You would assume any drive through Canada would be seasoned generously with green fields, foraging moose, and crystal lakes. Being October, the fields are yellow and the moose are in rutting season meaning you don’t want see any (it will kill you, eat you, or hump you). Any view you could enjoy is marred by the obstructions of double-trailer rigs thundering along the two-lane patchwork this country laughingly considers a highway. I was told that in preparation for the Winter Olympics the government was expanding the Caribou Highway to four lanes. It is expected to be finished within the decade. I expect delays.
I know I was approaching Quesnel, not by the limit sign, but by the advertisement praising the small town’s strengths. “Retire in Quesnel” it says. So, they basically gave up trying to get people to start a life here. Come to Quesnel…A good place to die. Glancing around at the other patrons at Savalas, this tactic apparently worked. Quesnel is a small town. It looks like a small town; it acts like a small town. Not a single building is over four stories and chain stores appear an endangered species. About the only recognizable brand I found beyond the banks were wireless companies, ironic since my phone was having issue finding service.
My sister convinced me to go to Savalas first, an easy decision since my backup choice, the Bistro Duo, was up for sale. Passing Savalas, I could see this being the preferred option, standing out with wood finish, spotless glass, and custom-made sign. Inside, it looked as posh and as formal as any restaurant I found in London. The restaurant’s name is etched in glass between supporting pillars. Maroon and beige chairs and tables were matched by natural wood flooring and neutral walls. Savalas stands out. It’s just a damn shame that this is promoted as a family restaurant.
I took my own seat and found a menu waiting for me. A liberal helping of plastic and paper enclosed coffee additives occupied a third of my table. The menu was one page, double sided, covered top to tail with the standards of any family restaurant, a bouillabaisse of generic American food mixed in with westernized renditions of foreign cuisine. The waitress offered the $5.99 special, but I declined in favour of the Philly Cheesesteak, $10.99, one of the most expensive offerings on the lunch menu. This choice was despite the tempting Mexican-themed salad bar.
All you can eat tacos—I must have been an idiot not indulging that.
The two overweight loggers (I’m assuming) were already on their second plate by the time my food arrives. I had not one but two full glasses of water flanking my netbook. The waitress praised the quality of their homemade fries. The last time I heard that I got five potatoes and a quarter of a bacon strip on a burger. The geometrically perfect square plate was dominated by a cheesesteak four inches wide. Wide. The fries were perfect, offered with a side of gravy presented it its own boat. It had an undertow. The sandwich could do with a bit more cheese and peppers but it certainly didn’t skimp on the beef, making the result more of a roast beef sandwich than a Philly cheesesteak. The shaved meat was also a tad on the dry side. These are minor criticisms.
Savalas suffers from its location. It’s a family restaurant parading as high class. In a larger city, it could abandon the family motif and present itself as fine dining. In a town of 20,000 people, plus or minus the turnover of the local retirement homes, Savalas must cater to the shotgun approach, assuming multiple roles to different people. I imagined that come the dinner shift, the mood and decor changes, and the “wait to be seated” sign gets pulled from storage. Although I hate to admit it, I may have drive back here to see if that’s true. I get the impression that, like White Goose, Savalas wants to badly be more than it is.
My sister explained that Savalas was one of the oldest restaurants in town, older than most places in even Prince George, and that the owners had once attempted to expand Savalas here some years back. It didn’t take. That’s a shock…I guess Savalas didn’t offer enough fries. If they were to try again and replicate this location somewhere in my hometown, I could see it giving local restaurants a run. Unlike Hummus Brothers, Savalas doesn’t deceive its guests about what it is, and yet both places could be related, both replicating the modern trend of restaurants made popular with Earls and Moxis. I would like to see a restaurant go on a limb and use oranges and reds as its dominant colors…well….except McDonalds. Okay, maybe that wouldn’t be a good idea.
A final tag of 13.99 bucks is an absolute steal, almost justifying the drive. If I owned a frugal prius or even my prior civic, and if I was not such a time Nazis, I could see casually driving to Quesnel every once and a while just to have lunch. As I drive a thirsty turbocharged AWD, this will not be happening. But considering Quesnel’s location on the Caribou, and if you happened to pass through here at a reasonable time, it’s actually justifiable to eat here rather than wait for the next stop, even if that stop is the much larger Prince George.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.