10 – rel-ish bistro – August 16, 2017
$18.90 After tax, before tip
I was having another one of those super sleepy feelin’ nights at work, so it was pretty stylin’ to walk outta there into a bright sunny day. It was so bright that it took me a couple moments for my eyes to adjust, and I was diggin’ it! "Sweeeeet!" I had only one thing on my mind...to get home and get in the water for a swim.
As I was rubbing my eyes from the bright sun the thought of how starving I was came along and punched me in the face. My starvingness knocked out any thought of swimming in that moment which left me in a short conversation with myself.
"Daaaamn maaan! I gotta sort this shit out right here and now!" The light bulb clicked on in my head instantly, and said to me:
"It's burger time again, go to rel-ish mutha-fucka!"
I promptly answered myself,
"Ooooh shiiit, that's a freakin' great idea!"
That was it, rel-ish's tractor beam grabbed a hold of me and didn't let go. I could resist no longer. That shit was pullin' me in right then and there! I couldn't wait!
The location of rel-ish has always had a special draw for me because of my love affair with the Rice Bowl stemming from the first summer I lived here in 1999. (I’ll write about that - and my introduction to wasabi, sushi, and Pad Thai – at another time.) I’d go eat there and then stroll over to the Co-Op and grab some food as a routine 2-3 times a week.
I was sad to see the Rice Bowl go. With the Co-Op recently moving as well the dynamic of that end of Baker Street has changed from a time that was. No place has changed more than where rel-ish is it seems. It is nice to see them holding things down nicely.
I don’t eat out too often, and I have my certain places for certain things. For rel-ish, that has been their Baked Cheese Bread appetizer. H-O-L-Y FUUUCK is it ever good! Daaaamn… It’s like a quick junkie fix of pure awesomeness! If it was liquid I would swim in it all day long, laughin' and gigglin' all the while.
I’ve never had their burger at rel-ish, but I’ve definitely heard a lot about it. I was one hungry, super starving bastard too, so I couldn’t freakin’ wait to get at it. Shiiit maaan!
The patio was full, so I went inside. I didn’t care that it was such a nice sunny day, inside was good for me. I'm not much of a big crowds kinda guy anymore anyway.
I got myself really, really psyched up because of how hungry I was. That resulted in me walking in there with very high expectations.
I went to the back to find a seat. There was a little triangle-like booth that seemed a bit around a corner, but really wasn’t. Perfect, I’ll sit there. It was my own little world.
The hostess came to give me some water and bring me a menu. I smiled and told her I didn’t need a menu because I knew what I wanted. She smiled back, said some kinda somethin’, and then went to get my server.
In the time between the hostess leaving and, my server returning, I took pause to enjoy the simplicity of the plain water in my glass.
"Water, the nectar of the gods!"
I always prefer plain water to water with fruit, and would rather it come that way 100% of the time. Fruit, or vegetables in the case of cucumbers, should be offered as a choice, not given with no choice.
Plain water at a meal is important for pallet cleansing. Adding fruit to the water leaves a slight flavour residue that may, or more importantly, may not go with the food being eaten. Plain water every time for me please!
When my server arrived I ordered my usual: A burger with cheese, bacon and hopefully jalapenos…and a ginger ale that comes with the food.
She said they have one called “The Uncle Buck,” which came with Sriracha Mayo, Swiss Cheese, Capicola, Tomato, Red Onion, Lettuce, Hot Peppers, and Crisp Sweet Potato. I didn’t hear anything she said past “Uncle Buck” though, because I instinctively started thinkin’ of John Candy and started gigglin’.
I had to get her to repeat it to me, so she grabbed a menu as they were only about two steps away. She opened it up to show me the Uncle Buck, and also so I could also see the option of Building My Own. She did tell me that it could get expensive that way though with the add-ons I wanted.
As I scrolled through what was in The Uncle Buck I thought about it. It looked good, but even though it might cost more, I was going with the usual so I could keep things consistent and a fair with the rest of the restaurants.
Since I had the menu in front of me I could actually see what was in the Build Your Own, but I didn't bother reading it as the foundational toppings were irrelevant to me. It just had to have bacon, cheese, jalapenos, and come however else it comes.
She did explain to me that the fries had to be baked as their fryer was down at the moment. I didn’t care ‘cause I felt baked might be a nice break from fried.
I didn’t think too much about anything at all, and reading the ingredients of the Uncle Buck was kind of a waste of time because there wasn't any real doubt that Build Your Own with Bacon, Cheese, and Jalapenos is what I was goin' after.
A few stops ago on my burger tour I started taking notes during the experience. One of the reasons for that is that it gives me something to do while waiting for my food to be prepared. I pulled out my paper and pen to start scribbling down as soon as my server left my table.
The hostess showed up with some ketchup, a water fill up, and everything else I might have needed. Sweet. After a couple places lacking in that simple area, it has now been something I pick up on more…the littlest things as simple as S&P, and ketchup when serving a burger and fries. It seems odd that plain normal shit has at times become a luxury.
