"THEY MUST BE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT"
Location: 905 Hornby St. Vancouver
I remember the days when I had “Earlitude”, yup, that’s what they used to call it when staff had the “right stuff” and were considered instrumental to the success of an EARLS Restaurant. Those days are long gone for me but I still frequent the establishment from time to time and marvel at how much it has changed over the years… not always for the best. EARLS used to be a causal and somewhat inexpensive place to go and have a good meal or some bevies with friends. The “good meal” and “bevies” still hold true but “casual” has given way to “semi-formal, nightclub vibe” and “somewhat inexpensive” has turned into “quite expensive”.
Join me won’t you? For a jaunt down memory lane as I share my latest experience with the Summer 2008 version of “Earlitude”
It was a Thursday evening at 8:20 and I arrived to the DOWNTOWN EARLS (near Scotiabank Theater) alone as my buddy was about 5 minutes behind me. I was greeted by six hostesses, that’s right, six hostesses none of which bothered to look up and say hello until I said “hi” first. Despite being fairly busy with biz folk, clubbers and socialites, I was given the choice of “dining room or lounge” and then taken immediately to a good corner table in the lounge ripe for “people watching”. I love the people who come here: half look like they are waiting to be seen by the paparazzi while the other half look like deer caught in the headlights wondering “where they hell are we?” As I sat I ordered an Arnold Palmer (½ ice tea & ½ lemonade - try it my peeps) and an order of Hot Wings, my buddy arrived and we settled in for a long discussion about The Dark Knight and other summer films. The waitress arrived to take Jon’s drink order and we ordered our meals at the same time, she was friendly but clipped, obviously a tad busy, no bother though, we continued discussing Batman. The Wings arrived a few moments later (14 wings in total with celery & parm dip), they were tasty and crispy while still somewhat juicy on the inside. Earls always has decent wings, they are never spectacular but never disappointing at the same time.
About 25 minutes later, we came up from our cinematic ramblings to realize that our mains had not arrived, hmm, that’s not like EARLS, they are usually more on top of things. I was about to comment about this to the waitress when two other gals arrived with our food. Sweet. Jon had ordered the 9 oz Certified Angus Beef Top Sirloin with sauteed prawns & mashed potatoes while I enjoyed the Chicken & Tomato Ragu with White Truffle Oil (ground chicken and tomatoes in a red wine sauce with garlic, oregano and bacon, tossed with pappardelle noodles, topped with Parmesan cheese and white truffle oil)… Decadent.
How were the meals? Jon described his steak this way “It was tasty, not stellar but tasty and cooked the way I liked it for once. The last two times I ordered steak at EARLS they were undercooked but hey, I wanted steak so I ordered steak. The prawns were good but the mashed potatoes tasted like they came from a box”. I must admit, I tried some of the taters and they indeed did have an odd taste & texture to them however that did not stop him from eating every single bite.
As for me, the pasta was rich and flavorful (how could it not be with that list of ingredients)complete with those giant pappardelle noodles that really hold the sauce but I couldn’t even taste the bacon, it was lost among the other sensations. I can honestly say that this was the first time in my entire EARLS experience that I have ever been full after eating an EARLS pasta dish, the portion size was perfect and the rich flavors made my belly happy.
After wrapping up the meals and one more drink for the road, we paid the bill (an astonishing $86 for two of us) and headed out the door, again the six gabbing hostesses did not say “thanks” or “goodnight” so neither did we.
Okay, let's discuss: $86 for two guys, two entrees, one appy and no booze? That's a bit pricey. Sure that does include tax and tip but still... it's bills like those that always keep me from EARLS for a couple months just from the wallet shock. I remember when a lot of these meals were under $10, now they are all between $13-$16, sure there's inflation but come on, that's a bit much! Also what's with all the hostesses who never seem to be busy and never seem to engage the customer? Why are there so many of them and why are they all not doing anything. Maybe the food is so expensive because the staff costs are through the roof? Finally, since when did EARLS become a high-end lounge complete with busty "ready-for-the-club" waitresses and chiseled bartenders all happy to serve? I felt somewhat underdressed but really, should I put on my new suit just so I can spill a hotwing on it? I think not.
All in all, despite my gripes above, EARLS will remain a staple in my meal choices. The quality of food is fairly consistent and although I may not agree with the price point or discotheque-decor, I can’t help but return every once in a while for another meal. Either they put a touch of crack in their cooking or they must be doing something right.