I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
“They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.”
That’s the impression I got after sitting down at Just Goode Food. And yes, I felt out of place, and not just because I wasn’t wearing coveralls swathed in a quart of primer. My presence, with black woollen Bellissimo jacket and matching polyester pants, was made even more jarring with such amenities as a digital watch and trimmed fingernails. I know I’m coming off like complete elitist asshole; let me try for specifics. Just Goode Food looks like the cafeteria in a retirement home, offering a buffet-like experience save for that pesky feature of allowing you to fashion your own meal. You ask for something and they spoon it onto a plate, because apparently you can’t be allowed a second serving of dried teriyaki chicken.
The attendant behind the counter offered several specials, conveniently visible but beyond reach behind an impressive and probably needed sneeze-guard. Before I go into further criticisms about the location, I’ll offer one point of high praise; the staff was amazing. The employee behind the counter first asked if I’d been there before, and then offered free samples of various dishes, even to the extent of cutting into one of the fresh lasagnas to boast its cross-section. Later, as I consumed, she greeted each following customer with as much joviality.
Oddly, I found the burgers sitting under hot lamps waiting for a bun strangely unappealing. I settled on the lasagna with a side ladle of tepid vegetables, in this case peas and corn. Water was self administered from a jug. As I sat down, I took a moment to admire the minimalist approach to the restaurant. Classroom chairs and cafeteria tables lend themselves to an unpretentious, non-judgemental—though slightly uncomfortable—atmosphere, which I would normally criticize, but one can’t assume fine dining in a restaurant nestled next to a gas station and surrounded by factories and rail yards. A folded wet and withered newspaper prevented my table from wobbling. The wooden napkin holders matched near precisely to the kind I forged in woodworking class when I was fourteen. It doesn’t look pretty to be sure, but Just Goode Foods is still a world ahead of Curry Kingdom.
On cue, I’d be expected to offer praise for the food at this point, considering several people had attested to the quality of the dishes locked behind the plexi. Alas, I cannot do so. The lasagna instantly flopped in half when placed on my plate. It was a mess of layered noodles and runny tomato sauce with frugal grains of beef, topped with dried cheese. I’m of a thought that if lasagna is not prepared in a single-serving pyroceramic glass dish, it should be made in way where it’s able to support its own structure. Perhaps I’m not an appropriate judge, considering the baseline I compare lasagna to is my sister’s underappreciated bi-yearly invites. However, I do realize a location like Just Goode Food is still a preference over ready-made vacuum sealed sandwiches made three days ago and shipped via courier from Kamloops.
All of this doesn’t matter, mind you, as JGF still claims one quality few restaurants can ever hope for, even ones with French waiters and maitre d’s cloned from Richard Branson. Just Goode Food makes a point of reminding you of this with the movie poster flanking the entranceway, though in retrospect, I can appreciate that it’s the only indication. That’s right, Just Goode Foods was in a film, and no, I don’t mean some obscure student flick or a panning shot from Strange Brew, which for a mystifying reason, people in this city still mention. I refer to the brief time after the turn of the millennium when a public relations genius bordering on a scale of Putin’s Communications Secretary was able to convince Hollywood to use our town (hundreds of miles north of Vancouver) as a film location. The selling point was less our landscape and more our local jail, one of only three at the time in North America that resembled a modern prison without the pesky impedance of being occupied (the newer jail was built next door). Using the jail as a hook managed to reel in two back-to-back productions, Double Jeopardy and Reindeer Games. It was the latter which expanded from the jail to encompass various other locations about town. Anyone from that time remembers the surreal nature of stumbling onto Gary Sinise at Earls or Ben Affleck at Save-On (renamed Michigan Fine Foods for the production).
…and since there will never be another venue in order to gloat about this, I was once given the opportunity to be on set for several hours, thanks to a certain Dwayne Washington, best friend of my brother-in-law, who waved me past security. I stood freezing next to his Mother and a cute blonde whose name I never learned. As the rabble of insane tweens gathered at the perimeter, I shook the hands of both Danny Trejo and Ben Affleck. With Ben, I thought, seriously, am I standing in a hole? The man’s tall. I remember congratulating him on his Oscar…which he had won TWO YEARS EARLIER. With the cute blonde beside me and the wailing mob in earshot, I knew Ben had zero interest in anything coming from the direction of my face. Although I really wanted to shake the hand of Ronin director, (the late) John Frankenheimer, I never got the opportunity. This all occurred at the Sandman Inn off the highway, miles away from Just Goode Food, so I admit rolling off topic here.
I imagine Just Goode Food’s appeal as a film location was because of its very nature, resembling every cliché a roadside diner should have. I was tempted to ask the staff where the cast sat, or if they actually tried the food. I’m guessing no to the latter. At $9.75, you get a lot of it, as much as any other roadside diner, but I found the experience still lacking in quality. However, how many places can you eat where you can claim you sat exactly where two Oscar winners uttered dialogue meant for ugly people wondering if the other found their opposite attractive? Perhaps they just felt repellent after eating three pounds of lasagna.
PS: The quote was from Sorkin, and Reindeer Games was not the last feature film shot in Prince George. Before the PG Film Council folded (at least in motivation), they did manage to also snag Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher, shot mostly around town rather than in it. Considering the two last films flopped, perhaps Hollywood got the hint and stuck to Vancouver. Also, if you care to see Just Good Food in the film, jump to about 14 minutes into it.
Just Goode Food
990 Railway Rd,
Prince George BC,