Forgive me this: I need to whine a little bit. Every time I have breakfast with James, he always gets the better breakfast. Every time! Either he has awesome breakfast karma or I have lousy breakfast karma. I reckon I need a serious attitude adjustment or I need to order whatever he’s having. This morning, James and I didn’t have a particular destination. Yesterday we were going back on forth on potential places and finally James suggested we just drive up and Main until something caught our eye. Well that was Helen’s.
I can’t remember what my breakfast was called. When our lovely waitress Athina listed off her breakfast recommendations, I was half listening. I heard 2 this, 2 that, 2 the other thing. So I said, I’ll have the 222 thing. What arrived was two pancakes, two scrambled eggs and two strips of bacon. It was good. But take a close look at the eggs. They had this funny colour. When I bit into them, I knew why…they were cooked on the same part of the grill that cooked James’ steak. I am not objecting to that, it gave the eggs a beefy flavour I wasn’t expecting. Beefy eggs notwithstanding, I really liked Helen’s. It was retro, and genuinely so. It looks like it hasn’t been renovated in about 50 years, about the time it first opened. Helen’s also had those awesome thick diner dishes from England that last forever…the perfect serving dishes for comfort food. The other interesting thing is that the restaurant was absolutely spotless. You could eat off the floor, should the desire ever strike. And service was quick, friendly, and unobtrusive.
Five score and one, that’s how many years Helen’s Grill and Restaurant, firmly rooted at the corner of Main St. and King Edward Ave. has been around. But there’s life in the old gal, and she delivers a delicious breakfast in a tidy setting with some age-appropriate style (check out the black velvet painting near the entrance). Today’s visit started with a large pot of tea, and when our cheery waitress took our order, I went with the steak and eggs ($9.95). The order arrived on a small platter, and there was nothing wrong with the eggs (basted), hash browns (processed) and toast (sourdough) – all tasty, but the Oscar for best performance by a breakfast offering goes to… the steak! Often breakfast steaks are about as thick as a deck of cards (and about as tender). Not this one – a sensible portion, thick, juicy, perfectly seared and cooked as ordered (medium). I’ve paid far more for bigger steaks that didn’t have the flavour of this notable cut of beef. Helen, take a bow.
Breakfast for two cost us $25.00
Theresa’s rating: 3 eggs out of 5
James’s rating: 3.5 eggs out of 5
Good News! Jennifer, my fellow co-founder of this blog has moved back to Vancouver! I missed my friend terribly, especially at breakfast. One change though, Jenn’s a vegan (and a damn fine looking one too!). While this means we won’t be visiting breakfast joints that serve animal products, it does mean that we’ll be having more blogs for people who consume a plant-based diet and even those who are looking to have something different for breakfast. It’s all good.
The Naam always strikes me as being a good theory/bad reality kind of restaurant. Sometimes I think, gee, I haven’t been to the Naam for a while, and then I go, and I remember why it’s been so long. Most of the furniture is held together by a lick and a prayer, the service is indifferent, and honestly, the menu needs a serious revamp. I ordered the Croissanwitch, scrambled eggs and cheese atop a croissant. It came with roasted potatoes and some bits of fruit. And honestly, I thought I was taking a bite out of the Sahara Desert, it was so dry. I mean bone dry. Tea was meh.
The Naam is a Vancouver vegetarian institution but, admittedly, has never been a favourite of mine. Notoriously slow service withstanding, I’ve found the food unremarkable at best. Breakfast, I’m pleased to say, fared a bit better. I banished my early morning fog with an almond-milk latte to start and ordered the $5.95 Weekday Super Special (vegan-style for an extra $1.95): two whole wheat pancakes with real maple syrup, two vegan sausages, scrambled tofu, and a few bites of fresh fruit. Fluffy vegan pancakes can be hard to come by and these did not disappoint. But you better like bananas because little bites were dotted throughout these flapjacks. The vegan sausages had a meaty texture and were some of the best I’ve had – not rubbery or tough at all. The tofu was scrambled with a slew of onion, peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes. Although the tofu could have used a hit of spice, it had a great scrambled-egg texture. All in all, a pleasant surprise.
Breakfast for two cost us $27.00
Theresa’s Rating: 2 eggs out 5
Jennifer’s Rating: 3.5 eggs out 5
Art’s Place is a sweet diner tucked into a corner spot on 41st and it’s been there for about 70 years. The decor is decidedly early 80s but the old fashioned vinyl booths and carpet are probably original. The best thing about Art’s? Sonja, our lovely waitress. When I pulled out my phone to take pictures of our food, she laughed and said, “You guys have that Asian thing down pat!” Service was efficient, but not obtrusive. And honestly, she was a lot of fun and had us laughing and that’s wonderful thing in the morning.
I really like Art’s Place. It’s unpretentious, spotlessly clean and you can get ice cream for breakfast. It doesn’t get any better than that. Today, however, I
ordered the Mexican scramble (let’s hope I get everything now): two poached eggs, potatoes, slices of chicken breast, avocado, salsa and I think there was some cheese thrown into the mix too. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, it came with toast. The salsa was a bit salty, and the chicken breast was too (I think it was sauteed with soy sauce), but it was hearty, and filling, and they didn’t skimp on the avocado either. Definitely worth an encore (especially for ice cream on a warm summer day!)
Looking for a place to window shop in Vancouver? Consider 41st Avenue in Kerrisdale, where six or so blocks are tightly packed with wares, clothes and chachkas aimed at the smart set. All that looky-looing requires energy, so before you start, drop into Art’s Place Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlour for breakfast. Art’s has a charming, small-town vibe – a huge aquarium filled with colourful fish and a wall of postcards from regulars who roam. The breakfast menu is varied and affordable. I had the Art’s Breakfast (two eggs any style, four pieces bacon, ham or sausage, two pancakes or hash browns and toast (I skipped the latter). It arrived quickly and everything was spot-on: sunny eggs, fluffy pancakes and tasty sausages. All for a reasonable eight bucks and change. Our Server was Sonja – I’m not sure how she spells her name, but I can be more definite on her service – fun and friendly and efficient. In that non-conformist, old-style diner way, tables in the booths at Art’s come in varying sizes – try to grab a large one.
Breakfast for two cost us $25.00
Theresa’s rating 3.5 eggs out of 5
James’ rating: 3 eggs out of 5