Save on Meats: the Famous $6 Burger and Dollar Sign Spinning Pig
49 West Hastings Street, Vancouver
Guy Fieri visited last week to film a segment for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and left his stamp of approval. Literally, on the side wall in front of the window seat is an autographed imprint of Guy Fieri’s face with the Food Network logo: “GF Ate Here” it says. So obviously, we had to check it out!
Normally, I wouldn’t venture this far east of the downtown core, but with the new opening of the Simon Fraser University Woodwards campus, housing the School of Contemporary Arts, this stretch of Hastings Street has been revamped as the new hipster hang out. There was already a crowd forming in the lobby of Save on Meats when we arrived right at 12 noon on the dot. Protocol to get a table is to write your name on the white board on the side wall near the entrance. There’s a sign but it’s tucked to the side, this resulted in a little bit of a misunderstanding when a few diners just marched in and sat down thinking it was ‘first come, first serve.’ They should really move that sign right smack in front of the door so it’s more visible.
I admit I have never visited the original Save on Meats which was first established as a butcher shop in 1957. When I was little, my parents bought all their meat from Chinatown, which is only a few blocks east of Save on Meats. But I do remember looking for the smiling, fat pink pig and rotating neon sign on Hastings Street from my backseat window when my parents drove down Hastings Street to go shopping at Woodwards. Save on Meats, neon pig rotating sign and all was an institution on Hastings Street just like the Helen’s dress store on the Burnaby Heights end of Hastings. And when Save on Meats closed down in 2008, it made the news headlines so its reopening this summer was met with great fanfare from the local community. They even sell swag now, mugs and t-shirts featuring the iconic smiling pig with the dollar sign on his belly.
The renovated Save on Meats features a butcher shop on one side, a take-out sandwich counter where you can buy lunch to-go and on the other side, a full service diner with retro table booths, exposed brick walls and a jukebox.
There’s one thing you have to try here: the Save on Meats burger with bacon and cheese. It’s only $6! It’s cheaper than a food cart meal and you get to eat it sitting in a comfy booth or cushy bar stool. I also ordered a vanilla milkshake. They actually got my order wrong but they were nice about it. They brought me a side of coleslaw instead of fries with my burger. When we corrected them, a side of fries was served to me before I could even blink.
I was pretty excited about the Save on Meats burger, having read about it now from many food bloggers, food critics and Twitter feeds. This is a no-nonsense, no frills burger, just meat, cheese, tomato, lettuce, a thick piece of bacon, sauce which was ketchup mixed with mayo and a soft, toasted burger bun. All held together with a huge toothpick stabbed through half a pickle. The top bun wasn’t artistically placed at a slant and brushed with butter to shine like at Romer’s Burger Bar. This was a real dive burger. And I loved it!
The crispy piece of thick cut bacon was peeking out of the side of the burger, and the beef patty was smothered with sauce and gooey melted cheese. This was one fresh patty, the meat was very moist, tender and flavourful even though I didn’t taste a lot of seasoning. The beef was so fresh that it just totally held its own without fancy spices. That’s one good thing about being next door to the butcher. The bacon was crispy and not overly salty. The melted cheese and ketchup and mayo just tied the whole burger together. Simple ingredients, classic tastes.
I tried some of the coleslaw even though, normally, I don’t like coleslaw. There’s only a few places where I’ll eat it and they’re all food carts: Re-up, Fresh Local Wild and Kaboom Box. The coleslaw at Save on Meats is crunchier than the food cart coleslaw but I think this might be because they skimp on the dressing.
The fries were delicious! Crispy, salty and thick cut. You could tell they used fresh, clean oil.
Our milkshakes were served in mugs and were cold, creamy and sweet. The shakes were not as thick as I had expected but I’m impressed that they churn their own ice cream. I could tell they used real vanilla bean as the bottom of my foamy glass was speckled with those tell-tale little vanilla bean seeds.
Our friend ordered the ribs with mash and the dish turned out to be frighteningly large. Piled high with ribs drenched in sauce with a big scoop of mashed potatoes and a big biscuit, we totally had to help her finish it. I didn’t mind since the ribs turned out to be pretty tasty, tender and flavourful. Perfectly marbled and wonderfully marinated, the ribs were a perfect comfort food dish. And I loved the mashed potatoes too. Personally, I like my mashed potatoes a little lumpy with some texture, rustic style. This is how they were prepared at Save on Meats. I am not a fan of smooth, whipped potatoes at all. I still like to know that I am eating a potato not a purified root vegetable served to coma patients.
The warm biscuit was pretty incredible too. I wasn’t expecting the biscuit to be so amazingly soft, flaky and buttery on the inside since it was pretty crusty on the outside. I was expecting more of a dinner roll texture. Loaded with green onions with a hint of cheese, this was one scrumptious savoury biscuit. I wish they sold them by the dozen, I’d buy tons of them.
We also ordered a couple of cookies for dessert: the bacon chocolate chip and the ginger molasses. This was one fully loaded chocolate chip cookie, packed with both semi-sweet and white chocolate chips and nuts and bacon bits. To my disappointment though, the cookie was more on the crunchy side than ooey and gooey in the center like the TacoFino chewy chocolate and chilli cookie. The bacon bits were scattered throughout the cookie but I didn’t get a hit of saltiness and a taste of bacon till around my 4th bite.
The ginger molasses cookie was also more crunchy than chewy. It was very flavourful though, nice strong ginger taste mixed in with the sweet molasses.
We had a great time at Save on Meats and will definitely be returning!