Some things are just not meant to be. Take my recent, unrelenting and somewhat urgent craving for Chinese food. Real, authentic, soul-warming Chinese food. I grabbed my husband and went in search of a little restaurant I had heard was one of the best. It was destined to be an oh-so-good-night. But old, rancid grease and the most incredible amount of dirty dishes I have ever seen, piled haphazardly everywhere, quickly stymied that plan. It suddenly felt more like a simple comfort food night.
We drove until brilliant blue lights, strung ornately just outside Vi’s for Pies, shone through the impending darkness and captured our attention. Set on the corner of a small, upscale strip mall in equally upscale Glenora, we were pleasantly relieved to find plenty of parking at 8 pm on a Friday night.
Once we pulled open the stylish glass door, we found ourselves face-to-face with a prominent glass display case proudly showcasing tantalizing variations of the ultimate in decadence. We took a few more steps and stopped to inspect the big black chalkboard that had the menu written on it in a rainbow of colours. But before my eyes were able to digest much of anything, a waitress directed us, kind of abruptly, to sit down and informed us that she would follow with the menu. So sit we did.
The layout of the restaurant almost makes it seem like it’s divided into two rooms: the original, somewhat more rustic smaller room and, just off to the side, the newer, more contemporary one. We found a table for two in the larger and newer room, with the high ceiling, burnt orangey-brown walls and big windows. The overall effect was simple, warm and comfortable.
The big chalkboard menu followed us to our table and was plunked down, a bit too close for comfort. Or maybe it was that most of the letters on the top half of the board had been smudged. Everything—three daily specials, a couple of soups and salads, a few appetizers and some bunwiches and entrees—was discernable, if slightly dizzying. The focus was on hearty comfort food: veggie lasagna, spinach/three-cheese quiche and chicken pot pie.
While debating how comforting we wanted our comfort food, our waitress appeared and plopped two clear plastic glasses of water onto the table. They got high marks for the juicy slices of lemon floating in them but not-so-high for the plastic. Then she asked if we were ready to order. We weren’t.
What we really wanted was a glass of wine. She disappeared to find a wine list and when she reappeared we both ordered a glass of the Vina Tarpaca Natura Cabernet Sauvignon from Chilé ($6.95 each). With only three choices of each type of wine, it wasn’t much of a decision.
Before she had a chance to scoot off, I asked her what was in the Cheddar and Veggie Bunwich. She gave me a look—not the good kind. “Cheese and veggies,” came the helpful reply. A bit more prodding led to the revelation that “veggies” actually constituted tomatoes, sprouts and cucumbers.
That dashed my hopes of something a bit more exotic, so I ordered the Spinach, Almond and Mandarin Salad ($7.95) and a 9-grain bun ($.85). My husband was leaning toward the Spicy Pork Étouffée special but in the end couldn’t resist the Shepherd’s Pie ($10.95), something I never make at home.
Our food certainly didn’t come in record time, but we did have our wine (that came in bizarrely small glasses, filled right to the top) to sip. And we watched people drift in and lay claim to all the remaining vacant tables. And then we watched people wait at the front for tables to vacate. Evidently the dessert rush was on.
Just as scrumptious-looking creations and steaming mugs of coffee were landing on most of the other tables in the room, our dinners arrived. My spinach salad came on a large round white plate; mounds of bright green spinach were topped with a generous pile of golden brown almonds and, unfortunately, canned mandarin oranges. I just don’t get the canned fruit thing—there’s always something fresh that would go so much better on a salad, even in Edmonton. Everything was wrapped in a mild, creamy, poppy seed dressing. Except for the canned mandarins, the salad was stellarly fresh and the 9-grain bun nestled next to it was soft but suitably substantial.
My husband was equally pleased with his Shepherd’s Pie. He too had a big white plate, only his was square. Half was filled with a hearty slice of the Shepherd’s Pie and half was covered with fresh mixed greens and slices of tomato and cucumber. A little pot of hearty balsamic dressing came on the side. Shepherd’s Pie isn’t my thing, but my husband declared it to be meaty and flavourful and was pleased with the absence of any errant little grease pools. A golden mound of creamy mashed potatoes topped it off. It never stood a chance.
He had no room left for the Bumbleberry Streusel Cheesecake that had intrigued him earlier. I, on the other hand, simply had to have the German Chocolate Cake ($6.05). Chewy coconut and crunchy pecans were surrounded by rich, dense, fudge-y layers of moist chocolate cake. Definitely worth the utterly extravagant and superfluous calories.
It ended up being an oh-so-good night after all—with a bit of attitude thrown in for good measure. V
Mon – Wed (9 am – 10 pm), Thu (9 am – 11 pm) Fri, Sat (10 am – 11 pm), Sun (10 am – 4 pm)
Vi’s for Pies
13408 Stony Plain Rd, 780.454.4300