Event: Pacific National Exhibition (PNE)
Cuisine: American/International/Carnival food/Fast Food/Desserts
Last visited: August 24, 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC (East Vancouver)
Address: 2901 East Hastings Street
Price Range: $10 or less – $10-20
My video at the PNE Tweet Up with 24 Hours. Click here if video is not apperaing.
It’s the 100th Anniversary for the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) in Vancouver, BC and I was happy to attend the first Twitter meet up (Tweet Up) about PNE food. I admit, it’s been a while since I’ve attended PNE, but I was more than happy to explore the foodie atmosphere being offered this year. What I was expecting to see was cotton candy, mini donuts, candy apples, hot dogs, hamburgers and fries, but what I got was a lot more!
Popular Vancouver tweeters and food bloggers were invited to attend the Tweet Up and sample food offered at the PNE. The event was organized by the lovely Melissa from Missy Media and each of us were given 3 food vouchers to use at participating food stands. I was pleased to see the traditional food stalls as well as some international cuisine including Indian, Japanese, Ukrainian and even buffalo burgers. Vancouver is so multi-cultural that it would be a waste not to showcase the ethnic cuisine we offer. The PNE is also a family affair so it’s a great place to start introducing children to new foods rather than the standard carnival food. I just can’t wait to see even more diverse foods being offered, like dragon’s beard candy which is almost an Asian cotton candy.
I was focused on finding ethnic food stands as well as the traditional all time favourite stands with the longest line-ups. I’ve never explored the PNE food court to this degree so I wanted to take advantage and target the places that only operate during the PNE food fair. I ended up sampling a variety of food because many of us shared the items we brought back. The event was super fun and we left with candy apples, cotton candy, a belly full of grease, rotten teeth and sticky Blackberries and iPhones – it was everything I expected and more!
Added note: It’s hard to take the prices into consideration because all carnival food is always expensive. It’s like movie theatre food, and you just kind of have to expect it. I’m also “rating” everything based on it being carnival food rather than “restaurant” food, and also relative to the other items offered an the PNE food fair. I also have no affiliated association with 24 Hours or PNE.
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
**Recommendations: Hunky Bill’s: ribs, pulled pork burger with red beet horseradish, chicken strips, perogies
On the table:
Stop 1: Hunky Bill’s
Hunky Bill’s Ukrainian food has been at PNE for 48+ years and it was one of the consistently busiest stands. The perogies, corned beef, spareribs, and chicken strips are all made in Winnipeg where Hunky Bill, the owner, claims is the place for the best Ukrainian food (besides in Ukraine). I asked for his recommendations and was sold as soon as I saw pulled pork and ribs on the menu. To top it off, everything is served with a side of perogies!
- In a bun with side cole slaw, 3 perogies or fries $10
- Hunky Bill’s is famous for his pulled pork burger and it was pretty freaking delicious whether it was was”carnival food” or not. The pulled pork was tender, juicy, and plentiful and super saucy with a sweet onion BBQ sauce that absorbed straight into the soft burger bun. The bun was just a standard burger bun and it would be better if it was toasted.
- The highlight was the secret red beet horseradish sauce Hunky Bill topped my sandwich off with. Ask for it! It’s make the burger and it’s delicious! It’s not even that spicy, but you can tell there’s horseradish in it. It’s a sweet horseradish that’s been preserved for days in red beets so the kick is gone, but it’s slightly sweet with a radish aftertaste. Loved it!
- The cole slaw is very lightly dressed and it’s even better if you put it on top of the pulled pork burger.
- In terms of quality, portion and flavour, this was one of the best things I ordered.
- Perogies, cabbage roll, sausage & bread with a drink – about $12
- This is a pretty typical Ukrainian plate with Rye bread and a pickle to top it off.
- Sausage – 3/6
- It’s decent and they give about 10 slices. They were pan-fried and not too salty or greasy which was surprising. The sausage itself was a bit on the soft side though.
- Cabbage roll – 1/6
- It’s the only thing I didn’t like. It was stuffed with a really soft pork meatloaf made with a lot of fillers. It was overcooked and topped with a tomato sauce and overall it was just way too mushy that I didn’t even have to chew it.
- Perogies – 4/6
- The highlight on this plate for me. Served with sour cream and the perogies are deep fried which made it extra indulgent. I’ve never had deep fried perogies before and the batch wasn’t as fresh so they were chewy and it made the skin taste a bit thicker than normal. I would have preferred them pan-fried, but in the context of “carnival” it’s fine.
- The filling on the other hand was a delicious creamy potato cheese and onion filling and it was all pureed with a slight orange yellow colour. They were super creamy and well flavoured and made from a perogie factory in Winnipeg (which I’m not sure if Hunky Bill owns). some of the perogies came with fried onions on top, so I would make sure to request this.
- The most delicious perogies to date that I’ve had are from Habit Lounge.
**Winnipeg Bar-B-Q Back Spareribs (Full slab) Plate – 5/6
- With side cole slaw, half char grilled baguette, fries or perogies $13
- The famous hands of Hunky Hank handing me a plate of his world famous Winnipeg Bar-B-Q back spareribs.
- These were delicious! Falling off the bones tender and probably because they boiled them first. But they’re still flavouful and smothered in a sweet tomato and onion barbeque sauce. It was a homemade sauce and I could see and taste the sweet caramelized diced onions. The ribs were so tender and juicy and I was seriously impressed to have this quality and flavour of meat at a carnival. For $13 I actually think this was well worth it!
