Vancouver Food Cart Fest 2013

If you’re at all familiar with the food scene in Vancouver, you’re probably aware that this post is long overdue, since the food cart festival is a summer event. (And obviously for good reason, what with all the rain we get). I actually visited the festival in September with Sam and Pickles, when all of us had returned from our summer travels, so this post is actually only four months in the making. What with school and work and life in general, it can be a bit difficult to keep on top of things…that’s my excuse, anyways.

Despite the burgeoning food cart scene in Vancouver, I often find it difficult to seek out the specific ones that catch my interest. Many of them are open for a limited time during the day, or only at a specific location that is out of the way of my usual commute. Well, thank goodness for the food cart festival, then, which conveniently gathers Vancouver’s most popular food carts in one area so that folks like me can get to pig out to our hearts’ content. In 2013, the festival was hosted in a lot right by False Creek, which made it easily accessible by SkyTrain for us car-less folk.

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The three of us split up to consider our options, and Sam ended up with a Sourdough Pepperjack Cheese Sandwich ($8) from Mom’s Grilled Cheese. She had tomatoes and double smoked bacon added to her sandwich for $0.50 and $1.50, respectively. She quite enjoyed her sandwich, as the bread was fried up nicely on the griddle, making it crispy but not too greasy. Meanwhile, the sandwich itself was quite hot, so the cheese had that perfected melted consistency that we all look for in a grilled cheese sandwich. The sandwich is also served with chips, which were stuffed at the bottom of the paper cone, making the chips themselves soggy. Sam noted that she’d had the sandwich and chips served on a plate before, which was much better, as the chips didn’t get soggy. Still, the tomatoes and bacon nicely enhanced her sandwich, making it an enjoyable meal. Sam also indulged in a Ginger Mint Lemonade ($2.75), also from Mom’s, which tasted mostly of ginger with only a slight tint of lemon. It also had a slight enjoyable fizziness, and was an enjoyable drink for the very hot day that we were enduring.

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Meanwhile, Pickles and I wandered over to Yolk’s Breakfast. I’d wanted to try Yolk’s for a while, but simply never had the chance to. I’ve now had their food twice, once here and once at the actual restaurant now open on Hastings Street, but there was a time when I used to drool over some other fortunate soul’s Instagrammed chicken and waffles or soft-poached egg sandwich.

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The wait was long and arduous, but we finally received our orders and, luckily enough, found a shaded table to sit down and munch. Pickles had the Chicken and Waffles, which didn’t look super pretty but definitely did the job. The chicken was crispy, juicy, and flavourful, and came in large pieces. I’m a big fan of fried chicken (and pretty much every other deep-fried food), and I often find that I get more batter than actual chicken, but that certainly wasn’t the case here. The waffle itself was nice and buttery, but a little too soft for her liking, although it might have been softened by the hot weather and the fact that it took us a while to find a table to sit at. But then again, Pickles was fresh from her trip to Belgium at this point, so perhaps her waffle standards were a bit too high.

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Meanwhile, I had an item that I’d longed for for quite a while, a Poached Free-Range Egg Sandwich ($7.50). They have a beautiful flowchart where you can customize your sandwich, and I had mine with hand-carved honey ham, fresh spinach, dijon, hollandaise, one poached egg, all on an English muffin. There were quite a few flavours going on here: the saltiness from the ham, the tartness from the hollandaise, and a nice, comforting savouriness from the egg yolk. The English muffin was soft to begin with, and only got softer once I broke the egg yolk. This resulted in a super messy sandwich to eat, although it wasn’t a huge problem once I decided to fork-and-knife it. Breakfast sandwiches are my favourite type of sandwich, and this one was certainly yummy, but I’m not really sure if this particular combination was worth the hype that often accompanies any talk about Yolk’s.

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It’s just not breakfast without potatoes, and at Yolk’s these come in the form of a Truffle-Lemon Hash Brown Skewer ($3.50). At first bite, my hash browns were quite tart, with a very strong lemon flavour, but after that, the flavour seemed to mellow out, which was good. I think I waited too long to eat mine, as they got quite soggy, but other than that, these potatoes did an excellent job.

After finishing our food, the three of us took a nice walk along False Creek and enjoyed the sunshine. This was back in September, mind you, when Vancouver was enjoying sunny weather rather than the dreary, foggy dampness that we’re enduring now. Summer is always a season I look forward to, but the food cart festival definitely adds to an already perfect time of year.

Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck
800 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC

Mom's Grilled Cheese Truck on Urbanspoon

Yolk’s Breakfast
Vancouver, BC

Yolk's Breakfast on Urbanspoon

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Café des Deux Moulins

On our last day in Paris, Dolph, Pickles, and I still had about half the day to explore, since our train out of Gare du Nord wasn’t until 6pm or so. We decided to spend the day roaming around Montmartre, which was just a few Metro stations away from our apartment. Our first stop was the Basilica de Sacré Coeur, a majestic white cathedral sitting on top of the hill of Montmartre, from which you can look down onto the city. We somehow missed the tram from the Metro station up to the basilica and walked up a series of very steep steps, but the view was worth it. I also liked seeing the inside of the cathedral and comparing its simpler, somewhat sweeter appearance to the imposing nature of the Notre Dame, which we’d visited on our first full day in the city. It seemed bittersweet but also significant to start and end our Paris stay with trips to cathedrals, with more frivolous sightseeing sandwiched in between.

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After admiring this stunning view of the city, we walked down the hill, which was considerably easier than our upwards hike. Our next destination was Moulin Rouge, which is also located in Montmartre, which has historically been known as the bohemian district of Paris. As such, it is filled with sex shops and other, well, interesting businesses to this day. I liked the contrast it provided with the classier tourist stops I’d visited during my stay in Paris: Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, and whatnot.

DSCN0360Moulin Rouge itself wasn’t particularly exciting, to be honest. We just stood outside the building and snapped photos like the other tourists who’d managed to find the same spot. At least I finally learned that “moulin” means “mill”. I wasn’t a big fan of the movie, so I guess that’s why Moulin Rouge didn’t resonate with me as much. I was more excited about our lunch spot, which, funnily enough, was also featured in a movie…

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Our lunch spot was just up the hill from Moulin Rouge, and named Café des Deux Moulins because of its location near two moulins, the other being Moulin de la Galette, which was the subject of a famous painting by Renoir currently housed at the Orsay. Anyway, this cafe is also somewhat of a tourist hotspot in its own right, as it was featured in the movie Amélie as the protagonist’s workplace. Amélie is just one of those quirky, strange, feel-good movies that I love, and it was such a fun experience to see where the movie had been filmed. Of course, they happened to have the movie poster hanging near our table, autographed by the director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Hanging by the entrance was an autographed photo of Audrey Tautou, the actress who portrayed Amélie in the movie. To be honest, this was like any other cafe we visited while in France, and the food wasn’t spectacularly good or bad, but clearly if you’re a fan of the movie, it’s definitely worth paying a visit! The place is very tourist friendly, and has both English and French menus available.

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The three of us all opted for the same breakfast, which included a hot beverage, glass of orange juice, toasted baguette, a croissant/pain au chocolat, and an omelette/three fried eggs for €12. I chose the Café au Lait for my hot drink, and it was simple but nice. There was a substantial layer of foam covering slightly bitter coffee. It was comforting to have both a hot drink and OJ to look forward to. The juice was very fresh and pulpy.

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We’d been hoping for pains au chocolat, which we’d fallen in love with during our short stay in Paris. Since they were out, we settled for these Croissants, which to their credit were buttery, flaky, light, and airy. The croissants were quite yummy, but then again, I love croissants as long as they’re freshly baked, which these were. The baguettes were quite chewy but hard, as expected, and served with packets of strawberry jam.

DSCN0370The last part of my breakfast was the Omelette, which was served alongside a slice of tomato. I liked the addition of the tomato, which was refreshing. The omelette itself was thin and eggy, without any other ingredients, and to be honest, I found it very bland. A pinch of salt would have helped. I suppose this is a North American mindset, but in hindsight, I would have loved some ketchup, which I’m sure would have been available if I’d asked.

Our breakfast/lunch at Café des Deux Moulins wasn’t spectacular, but we still enjoyed our time here, especially because of the Amelie aspect. All things considering, though, the food here is still tasty, and a nice place to stop by if you’re spending a day in Montmartre. This is my last post about Paris, funnily enough (I really didn’t eat out very much). Onwards to Dublin!