Part of the reason I didn’t bat an eye at the thought of baked fries was because they made me think of Hoanie from when we were roommates on Saltspring Island. She cooked baked potato wedges all the time. She cut them a bit bigger than thick fries and always seasoned them nicely.
Even all these years later she’s still rockin’ ‘em to the point where it makes me smile to see them if I have randomly stopped in. (I don’t see her enough anymore and it makes me a bit sad at times. Hoanie is a really special person.)
(Savanah on her way to Texas)
The thing that I thought about most while I was waiting for my food was another person who randomly appeared in my mind. Savannah!
For those who know me really well…Savannah is Sierra’s younger cousin. I’ve known both their mom’s virtually their whole lives. Totally kick-ass sisters raising totally kick-ass kids!
Savannah is 13 years old and already a very accomplished gymnast. Watching her and her progression over the past bunch of years has been quite incredible. The photos and videos her mom (Shannon) puts up are insane. I’m not shy about telling both of them how seriously bad ass Savannah is.
The reason she came into mind from outta the blue is because she was down in Texas on her own for a bit for some gymnastics stuff. I thought it was for a week or two for a camp, but it turns out it was way crazier than that. Savannah will be staying in Texas for a year for intensive gymnastics training and competing while she’s in school.
I’m so excited for her ‘cause I know how much she loves it, how hard she has worked, and what it means to her. Go Savannah Go!
I was gruuuvin’ on that thought when my food arrived.
When my food came I looked up to thank my server. I also asked for a steak knife, which made me feel like, by now, I should just be asking for it when I first order my food.
This was definitely the hungriest I have been on this burger tour yet! I’d been awake for about 18 hours and hadn’t eaten anything, so it felt like my insides were starting to eat my insides.
Because of how much I had heard about this burger and how freakin’ hungry I was I really couldn’t wait to get at this fucker!
It was served open faced. I never really thought too much about an open faced burger other than it’s like a build-your-own. Sometimes I’m into that and sometimes I’m not.
Looking at this burger, and then getting into it, I really liked that it was served that way. Being able to really see the extent of the bacon smothered in cheese was nice.
Having the perfectly cooked bacon right on top of the patty and sealed in by melted cheese was a thing of beauty. It definitely was a burger’s version of gorgeous looking. I mean, shit maaan…it was one sexy mutha-fucka!
I also liked that the peppers were staring me right in the face. Knowing that they were gonna get merged in with the cheese when I put the burger together, it led me to say to myself, “Lookkit you, you lil’ fucks! I hope you bring the heat ‘cause I’m gonna eat the shit outta you!"
The salad-y side was very vibrant with the way the variety of colours stood out. I was definitely eating with my eyes before my meal started. I took a couple photos, then put it together, and took a couple more.
I started thinking about how much I can’t stand cutting open my burgers. Absorbed in that thought for a moment made me want this tour to come to a close so I could eat a burger like it was meant to be eaten...grab the whole thing and shove it in my face!
Somehow, thinking about the end of the tour made me anxious to get back to the Best Western…my burger home court! Eating at all these other places made me feel like I was cheating on the BW…whoring myself out to all the burgers in town. I really miss having a shake with my burgers. Shakes’r the perfect touch, and they barely exist in this town!
(As I typically only go for a burger once every 3-4 months, all the ones I have been eating made me start thinkin’ about doing a vegetarian dish tour of Nelson. Once I had that in my mind, I thought about a chicken dish tour and a curry dish tour as well. I think I’m gonna keep going with this food touring thing of Nelson.)
As much as I am fed up with cutting these burgers in half before I eat them, an aspect of that has become one of my favourite parts of the burger tour experience that I never saw coming. After I cut it in half there is always a little coat of the juice from the patty on my right thumb because of the way I open it up.
When I lick my thumb I get a first faint preview of what the patty is going to taste like. It gives an advance on the level of moisture as well as how the spicing is. (How much or how little there is, and a good sense of the flavour.) It builds the anticipation even more. It makes the next few photos a pain in the ass to get done ‘cause I just wanna get on with it. It has become like the first test to pass, and rel-ish crushed it!
The first bite is never the best one, but it is my favourite one. I’d say the third bite is the best one ‘cause that’s the first real bite when you’re hitting the middle of the burger where the main event of the party is.
The first bite is my favourite though because of all the anticipation finally manifesting in a single moment. From the time I decide to go for another burger, picking a place, ordering, having the food hit my table, and then the whole photos and opening it up thing…shit…it just seems like forever! Add in the little tease with the juice on my thumb…fuck maaaan!
I did admire this one opened more than the rest for sure. The way the bacon was done under the blanket of melted cheese…it was captivating to me. Also, the peppers standing out and sayin’, “Hey mutha-fucka…let’s do it!” had my full attention! I was ready to destroy this sexy lookin’ bastid!
