6509 112 Ave.
5 p.m. to 10 p.m. (11 p.m. Fri/Sat)
(No reservations outside of groups)
Food: 4.5 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns
Dinner for two (excluding beverages and tip): basic, $30; loaded, $60
Red Goose Restaurant
9625 66 Ave.
7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Food: 3.5 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns
Lunch for two (excluding beverages and tip): basic, $10; loaded $24
While as opposite as opposite can be, Bodega Highlands and Red Goose are two terrific places to go eat.
Highlands is charming in an upscale, informal, old-fashioned way — as if you’ve wandered into a tapas bar in Lisbon ...with a 40C difference in temperature.
Red Goose is a magic portal into the 1950s. It’s not trying to be kitschy or retro-fashionable. Korean owners Hank Lee (server) and his wife Chon Lee (cook) simply like the place the way it is, and has been, for 60 years.
In a Hazeldean neighbourhood strip mall, a few blocks north of 63 Avenue and east of 99 Street, Red Goose has the lacy curtains, the red naugahyde booths, the arborite tables, the dark, rec-room pretend wood paneling and the fake flowers in hanging pots. Beautiful!
The building in which Bodega Highlands is located, in the character-laden Highlands district business cluster at 112 Avenue and 65 Street, is even older, but much updated. The Bodegas folks have added a beautiful brass ceiling and some other details for a gentle Iberian feel.
At Bodegas Highlands, the sophisticated, charming server guides you through the wide-ranging tapas menu, anchored by, but not confined to, Portuguese and Spanish small plates.
At Red Goose, smilin’ Hank welcomes customers with a booming’ “Hello! Happy Day!” and a fist bump. The breakfast menu is various combinations of hot cakes, toast, hash browns, eggs, bacon and ham. Lunch is about hamburgers and hot sandwiches like gradma made for lunch. There’s a small selection of Korean dishes – bul-go-gi, sweet ‘n’ sour tofu – on the back page.
At Bodegas Highlands, you peruse the menu for a good 20 minutes. What to pick out of 34 tapas dishes, three salads, five “big plates” and four desserts? Cremini mushrooms cooked in sherry? Braised boar cheeks? Grilled octopus or calamari or salt cod fritters? Lamb chops?
At Red Goose, do you go for a burger or a deluxe burger? How about a pork chop, or liver ‘n’ onions? On the back page are a few Korean dishes. Prices range from $5 for a sandwich to $12 for main courses.
At Bodegas Highlands, after much deliberation, our party orders the first go-round: One mushroom, one eggplant, one tomato and queijo fresco (fresh cheese) salad, one grilled artichokes, one lamb chops (at $18 per dish, the most expensive tapas on the menu). One braised boar cheeks, one piri-piri prawns, one calamari, one octopus.
Forty minutes later at Bodegas, it’s time for round two: Another lamb chops (expensive, but two chops perfectly cooked, herbed with fresh mint and parsley), the cremini mushrooms, another artichokes, another prawns.
At Red Goose, two of us go Asian — hot ‘n’ spicy tofu for me, bul-go-gi for my guest 12 bucks each. No fancy frills, just stir-fried tofu squares and veggies in a nice peppery paste on freshly cooked rice. The bul-go-gi was properly meaty and spicy.
The food at Highlands Bodega is spectacular, as is its ambience. It’s every bit the equal to its older sister, the original Bodegas Tapas Bar at Sabor downtown on 103 Street.
The food at Red Goose is good, basic, filling and inexpensive. The surrounding is the attraction, like being in a James Dean movie, but real! Total bill for two, $24.
Outside the lamb, Bodegas Highlands’ dishes run from $6 to $12. But by the time our gang munched through two to three each, the bill (before tax, tip and wine) came to $122.
Red Goose was a little over half full at lunch, an older, male gang that has obviously come for ages. Bodegas Highlands was filling up on a Tuesday evening, an all-ages, cultivated crowd drawn both from the surrounding neighbourhood and from all over the city, coming for the food.
Says a Zomato commentator about Red Goose: “When I go there I feel as though life just got a little less complicated, more simplified and basic.”
And about Highlands Bodega, on Yelp: “If I start reviewing the food it’ll be 10 pages of praises.”