Café des Deux Moulins
15 Rue Lepic
75018 Paris, France


Paul’s Place Omelettery

SignageThe end of the skating season means many things—on the more depressing side of the spectrum, it means that I no longer have work (and a source of income), but on the happier end of things, it means that my feet no longer need to be squished into a pair of tight skates, and it also means that my Tuesdays and Thursdays, which were devoted to work before, are now completely free!

I immediately jumped at the first chance to hang out with Darek and Cynthia on the first Thursday I had off from work, and since we haven’t had brunch in a while, we decided to hit up Paul’s Place Omelettery. So it was, on that beautiful, sunny Thursday, we hopped into Darek’s car and made the trek down to South Granville for some delicious eggy goodness.

TeaWe were seated immediately by our friendly waitress, but for some reason we didn’t get menus or water til some time later. It didn’t matter too much for us though, since the restaurant was pretty busy at the time. When a waiter came over, we ordered drinks: a cup of Coffee ($2.25) each for Cynthia and Darek (who seems to have issues functioning without a mugful), and a pot of Earl Grey Tea ($2.25) for me. The coffee was decent, as was the tea (by Mighty Leaf, so really, what could go wrong?), and I certainly spent a fair amount of time admiring my chipped, but beautiful teapot adorned with a cilantro leaf.

Corned Beef Hash Without hesitation, Darek ordered the Corned Beef Hash ($9.95), which seems to have been his go-to the last few times I’ve had breakfast with him. This version included sautéed potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, bacon and corned beef, topped with two poached eggs, cheddar and edam cheese. The presentation was great, but Darek found that his dish was under seasoned (a comment I’ll make about the potatoes in my dish too), and so he added quite a bit of hot sauce and pepper to spice it up. The eggs, though, were poached perfectly, and the dish wasn’t too greasy overall.

Da Vinci OmeletteCynthia, after much debate (they all sounded so good!) settled on the Da Vinci Omelette ($9.95), which was made with three free-run eggs, and filled with chorizo, mushrooms, tomato, spinach and feta cheese, and accompanied by multigrain toast, with jam and butter on the side. This was a pretty sizable portion, and there were plenty of ingredients hidden within the omelette. We loved the chorizo as it added a bit of spice to the otherwise vegetarian omelette; however, I felt that the egg could have been fluffier, as it felt a little thin in certain parts.

Florentine BennyAnd for myself, I had originally wanted an omelette, but changed gears and ordered an eggs benedict instead. The Florentine (Small (1 half of a muffin)- $7.50; Large (both halves of a muffin)- $9.50) sounded delicious omelette style, so I figured that it couldn’t be bad atop an English muffin– and I was right! There was a plethora of ingredients underneath my amazingly runny poached eggs: spinach leaves (not terribly wilted, which I would have hated) and mushrooms (button and shitake, from what I could tell) sautéed with garlic butter and onions, and a few crumbles of feta cheese. This was all topped off with their house cheese sauce, as opposed to Hollandaise– I was a little skeptical at first since I love my hollandaise–but it worked out quite nicely, since it wasn’t overwhelmingly cheesy. The English muffin was also toasted nicely so that even towards the end of my meal, the muffin was still a little crisp on the edges. The Benny also came with a side of pan fries, but I found them to be rather plain: as a rule, I don’t add salt to my food, but in this case I needed to because they were so bland. Some seasoning on their end would have made this a stellar plate.

 Cinnamon Frech ToastLastly, we decided to share a plate of Cinnamon French Toast ($5.75 plain, $8.95 with fresh fruit, berry compote and whipped cream) since it sounded delicious. However, we weren’t too impressed with this, as the toast wasn’t as fluffy or eggy as we expected, thereby rendering the slices quite dry. The portion size was pretty good though (6 slices for about $6), and if I had only ordered this to eat I would have been extremely full. The berry compote was well-balanced, being both tart and sweet, and I wish there could have been more of it; as well, the whipped cream tasted fresh and well, creamy. The side fruit wasn’t anything special, just the usual cantaloupe, honeydew, grapes and oranges you’d expect. I don’t think I would order this again if I were to come here in the future.

