Moxie’s Classic Grill
Address: 1759 West Broadway
Tel: (604) 678-9973
Full of Moxie, Little Else
By Russell Ball
Saturday, October 1, 2005
* (of four stars)
A national chain of upscale casual dining fully-licensed restaurants, Moxie’s has over 45 locations from BC to Ontario, four in Vancouver alone. Some Moxie’s are company-owned and others are franchise operations, which according to their website, forms the basis of their planned rapid expansion.
When the new Moxie’s at Broadway and Burrard opened this summer there were definite staffing issues needing adjustment. Upon entering the restaurant one could expect to be greeted by upwards of four bejeweled, scantily-dressed hostesses, apparently helping to sell food with sex. In all honesty, it probably worked – I’m sure the grilled chicken breast is a hot seller; they should add thighs to the menu to maximize profits. However, the enthusiastic collective greeting was a little overwhelming, and I’m glad they’ve cut it down to only one hostess, still scantily dressed though.
The first thing one notices when entering Moxie’s is how hard they are trying to be upscale and cool. It’s easy to forget one is in a converted office building beside a gas station car wash. Someone clearly spent a great deal of money redecorating, and it looks great inside with plenty of natural dark wood and shiny surfaces; I almost felt like I wasn’t cool enough to be dining there. “Subdued” is not a word I would use to describe the décor, however slick and shiny it may seem – it’s as if every cool decorating trend out there was applied at the same time. Moxie’s aims for luxury, I just hope they don’t flaunt it too much.
The Moxie’s diner has three choices in locale: the outside patio, the “lounge”, and the dinning room. Unless you really love eating outside, steer clear of the patio. The rumble of the heavy trucks and city buses passing by a few meters away, as well as the noises from the aforementioned car wash don’t lend themselves to fine dining. Broadway and Burrard is also a primary emergency vehicle route so expect the occasional fire truck and ambulance to zoom past. There are plenty of heaters outside, plus two fireplaces, so I imagine the patio will be open all year round for those hardcore dinners. Let’s just hope they get around to painting or covering the hideous concrete planters and rusty entrance pillars (which may be intentionally so, ghastly nonetheless).
My three companions and I opted for the dining room, but I have visited the lounge before. There isn’t much difference apart from darker lights and higher seats to emphasize the bar-like atmosphere and focus – you can still order from the full menu. Apart from citing my earlier assessment of the décor I can’t really describe the dining room; it’s to varied for a brief description. There are many comfortable large private booths, which is a plus, and some, like ours, have entertaining views of the kitchen. We also had a view of the large wine fridge, which carries a number of BC vintages, but nothing you wouldn’t find in the liquor store down the street.
Upon being seated, we soon learned about the drink specials – it was Margarita night. Moxie’s has drink specials most nights, and I developed a handy mnemonic for remembering them: Beer, Margarita, Bellini, Martini (BMBM) to correspond to the Monday-Thursday specials. They also offer $7 off bottles of wine Thursdays, and have Caesars on special Sundays. The margaritas were a good price, only $3/each on special, but the selection was rather limited, as is the martini selection on Thursday. There is always the option to “Moxie-size” the drinks by adding another ounce of spirits for a small fee (only $1 on Saturday), but don’t bother. If you need liquor that badly go to the store and buy your own, I can guarantee it’s more economical (then you can bring it in a flask). There are several margaritas, but I couldn’t help but notice none of them included tequila, so I would be inclined to use the term “margarita” rather lightly. Each drink is actually a lime slush base plus various spirits and juices. My table went all in, and ordered the Melon Ball, Hawaiian Hunny, Strawberry Banana, and Atomic Orange. The Orange was a last-minute substitute for the Wacky Watermelon, as we were informed the bar was out of Watermelon Liquor – not impressive considering it was only 7pm, on Margarita Night (that’s when the flask comes in handy).
