Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weekend Forty-Four: Docker's Diner

(Catie: Dave's parents joined us for brunch and as they are such fine word smiths they appear below as guest writers for this post.)

We were over from Victoria and joined Catie and Dave for brunch today after our weekend at Irwin’s high school reunion, and Dave had been working hard all weekend doing the sound for Rhythm City Mess Around at the Russian Hall. We were all cheerful and a bit weary from over-funning and were looking forward to a good visit and an easy, gentle brunch sans lineups, gourmet prices and fancy décor.

Catie had heard of, but not yet visited, Dockers Diner (no website) at 1869 Powell Street, really close to Dave’s sound job. North of Hastings and close to Victoria Drive, it’s in an industrial neighbourhood like those in many of Fred Herzog’s East Vancouver photographs, with the old Rogers Sugar factory nearby. There was plenty of street parking available and there was no lineup so we went right in.

It’s a small place and we were greeted immediately by a friendly server; there was a large table of customers already there, but they were nearly done and the noise level subsided considerably when they left. The window tables look right on the street, and the servers’ counter is in the middle of the diner, creating a small and friendly atmosphere. The walls are covered with black-and-white photos of this part of old Vancouver, some with people’s business cards tucked into the frames, so we added the card for Dave Henderson Sound to the collection.

The menu advises that your first name is Honey or Sweetie, which pretty much sums up the attitude of the whole place. Relaxed but efficient, with speedy and thoughtful service, as hot sauce arrived without even being requested, and coffee, tea and water came quickly along with several offers of refills.

Irwin had the omelette with cheese, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes, plus panfries and brown toast, and pronounced it all excellent.
Georgina had the feta cheese and spinach omelette (always trying to recapture that old Greek spirit, she is), and it was packed with both. She noted that this is a real treat as sometimes the fillings are deeply overshadowed by the eggs. She also ordered the optional pancake-instead-of-toast, which was a plate-sized delight. It came with syrup and butter, both of which she eschewed in favour of jam, instantly available. As for the panfried spuds, again she was in heaven (you may recall that in Joe’s Diner she was also transported by their potatoes). Here too they are genu-winely potato-ey and ungreasy and her whole meal was, in a word, fabulous.

Dave had a special that was, surprise, an omelette. The omelette contained cheddar cheese, bacon, and onions. Dave enjoyed his omelette and hash browns thoroughly and despite it large size he cleaned his plate.
Catie had the tradition eggs benny. The ham was real ham, not the deli stuff and the eggs were done to perfection, for Catie that means hard. The hollandaise sauce was a kind she had never come across before. It was very pale, but though it lacked colour it did not lack flavour.

When we were brought our bill, we were also brought butter tarts as well. They certainly sweetened the end of our experience at Docker's Diner. We all loved our meals - the homey atmosphere (so good for chatting) excellent service, interesting photos and the classically tasty diner food, whose portions are generous and easy on the purse, will bring us back here for sure.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Weekend Forty-Three: Return to Crave

This week, accompanied by our special guest Kyle, we left from our secret location with a single-minded focus... we had a craving for Crave. We have blogged brunch at Crave before (previous Crave entry) and it was a very pleasant experience. This time may have been even better.

We arrived and were seated very quickly near the front window. This location was particularly good for people watching. There is an excellent patio in the back of the restaurant, but the weather wasn't patio friendly during our visit.

Both Kyle and I ordered coffee, while Dave, true to form, had an orange juice. We had much discussion over the "pulled pork on back and cheddar biscuit" Benny. Yes, it sounds delicious, but is it pulled pork on bacon And cheddar biscuit or is it pulled pork On bacon and cheddar biscuit. After this was cleared up, I picked the California Benny ($10), Kyle decided upon the Bacon BLT on Brioche ($13) which promised to put hair on his chest, and Dave went for the Build Your Own Omelette with back bacon, cheddar, mushrooms, and tomatoes ($10).

We all dug into our food happily. Kyle was kind enough to share a bit of his thick cut wild boar bacon. It was incredible! Personally, I hope it doesn't come through on its hairy chested promise. I was not kind enough to share my Benny which had what seemed to be an entire avocado and fantastic hollandaise sauce. Dave, too, was not kind enough to share what looked and smelled like a very tasty omelette.

We fell under the relaxing spell of good conversation and the indescribable atmosphere of Crave only to realize that we were running very late for an event taking place that day, namely the Rhythm City Mess Around. Kyle had to run! The waitress attended to our needs at a spectacular pace and we, happily, made it without missing a beat or a step.

Crave remains fantastic! It's hard not to revisit it every weekend...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Weekend Forty-Two: Roundel Café

This was a special occasion. We were going on a Bicycle Ride! We headed out from our secret location, pedaling as fast as our little legs could carry us, towards Hastings-Sunrise. Soon we became tired, and the only remedy was brunch at the Roundel Café.

Tucked into a storefront on Hastings near Nanaimo Street, we didn't really know what to expect. There was a line when we arrived, but the waitress said we'd not be waiting long. Kim, Catie's sister, joined us, and we settled in. The Roundel has been here for almost 50 years, and the arborite tables, stools at the counter, and brightly-coloured ceramic pie plates are a testament to diners past. We were ushered to our seats soon enough.

