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
I know what you’re thinking–IKEA and Denny’s are not really your idea of blog-worthy restaurants. But I’m not a food snob. To me, food is food. Sure, I probably enjoy a meal at, say, Guu more than a breakfast at Denny’s or a $1 meal at IKEA. But I think the key to enjoying your meal (or any experience, for that matter) is having realistic experiences. I never expect to be blown away by the food at Denny’s or IKEA…at the prices they offer, you can’t be expecting anything phenomenal.
My most recent trek to IKEA was to the Coquitlam location with a group of friends. I ended up taking a photo of only one of our breakfasts, since we all had the IKEA $1 breakfast (with various add-ons). The $1 breakfast consists of scrambled eggs, two sausages, and cubed potatoes. Like I said, there’s not much you can expect for a dollar. The sausages were pretty decent (they actually tasted like they were made of some kind of meat and had a bit of spice). The potatoes were fried nicely and were pleasantly crispy. However, the eggs…to be honest, I’m kind of an egg snob. My parents buy these amazing Omega-3 eggs from Costco which are delicious beyond belief. The IKEA eggs taste somewhat…mealy? They have a weird texture and don’t taste like anything at all. I peppered mine quite generously but I ended up just leaving them uneaten on my plate (as did a few of my friends). I also added a piece of French toast to my breakfast. It had been sitting around for a while and was very tough and impossible to cut. The bacon was very greasy (well, it’s bacon), and while not very crispy, everyone who had the bacon seemed to enjoy it.
Considering how expensive even a simple breakfast is getting nowadays, paying under $5 for a meal feels great. Of course there has to be compromises (those eggs, for example). But personally I like walking through IKEA and looking at all the cute furniture afterward anyway. It’s not a gourmet meal by any means, but it’s definitely good for what it is.
Now…Denny’s. Denny’s isn’t normally at the top of my list when thinking of restaurants to visit. But whatever, like I said, we can’t be eating at nice places all the time. This particular visit was to the location at North Road and Austin Avenue, to grab a quick lunch with my dad.
I stuck to the usual Denny’s menu and had a breakfast Grand Slam, with two sausage links, hash browns, scrambled eggs, and two buttermilk pancakes. It was pretty much what I expected from Denny’s, nothing more, nothing less. The sausages were disgusting. They didn’t resemble any sort of meat at all, just two finger-sized portions of grease and fat…the rest of the meal was nothing phenomenal, but nothing particularly to complain about. Although halfway through eating my meal, my dad suddenly goes, “Didn’t you order your eggs sunny-side up?” Oh yeah…I did. I didn’t really care and I was already halfway through my food anyway, so I didn’t bother telling the waitress, but it is kind of weird that she didn’t ever realize her mistake.
More notes on the service. For one thing, the waitress did not refill our water once during the entire meal and brought an almost-empty pitcher of maple syrup to the table. At some point, one of the older customers won a stuffed animal from the nearby toy claw machine and gave it to her–she took it and didn’t bother washing her hands before touching other customers’ food. I realize she is a waitress and not directly cooking anyone’s food, but I know how dusty it is inside those machines and I was a bit disturbed by how she didn’t bother washing her hands. I know she probably doesn’t score much tip, but still…
My dad had the Western Skillet, which is part of their current Skillet promotion. The one pictured on the menu was with eggs sunny side up, while my dad had the scrambled eggs–not exactly aesthetically pleasing. I realize the idea of a skillet is just a bunch of ingredients tossed together, but could this look more messy? It consisted of hash browns, the eggs, ham, mushrooms, onions, and some sort of cheese sauce served on a hot skillet. My dad had been craving something warm and enjoyed it for that reason, but he commented that it was very salty and ended up drinking up a lot of water. Wouldn’t say he’d order this again if he could help it. So yeah, two mediocre breakfasts in one week! I would probably say I prefer IKEA breakfast over Denny’s–most of the items at Denny’s are around $10 and I definitely wouldn’t want to pay that much for what we had. My favourite breakfast place in Coquitlam is actually Jimmy’s Place on North Road…but more on that later.
1000 Lougheed Hwy
500 Austin Ave