It was the May long weekend of 1986. I was 19 when I arrived in Alberta, looking for work at a time when work was hard to find in the Lower Mainland. Almost instantly, I discovered the CKUA Radio Network, and for more than 20 years, that station was an important part of my every day.
What attracted me most to CKUA was the impossibility of predicting what the hosts would play next. Hired for their musical knowledge more than for their slick radio voices, each show was a well-curated personal expression culled from CKUA’s extensive library, which is said to be the largest of any radio station in North America (supposedly, only the Smithsonian has a larger collection).
Much of it is vinyl or original-release CDs, which means a lot of music you won’t hear anywhere else. This includes the approximately 2,100 albums worth of music produced by New York’s Folkways Records (folkways.si.edu) from 1948 until 1986, when founder Moses Ashe died.
Folkways music was part of my lifefor many years, so imagine my reaction upon learning that Victorian restauranteur Seth Ashe is Moses Ashe’s grandson. And that he has opened a New York-style deli in tribute to his late grandfather.
Papa Moe’s, two doors from the Cineplex Odeon on Yates, offers burgers, sandveitshes and staff vurscht (stuffed dawgs) that can be accompanied by an assortment of sides, all prepared to evoke the Yiddish and Italian influences of New York’s Greenwich Village. I debated between the Reubenesque, which features Montreal smoked meat, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, mustard and Russian dressing on rye bread ($15), or the Autobun, with a Wagyu beef hot-dog, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, fried onion, green onion and grainy mustard stuffed into a hoagie ($9). Well, if it’s New York, it’s gotta be a dawg.
Did you notice that I wrote “hoagie?” This dawg comes stuffed into a small loaf, its ends closed, looking like the world’s largest super-stuffed baked potato. It’s an impressive thing to see, but those closed ends don’t make it any less messy to eat. This was a three-napkin adventure, with no shortage of drippy grainy mustard. The cheese, melted until just elastic, refuses to snap, and the zing of the sauerkraut is classic. But somewhere, down in the depths, is that beautiful Wagyu dawg, thick, juicy, smoky, but somewhat lost among all the rest. I paired my Autobun with curly fries ($6), but I could have added pickles, salad, or house-made chili, among other choices.
Now, Papa Moe’s is not a big space. It is a step-up-to-the-counter place. Decor is limited to a collection of atmospheric photos of the New York City of Moe’s day, which made it seem fitting to consume my meal seated at the window ledge, catching breezes through the open glass while watching the Yates Street traffic, immersed in a soundtrack that, while not limited to Papa Moe’s collection, certainly plays from it. As for CKUA radio, it can be streamed at ckua.org or on your Google device.
Papa Moe’s | 250-590-0744
766 Yates Street, Victoria