore or Trader Vic's. I loved them both.

Sadly, Trader Vic's is gone from the Vancouver dining scene.  It was a great kitschy Polynesian themed restaurant that prepared great wood-grilled seafood (the dungeness crab topped sole filet was a killer!) and served drinks in gaudy but collectible glasses with frilly umbrellas on them (porcelain smiling Buddha anyone?). I loved it when my dad robbed a bank and we celebrated as a family at Trader Vic's. Sometimes dad even made bail and was able to join us. I sure miss that restaurant.

The restaurant that topped the list for my parents was Hy's Encore in Downtown Vancouver. Only special occasions would allow us to go there given we were from the po' folk side of town, but when an occasion came around that demanded a celebration at Hy's we were always blessed with great food and memories. Didn't go there often as kids, but we did go more than once and each visit is a grand memory for me to this day. It is a cozy and intimate place with dark wood on the walls and a great quiet ambiance. Not a large open area room where you need to yell across the table to be heard that seems to be the norm these days.

We celebrated mom and dads 50th wedding anniversary at Hy's and surrounded by much of the family we ate great food, drank great wine and laughed our asses off. Dad didn't have to rob a bank for that visit so there was no risk of him not being there, which would have been somewhat of a bummer given the celebration at hand, and good times were enjoyed by all.

Unfortunately Hy's in Edmonton closed down a few years ago, so I doubt I will enjoy my upcoming 25th wedding anniversary at a Hy's, which saddens me.  That is of course if She Who Must Be Obeyed doesn't put a big pillow over my face while I am sleeping before that day arrives, which I know she thinks about doing once in a while, and no court in the land would convict her of any crime should that happen, to be sure.

Hy's cooks a mean steak, and my dads and my favourite is 'The Only' New York Strip, served with Hy's signature steak sauce, my mouth waters as I type.  Other steaks are fantastic as well as the lamb and chicken offerings. I enjoyed Hy's many times as a young man as I sought particular favours from young women and used great food as an opening act.  It was a mainstay restaurant (along with Tommy O's and The Cannery) for me when I was dating in those years and no one I took there ever complained.

Years later as I visited Vancouver for business reasons I enjoyed dining at Hy's with coworkers and customers, and each time I entered that great place my memory bank would flood me with treasured moments from the past.  The ambiance is old school, the bartenders are masters of their craft and the waiters and chefs are predictably good and very efficient. I can say I do not recall having a bad meal there ever, although some visits were better than others I admit, but that is just real world dining.

Along with the great steaks are the expected appetizers and my all time favourites are the Caesar Salad prepared table-side and the Cheese Toast. Oh my God, the Cheese Toast! Not for the clogged of heart I assure you, but it is a cheese and butter celebration of all things from the farm.  Pop a few extra statins and some fish oil capsules and try some today! All my kids LOVE that wickedly delicious cheese toast with a capital LOVE so please accept their recommendation for that dish by proxy...

I love a great steakhouse and Hy's along with Morton's on State Street in Chicago, The Polo Grill in Tulsa,  Smith & Wollensky in Vegas and a family favourite that we all dream of visiting once a year - the Wolf Lodge in Coeur d'Alene Idaho round out the top favourite steakhouses I have been to for special celebrations or when the expense account is in play. But Hy's Encore tops the list hands down for me.

Of course you would expect the traditional steakhouse side dishes and these are served up as well. Steamed Asparagus. Macaroni and Cheese. Sauteed Mushrooms. Onion Rings (a good steak demands onion rings I don't care who the hell you are) and my favourite - Creamed Spinach. My, my, my, does Hy's do creamed spinach good. It's the goodest I tell you.

With a great beef dinner on the menu last night I wanted something out of the ordinary for an accompaniment to the meal that would celebrate the beef and the Yorkshire pudding that was being offered to the diners and creamed spinach came to mind. So a quick search through my cookbook stash and a little tweaking to my liking I prepared the dish below and it was very well received by all, except for Kaitlyn who thinks spinach is best left in the garden. She will be heartened to note by reading this blog that I intend to make it more often.

See recipe elsewhere in blog.

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