InteriorWe had a nice time at Paul’s Omelettery catching up, and the food, with the exception of the french toast, was very well prepared– there’s no denying that they know how to make eggs right. After the initial hiccup in service, our server (a man, perhaps Paul himself?) made sure to check up on us once in a while, and our coffees and waters were never sitting empty for long. It’s obvious that Paul’s Omelettery is a local favourite as well as a tourist spot (there was a family from the States sitting next to us), as there was a huge line around the time we were finishing up (mind you, we went on a weekday, so I can’t imagine what it would be like for Saturday or Sunday brunch), and I think I would go there again– maybe make a day of it, and spend my afternoon shopping on South Granville.

Paul’s Place Omelettery
2211 Granville St
Vancouver, BC

Paul's Place Omelettery on Urbanspoon


The Templeton

I suppose that for many, that Christmas Eve itself is exciting, but for me, it’s usually a bore: my extended family all lives in Korea, so there’s not much in the way of new stimuli. We’d planned a Christmas Day dinner with our next-door neighbours, which I was looking forward to, but I was lacking plans for Christmas Eve. So I was glad when Pickles, Dolph, Sam and I decided to meet up for brunch and exchange some baked goods in honour of the season. And at Pickles’s suggestion, we decided on The Templeton, a kitschy diner on the corner of Granville and Helmcken.

The Templeton is a small, busy, bustling, classic diner, complete with a jukebox and pictures of Elvis grinning up at you as you eat. There was one server on duty, who was impressively efficient, and the decor was eclectic, but in a comforting way. The menu itself echoed this, with breakfast options that had a dash of creativity but weren’t too abnormal.

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Dolph and Pickles both opted for the Mangled Eggs ($9), three eggs scrambled with garlic, bacon, and brie inside a toasted croissant, served with rosemary potatoes. Pickles had regular bacon, while Dolph decided to try the veggie bacon. Both enjoyed their breakfasts, especially the potatoes. Pickles noted that while the menu stated the addition of garlic, there was very little garlic flavour. Everything was especially delicious with Sriracha sauce, which was provided for each table, along with a bottle of ketchup. As for the potatoes, they were a big hit with all of us, with the addition of rosemary really adding an extra dimension of flavour. These seemed to have first been boiled, then pan-fried, and although I usually prefer string hash browns, these were excellent. As for the real versus veggie bacon debate, Dolph regretted her choice of veggie bacon, as it tasted more like tofu than anything else. You can’t beat real bacon, I suppose…

DSC_0003I had the Trucker’s Breakfast ($9) and Sam the Big Ass Breakfast ($12). My breakfast included 3 eggs, a choice between turkey sausage, bacon, or veggie bacon, rosemary potatoes, and toast (sourdough or whole wheat). The Big Ass Breakfast was the same, except for the addition of cinnamon French toast or blueberry banana pancakes. I had my eggs scrambled, and Sam’s over easy, and as you can see, we both decided on the turkey sausage. We ended up getting one order of the sourdough toast and one order of the whole wheat, with Sam choosing the French toast over the pancakes.

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We both enjoyed our breakfasts. The scrambled eggs were fluffy and perfectly cooked. The turkey sausage was rather grainy, and a little bland. Although we realize that The Templeton has a focus on organic and vegetarian-friendly foods, we would have preferred if they offered regular breakfast sausage. The rosemary potatoes were lovely, having a nice crust without being oily. Our toast arrived buttered, but I would have preferred to have buttered it myself, as it was a bit too much for me. As for the French toast, it contained raisins, and was served with powdered sugar. We both enjoyed our breakfasts, and felt that they were of a respectable portion size considering the price we paid.

The four of us really enjoyed our breakfast at The Templeton, and I think this would be a great choice for breakfast with some vegetarian friends. Sadly I tend to be a bit carnivorous, and the one complaint I had was that they didn’t serve regular breakfast sausage, which is one of my favourite things about breakfast. Still, the food was tasty, especially the rosemary potatoes, and the service was a bit harried but friendly. Also I found the seats a bit uncomfortable and cramped, but it was part of the charm of the place. I would definitely recommend The Templeton as a tasty and inexpensive breakfast spot downtown.