As usual, I had OJ (fresh! yay!) while Catie and Kim both had coffee. (refills! yay!) Unfortunately, the refills were few and far between - we ended up asking the person behind the counter to get one for us, as our server could not be found.

I chose the Huevos Rancheros ($8.50,) which were excellent. Fresh-tasting beans, guac, yoghurt and salsa, eggs from happy chickens and cheddar cheese rested atop corn tortillas. It didn't last long, and was a step up from most huevos I've had. I don't know what the spicy sauce was, but its heat was a good complement to the savoury salsa. Can't beat the price, either!

Catie's Benny (the Classic Ham, with bacon added, $9.75) pleased her greatly. There was a sign proudly stating that the Hollandaise is all house-made, and she was happy that it was so. The English muffin was fluffy, and the eggs were poached just right. Followers of our blog will know that the kitchens don't always deliver the eggs as requested, but the Roundel did a good job.

Kim ate scrambled eggs with bacon and hashbrowns for $7. Her eggs and bacon were full of flavour, though the yam in the hashbrowns was not really to her liking. Some yam pieces were undercooked, and their sweetness wasn't really appealing.

The manager (?) dropped off our bill unceremoniously - she'd previously managed to spill coffee on Catie's lap, and to have the bill before being asked if there was anything else we wanted was a bit rude and unsettling. We felt as if we were being rushed out the door to make room for other diners, but the lineup had disappeared by this time. Hailing another waitress, we ordered some dessert.

We ended up with a slice of apple pie ($5, including a big scoop of mode,) which had just the right amount of sweetness and cinnamon spiciness added to the apples. I'd go back for the pie alone - it was that good. To continue ending on a high note, we were brought three spoons with the pie without having to ask for them. Friendly!

All in all, the Roundel Café exceeded our expectations in both good ways and bad. The vintage decor, good prices and tasty food more than offset the short wait. We recommend it, but try not to be seated in the manager's section!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weekend Forty-One: Elbow Room Cafe

This weekend found us looking for a little bit of abuse, so we headed out from our secret location to Yaletown.

If you have a sense of humour and can take being mistreated by staff then the Elbow Room is for you. This unassuming little cafe has a long, almost twenty year, history of fame and infamy. The Elbow Room has received many awards from many publications. My favourite was "best indifferent and abusive service" which can be seen in the entry/waiting area.

We were seated quickly. I ordered a coffee and Dave an orange juice. We got our own water, don't even ask them, just as I fetched my own coffee refills.

We strategically looked at the menu, which is very long. If you don't finish your food, you will make a donation to A Loving Spoonful, though you should make a donation anyway.

I decided on the Karen's Benny without shrimp or hash browns ($12.75). Dave ordered the Lumber Jack Breakfast ($11.75). He was really hungry.
I really enjoyed my Benny. The hollandaise was spicy and delicious. Dave's breakfast was a little lack luster as far as the appearance and the grilled tomatoes were a little under done but the rest of the meal was hearty and flavourful.
The food is not super spectacular, but I'm certain that we will return with friends to enjoy Elbow Room's unique customer service, and that is probably the best review that a restaurant can receive.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Weekend Forty - Helen's Grill

Today was a venture into the past. We listened to a bit of Beatles and Buddy Holly, and set out from our secret location in search of a retro meal. We came across Helen's Grill (4102 Main St, at King Edward, 604-874-4413, no website) and decided that it could be our Brunch Time Machine.

We went inside and were not disappointed. Wood-grain paneling, spinning stools at the bar, jukeboxes at the tables, and a menu from the mid-fifties greeted us. Coffee (for Catie) and OJ (for me) were quick to appear. Catie immediately fed the jukebox a quarter, enthralled by the selection of songs from times past (Bee Gees, Elvis, and Buddy Holly, but also Garth Brooks. Which of these is not like the other?) Sadly, it seemed that the jukebox was hungry. It ate our quarter and did not play any music...

The menu has all the expected favourites from a classic diner, but our eyes were drawn to the specials. Catie, continuing her quest to sample every possible Benny configuration, chose the classic Benny for $9 (but with bacon instead of ham), and I, in a fit of manliness, chose the steak and eggs for $9.50. We settled in to wait for our food.

A steady stream of people came in and out, some settling in to read the paper and drink a coffee, one family, and some friends. It was a cozy atmosphere - the waitress greeted some of the regulars by name - and we quite liked it. Our attention was momentarily distracted by the two giant flat screen TVs above the bar, though. Nothing like motocross (wow! they can fly!) and X-Games crashes (wow! Tony Hawk is getting old!) to accompany a breakfast.

Our food came quickly, and we were pleased. Nothing too fancy, but simple food made well. My steak was really very tasty, my potatoes crispy-fried, and the toast was lightly buttered. I'd happily order it again. Catie's Benny was made with hollandaise from a packet, she suspected, but overall was tasty. The eggs came just the way she liked them, which is a bit of rarity.

We emerged from Helen's Grill, back into the year 2012, feeling happy from our excursion into the brunch of yesteryear.