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Meet Me at Whalley’s Corner – Part 4: Di Reggae Cafe

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In this installment of the continuing series about the community in City Central, take a step into the tropics. Located in the heart of Surrey, right at historic Whalley’s Corner, Di Reggae Café is a hidden gem in the bustle of the city. Open the door to the Caribbean right in your back yard and meet Richie Hussett of Di Reggae Café. 

Richie, who was born in Jamaica, has had an entrepreneurial spirit for as long as he can remember. As a young man, he dreamed of owning a business, one that would both serve people and bring them together. A passion for cooking and a deep love for family fostered his desire to open a restaurant where people from all walks of life could feel at home. His dream became a reality when, in 2011, he opened the doors of Di Reggae Café (originally known as Binghis) in Whalley Corners in the heart of Surrey City Centre.

His unique menu of Caribbean dishes has provided Surrey’s Jamaican and island community a place where they can savour food from back home. As well, he has created a space where all people can come in to experience the flavours of “the islands”. Di Reggae has grown into much more than an eatery — it is a place where family and friends can enjoy great food and live entertainment — or, as Richie says, “Di Reggae Café embraces the roots, culture and ethnicity of our Jamaican background, our delicious Caribbean cuisine and remembrances of good ol’ Jamaican times.”

A look around at the colourful furniture, grass umbrellas and bright posters brings a feeling of easy, laid back days on a tropical island. As we chat, Richie points out the most popular items on the menu — Oxtail – a dish of tender pieces of meat simmered with potatoes, carrots and sweet peppers, Curry Goat – a mild West Indian curry, and of course, the traditional Jerk Chicken for that distinctive Jamaican spiciness. “Our Seafood Fridays are a big hit with our customers.” Richie says, “We serve the authentic Jamaican dish, Ackee and Saltfish. The ackee (the national fruit of Jamaica) is simmered in a pan with boneless salted cod bits, onions and sweet peppers and served with a choice of rice & peas or “cooked food” (Boiled green banana, Jamaican yellow yam and dumpling)” Of course,” he says, smiling “we also have Chicken Fingers and Fries, because all kids love them!”

Di Reggae features a small stage for live bands and music from blues to jazz to reggae, and room for dancing. Richie comments, “A lot of our customers in the evenings are couples out for date night. And our open mic nights are a favourite with our regulars.”

Asked about the challenges he faces, Richie talks about the typical issues that businesses, especially restauranteurs see everyday. “Rising prices, competition and staffing problems are the kinds of difficulties we as business owners all come up against from time to time.” Richie says, “I’m the sort of person that is determined to make my own wayway — and I’ve seen some hard times for sure. But my faith helps me to keep going, and I have the support of my family and loved ones.” He admits that there have been times when he has worked at part time jobs to help when things got rough. “There have been stretches where I was working all day every day and most nights, too.” He says, “For me, it’s what I do — this place is my dream, I want it to succeed.”

Richie talks about the hurdles that come from operating in a densely populated area that is experiencing rapid growth. He credits the Whalley Community Improvement Association for promoting the area and spearheading many proactive initiatives. “The very first meeting of the association happened right here in this restaurant,” he says. “And because of this association, we have a greater police presence — officers regularly walk the beat, or ride through on their bikes or drive by in their patrol cars. We also have an increase in street maintenance including keeping the empty lots clear of tall grass and weeds. As a result, the community feels safer. The association is making a difference and that certainly helps.”

Richie enthusiastically shares some of his ideas and plans for Di Reggae. “I would like to bring in more bands and artists, maybe add in some motivational speakers. Right now, we are renovating the back of the restaurant to include an outdoor eating area. We anticipate that our patio will open sometime this year. Our extended food licence has been approved and we are busy developing the space.” He smiles as he adds, “Ultimately, I want Di Reggae to be a destination restaurant — the place you come to when you want some great Caribbean food and lively entertainment shared with friends and family.”

Di Reggae also offers take out meals, private parties and outside catering as well as their dine-in menu — and of course, great food, excellent customer service and a friendly, fun atmosphere. As it says on eatery’s website, “Di Reggae Café represents roots, culture, diversity, heart, home & family” where everything is always irie. Come join us for a cool island time and engage in a delightful ting!”

