Firstly, what a great name for a cafe. Secondly, bravo to these two guys – Zachary Zimmerman & Graham Marceau – for bringing something (a Hero-style sandwich shop) to Vancouver that we didn’t even know we were missing! This is the kind of eats I fondly remember from my time in New York. True story, the best hero I ever had was from a car wash/deli (yes, you read that right) in Long Island. It was a tiny shop, completely unassuming and I only really went to grab a bite because the backup for the car wash was so long but OHMY was it delicious. I haven’t seen anything even remotely resembling these hero style subs (very popular on the East Coast) out here in Vancouver so after hearing of Say Hey Cafe’s opening a few weeks ago, I knew I had to check it out.
Location: 156 E. Pender St. (Chinatown) Vancouver, BC
Say Hey Cafe is located in the rapidly gentrifying area of Chinatown in the “seedy” part of Vancouver. I’m not going to get into the politics of what is happening in the area or how I feel about the rapid development at the detriment of this city’s most vulnerable but if I’m trying to look on the positive side, at least the food scene is improving. Located on Pender Street, one block over from Vancouver’s infamous East Hastings St., Say Hey Cafe is a small but cozy sandwich shop offering up 6 sandwich options (four are the store’s staples and two are rotating features) and a few sides (soup, salad and “magic beans”). They have a great selection of sodas, as well.
Environment: Small, clean, cozy and aesthetically pleasing.
These guys are AWESOME and went the extra mile to make their customers feel comfortable. The cashier person (and I believe co-owner?) was warm and friendly and chatty. Even though I could have easily heard him call out my name when my order was ready, he walked my sandwich over to me and called me by my name (and pronounced it properly!! Bless you – no one ever gets it right on the first try). Already super impressed, I was floored when the other owner (I’m assuming) stopped to ask me how I was enjoying my meal, as he was on his way out the door. He came across as kind and genuine and truly excited that other people were loving his food.
Dish/$$: $10.50 for hero & $2 & change (I forgot to get my receipt) for the Apple Sidra
Mortadella Hero – $10.50
(Mortadella, provolone, parsley & pistachio pesto, pickled onions, mustard seeds & shredded iceberg lettuce w/ house vinaigrette)
I was torn between the Meatball Hoagie & the Mortadella option. I decided to go with the Mortadella but made a mental note to return to try the meatball hoagie soon. Firstly, I’m a Mortadella addict. Ask me how many times I ate it in Italy – actually, no wait – please don’t. If I’m ever at a sandwich spot and Mortadella is on the menu, that’s what I’m ordering. I thought that La Galleria in North Vancouver had the best Mortadella sandwich, on this side of the border, but OH NO THEY DON’T! Say Hey Cafe takes that title, hands down. And as I explained to the gentleman who asked me how I was enjoying the sub – it was better than ANY hero/sub/hoagie (whatever you want to call it) that I had in New York. I didn’t think those subs could get upstaged but here we are – go Vancouver!
The bun was soooooo good. A legit sesame hoagie with just the perfect amount of warmth and crispiness from the quick toasting of it. The mustard seeds and pistachio pesto (omg can I buy a tub of this?) perfectly complimented each other. The shredded lettuce in house vinaigrette with just a touch of grated parmesan (really nice touch) was the perfect balancing act for the rich and delicious Mortadella. Very generous portion of meat, might I add. The melted provolone at the bottom of the sub gave just enough saltiness to the sub, without being too heavy. I can’t believe I’m saying this but the Mortadella sub actually had a nice light taste to it. You know that feeling when you eat too much rich/heavy stuff at once and you feel like you swallowed a gallon of glue? Not this place – no lie, I went straight to the gym an hour later and had a GREAT workout.
Prices are only slightly higher than Subway and you get ACTUAL FOOD at this place! No questionable chicken or yoga mat bread up in this cafe. I will be returning to eat my way through their entire menu (thank god it’s not too big – summer is coming and I do want to shed some hibernation fat lolz). I’ve got my eye on the Meatball sub and the Albacore Tuna (with apple, say whaaaat?!). I liked their selection of funky sodas and I appreciate that this duo is trying to bring something new and delicious to the city. I like how they focus on one thing – heros/subs – and they do it spectacularly. You have to try this place, you won’t regret it.