To me, the word “diner” always conjures up images of road trips, old movies and the yellowing pages of hackneyed detective novels. Diners line the roads of middle America like cholesterol lines the arteries of their patrons, serving up plate after plate of filling grub to hungry salesmen and tired truckers. But most importantly, they always have a friendly server wandering through the maze of tables, smiling as they offer to top up the bottomless coffee mugs.
The Blue Plate Diner is conveniently located just north of the Bay LRT station, amidst the trendy renovated warehouses on 104 Street. While the outside is quaintly restrained, the inside is a beautiful mishmash of paintings, exposed brickwork and funky retro diner gear (hipster-approved lamps, sugar dispensers, plastic ketchup bottles and old-timey diner-style mugs). My wife and I had shown up for Sunday brunch to find the seats filled with a mix of urban hepcats both young and old, and still-cool family-types, some of whom had brought their well-mannered children along. We were seated at a table for two by the bar, complete with our own strangely-shaped, kitsch-conscious lamp.
Our server—very possibly the best, friendliest server I’ve had in the past few years—greeted us almost as soon as we arrived. His timing was impeccable, always swooping by with the coffeepot to top up my ancient ceramic mug before I’d made it to the bottom. He regularly checked to see if the food was okay, and when he heard my wife and I going over the menu options in French, he switched into French to answer her questions and take our order. Fantastique!
The menu had a range of typical breakfast favourites and a few intriguingly odd brunch items. To start things off, I picked a coffee ($2.50, it’s a diner… how could I not go for a coffee?), while my wife picked an Orangina ($2.75), her new favourite drink. After giving the menu a good look-see, I settled on the Pancake Breakfast ($9.50), an entirely traditional combination of two whole-wheat buttermilk pancakes, a couple of eggs and a choice of ham, bacon, sausage or veggie sausages. (I picked the veggie sausages.) My wife chose one of the more interesting items on the brunch menu, a Florentine Benny ($11.50), which consisted of two poached eggs on toasted sourdough, with spinach, feta and hollandaise sauce.
After our server came back with our drinks, I enjoyed several cups of coffee while waiting for our food to arrive. The coffee was surprisingly good, especially by diner standards, and our server made sure my mug never ran dry.
Not long after ordering, our plates arrived, bearing portions that were neither too large nor too small. Though my wife’s helping of potatoes was a bit stingy, the unique flavour of the eggs made up for it. The spinach and feta gave the poached eggs a notable twang, while the sourdough provided a nice bed for the strange mix of ingredients. The taste was far more garlicky than what one would usually expect with breakfast fare, but my wife seemed to like it just fine.
My pancake breakfast looked set to satisfy my inner lumberjack, but as I started to butter my second pancake, I knew that something was wrong. The surface was squishy instead of spongy, causing my knife to tear open the cooked outside of the pancake, exposing the raw interior. I quickly caught the attention of our server, who, glancing at the mushy, half-buttered pancake on my plate, instantly apologized, took the plate back to the kitchen, and promised another set of hotcakes within five minutes. Sure enough, after only a short wait, a fresh plate arrived, bearing some of the most delicious whole-wheat buttermilk pancakes I’ve tasted in quite some time. After buttering and coating them with a layer of real, honest-to-goodness maple syrup, they were positively addictive.
And speaking of addictions, my wife requested another Orangina, possibly jealous of all my free coffee refills. While she polished off her second drink, I finished my scrambled eggs (which were very good) and my veggie sausages (which didn’t taste quite right). I could be wrong, but the sausages reminded me of the mediocre Yves Veggie Cuisine ones that you can find at most well-stocked supermarkets rather than something more creative.
When the bill came around, the total was somewhere between what I would have expected at a diner and mid-range restaurant. At $29 before tax and tip, it wasn’t big-city expensive, but it wasn’t small-town cheap, either. While the food was certainly good, the fantastic service was even better. Merci! V
Blue Plate Diner
10145-104 St • 429-0740