If you're a fan of barbecue, you won't want to miss Northern BBQ in Burnaby, British Columbia. This unassuming spot may not look like much from the outside, but the food and interior are world of difference. Hailing from the same family as "Tasty BBQ" in Richmond, this toned-down joint near Metrotown is probably half the crowds with the same bbq-centric menu full of skewers and fried foods. During a visit from one of my foodie friends, we ventured out to this charming spot for dinner.
Team Food Soc came here on a rainy weekday evening and I had a great taste of the following (menu items poorly translated into English):
- Grilled Angus Beef Skewer
- Extra Big Lamb Skewer
- Chicken Wing Skewer
- Pork Intestine Skewer
- BBQ Chicken Cartilage Skewer
- Streaky Pork Skewer
- Squid Tentacle Skewer
- Oyster Mushroom Skewer
- 4 Snack Combo
- Lamb Noodle Soup
- Beef Noodle Soup
To christen any BBQ meal, you need a way to cleanse your palate in between seasoned BBQ bites. I love the four snack combo for this purpose. Pieces of meat, cucumber, radish, and tofu help to reset my salivary glands in between skewers.
The menu at Northern BBQ is focused on classic Chinese barbecue skewers including the likes of lamb, pork, beef, and chicken. As you can see from the long list of skewers we ordered, there is huge variety of skewers available. The one that best stood out to me was the Extra Big Lamb Skewers, also recognized as "Xinjiang" style lamb skewers. These were served on a thick wooden twig, which compared to the thinner metal or wooden skewers, made eating these juicy morsels extra fun.
If you don't frequent a lot of Chinese BBQ, there are some really wild things you can order too like the pork intestine skewer. These uncommon animal parts generally have a chewier texture to them but the reason they work is because the seasoning is so good (read: salty and sometimes spicy). To that end, I think the poultry and red meat skewers are most enjoyable at Northern BBQ. The seafood ones I felt did not have as strong a BBQ aroma.
The atmosphere at Northern BBQ is laid-back and casual, with small tables and a couple longer ones. The neon lights and signs give it the street style nightmarket vibes you might associate with a hawker market and whether or not it's authentic, I'm all for the neon vibes. Seating-wise, there appear to be about 50 seats. The furnishings are not as immaculate as Tasty BBQ in Richmond so if you want the full neon experience, you'll need to go to Tasty.
It's important to note that whatever you wear to this restaurant will be drenched in BBQ fragrances. Think being at a coffee shop all day and how the coffee bean fragrance lingers as you get home – the olfactory stimulation doesn't stop with the front door in this case!
Service at Northern BBQ was quite good. You'll get further if you go with friends who can read and speak Chinese but if you're like me, you'll just go with whatever sounds good on the menu. The menu is designed like a checklist so you just fill it out with a pencil and get a staff member to take it. Our food started coming out about 10 minutes after the receipt order was printed and pinned back on our table.
These types of places tend to get fuller as the evening progresses and while this place is not as busy as Tasty BBQ in Richmond, I think it's still worth reserving for any size group to avoid disappointment. Many skewers have minimum orders so it's best to come with a group of at least 4 people.
One-liner: The Chinese BBQ that's perfect for all levels of adventurousness
Highlight: Xinjiang or "Extra Big Lamb" Skewers
Price per person: $40-$60
Would I go back? Yes.