Even being my favourite one, the first bite doesn’t really count ‘cause it holds the initial rush of endorphins or whatever from magik in your mouth. It wakes up and kick-starts your taste senses. I always like to take a little drink after the first bite to somewhat cleanse my palate now that my taste buds are awake and ready to party.
As I was about to take a sip of my water I was put on notice that the peppers were comin’ out swingin’. They were making their presence known ‘cause I could feel the heat from the peppers emerging and sayin’ they were here to mess me up! “Sweeeeet…I love a good battle you lil’ bastids!”
Two bites in was very validating and the difference maker right off the bat! The second bite confirmed my anticipation was as I suspected it, that the way the bacon was served was the best by far.
I embraced my captivation even further. I just couldn't get over having the bacon served under that thick blanket of melted cheese like that. It is way better than having the bacon sitting on top of the cheese on the patty, or on top of the salad toppings.
The cheese holds the bacon in place, even pulling it down a bit into the patty. The juices from the bacon start seeping into the patty and mixing with the juices of the beef. It seems to have added this sense of potency to both of the flavours, so that when you bite into it, the juiciness of the two mixed together washes over all your taste buds in a pretty wonderful way. It’s a profound flavour explosion with a euphoric rush.
The patty itself had a great texture to it. It was perfectly moist and so nicely cooked. The sear lines were beautiful. The spicing was great, and it held amazing flavour. The star of the meal lived up to its purpose.
The addition of the way the bacon juices mixed with the beef, and what happens when you bite into it all, seemed to have the same effect as what happens when Popeye scarfs down his spinach. It just turned it into this ultra ass whuppin' burger that was ready to punch out anything in its way.
Rel-Ish is by far my favourite place for the way the bacon and cheese aspects of the burger were approached and served. No other place comes remotely close.
The salad part of the toppings was fresh and quite enjoyable. The peppers held their heat true with every bite from start to finish. I don't care much for caramelized onion and would choose raw ones every time. That raw crunch and the sweet juicy pop with bite is such a natural accent to a burger.
The balance of the fresh toppings vs patty (with cheese and bacon) was perfect. As I have stated before, I can’t stand when places put this mountain of salad between the patty and top bun. It doesn’t make any sense. It makes it harder to eat, and buries the patty in the process…which is a total shame
(*I did a shitty job at holding this and taking a photo at the same time.)
Each bite of the rel-ish burger brought such a variety of flavours, textures, and sensations washing over my taste buds. It was a great size of a burger, and it was easy to eat. As a burger is meant to be, every bite had a bit of everything in it.
The bun was great too. Fresh, soft, and the perfect size for the balance of the patty and toppings! It wasn’t soggy or greasy either. It was just right.
Before I had finished my first half I understood why I had heard so much about this burger. It was fuckin’ good!
One thing that drove me a bit nuts was a particular spice that really stood out and was amazing, but I couldn't place it. I know it, and I love it, but I was drawing a blank, so I couldn’t identify it. I likened it to seeing one of your good friends who you have known for years but totally blank on their name like a dumb-ass when you randomly run into them. (I have no chance on identifying that spice now as I am at home writing this. Bummer!)
The baked fries asserted themselves right from the start. Their aroma stood out in a very familiar way. They were nice cut fries, but as I never deep-fry foods at home, the smell of them being baked felt surprisingly comforting to me.
I enjoyed the difference of baked vs deep fried. I liked the texture. I also simply liked that it was different from regular routine of a burger served with deep fried fries. By a surprise default, the fries really spoke their piece and I dug it!
The ginger ale?? Nice and crispy…no fruit!
The burger was so good that I made a point of it to finish my fries before I started into my second half. I didn’t want them disrupting the flavour flow of the burger, and did not want them to be the last thing my taste buds that I walked out of there with.
There was a moment I really took pause as I was going through the second half. It was one of those moments of perfect content-ness. It was like everything around me went silent as I got filled with a peaceful sensation and all was calm and right. The burger was a great size, but I didn’t want it to end.
I didn’t realize how busy the restaurant had gotten til I got up from my table. It was virtually full. All but one table and a little back bench table were gone. It half blew my mind that it was that busy at that time of day in the middle of the week. Totally crushing it! It’s easy to understand why though.
This was a great experience for something as simple as a hamburger, fries and soda. This burger at rel-ish is a great example of how to do a traditional burger with your own take, but staying true to the simplicity. It was beautiful. I loved it! I loved it! I loved it!
I was curious what this one would cost after my server telling me it could get expensive when I ordered it. When I got my bill I was happy. It was a full $3.00 cheaper than the most expensive one, was on the low end of the average pricing. Score another point!
I just wrote this long-ass thing about rel-ish, but here’s the four worded version:
Rel-Ish?? Fuck yeah maaaannn!
Stuff Writin' About Kinda Guy
I am a simple guy who likes to dream of the impossible and go after it. I have found fun in writing about my journey as well as other things that inspire me too.