Visit Di Reggae’s website for more information.

Catherine Johnston is a Marketing Coordinator with a love for all things social media. She enjoys crafts, cooking, exploring the Lower Mainland, and is big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She is passionate about reading and has been a member of the Novel Thinkers’ Book Club for 20 years. You can read her exploits on her personal blog wordsartlife.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter @CateGJo

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Events

Cloverdale Market Days are back!

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Cloverdale Market Days
Cloverdale Market Days are happening on the last Saturday of every month (@cloverdalemarketdays / Instagram)

After being cancelled for the last 2 years because of COVID-19, Cloverdale Market Days are making their comeback this Saturday, May 28. The market will be open from 10 am to 3 pm and will have up to 150 different vendors and food trucks. There will also be three stages for live musical performances. It will take place all along 176 street in downtown Cloverdale. 

This is a great opportunity to support local artists and businesses who have been struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The first market will be held on May 28 but there will also be four more on June 25, July 23, August 27, and September 17 in case you can’t make the first one. 

Local eateries like The Henry, Hawthorne Beer Market, and The Vault will also have sidewalk patios open for people to sit down and relax. 

The market will be open rain or shine and the streets will be closed from dawn until 4 pm for set-up and clean-up. 

Cloverdale Market Days

Address: 176 street between 56A and 58 Ave

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Food & Drink

Here’s the best bubble tea in Surrey

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best bubble tea in Surrey
Drinks from Presotea and Gong Cha (@presoteabc @gongchasurreycentral / Instagram)

Whether you call it bubble tea or boba, everyone loves the sweet drink with those irresistible tapioca pearls. If you live in Surrey, then you’re in luck! Surrey has so many different bubble tea options. So here’s our list of the best bubble tea in Surrey.

 

Boba Boy

Boba Boy has all of your classic bubble tea options. Whether you like milk tea, fruit tea, or smoothies, Boba Boy has got you covered. We’d recommend trying the Dalgona coffee with oat milk and grass jelly. They also have some yummy dessert options like their mini donuts covered with cinnamon sugar. 

Address: 15127 56 Ave Unit 104, Surrey

 

Leaf Tea Lounge

 

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A post shared by Leaf Tea (@leaftealounge)

Leaf Tea Lounge is a hip bubble tea spot with a super aesthetic interior. This is the perfect place to snap your next Instagram pic while enjoying some delicious bubble tea. If you’re feeling like some food with your bubble tea, they also serve unique varieties of fries. We enjoy the Tokyo fries which are covered in matcha with Japanese mayo, sesame seeds, and seaweed.

Address: 1618 152 St, Surrey

Presotea

 

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A post shared by Presotea BC (@presoteabc)

What we love about Presotea is their Milk Tea Triple Combo. It comes with pearls, grass jelly, and pudding. So if you’re a fan of bubble tea toppings (or if you can’t decide which one to order), visit Presotea. 

Address: 10355 152 St #1046, Surrey

 

Bubble World

 

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A post shared by Bubbleworld Ca (@bubbleworldca)

Sure, Bubble World has some great bubble tea options like their milky mango ice cream slush or their taro oreo slush, but that’s not all. Bubble world also serves delicious food. If you’re looking for somewhere with great drinks and food, Bubble World is the place. We love the baked fried rice with fish cutlet and white sauce. 

Address: 10090 152 St #137, Surrey

 

Gong Cha

Gong Cha makes our list for the best bubble tea in Surrey because of how many different drinks they serve. We enjoy their honey rose Tie Guan Yin tea latte and Oreo milk foam earl grey tea.

Address: 10294 City Pkwy Unit 104, Surrey

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Food & Drink

Surrey just got a new Australian brunch spot

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Reux Cafe & Bar
Ruex Cafe & Bar serves delicious brunch and evening drinks

Ruex Cafe & Bar just opened in Surrey and it is every brunch lover’s dream come true. With amazing decor inside, tasty brunch, and delicious drinks, there is no reason why you shouldn’t go visit.

