Eight 1/2 knows its Mac
My coworker Anita knows her food. She has eaten at so many restaurants in Vancouver, it’s crazy. Want to plan romantic dinner out? Ask Anita for suggestions. Want to know where to go for the best French cuisine? Ask Anita; French cuisine is her specialty. Whatever you want to know about eating in Vancouver, Anita can probably tell you.
So when Anita suggested that we try Eight 1/2 for my Mission: Mac’n’Cheese, I was there. Our dyad became a triad when our coworker Kathryn joined in on the fun. The three of us bussed over to Broadway & Main via the old faithful 99 B-Line and walked down to 8th to the very cute little Eight 1/2.
Eight 1/2 has a little patio out front, but we made our way inside the small restaurant and tried to find a spot near some natural lighting. Eight 1/2’s interior is filled with a dark, incredibly long wood bar, which takes up about a quarter to a third of the interior space and makes the 60-seat capacity restaurant seem smaller than it is.
We were greeted by an expressionless and monotone waitress droid, but I was so happy to be spending some time with my coworkers outside of work that I didn’t really notice too much.
It was Thirsty Thursday and thus the drink special was $3.50 Highballs, but we started things off by sharing a Thai Bucket, which “must be shared” because it contains 6 oz. of booze and, according to our waitress, no one can have more than 3 oz. of liquor in front of them at any one time. We went with the Latino, with “Sauza Gold, citrus, pineapple juice” for $18.50.
So the first thing that you will probably notice from this pic is the booze. Yes, we got a whole bottle of booze, but it is clearly not Sauza Gold tequila, but rather Wiser’s whiskey. Um, that’s a pretty big difference in my book. If it wasn’t the same brand, then I would let it go. But not even the same kind of booze? That’s a problem.
The second thing you might notice from the picture is the neon green liquid. I had assumed that “citrus” meant citrus juice. We could never figure out what the green liquid was. The yellow juice is—if you can believe it—pineapple juice! Yay, 1 out of 3.
We poured all three liquids into the bucket of ice, gave it a swirl and then poured it into three glasses, with Kathryn and I taking the mammoth portions. How did it taste? Strong. Not particularly tasty, but very boozy.
Per Anita’s wise decision, we ordered several items and shared everything. We decided on two appetizers. The Four Cheese Macaroni is a “twist on the classic using Mascarpone, Brie, Parmesan, Bocconcini” for $7.50. The Organic Steak Bites are “sweet chili rub medium-rare steak bites with Parmesan dip” for $8.50. We also went with two entrees. The Marketplace pizza comes with “roasted vegetables, goat cheese, torn basil on a sundried tomato base” for $10.50. The Wild Mushroom Risotto is “a seasonal mix of fresh BC mushrooms, pine nuts, and baby spinach topped with white truffle oil and shaved Parmesan Pandanello” for $14.50.
The Four Cheese Macaroni and Organic Steak Bites arrived first. Both were real winners.
The Mac was one of the best that I’ve had in Vancouver. I’m not dethroning Acme Cafe’s Mac’n’Cheese yet, but I am announcing a potential runner-up. Eight 1/2’s Mac is very savory and very flavourful. It reminded me of a restaurant version of Candace’s Baked Mac & 8 Cheeses, complete with pepper, tiny bits of bacon, and bread crumbs on top. Yum yum. This Mac was of a fair size and registered on my value-o-meter. The only negative point was that it was a little oily and that might be a turn-off for some. For me, however, the taste more than made up for this small defect.
The next menu item to arrive were the Steak Bites and this dish was also a winner. This $8.50 dish came with about 7 pieces of bite-sized chunks of steak. The bites were cooked perfectly to medium-rare specifications. They were peppery, tender pieces of quality steak meat. The peppercorn “Parmesan dip” was a tasty complement to the bites. We soaked up the rest of the dip later with our pizza crusts. No point in wasting something so delicious!
When our entrees arrived, we were in for a bit of a surprise. The scrumptious-sounding Wild Mushroom Risotto was a dud, while the unassuming Marketplace pizza was deeelish!
Not sure what went wrong with the risotto, but none of us cared for it. We ate it out of a sense of duty and camaraderie.
On the other hand, we could have fought over the Marketplace pizza. This pizza was fresh and reminded me of the pizza that recently rebirthed my long-lost love of pizza: the Margherita pizza at Teahouse in Stanley Park. Ever since I had the Teahouse’s Margherita, I’ve been comparing all other pizzas to that ultra-fresh, quality pizza. Box pizza no longer holds any appeal for me. The Marketplace was nearly as good as the Margherita. It too had lots of fresh basil—nom nom nom—and a thin and tasty crust. The Marketplace was loaded with roasted veggies and cheese on a yummy tomato sauce. It had a slight sheen of oil, but was still far less oily than most other pizzas, even “gourmet” pizzas from the likes of Rocky Mountain Flatbread. The cheese was not quite as high quality as the Teahouse, but the Marketplace was still the second-best pizza I’ve had in the city. And at just over $10, it’s a steal. (On Wednesdays, all pizzas are $8.50!)
We debated over ordering dessert and, at the last minute, decided to share the Chai Crème Brulée for $5.50. This was another dud, as the spice of the chai dominated and destroyed all other flavours in this dessert. Chai and Crème Brulée just do not mix well; it was a taste disaster that no strawberry on top could fix.
In summary, Eight 1/2 gets high marks in the mission for the world’s best Mac’n’Cheese, but be wary of what else you order as the menu has big hits and misses.
151 East 8th Avenue