There's lots I like about Fort Cafe, so I'll start with what I like about this place and sprinkle in some of the negatives later. First, I love the underground bunker location and the spacial layout - the long narrow alley that leads to a more seating in the back area. There's something I've always loved about cavernous, subterranean dining and drinking places.
I've always liked the communal vibe at Fort Cafe. The place is populated with lots of regulars who all seem to know each other.The risk in places that have loyal followings is clique exclusiveness, but the crowd at Fort has always struck me as laid back, smart, cool, non-judgmental and inclusive.
I've seen some really good live music at Fort Cafe in the past, and if there is a cover charge, it's not prohibitive. This spot may be one of the city's best kept secrets as far as live, local music goes.
I like the menu at Fort Cafe. It's not all over the culinary map and doesn't try and cater to every food trend and taste. Their menu has a good focus on key, pub style dishes. On a lesser note, I wish they wouldn't bake their nachos on wax parchment paper because I always end up with a thin, transparent film of paper stuck to the bottom of the cheese at the base of the plate. Our order of nachos last night was also overdone, some of the chips were burnt to the consistency of, well, blackened, charred corn chips. Nor am I a big fan of places that charge a hefty added fee for a small dish of guacamole; for ground beef or pulled pork, sure I'm happy to pay extra, but it peeves me to have to pay $3 extra for mashed avocado. On a brighter note, our pizza made on naan bread was delicious, especially the half with pulled pork on top.
Another thing I really like about Fort Cafe is their tap beer selection. Again, they don't try and offer every micro under the sun, and they certainly have no interest in meeting the interests of the Molson Canadian demographic. They focus on Phillips and Salt Spring Island ales, all great beers. We were pleasantly surprised last night by the Heather Ale (Salt Spring Brewing). They also have a limited wine list, but offer what I consider to be the best red wine for the buck - an Argentinian Malbec, the brand name of which escapes me, but sells for $11/bottle at the government liquor store.
I also like the prices at Fort Cafe. Quality pints for under $7, and decent food that won't send you to the poor house.
When we arrived last night, they were midway through their Friday Quiz Night, and while the patrons seem to be having a fun time, I found the two British DJ/quiz-masters to be excessively loud and excessively annoying. If you like this sort of thing, fill your boots, but when we go back to this great underground space, we're going to be sure its not on a quiz night.