The Templeton
1087 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC

The Templeton on Urbanspoon


The Wallflower

I’m having trouble thinking of a decent, clever preamble for this one–so let’s just jump right into it. It was a typical July day in Vancouver (raining, dreary, cold)–Lamb was visiting from Korea, and Pickles had just returned from her trip to Europe. (So jealous!) Originally, GoddWong had wanted to eat at The Foundation for our lunch–but of course, we got there and the restaurant was full. Not wanting to wait, the four of us just walked across the street to The Wallflower. The Wallflower, too, was quite packed, but somehow the four of us managed to snag a table.

The restaurant was quite busy and the servers obviously overworked. It took us a lot longer than we’d have liked to be given menus and have our orders taken. The food also took quite a while, and while it was nice to enjoy each others’ company, it was a little stuffy inside and the tables were quite close together. Sometimes this can be a pleasant experience…and sometimes, it isn’t. Anyways, moving on to the food…

GoddWong, being the healthy person she is, had the Spinach Salad, which came with spinach, strawberries and balsamic vinegar. She chose to add grilled tofu, but opted out of the goat cheese. In the end, she didn’t really enjoy her salad, as the spinach was soggy and quite oily. To me, the vegetables also didn’t look very fresh. As far as a salad goes, I don’t care as long as the veggies are fresh–and this salad was disappointing.

 

Lamb chose the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich, with a side of fries (you can also opt for soup or salad). The sandwich was served on garlic toast, with swiss cheese, onions, mushrooms, and peppers. Overall, she thought it was a good sandwich, but not something she would get again. The bread was hard, and the bread-to-filling ratio was off. Dipping the sandwich in the provided au jus softened the bread considerably, but made it a little too salty. She thought that the meat, cheese, and pepper complemented each other well, though. The fries were mediocre, being dry and neither greasy nor salty. They tasted baked, not fried, but were much too dry.

Pickles was debating between the eggs benny and the Shrimp Bacon Avocado Wrap, and eventually decided on the latter. In addition to the shrimp, bacon, and avocado, the wrap was served with a side salad and also included guacamole, lettuce, and tomato. The wrap was generic and quite bland, since it included no sauce. It was quite large, but very dry. The shrimp was rather disappointing, since it was the tiny, frozen, watery kind. Still, the bacon was crispy and the avocado soft and creamy. The side salad was fresh and not overdressed.

There were quite a few options for bennys, but I just opted for the classic Benny, with the typical English muffin, ham, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce. It was quite a rainy, dreary summer day (oh, Vancouver) and I wasn’t feeling very adventurous. This version was nothing spectacular. The eggs were runny as they should be, but the hollandaise sauce was a little too thin and a little too bland. I enjoyed the side salad though, which was the same as Pickles’s above. The best part of my meal, however, was the hash browns. They tasted real and were satisfying crispy, but not too greasy.

In the end, I felt like I enjoyed my lunch at The Wallflower–although that was probably due to the excellent company I had rather than the food. The restaurant seemed severely understaffed, and the food was nothing spectacular. In fact, the four of us didn’t feel that the food was anything great–(obviously, since my favourite part of my meal was the hash browns). I think this would be a good place to go if you have a larger group of people, since there are quite a few options on the menu, and there are even vegan options to accomodate a variety of diners. However, next time, I would prefer to wait for a table at The Foundation.

The Wallflower
2420 Main Street
Vancouver, BC

The Wallflower on Urbanspoon


Lucy’s Eastside Diner

One thing I love about wandering Main Street is that you get to stumble upon so many little restaurants and shops that you’d normally miss if you were just driving or transiting by. On one of our Girls’ Day Out shopping excursions, we happened upon Lucy’s Eastside Diner on Main, about a block away from the Chevron on 12th. Unfortunately, it was quite late at night and so we’d already had dinner (up the street at Burgoo), but I thought I would like to make a visit here sometime.

Fast forward 4 months, and I’ve finally had the time to go. My lunch date for the day was Emo, who had actually just helped me move some furniture, so of course I had to treat him to lunch for being so generous. Lucy’s was a few blocks away from where we were that dreary day, so we quickly found ourselves some street parking, and made our way into the restaurant.

Lucy’s looks quite quaint and diner-y (or at least what I think is quaint and diner-y. I’m sure that differs from what you picture in your head). There are chrome tables with the tops painted a bright orangey-coral, the requisite breakfast bar area, and a few cozy booth seats in the back. We chose to sit at the bar on the turny stools, and even ordered some classic diner-y items so that I (we?) could get the full experience.

