The 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.
We 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.
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.
Cynthia, 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.
And 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.
Lastly, 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.
We 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
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.
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…
I 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.
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.
1087 Granville Street
I think that as a university student, April is one of the most dreaded months of the year, just because of…finals. This term, my exam schedule was quite packed (April 13, 17, 18, 20), with all the stress concentrated in one week. Usually I’m more relaxed than my friends during exam period, but this time, I found myself quite nervous and panicky the whole time. Happily I found myself with somewhat of a break after my third exam on the morning of the 18th, so Sam, Jason, and I went for an early lunch at Aphrodite’s. (Appropriate since we’d just finished our Classical Studies exam!)
I pass Aphrodite’s most days of the year on my way to school, but this was my first visit. It was decorated in a rather kitschy and homey way, with handmade pinatas (creations of a local artist, according to a plaque on the wall) hanging from the ceiling (including the Lorax!) and mismatched furniture. We arrived a little before noon, and decided to order mainly off the brunch menu, as it seemed unlikely we’d visit at brunch time again, due to school and other obligations. Of course, we ordered a piece of pie to share as well (how could we not?).
Sam also ordered a Chai to start. She’d never had a chai before (what?!!), so at least we popped her chai cherry! I took a sip of it and it tasted like it should, spicy with a nice helping of cinnamon and a good level of foam. The overall impression I got from it was that it had been made with care (this was reflected in the other items we had as well).
I don’t remember the exact price, but I remember thinking it was a little on the high side. That being said, the prices here are generally on the higher side. This is due to their practice of using local, organic ingredients (especially in the pies), as well as their location in Kitsilano, generally known to be a more expensive neighbourhood.
Jason chose the Turkey Pot Pie, accompanied by greens. He found the portion size a little too small, as he was still a little hungry afterwards. The pie crust was nice and flaky, with sufficient chunks of moist turkey, potatoes, peas, carrots, and celery. We liked how the pieces of turkey were a good size (sometimes the turkey is barely noticeable in a turkey pot pie, but not here!). The filling had good flavour, and overall he enjoyed his dish, although he would have preferred a larger portion.
Sam, a known mushroom lover, predictably decided on the Wild Mushroom Quiche, which was served with the same accompaniment of greens as Jason’s pie. She enjoyed how light it tasted, as quiche can often be quite heavy. Like Jason, she found the portion size a bit small for the price she paid. The greens were nothing special, but the dressing was nice and nutty. Sam also commented that it would have been better if they served the salad on a separate dish, as the salad touched the hot plate and wilted a bit. She found the quiche, which consisted of shiitake mushrooms and spinach, to be a bit bland.
Since my fellow diners both chose savoury dishes, I went for something sweet in the Stuffed French Toast, which was served with maple syrup and fresh whipped cream. As expected, this was quite sweet, yet I managed to finish a respectably large percentage of it (well, for my standards…I’m notorious for leaving food on my plate). The toast itself was a little spongey, soft, and pleasingly warm. The cream cheese (which changes depending on the season–for us it was blueberry) was a little too overwhelmingly sour for my tastes. I know cream cheese is meant to be sour, but it was a little sour beyond expectations. Still, I think the ingredients worked well together. The whipped cream in particular was light and complimented the other ingredients nicely.
Lastly, we couldn’t leave Aphrodite’s without trying a piece of pie. Sam recommended the Blackberry Apple, which she’d tried on a previous, undocumented visit with Pickles. We chose to have it with vanilla ice cream. Turns out it was a good choice as the warm pie and the cool ice cream tasted great together. There was just the right amount of sugar, making it sweet but not too sweet. Jason remarked that the ice cream tasted very natural–the vanilla was not overdone but still present. Still, we would have preferred bigger pieces of blackberry, as we could only really make out the seeds. The pie crust was flaky and buttery, but not overly so. We also appreciated the cinnamon hearts–a cute, personal touch!
So my verdict on Aphrodite’s? The bill came to about $22 a person, which is generally a bit more than I care to spend on lunch (well, I usually don’t have dessert with lunch, I suppose). Despite the high prices, I felt that I enjoyed my meal, both the atmosphere and the food, and the service was efficient yet friendly. One of my concerns is that one of the waitresses had these incredibly long, painted nails. While I’m quite obsessed with nail polish myself, I prefer waitresses to keep their hands free of nail lacquer, as it seems a little less than sanitary. I suppose that’s just personal preference, though. I probably wouldn’t frequent Aphrodite’s as I do my other favourites (even if I lived in Kitsilano), but the pie definitely did not disappoint.
Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe and Pie Shop
3598 West 4th Avenue
With nothing to do until 12 on a sunny Saturday morning, grabbing some good eats was a no-brainer! Three friends and I decided to go to The Red Wagon to try out that oft-talked-about restaurant. Unfortunately for Bruce, life intervened, and he wasn’t able to come with us; but no matter—nothing will stop me from eating food!