Stop 2: Henry’s Chicken BBQ
Henry’s Chicken BBQ is a local favourite and popular food stand at the PNE. There’s always a line-up although the location is a bit isolated from the the main strip of food stalls. The main attraction is the chicken. The chicken is is roasted in an open fire pit right beside the stall and they constantly spray them with a house made seasoning. Of course this is no comparison to world famous Texas BBQ with REAL open fire pits like at Salt Lick BBQ or Smitty’s Market, but it’s impressive for a food fair and still a sight worth checking out.
- 1/4 Chicken – 4/6
- 1/2 chicken – $9.75 1/4 chicken – $5.25
- The highly anticipated and highly talked about chicken at the PNE food fair.
- The skin is a bit soggy and soft because they constantly spray it with seasoning as it cooks on the fire pit so it never has time to really crisp up. Despite the chicken looking dry and wrinkly, it was actually very tender, moist and juicy. It does have a very good savoury flavour with a classic poultry seasoning spice. It was very good, but I would prefer Nando’s, and it’s a kid’s size chicken for $5.25 so it’s pretty pricey.
- Cole Slaw – 3/6
- I actually liked the cole slaw here. The veggies are fresh and crunchy and it’s easily dressed with a tangy vinaigrette with a little mayo. It was a bit on the watery side and significantly overpriced, but it was refreshing after all the grease I had.
- Potato Salad – 5/6
- The potato salad was actually one of the most memorable parts. It was an ultra creamy and thick potato salad with a few diced pickles and celery in it. It was super rich and indulgent with lots of mayo and probably some hard boiled eggs in the mix. It was savoury and tangy and almost like whipped mashed potato salad meets egg salad, but I couldn’t see the egg.
Stop 3: C-Lovers Fish & Chips
C-Lovers Fish & Chips is another classic food stall at the PNE. There are several stalls offering this American favourite (fish n’ chips), but C-Lovers is the only one that specializes in it. There’s a handful of stand alone C-Lovers restaurants in Vancouver and the lower mainland, but I haven’t tried them yet. Everything from the batter to the tartar sauce is hand made and fresh so I do appreciate the quality. I can’t say if it’s the best fish n’ chips offered at the PNE, considering I’ve only tried C-Lovers, but I can say that it does have a constant line-up and loyal following.
- The 1 piece cod & fries was about $9.75
- The piece was actually quite long (as it should be for that price) but also quite thin. It’s not as big as Moby Dick’s Fish n’ Chips in White Rock, BC which is my favourite place for fish n’ chips.
- The halibut was tender, juicy and flaky and the batter was light and crispy and I really liked the fact that it stayed glued to the fish itself. I hate when the batter slips off and I’m eating the two separately.
- The homemade tartar sauce was also quite light and not just gloppy mayo and relish. It had a nice tangy flavour to it and it was great with the fries as well. The fries were hand cut with the skins on made from fluffy Russet potatoes, however they were soggy and needed to be double-fried.
- About $7.95
- This is from the one and only crepe stand, and I sampled it at the table. I was actually impressed because I didn’t expect it to be so generously stuffed with lots of chicken, cheese and pesto. It was also topped with more chicken, cheese and roasted red-peppers. The chicken was a bit bland and on the dry side, but there was enough pesto and gooey cheese that it helped. I actually really enjoyed this.
Stop 4: Ernie’s Ice Cream
Ernie’s Ice Cream is a tinny little food stall serving soft serve ice cream and sundaes. It’s a simple little stall and I was craving ice cream as usual to wash down dinner.This dessert was complimentary of fashion blogger Nicole’s PNE food voucher.
- $4 each
- This ice cream was pretty expensive and it was really thick and creamy. It was almost too thick to the point where it didn’t taste cold anymore, and it doesn’t have much flavour at all. The cones also tasted just like cardboard. I would prefer McDonald’s soft serve ice cream cones or Dairy Queen cones. Since this was the last thing I ate I actually had to go home and eat more ice cream to feel fully satisfied.
Elephant Ears – n/a
- A classic PNE favourite, however I remember them being better. Maybe I had them when they were a bit cold so they weren’t as good so I just won’t ‘rate’ it. They were really thin and a bit tough and overall I prefer the mini donuts to these. For the most glorified delicious Drunken Mini Donuts get them at Romer’s Burger Bar.
- This was the Apple Pie Elephant Ear complimentary of food bloggers David and Ann from Me Plus Food, and it was just too much cream that the elephant ear got soggy and became secondary. The apples were nicely layered over top, but also really fake tasting and a bit mushy.
- I also tried a Pizza Elephant Ear topped with marinara sauce and cheese and it didn’t work at all.
- My favourite of all the elephant ears was the traditional cinnamon and sugar hands down.
- I much rather have deep fried Oreos or Mars Bars. I’ve seen deep fried jelly bellies before, but never wanted to order them or really try them. Luckily someone else ordered them so I was still able to try them and they weren’t very well liked by anyone.
- I had them warm so they were definitely not that good. It was just half melted jelly bellies in their own sugary syrup with a thin bread like batter. It sticks to your teeth like crazy and it just wasn’t a pleasant experience.