Ruex Cafe & Bar has been in the works for a few years and is inspired by “Melbourne brunch culture.” From the food to the decor, everything is inspired by Australian brunch. From what we can tell, Australia definitely knows how to do brunch. 

The menu consists of some unique twists on brunch classics like the biscoff french toast which is “cornflake crusted brioche french toast stuffed with warm biscoff and served with cinnamon mascarpone and brulée bananas.”

 

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A post shared by RUEX CAFE & BAR (@ruexcafeandbar)

Another notable mention is the udon carbonara which comes with pecorino romano, Grana Padano, spinach and poached egg. We’ve never seen carbonara on a brunch menu before, but it just makes so much sense. 

But don’t worry if you’re not a morning person because Ruex Cafe & Bar is open from 9 am till 11 pm and serves great evening bites and drinks. We’d recommend trying the fried chicken sliders that come with cabbage, tomato jam, and spicy mayo on a charcoal bun. If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, the halloumi tostadas are also a great option. They’re served with crispy corn tortilla, slow-cooked zucchini and eggplant, tempura halloumi, avocado, and pico de gallo.

 

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So if you’re wanting to take to Australia without spending the money to fly there, why not check out Ruex Cafe & Bar. Whether it be for Sunday brunch or evening drinks, we promise you won’t be disappointed. 

Ruex Cafe & Bar

Address: Unit 120 13615 Fraser Highway, Surrey

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City

5 Restaurants and a New Year in Surrey!

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Afghan Kitchen, Surrey BC.

Another new year approaches: Surrey 2022 here we go! But with the new Covid restrictions, where are you going to enjoy this Friday night, whether you intend to celebrate New Years Eve or just celebrate because it’s Friday? 

We have a list, albeit a short one, of restaurants that are open on New Year’s Eve.

Dominion Bar & Kitchen, Surrey BC | Instagram post.

Open until midnight. Reservations are recommended but not a must. This Surrey restaurant is well known for their Canadian dishes, complemented by an exciting list of cocktails, BC wines, and local craft beer, in an open concept restaurant with high top tables and chairs. Bones: they will be offering an all day happy hour on Friday.

The Clayton, Surrey BC | Instagram posts.

Open until 2am. The Clayton is a unique choice. Although there will not be a party they do have a DJ, along with classic tasty Canadian dishes and appetizers, plus 3 incredible fire tables available in their fully covered & heated patio spaces. Also, they have a ton of drink specials, just in case you might be drinking responsibly during your visit.

The Cabin, Crescent Beach – Surrey BC | Pan-seared halibut, Instagram Post

Open until 10pm. Featuring a $60 New Year’s Eve menu, The Cabin is a solid choice for a Pacific Northwest experience featuring seafood, “AAA” steaks, gourmet pasta, local craft beers, and a healthy selection of wine. It should be noted, as of right now, 7:30pm onwards is fully booked, however we’ve been told there might be some cancellations. You can and should put your name on the waitlist.

Afghan Kitchen, Surrey BC

Open until 10pm. Featuring traditional Afghan cuisine. If you live in Surrey, you know this place is amazing. If you don’t, that’s ok, just watch this episode about them on CBC Vancouver’s YouTube. Mom’s cooking never tasted better. Now, perhaps you’re saying to yourself, “Nothing special here, where’s the party!?” however, since many restaurants are closing early this year, and especially living in one of the most diverse cities in BC, what better way to enjoy your end of year than with a local culinary “staycation” at one of Canada’s top 100 restaurants!

With that said, last but not least by any means:

Kathmandu Bar & Grill, Surrey BC | Instagram post.

Open until 1130pm. Serving a delicious blend of Nepalese, Indo-Chinese, and Western Cuisine. Like we said, while in Surrey, try something new. Allow your tastebuds to create a mini celebration for you, safely at your table.

Have we helped? We certainly hope so! 

No matter how you plan to enjoy this Friday December 31, stay safe, stay warm and we wish, as always, the very best for you and your family.

 

See you next year!

Desire Kokuvi Amouzou

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Food & Drink

3 Must Have Winter Treats for Surrey!

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Gulab Jamin being served up at Maharaja Sweets in the Payal Centre, Surrey BC, photo by Desire Amouzou.

