James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

Is This the Most American Canadian Drink Ever?

Is This the Most American Canadian Drink Ever?

A Caesar in Vancouver

“So where do I start,” I ask my server, overwhelmed by what she has placed before me. She smiles somewhat sympathetically at my circumstances and puts down some small white plates.

“Everyone does it their own way,” my server says. “Just take it apart and start however you want.”

I am at Score on Davie, in the heart of Vancouver’s bustling West End. The drink (dinner?) that looms before me is their famous Checkmate, a spicy 4-ounce Caesar topped with a Cornish game hen, a burger, and pulled-pork slider. On top of that, this tower of protein is garnished with a pulled-pork mac and cheese hot dog as well four large onion rings, four hot wings, and a brownie for dessert.

Invented in 1969 in Calgary, Alberta by Walter Chell, the Caesar quickly became a breakfast and brunch staple for Canadians, and has somehow evolved into the drink before us on the small table. Similar to its American cousin, the Bloody Mary, the basic Caesar contains vodka, a Caesar mix (a delicious umami blend of tomato juice and clam broth), hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, and comes with ice in a large, celery salt- or pepper-rimmed glass. The Caesar is both a weekend tradition and a Canadian institution—there’s even a National Caesar Day in May.

There are now hundreds of Caesar variations. But what started as a savory breakfast drink has evolved into a meal in itself, with bars and restaurants experimenting with local garnishes, such as fresh-shucked oysters, candied bacon, grilled spot prawns, house-made pickles, and of course, this pulled-pork mac and cheese hot dog.

“It became almost like a competition to see how big we could make it—how much we could reinvent it,” says Score’s manager, Keith Corbett. “I think we did a good job with this one.”

Yes, it’s over the top, but over the roughly two hours I chip away at the drink and its many side dishes, I enjoy the experience—curious onlookers snap pictures on their phones, they ask me questions, I make those small connections that food and drink can help create.

Pleadingly, I look at my friend Curtis for a helping hand and he shakes his head.

“You’re on your own, pal,” he says and laughs.

I take my jacket off, crack my knuckles and happily do my Canadian duty.

Score on Davie
1262 Davie St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1N3
Mon-Fri: 11am-Late
Weekends and Holidays 10am-Late
Brunch Daily until 2pm

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