We started our meal off with a Strawberry Milkshake, which came with a refill tin. Since we were at the counter, we got to see our waitress make the shake; unfortunately, all we saw her put in was a few scoops of ice cream and a drizzle of strawberry syrup. Maybe my expectations were a little high (diners are typically known for their quickly-served dishes and not for their fancily-made food), but I was disappointed that they didn’t put any actual strawberries in it. I understand that strawberries and other fresh fruits may be on the expensive side, but I honestly wouldn’t have minded if it was just the stewed-in-syrup kind either. Oh well. Since there weren’t strawberries blended in, the milkshake was very smooth and creamy, but a little lacking in flavour– all I could really taste was the vanilla ice cream. It was also less thick than I prefer my shakes (I kind of like the struggle, and I’ll always remember Peter’s Drive-In in Calgary for their amazing shakes that one summer). For the price ($5), I’ve certainly had better, but I suppose it wasn’t too bad going down.

Emo and I each decided on a meal each– that way we could sample a bit more of what they offered. He chose Lucy’s Homemade Mac n Cheese, which was quite a decently sized dish for $6.50. Emo ended up adding bacon for an extra cost (I believe it was about $3) so that he’d have more than just cheesy carbs on his plate– not that bacon is really that healthy anyways, but who can hate bacon? I thought that the Mac was nice and creamy, and was on the milder side of the cheesy scale. I liked that it wasn’t a nasty, radioactive colour (a la Kraft Dinner), which made eating it much more enjoyable. However, I didn’t find the bacon, which was crispy and tasty, to be worth that much extra, but then there was still quite a bit of food for under $10. This was probably one of the better macs I’ve had recently.

For myself, I love a good omelette, and was pleasantly surprised by their extensive and eclectic filling options. I was stuck between the caramelized onions, mushrooms (!) and bacon and the Artichoke Hearts, Marinated Roasted Peppers, Mushrooms and Goat Cheese 3-egg Omelette, but I chose the latter instead. I liked the different choices available for the filling– no boring, plain old Denver omelettes for me! This omelette was packed full with ingredients, all of which tasted fresh (well, as fresh as a marinated pepper can be). The eggs were fluffy and the goat cheese provided a good salty kick to the plate, and it all just worked well together. Along with the omelette (not very nicely presented, but whatever) were some hashbrowns and toast. I’d have to say that the hashbrowns were a bit of a fail, as they were far too potatoey for my taste and were quite bland despite the seasoning you see– I had to use a ton of ketchup, which isn’t something I normally do. The toast was alright and well, toast-ish. I liked the main better than the sides in this dish, and I’d gladly come back to try their other omelettes too.

So this visit to Lucy’s was a hit-and-miss. I liked some aspects, and disliked others, but overall it was an ok experience. Perhaps if I find the time to go back (maybe during school, since it’s close to the 99 route) I’ll try a different drink and another omelette, or their other offerings of burgers, hot dogs and other diner-y entrees. It certainly helps that Lucy’s in open 24 hours, so if I’m in need of a place that is both meal- and allnighter- material, I have one more place to go.

Lucy’s Eastside Diner
2708 Main Street
Vancouver, BC

Lucy's Eastside Diner on Urbanspoon


Cafe Medina

I don’t remember when Cynthia and I talked about going to Medina for brunch, but it was certainly a while ago– probably sometime back in January. Anyways, for some reason or another (craziness of school, craziness of work, craziness of life in general), we had to keep postponing our date– but with the end of finals in April, and a lighter course load in the summer, we were finally able to meet up for some much-needed catch up time.

Of course, a brunch trip would be incomplete without Darek; if it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have met Cynthia in the first place (ah, the joys [?] of math tutor…). So we drove over to the Gastown restaurant (kind of misleading to me, since it’s actually right by Stadium Station and nowhere near the Steam Clock) on a Friday morning, parked at the meter (which promptly stole Darek’s toonie), and put our name down for a table for 3.

I was worried that we would have to wait a long time for a table, since there were at least 3 other groups ahead of us, and the storefront looked quite small (and full). Silly me, I didn’t realize that there was more seating in the back of the building, which was spacious and bright, with high ceilings and big windows. After a wait of about 15 minutes, a waitress brought us to our table, where we eagerly perused the menu.

