The Argo Cafe is certainly a place I would not have found on my own. It was HM who alerted us about this hidden gem. After doing a bit of research on line, it appears that it is very well known and popular with people who works around the area.
The Argo Cafe is perhaps one of those place you will not bother check out. At a quick glance, you might not even think it is a restaurant. The painting outside is very gaudy. There is the heavy metal door and the windows are barred. If I did not know anything about this restaurant, I don’t think I would even go in for a cup of coffee.
Maybe that’s the way it should be. The Argo Cafe is already … packed to the brim everyday. There is no way they can take in any more customers. Their opening hours are limited. They open only on weekdays for breakfast and lunch and close promptly at 4:00 PM. It is obvious that they are there to meet the needs of the people who work in the light industrial zone.
Let’s face it. This place is a dive and very much a hole in the wall.
We went there at just slightly before 12 noon. On hindsight it was not a great idea at all. All the tables were taken already. We were asked if we would like to wait for a table or if we wanted to take a seat at the long counter. We decided to wait. We just did not want to be so close to people as we take pictures.
Within minutes, all the seats at the counter were taken and there was already a line formed. So, I guess it is best to go way before 12:00 noon or after 1:00 PM just to avoid the swarm of workers out for lunch.
The food we ordered came with a soup. There were two choices that day: the Turkey Vegetable Soup and the Cream of Broccoli.
The Turkey Vegetable Soup is tomato based and instantly reminded us of the free soup that is offered in HK Style Cafe. It was runny and herb flavoured. It tasted better than HKSC for sure.
We like the Cream of Broccoli much better. It was flavourful and creamy and thickish.
This place is best described as a French-Chinese cafe, I would think. The food here have a bit of Chinese and French although they have the usual items like burgers. People here mostly go for their Daily Lunch Specials. The beauty of this is that daily lunch specials are changed EVERYDAY!
On the day we visited there are nine items on their menu:
- NY Steak,Mash Potatoes&Veggies with Red Wine Sauce$12.75
- Grilled Cod&Prawns,Rice&Veggies topped with Spinach&Cream Sauce$12.00
- Sockeye Salmon,Rice&Veggies with Lobster&Dill Bisque Sauce$11.75
- Seafood Pasta in Tomato&Basil Sauce- Salmon,Snapper,Cod,Prawns&Scallops$11.50
- Meatloaf,Mash Potatoes&Veggies with Wild Mushrooms$11.00
- Coconut Curry Chicken Stew,Rice&Veggies$10.50
- Pepper Corn Pork Chop,Mash Potatoes&Veggies$10.50
- Miso Chicken over Rice$10.50
- Cajun Beef,Bacon&Cheddar Cheese Burger&Fries$7.00
You find out about their special for the day through their website (http://www.argocafe.ca/). If you are in Twitter, they also tweet their menu for the day too (http://twitter.com/argocafe). So there are no printed menu. The specials are also written on the chalkboard inside the restaurant.
As you can see, their prices are generally within the $11.00 to $12.00 range.
It was hard to choose. Every item on their special sounded so good. We took so long to decide that the server came by three times asking if we are ready. The pace here is breakneck. I am not surprised and totally understand given how many customers are already waiting for a table.
We decided on a Grilled Cod & Prawns, Rice & Veges with Spinach & Cream Sauce ($12.00). The vegetables include corn, broccoli, cauliflower and carrot which are steamed.
Right under the wonderfully delicious Spinach & Cream Sauce are quite a bit of seafood. I like this meal because it felt healthy. LOL!
Looking at this dish I can relate then when people were saying this restaurant’s food has both influences of French and Chinese cooking.
Jhup on Rice western style. Right now, I can’t think of any Chinese jhup that is green in color. Too bad there wasn’t more jhup because the creamy sauce surprisingly goes well with the steamed rice.
We also had the Seafood Pasta in Tomato & Basil Sauce ($11.50). The dish came flanked by a couple of garlic toasts and accompaned with onion and bell peppers.
The Penne Pasta was topped with grated Parmesan cheese. The basil flavour was not as pronounced as we wished. We felt the pasta one was a bit undercooked. We wished we had ordered something else.
The Garlic Toast, as simple as it was, was good though.
The saving grace of the pasta was the generous amount of seafood which include salmon, cod, snapper, prawns and scallops.
I was expecting the food here to be cheap. I mean, I read review after review how cheap their food is.
Argo Cafe’s prices are not expensive for sure but they are certainly not cheap. Maybe it is I who is the problem. I usually spend $7.00 to $8.00 for (Asian) lunch and so this place is about 50% more higher than I usually spend. I am just saying this from the standpoint of how much I normally spend on a weekday for lunch. I must add that the food is of arguably better quality here.
So for the two of us, the bill came to $30.00.
Apparently, Argo Cafe is co-owned by Chinese-French family which explains the influences in the cooking found here. The Chinese owner runs the front of the house while the French owner mans the kitchen.
Is this place a hidden gem. It sure is a gem but for those people who works around this area knows about this place. That is why it is packed everyday.
This Post Has 6 Comments
Apparently, hearing from coworkers, the owner of Argo used to be an executive chef at one of the finer downtown restaurants, but got bored and decided to open his own place. Kirby is one of the guys name I think. It is a brother and sister place…you probably saw the chinese guy manning the front area? Then the French guy is the husband of the chinese sister…
Don’t quote me on this…just hearing it through the grapevine!
Hi Ryan: You could be right! I think people will appreciate the food here more if only they realize who it is behind the kitchen. Maybe that is why they are so popular despite the prices. Now that you mentioned it, there are two person manning the front. The Chinese gentleman who collects the payment and the Chinese lady who served us. Yeah, they could be the siblings you mentioned. Ben
Yes Ben, Argo is not cheap but my friends & I visit almost bi-weekly (after checking thair daily special). Sorry, I forgot to mention the best time to go is after the lunch rush i.e. after 1:00pm. So far, after trying so many dishes, I much prefer the seafood pasta in either lobster bisque or rose sauce or carboanarra sauce as well as the wasabi sesame seed crusted albacore tuna with salad and the lamb dishes. I find the portions could be slightly larger especially the soup.
Well the lady was Lynda Larouche http://www.chefdb.com/nm/1651/Lynda-Larouche Pretty impressive stuff and her husband is another executive chef too I forgot where. I always go when i have time, their beef Rib burger is one of their special that is REALLY good. I have not try breakfast there before though.
Hi Herb: Wow, that was a great resource website. Seems like Lynda has a pretty impressive resume and to think that she is now running a (very successful) dive. LOL! Ben
Guess us “cheapies” gotta let loose on the purse strings sometimes 🙂
The food looks amazing n presentation something u’ll find at a high-end restaurant. Perhaps that accounts for the price, even if it’s a dive. No Hawker’s Delight here.