“Local Secrets, Big Finds.” This was the title for Travelocity’s list of Amercan and Canadian discoveries that “can't be found in any other guidebook and are largely places that tourists would otherwise overlook.”
Amy Ziff of Travelocity described the process of developing this group as “something of a marathon, our own personal quest to climb Mt. Everest--or perhaps a more befitting description would be a journey around all of North America taken on foot. At the end of this journey, our task was to deliver information about the people we met and the authentic, local places we saw along the way--and that is precisely what we have done with our Local Secrets, Big Finds. Each and every Local Secret, Big Find embodies a step of our journey and hopefully yours. They celebrate North America in its rugged beauty and its quiet sunsets, in fabulous food and fun festivals. They are the fabric of these countries, and some may even be found in your own backyard.”
Hanging over the front door of Moby Dick Seafood Restaurant is a small sign indicating that they, the restaurant, had been designated as one of the sixty-eight (out of 3,000 North America entries) “Local Secrets, Big Finds” in Canada. Travelocity describes Moby Dick thusly: “If you like seafood at the source, then this British Columbia restaurant has ‘the best fish and chips in the province.’ Although the food is always great, you should ‘go on a great sunny day so that you can eat outdoors and enjoy the view of the ocean,’ while watching ‘people go by.’ If the weather doesn't cooperate and you do have to eat indoors, ‘the restaurant is full of interesting memorabilia and the people are extremely friendly.’”
We arrived at 11:32 a.m., just two minutes after opening, and the line was already long at the take-out window. Fortunately for us, this meant that there was still plenty of seating on the front patio, and we quickly grabbed one of the tables (out of the sun) that were covered with nautically-themed plastic table covers.
Suddenly, we both became edgy, as though someone was staring at us.
I turned around and immediately recalled a quote of Kurt Cobain’s – “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” Was this an angry sea creature ready to wreak vengeance? Or was this a friendly visitor from outer space who only wanted to share our lunch? We concluded that it was the latter and went back to studying the menu.
The first thing one notices is that the emphasis is on “fried”. Sure, there are two salads, cole slaw, and chowder, but literally everything else is either flattop fried (hamburgers, fish burgers, or chicken burgers) or deep fat fried (chips, cod, oysters, prawns, scallops, clam strips, calamari, or chicken breast). Having gotten smart, or so we thought, in the ways of Canadian restaurants, we decided that two orders with chips on the side would result in our swimming in a sea of fries, we decided to order a la carte – two cups of chowder, an appetizer order of clam strips, two pieces of cod, and a medium order of fries. Sounded like a good plan.
If the menu had listed the chowder as cream of potato soup, it would have been a very good version of potato soup. Unfortunately, it was called clam chowder and we were hard pressed to find many clams in this chowder. On the up side, it was rich and creamy and served very hot. Given the risk adverse nature of so many restaurants, soup is frequently so tepid so as to be served at almost at room temperature.
Now for the clam strips. Where did they go? When you removed the giant lettuce leaf lining the shell-like bowl and the five “compli-mentary” onion rings, what remained were maybe twelve (at most) wizened and heavily-battered pieces of clam. It made me long for the Sea Swirl in Mystic, CT, and their giant orders of meaty and juicy strips.
The fries were OK, but not twice-fried. I don’t have much else to say.
Sitting at the table behind me was a crotchety older gentleman who complained loudly about the volume of the music throughout his entire meal. When his wife received her two-piece order of fish and chips, she received—horrors—three pieces of fish. Well, he was not going to pay for three pieces of fish. The waitress calmly explained to him that the one-piece order comes with two pieces and the two-piece order comes with three pieces. It’s a bonus for their customers. With that explanation, he went back to complaining to his wife about the loud music.
So our two pieces of fish were really three pieces of fish. And wonderful fish it was. At the first cut through the crackling crisp coating, a geyser of steam erupted carrying with it the wonderful aroma of fresh cod. Chuck was hoping that I would be satisfied with only one of the filets. Sorry, I wanted that extra half. And the homemade tartar sauce was delicious. It contained no pickle but loads of dill and lemon, both of which augmented the sweet fish taste.
My advice to you: if you are ever in White Rock, BC and want lunch—stick to the fish. The chowder, clams, and fries don’t merit anything more than 2.5 Addies, but this was definitely 4.5 Addie fried cod.