Our “margarita’s” arrived in martini glasses, which wasn’t too surprising by this point, and we were disappointed to find the “slush” was mostly frozen into floating bergs. After a lot of blending by hand we were able to enjoy our drinks, but I can’t help but think they should rename it “Mix your Own Margarita Night”. For the most part the drinks were quite good, and the Hawaiian Hunny and Atomic Orange got the most points, the Orange so much so we ordered two more. Word of warning, don’t eat the limes as the skin was covered in weird brown patches; the drinks would have looked a lot better without those diseased garnishes.
When it came time to order we were faced with the typical menu: appetizers, pizzas, “classics” (e.g., steak, ribs, chicken, salmon, etc.), burgers, sandwiches, pasta and noodles, plus six signature salads. The entire menu is online, and is the same at every location, so I needn’t go into detail about the various dishes. We skipped the appetizers but I can say that the Szechwan green beans (a special) sounded quite good. My companions ordered the Maple-glazed Wild Salmon ($18), Teriyaki Rice Bowl with chicken ($11), and the eight-inch Grilled Asparagus & Goat Cheese pizza ($9). I opted for the Shanghai Fat Noodles with vegetables ($11), one of only two vegan options (the other being the Szechwan Sizzler w/vegetables). The Western Veggie burger looked appetizing, but I was informed that the patty itself is made with cheese so that nixed it for me.
It didn’t take too long for our food to arrive but my friend who ordered the salmon was surprised to be presented with a side of asparagus, considering he opted for green beans when faced with a choice between beans and broccoli. Apparently the kitchen had changed the Salmon dish to include mandatory asparagus without telling the server(s). I love asparagus however so I gladly took it off his hands while our genuinely apologetic server immediately went to arrange a side order of chipotle green beans. The asparagus was quite good and very tender; he didn’t know what he was missing.
My Fat Noodles were acceptable, but heavy on the sauce, and not nearly spicy enough – it turned out that the three peppers I requested had somehow ended up becoming two (one can choose from one to five peppers). I’m pretty sure I would have noticed had I accidentally eaten one whole, so I can only surmise that the cooks lost it somewhere. In a similar vein, the Teriyaki Bowl and the Salmon were equally acceptable, but not notable, and the Pizza was a disappointment: bland and uninspired, and lacking any evidence of the expected mushrooms. I can’t say I’m surprised at the lack of anything to rave about in the cookie-cutter menu, it’s to be expected from a chain.
Following our meal (and fortune cookies for the Teriyaki Bowl and Fat Noodles – good news: no death or grievous injury in our futures), we opted to share a dessert between each couple. We settled upon the Mocha Kahlua cheesecake ($6) for my companions, and the Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding ($7) for my wife and I. While awaiting our desserts we all took the chance to visit the restrooms. The renovation costs clearly extended to the restroom facilities, as each one has a fireplace and big-screen TV, plus each urinal in the men’s room has its own flat-screen TV. I have to wonder why we need that many televisions in the restroom, but I imagine the answer is something like “Why not!?”
The Warm Bread Pudding was as advertised, nice and warm, which was much appreciated. And despite an almost unappetizing lumpy appearance (which is the nature of the dish) it was quite good. I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide what else the Pudding resembles upon viewing the photo. The Cheesecake was apparently a little dry, and bereft of any Kahlua flavour, a very average dish from what I’m told.
Average seemed to be the descriptor of the evening food-wise. Although the décor and menu appear unique and upscale, appearances can be deceiving. Moxie’s is fun for a nice safe unadventurous night out I suppose, but it’s more like the type of restaurant to which you bring your visiting parents, and not somewhere you would desire to visit on a regular basis for an exciting culinary experience. Unless Moxie’s can fix the communication and logistical problems we experienced, and provide some inspiration to their menu, they’ll never be anything more than a typical chain restaurant. I’ve certainly exhausted the vegan menu choices, but I may revisit to take advantage of the drink specials, considering it is right behind my apartment, and the liquor store is a whole two blocks away. I’ll be sure to bring my flask to “Russell-size” my drink.
(editorial note: EatVancouver.net does not condone the highly illegal practice of Russell-sizing.)
Russell Ball is a hard-working employee of the Ministry of Children and Family Development. He is an accomplished amateur vegan chef, but still tries to leave his kitchen for outside cooking once in a while.