Jun. 24, 2009 - Issue #714: The Rural Alberta Advantage
High Level Diner: The hardest part
The waiting is well worth it when breakfast is involved
At exactly 9 am, or a few seconds earlier on a good day, that locked door will suddenly swing open and hordes of hungry diners will file through. They’ll make their way down the narrow hallway, past the day-old muffin and cinnamon bun nook and into the quaint and cozy dining room. A rush to claim favourite tables will ensue and then steaming coffee pots, servers in tow, will begin making their endless rounds—breakfast/brunch at The Highlevel Diner has begun.
I detest line-ups, but they also intrigue me. If other people, lots of other people, are willing to endure this school-like ritual, there has to be something worthy at the end of it–doesn’t there?
That’s how my family and I found ourselves waiting in yet another line, surrounded by bleary eyes and rumbling stomachs, early one Sunday morning—my curiosity simply couldn’t resist. It was actually quite the lovely morning; not even our flip-flop clad feet had cause to complain. The ever-increasing line-up proved to be entertaining enough in itself, but a couple of strategically-placed newspaper boxes rescued the I-can’t-function-without-a-jolt-of-caffeine contingent from having to make any attempt at being social.
The doors opened and the lineup filed inside—relatively politely, too. A quick flurry ensued while hungry diners staked out their favourite tables, or, if they happened to be among the tardy creatures at the back of the line, just a table. On the morning we were treated to this little tradition, everyone in line actually got a table, but barely. The poor souls with unfortunate timing who descended on the café just after 9 weren’t so lucky. They faced a good 45-minute wait since no one seated at one of the coveted tables had even ordered breakfast yet, let alone finished devouring it.
We sat ourselves at a lovely table by the window and, despite the cozy appearance from all the wooden furniture and brown walls surrounding us, there was a decided nip in the air.
Our very efficient waiter was visiting all the tables that had descended on him en masse, delivering menus and toting the highly-sought-after coffee pot. My husband sighed appreciatively after his mug was filled (coffee is $2.25). I ordered my obligatory latté—this particular morning called for a large ($4.95)—and my girls each decided a hot chocolate was in order ($3.95 each).
The menu, while not large, seemed to cover all the breakfast-y bases. It also did a good job of appealing to both the health-conscious and the not-so-health-conscious. There was even a breakfast special—a decadent-sounding crème brulée French toast with pork sausages.
While we pondered exactly what our stomachs happened to be craving that morning, our drinks arrived with a flourish. A huge blue bowl, topped with steamed milk and dusted with cocoa, was placed in front of me. Impressive, but it was totally outshone by the billowy mounds of chocolate whipped cream that topped the girls’ hot chocolates. Even fast spoon work could do nothing to contain its looming escape.
After the whipped cream was delightedly dealt with and my husband’s mug magically refilled itself, we ordered: blueberry pancakes with fresh fruit ($8.95), two cinnamon buns ($3.50 each) and multigrain cereal ($6.50) with a banana on the side ($1.50).
While we waited, our voices mingled with other voices, the clanking of forks on plates and the odd whir of the blender. As noisy and hectic as the pace of the café was, it was oddly comfortable and relaxing. Works of local artists dotted the walls, adding a unique dimension to the atmosphere.
Breakfast arrived quickly. First came two small glass plates overflowing with huge, fluffy, cinnamon buns and a larger plate containing the multigrain cereal, the sliced banana and a little pot of brown sugar. It was quickly followed by a platter sporting three of the biggest pancakes I have ever encountered and three bottles of syrup; blueberry, strawberry and the requisite maple.
The cinnamon buns were so humongous they really should have been called loaves. Gooey on the bottom, sugary on the top and cinnamon-y throughout, they were a resounding success. A little bowl overflowing with butter went untouched—they were rich and decadent enough on their own—but it, along with the unlimited syrup and coffee, was a thoughtful touch.
My multigrain cereal, swimming in skim milk and doctored up with a smattering of brown sugar and sweet banana slices, was hearty and healthy. The individual grains were still slightly firm and the soft banana provided a nice contrast.
None of us could get over the sheer size of the pancakes, however, and since there were more than enough to go around, I snuck more forkfuls than I care to admit. Pockets of juicy blueberries lay hidden inside, making every bite an adventure, and their fluffy texture did an admirable job of soaking up the sweet syrup. A small bowl with watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, grapes and a few pieces of apple and orange seemed overwhelmed by the pancakes, but its freshness was appreciated.
We all tried valiantly, but I was the only one who managed to return an empty plate to the kitchen.
As we made our way past the queue of still-rumbling stomachs, we decided that breakfast at the Highlevel Diner was a very relaxing way to start our Sunday, line-up and all. And if you happen to be allergic to line-ups, go during the week. Evidently tables aren’t quite so hard to come by then. V
Mon – Thu (8 am – 10 pm); Fri (8 am – 11 pm); Sat (9 am – 11pm); Sun (9 am – 10 pm)
10912 - 88 Ave, 780.433.0993
More info about High Level Diner →
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