Although I've never quite understood the buzz about Darrell's peanut-butter burger, I'm an avid fan of Darrell's milkshakes. So thick the straw stands straight up, they're a decadent treat that I happily made the trip all the way to the south end for. With the opening of the Hollis Street Darrell's, the shakes are that much closer—at least, in theory. Could the magic be replicated in a second location, I wonder.
That second location looks nothing like the first. In fact, it's a little swanky looking for shakes and burgers. But our cheerful server certainly makes us feel at home and a look at the familiar menu reassures me we're definitely in the right place.
Both Darrell's share a menu, one that relies heavily on instant or frozen products (such as chicken fingers, deep fried mushrooms, even the "Darrell fries"). But the handful of specialties of the house are what interest me, so we sample "homemade" corn chowder ($2.95/cup), Caesar Creole ($8.25), the Original Pita Club ($9.45), Pepper Burger ($9.45), and Three Cheese Vegetarian Lasagna ($8.95).
The corn chowder is sprinkled with cheddar cheese, which doesn't really add anything as it does with broccoli or cauliflower soup. Cheese aside, the chowder is quite nice—creamy and corny—and just the right amount of salt. A cup, though small, is very filling.
The Caesar Creole is topped with a "tender Cajun-grilled chicken breast." Cajun and Creole are two distinct types of cuisine (simply, Cajun cooking is born of the country—from the bayou, and is very much "home cooking." Creole is the refined, multi-ethnic city cuisine), so the name doesn't make any sense. Plus, a dash of generic "Cajun" seasoning doesn't make a chicken breast Cajun either. Despite the misnomer, it's a good chicken Caesar and the breast is as tender as advertised.
The pita club is stuffed with turkey, bacon, tomato and lettuce and it's easy to see why it's such a crowd favourite—it's real turkey (not sliced deli stuff). If you're not into mayo much, be sure and ask for it on the side or very light, because they tend to go heavy on the spread. My burger of choice from Darrell's ample burger options is not the popular peanut-butter version but the Pepper Burger. The homestyle patty is loaded with sautéed green and red peppers, mozza, jalapenos peppers and a hot sauce that makes you never want plain old ketchup on a patty again. There are plenty of options for vegetarians on the menu, including a good falafel, but tonight I'm braving the many cheeses of the Three Cheese lasagna. Tomato sauce, spinach and onions with layered noodles help fill out this dish. The three cheeses featured are cottage, grated parmesan, and mozzarella. Grated parmesan and cottage cheese are a little run-of-the-mill—ingredients such as provolone, gruyere, or even goat's cheese would jazz up this pasta dish and make it that much more special.
And of course, no meal would be complete at Darrell's without a shake ($3.95). Go on, be adventurous—try the creamsicle or cranberry flavours. Darrell's is licensed, so you can also add a bar shot for just a toonie. Both Darrell's locations are consistently good, but if you want a shorter wait and quieter dinner, try out the Hollis Street spot. It's busy at lunch but slower for supper, unlike the perpetually busy Fenwick hangout.
Darrell’s1865 Hollis Street11am-6pm weekdays421-7482
This location, that location, and many, many more locations, all reviewed by Liz Feltham at www.foodcritic.ca.