Thursday, 19 November 2015

A Tale of Many Breakfasts Part 2: Diners

 I don't know if this is a city-specific thing, but Vancouverites have a weird habit of lining up for meals that may not be bad, but certainly aren't worth waiting for. Sophie's Cosmic Cafe? Stepho's on Davie? The Red Wagon? They're okay, guys. Not great, not exceptional. Just okay. But hey, if you want to waste your time lining up, go ahead. I'll be across the road at some underappreciated breakfast haunt, getting served the best breakfast ever in record time. 

You can add Jethro's Fine Grub to that list of places I won't be lining up at any time soon. I've been curious about this place for a while now: it's in my 'hood and it's always jumping on weekends. Last Thursday I took my mom there for brunch, and was left wondering what the fuss was about. We're both Benny freaks, so it was smoked salmon bennies for both of us. Utterly unremarkable (and expensive) bennies. A plain, lightly toasted English muffin (not crisp enough to stand up to the double onslaught of egg yolk and Hollandaise sauce), a piece of meh smoked salmon, a decent egg, some ok sauce. Nothing terrible, nothing great. Rounded out by some very dull potatoes and absolutely no extras: an unattractive presentation. 
I must admit that I spied shamelessly on other diners' meals and the pancakes looked insanely huge, as did a breakfast burrito. But I prefer my pancakes thin and crisp (actually, I basically just prefer crepes and am always sorry when I order pancakes and waffles for breakfast). Coffee The service was very friendly and pleasant, but because the room itself has absolutely no atmosphere, it's not a place I'd want to linger. Which, given their lineups, is probably the idea. Sorry Jethro's but I've had better meals in far cheaper spots. 

Which brings me to Joe's/Nelly's Grill(s).
Confusingly named, because Joe's used to be on West 4th, but is now located on Main Street. While the one on 4th Avenue is now Nelly's (apparently a relation to Joe). Get it? Don't worry about it. Just go there if you want an affordable, no-frills breakfast that won't bankrupt you.
My sweetie and I go to Nelly's (I still think of it as Joe's) on 4th quite regularly and I always get The Brit because I'm charmed by a breakfast place that serves baked beans with toast and eggs. As a child of British parents, I ate beans-on-toast every week ("please put the beans beside the toast, mummy, so it doesn't get soggy"), so this dish is pure nostalgia. I tell a lie though, because last time I got some kind of hash and it was fan-freakin'-tastic. Poached eggs, nice salty fried potatoes and veggies... Sorry Brit, I've found a new fave. Service is brisk and friendly, and prices are decent. This is a no-frills-no-trendy-no-lines kinda joint. You don't have to go out of your way to go here, because your own 'hood probably has something similar. But these guys do it well. 
Joe's/Nelly's is at 3048 Main St and 2061 w.4th Ave
Photo courtesy of my sweetie, who is never too busy
eating to social-media the hell out of something.

Hey, speaking of doing it well, Sunshine Diner is kicking ass and taking names when it comes to breakfast. Can you get past the way-over-the-top '50's diner decor, complete-if that is the word- with life-sized Elvises and Marilyns frolicking in plastic rigor mortis splendour? Well okay, I guess that's part of the charm, along with the sawed-off Chevy reservation desk just inside the door. Though he lives oh-so-close, my guy had never been to Sunshine, and it had been years for me. So off we went, on a late Saturday morning. Although there was a lineup, we were both appeased by the free coffees that materialized for all of us who were waiting outside (there's not much room to wait inside). It's the little touches like that that make for good customer service. Also, we only had to wait about 10 minutes, which is respectable. 
Yeah, we both ordered Bennies. I had a half order of the Popeye (avocado, cream cheese, a delicious mushroom slice, asparagus and spinach) and my guy had the Blackstone. These were Bennies done right: crispy muffins, delicious Hollandaise, perfect poached eggs. Served, cutely, with a bowl of crispy brown potatoes and a really nice fruit bowl: not your usual tired melon chunks but banana, apple, even blackberries. Presentation: on point. Major kudos for getting the carbs absolutely right and making us feel as though we were making a healthy choice by including a really good fruit bowl. This attention to presentation and balance (fruit to counter the fat and starch) was what was so sorely lacking at Jethro's. Sunshine could have cruised by on its kitsch, so I'm glad to see they're so much more than vaguely creepy plastic Elvis statues. 
Sunshine Diner is at 2649 West Broadway, in Kitsilano.

I'm going into Show Mode this week, as I'm in a musical that's opening on Tuesday. I foresee a lot more eating out in my near future. Stay tuned...