Some might say, there is nothing better in the world than being outdoors enjoying freshly poured maple syrup snow candy coupled with that crisp smell of winter in the air, and a log cabin surrounded in a forest of snow and maple trees. Definitely some might say this, if they lived in Montreal. 

But for us, living on the West Coast known for our rain and most recently our atmospheric rivers, this is likely the last thing on our minds.

Rest assured though, Surrey has memories to be made with the treats we share during the winter. 

Here are just 3 treats of many!

First on the list, one that makes a healthy appearance starting around September in particular and might be difficult to find through the month of December but is worth the hunt: 

Crinkle cookies!

A variety of crinkle cookies, Image by cravingforcrave.com

These cookies are very often a hit during the winter months, especially but not exclusively in our Filipino community. 

Why are they called crinkle cookies? Well, because they’re crinkly of course! But more accurately because of their slightly hard-covered exterior, which is cracked through the baking process then covered in a tasty icing sugar. The moist tasty brownie style interior is revealed in the cracks of the cookies creating a winter wonderland map. Popular flavours are chocolate, ube and red velvet. The chocolate is Christa Jance’s favourite, co-owner and crinkle cookie baker for the local Surrey business Craving For Crave. Check for them online in January, they go quick!

Chocolate crinkle cookies, Image by cravingforcrave.com

Second on the list, but equally as tasty and doesn’t need much introduction:

Panettone!

Flamigni brand panettone in store display at Delitalia Fine Foods, Image by Delitalia’s Instagram

This is an Italian type of sweet bread, said to have originated from Milan, and possibly having  roots to the Roman Empire, made for emperors, a bread sweetened with honey. Panettone is also very common throughout South America and hence throughout Surrey you are likely to find it at many winter gatherings. Very often given and received as gifts, and it’s no surprise as these delectables are often packed into stunning decorative, branded packages.

Assortment of Panettone at Delitalia Fine Foods in Surrey BC, image by Delitalia’s Instagram.

Flavoured with lemon zest, orange zest and candied fruit and raisins, Panettone can be found at either your local London Drugs, Costco or, if you want to try a rich variety, some flavoured with different types of liquor and beautifully handmade from Italy, then you must visit Romolo and his Mother Penny, owners of Delitalia Fine Foods. Let Romolo talk you through all of the varieties!  

Toast it, butter it, and enjoy it with a hot beverage of your choice!

Now, last but not least, and not as widely known as you might think, but absolutely respected and loved throughout Surrey: 

 

Gulab jamun!

Originating in India and declared the national dessert of Pakistan, by the Government of Pakistan, this milk-solid-based sweet derives its name from the Persian words gol, meaning flower, and ãb meaning water, referring to the rose water-syrup it sits in (flavoured also with Saffron or Kewra and Green Cardamom).

Jamun is the Hindi word for an Indian fruit similar in shape and size to gulab jamun, known to most as a black plum. 

Gulab Jamun soaked in honey rose-water, Maharaja Sweets – Surrey BC, Image by Desire Amouzou

Note, gulab, or the sugar syrup this fried tasty ball of beautiful dough is lovingly soaked in, for some recipes, can also be replaced with slightly diluted maple syrup. Full circle! 

It’s amazing served hot during cold weather, the dough melting in your mouth, and even better if it’s complemented with some ice cream. 

 

So where can you get this amazing treat you ask? 

Maharaja Sweets & Restaurant, Payal Centre, Surrey BC, image by Desire Amouzou

Pretty much anywhere in Surrey, BC. In fact we might have to save space for an article on the various places you can secure some. But for now, do yourself a favour and get out to the Payal Business Centre, a home to so many sweet shops with a rich assortment of Gulab Jamun. It’s not the only location by any means, but it’s a good start. One amazing spot in the centre well known in our community has to be Maharaja Sweets & Restaurant. Really, you need to go if you haven’t already!

 

You can purchase it packaged, but it truly is best enjoyed freshly made. 

In the end, whatever treat you grace your home with, perhaps all of them, we hope you are able to share them with the ones you love!

 

Desiré Kokuvi Amouzou,

Surrey604

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