We ordered our drinks first: for Darek, an Americano; for Cynthia, a Chai; and for myself, a large Hot Chocolate. The Americano was “good”– the perfect pick-me-up for Darek, who honestly looked pretty dead when we were waiting outside. The coffee smelled and tasted really pleasant, and we liked that the half-and-half was served on the side. Cynthia’s Chai was presented with a foam leaf on top; this was so pretty, she barely wanted to drink from it, and insisted (jokingly) that we could only drink from the stem. Her cup of tea was cinnamony and flavourful, and is certainly just as good as, if not better than, the chai I had at Aphrodite’s Cafe. Her only qualm was that it was smaller than what she wanted– our waiter didn’t confirm the size she wanted with her. I was surprised that my Hot Chocolate came with a foam leaf as well– it was nice to see that they put the effort into all their drinks. My cup was appropriately hot and sweet, and I felt that the price I paid ($3.25) wasn’t too unreasonable.

And now, onto the food! Darek, being a meat-lover, ordered the Fricassé— applewood smoked cheddar melted over a mix of braised short ribs, roasted potatoes, watercress, caramelized onions, finished off with two sunny-side-up eggs and julienned granny smith apples. In general, Darek thought that the ingredients weren’t anything special when eaten separately– for example, the green apple slices were too sour, and the short ribs were a little on the dry side (perhaps they were overcooked?); meanwhile, the eggs and potatoes, while good, were fairly standard. It was when he took a balanced mouthful that all the flavours worked together– the tartness was balanced by sweetness from the onions and saltiness from the short ribs and sauce, and the crispness of the watercress complemented the runny eggs, the crunch of the apples and the softness of the potatoes. With the exception of the cheese, which he could have done without, Darek ended up really enjoying his dish– so much so that he was using the small piece of foccacia to mop up all the sauce on the plate!

Cynthia’s Saumon Fume, served on an open-faced ciabatta bun, was quite different from what I expected. I thought that there would be slices of the usual cedar plank smoked salmon you could find at the supermarkets, with salad served on the side– I couldn’t be any more wrong! Instead, the salmon was actually flaked and mixed with a creamy, lemon-dill sauce, making it look somewhat like a less-pungent tuna fish sandwich. The salad of arugula, cherry tomatoes and a strong and tart vinaigrette was placed on top of one of the pieces of bread, and not in a side dish; meanwhile, a sliced avocado half and a fried egg sat atop the other. Since it was so beautifully presented, Cynthia ate this sandwich using a knife and fork (how ladylike!), so that the ingredients wouldn’t fall out of the sandwich. This way too, she was able to grab a little bit of everything– a sliver of egg, a square of avocado, some greens along with the bread and salmon– so that each bite was jam-packed with flavour. While the portion looked a little small at first, Cynthia found that it was actually the perfect size, and by the end of the meal was quite full– not a bad deal for $12! Her only problem with her meal was that her knife wasn’t nearly sharp enough to cut through the bread, so it did get a little messy. Maybe we’ll ask for a steak knife next time…

For myself, I had the Paella, which was a curried orzo dish mixed with corn niblets, pieces of zucchini, tomatoes, Hungarian chorizo sausage, red peppers and grana padano cheese. This pasta-y mixture was then finished off with a spicy tomato stew, a baked egg, some pieces of avocado and a ton of watercress. Having never had raw bunches of raw watercress before (I’ve had it in tea sandwiches, but in that case the cucumber tends to overpower the other ingredients), I was very pleased with the taste– it definitely wasn’t as bitter as I thought it would be. Besides that, the mingling of the curry and tomato stew along with the lemony avocado (I’m guessing to keep them from browning? But it tasted really good) made for a very delicious dish– and a very filling one too. I really struggled to finish my portion, and I was pretty hungry that day too.

Unfortunately, we were all too full to try out their liege waffles– but maybe that’s a good thing, since it meant that we got our money’s worth! For about $15 each, there was a ton of great food, and while it may have been a little on the pricey side for lunch after our drinks, tax and tip (I usually spend less than $10… but then most of my lunches are eaten at school), I would certainly return in the future. In general, I found that while the staff was a little aloof at times, the atmosphere and food more than made up for it, so that my experience was on the whole a great one. Thanks for the recommendation, Cynthia!

Cafe Medina
556 Beatty Street
Vancouver, BC

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