So I took the 135 down to The Red Wagon, a small diner in East Van that was recently featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (I had actually heard about it from my friends Earl and Helena). Upon getting off the bus I could see how popular the restaurant was—it opened a mere half hour before I got there, and there was already a line out the door! I ended up having to wait for about 20 minutes for a table… good thing it was sunny out!
The incredibly friendly hostess sat us down, and we were immediately greeted by another waiter, who took our drinks requests. HT ordered a cup of Coffee, and we were taken aback by how small the cup was, since we didn’t know that refills were free til later in the meal. Taste-wise, the cup was pretty much what he expected it to be—nothing spectacular, but still pleasant to drink. The waiter came by with refills 3 more time during the meal, so HT did end up getting his fill.
I had the Orange Juice, and was also surprised to see that it came in such a tiny glass. I paced my drinking so that I wouldn’t be lacking a drink towards the end of my meal, so I don’t actually know if refills for that was free as well. Again, the juice was on the generic side—it was tart but sweet, and had lots of pulp, so I did enjoy my glass (even if it was rather dinky).
For eats, HT ordered the Pulled Pork Pancakes, which were featured on DDD. This was a 3-pancake tower with pulled pork sandwiched between the layers. The buttermilk pancakes were probably the best ones I’ve ever eaten—thick but still fluffy, these pancakes put IHOP to shame. I’m not really a pancake person, but these really made me rethink my stance in the pancake-waffle debate. Yum. The pulled pork between the pancake-y goodness had great texture and flavour; they were pull-apart tender, with a very light hint of spiciness amidst the sweet and barbeque flavours. This was all topped with a generous pat of butter and a ton of house-made, Jack Daniels syrup. However, we remarked that the dish would have been better if the syrup was on the side, since the bottom pancake soaked up most of the syrup. This was a unique and delicious offering (I’ve never had anything like it before), so I’m sad to say I got sick of the dish pretty quickly. I only had half of HT’s stack, but I found myself unable to finish all of it—I think the salty and sweet flavours got to be too overwhelming. I would definitely order this again, but would share it with a few more people (or I could get someone else to order it and take a bit from their plate… hmm…).
I chose the Spinach and Mushroom Benny, which was served with a large portion of homefries on the side. The English muffin base tasted homemade and buttery, and wasn’t too greasy tasting. The spinach and mushroom mix over top of it was cooked perfectly—flavourful, but again, not too salty or greasy—and the eggs were poached perfectly (for me), with the yolks only slightly runny. My favourite part was the hollandaise that was overtop all this: in terms of presentation, it was a pleasant light yellow colour (which let the runny yolks stand out), and there was enough of it so that every bite was flavoured by it. Taste-wise, it was creamy but light and only slightly lemony, and it’s definitely one of the better hollandaise sauces I’ve tasted. The homefries (translation: potato chunks) tossed with green onion were soft, mildly flavoured, and not too greasy, so it didn’t take away from the actually Benny. I liked that the potatoes were cooked like this, as it’s a nice change from regular old hashbrowns. My only complaint for this dish is that there wasn’t quite enough filling in the Benny… a few more pieces of spinach and mushroom would have really hit the spot.
Of course, you can’t go to The Red Wagon without also trying their housemade Pork Belly Confit. After seeing their feature on DDD I wasn’t too sure that my arteries could take all that fat… but oh well. I’ll just work out more, haha. Anyways. Because Bruce wasn’t there, we couldn’t order a third main (the two we ordered were almost too much for the both of us already!), so we just decided on a side order of Pork Confit instead. The piece we had had a healthy chunk of fat (ironic sounding, huh?) attached to it that gave it a ton of flavour and moisture. The meaty bits of the slice weren’t too salty, and though they were on the dry side, eating it together with the fat solved the problem. I’ll admit it was a little weird just having a slab of fatty meat on the side, but it went along great with my eggs benny. Whether it was worth the extra $4, though, I’m not too sure. If I get this again (I do like my fatty meats…), I think I would get it as part of a main to justify costs.
I really like the funky atmosphere of the restaurant. I’ll probably get flack for calling it a little “hipster”—not that it’s like, underground or anything, what with all the media exposure—but that’s honestly the feel I got from the place (maybe I just have a skewed idea of what “hipster” really is?). The staff were very chill, but they made every effort to make our experience great. I did get the sense that they were rushing us a little bit, but that was completely understandable considering the long lineup outside. Nevertheless, I think that The Red Wagon is a great place to meet up with friends; you do have to be prepared to wait quite some time for a table to free up, but the homey feel of the restaurant, plus the food and the service, really make up for it.
The Red Wagon
2296 East Hastings Street