Review: Cabin 12 | 3111 Cedar Hill Rd | Victoria
24 Feb 2010 · by Brennan Storr · Be the first to comment!
Update 3/14/2012: Hey there, loyal readers. Cabin 12 has relocated to 3111 Cedar Hill Road near the Hillside Mall. It's a bit of a hike but worth it for the friendliest restaurant in town. This review refers to their former location at 607 Pandora Street but I stand by my words.
To get to the new Cabin 12 by transit take the #24 bus from downtown. It'll let you off a stone's throw from their door. Otherwise there are a number of buses that take you within walking distance, including the #4, 22, 25, 27 & 28.
Update, June 2015: Sadly, Cabin has has recently closed its doors.
Sometimes you just know that you're not going to like something. In early 2005 I was going through a prolonged breakup when two close friends got tired of me drifting from room to room in my house like the ghost of Miss Haversham and dragged me to out to the movies. Living in Revelstoke we had only one film on offer, the romantic comedy Hitch and I fought like mad against going in there; after I Robot there were a dozen things I'd rather do than watch Big Willy "Hell, yeah!" his way through more nonsense, but my friends prevailed.
Funky, but in a good way
Two hours later I emerged from the cinema feeling better than I had in months - over the course of the film I had come to realize that I had great friends who really cared about my well-being. That's a rare thing. But take away that affirmation and you're left with a film that was, as predicted, absolute rubbish. When I came across it on cable recently I felt an almost irrepressible urge to channel The King and fire my .44 into the television. All the positive memories clustered around seeing the film couldn't change the fact that I knew I would hate it going in and felt no different coming out.
I knew I wasn't going to like Cabin 12 because I'd heard it was "trendy", "funky", and "hip", three words that make the hair on my neck stand up, but I thought I'd give it a try - it only seemed fair. Sometimes you just know that you're not going to like something. And sometimes you're wrong. I enjoyed my lunch at Cabin 12 more than any in recent memory and if this is the way that owners Corey & Dan always run their ship then I've found my new favorite restaurant.
When I first started hearing about Cabin 12 I had no idea where it was. Though it's been open ten months it was only last week that I stumbled across it tucked away on Pandora street, in the spot once occupied by the Jamaican Jerkhouse. I never had the chance to eat there but with a name like Jerkhouse it's hard to imagine why they went out of business; maybe when custom dropped off they tried arranging the tables in a circle to improve customer to customer interaction and the new signs started giving people the wrong idea. After that sort of misstep all you can do is mop the floor, turn out the lights and lock the door behind you.
As soon as I stepped in the door at Cabin 12 I was warmly greeted by Corey Judd - server, part-owner & driving force behind the restaurant. In my reviews I've used the phrase "warmly greeted" before but it wasn't until then I realized what that phrase meant - he seems genuinely pleased to see every customer and even I, who can be the reserved type, felt immediately comfortable. There were only a handful of customers in the place so I had my pick of seats and I snugged up against a far wall, near the bar. My drink order was taken right away and I was brought a stack of reading material to browse if I was so inclined, which I thought was a novel touch. Included was that most engrossing of time wasters - Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.
Inside, Cabin 12 is much larger than it appears without but doesn't at all feel cavernous, instead it encourages you to explore and after my coffee arrived and I placed my order I did just that. There's an array of locally-created art on the walls, much of it engaging and unlike other coffee shop art around the city it was by and large priced within my reach. Near the door stands an aged record player in a vast cabinet. It's a holdover from a time when electronics were large enough to double as furniture - myself, I fondly remember my 27-inch television/bookshelf/serving table. Looking at things like this it's not hard to see why people initially distrusted consumer electronics - it's not hard to imagine something that big harboring deep, awful secrets and maybe even a few merciless Soviet agents bent on annihilating our freedom. In fact I'd wager that's behind the entire miniaturization industry - the smaller the technology, the slimmer the likelihood that Ivan is hiding inside, munching on onions and waiting for us to let our guard down.
I know you're in there, comrade.
Framed background photo by
the talented Eric Porcher of
The bar in the center of the restaurant is decorated with posters advertising performances all over Victoria and on a shelf above it sits an impressive collection of LPs for the lo-fi sound system. At a glance I noticed some classic Fleetwood Mac and Black Sabbath - Vol. 4 I think - along with many more and though I normally despise background music in restaurants I'll give Cabin 12 a pass just because they have great taste.
Breakfast AND a motorbike.
All you need.
When my meal arrived I returned to my table. The "Coastline Wrap" ($8.95 - yes, you read that right - $8.95) has grilled chicken, spinach, feta, pico de gallo & garlic sauce. Bizarrely, the menu said that it also came with hashbrowns & toast, but I asked for and received fries. The portion was smaller than you'd get at a similar brunch spot, say The Blue Fox, but it comes at a lower price too, so it all makes sense. The spinach was crisp, the garlic sauce wasn't so thick as to overpower everything else and the feta cheese did all the wonderful things I have come to expect from it. The fries were good too, hot from the fryer & crisp. And get this - you're automatically brought not only a large squeeze bottle of ketchup but one of hot sauce, too! You don't have to bugger around with those one-drip-an-hour Frank's Red Hot bottles and then look like swine when, in frustration, you unscrew the cap and just pour away.
If you're a regular reader of this site then you may have noticed I specialize in "but" reviews, as in "Cafe Brio has great service in a beautiful location but their food disappointed me" or "Alzu's is the perfect late-night meeting place but the parking lot can be a lot like Thunderdome." This week is no exception although the "but" is for a very different reason; there were no spiders in my wrap, and the chef didn't come out and enumerate the host of terrible carnal acts that he intends to perform with my mother.
Cabin 12 is the best thing to happen to Victoria's food scene in a long time, but it needs the support of a community in order to grow. Owners Corey & Dan have grand ambitions for the future of Cabin 12 and their enthusiasm is refreshing and not a little infectious. If they can hold on to that, keep delivering reasonably priced fresh food and build up a clientele without alienating newcomers, an all-too-common mistake for a business to make, then you've got the start of something special here, Victoria; something worth bragging about but only if you give it your care and attention. I hope you do. I'll see you there.