Gone are the days -- in Vancouver, at least -- when you had to wade through a noxious fog of other people's smoke just to get some liquor-absorbing grease into your system. Gastown's Deacon's Corner looks like a diner, and tastes like a diner, but it doesn't smell like a diner, and that's a good thing.
Hung over or not, you're going to love the classic meals here at this clean, minimally designed spot on the corner of Main Street and Alexander.
Everything's homemade -- the kitchen even makes its own hot dogs, and grinds and mixes the meat for its burgers. And hefty platters those $9 burgers are, too, a blend of pork and beef hinting of cumin and coriander, cooked on a flat-iron grill, and presented on a glorious soft egg-bread bun. Get it with the toppings of your choice -- tried and true items like fried onions, sauteed mushrooms, and crisp bacon.
Amazingly, the garden burger ($8.50) is equally good. I often order garden burgers, despite my meat-obsessed husband's scoffing, but when they arrive they're usually the same old reheated frozen patty that has to be heaped with toppings to be edible. Virtue is its only reward. No worries here, where the garden burger's big, home-made, contains chickpeas and other healthy things and is subtly spiced so you can taste the legumes. Served on the selfsame fabulous egg-bread bun, this one's the best I've ever had. Deacon Corner's fries, too, are crafted in-house, and they're exceptional.
While waiting for my burger, I was excited to see a couple of cobb salads swan by. Portions are grand here, and these cobbs ($9.50) come fully loaded: Bacon, turkey, hard-boiled egg, avocado, tomato, baby corn and ... Gorgonzola. The women eating them cleaned their plates and were probably fueled until bedtime, if not next year.
I couldn't resist checking out a side order of one of those Southern dishes we rarely get up here -- biscuit with country gravy ($3.50). This is something that sounds like it must be good but in my experience never is, except here, where the biscuits are soft and buttery and the pale gravy is liberally strewn with sausage. The gravy is a tad salty, so you wouldn't want this order alongside another salty choice, like the Corned Beef Hash, but with a counterpoint of something a little sweet, like the fruit compote ($1.25), or bland, like eggs ($1.25 for one), it would set you up perfectly.
Deacon's Corner is a perfectly realized concept. It doesn't mess around trying to be what it's not. Located in a part of town that's raunchy by night, the diner is wisely only open until 3 p.m. daily. There appear to be no desserts on the menu -- probably the owner doesn't like 'em. It does offer local R & B beer. If you're coming in all by yourself, you can choose to eat at the counter or take a window seat. And the food is available to take out, although I'd dive into it instantly, if I were you.
Deacon's Corner Gastown Diner is open Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., weekends 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (the owner probably doesn't like to get up early on weekends). 101 Main Street; (604) 684-1555; www.deaconscorner.ca.
Vancouver's food scene is unparalleled in Canada, but fine dining can be awfully expensive here. Locals tend to stick to the casual. One reasonably-priced new joint, two old sprang to my attention
lately after a couple of timely invites.
Chau Kitchen & Bar, on Robson at Nicola, for food its proprietor calls
"modern Vietnamese." In Vancouver, Vietnamese food tends to be served
up in dives with zero ambience. Because it's cheap and tasty, you don't
particularly care. You're in, you fill up and you're out -- bada bing, or
whatever the Vietnamese equivalent is. At Chau, they've made an effort,
with spare but handsome decor and alluring sepia photographs of the owner's
Despite the visual upgrade over run-of-the-mill establishments, the
food remains a bargain. You can happily while away an evening here with
friends over decent cocktails and bright dishes that deftly contrast sweet, sour and spicy flavours as well as soft, firm and crunchy textures. This one definitely deserves
a look-see. Its website was under construction when I looked, but the phone
number is 604-682-8020.
don't usually go to Bin 941 (Burrard and Davie) or 942 (Broadway and South
Granville) Tapas Parlours because they are so fantastically popular, and you
can't reserve. As an old crank, I don't have the patience for lineups in the
rain. But irreverent chef/owner Gord Martin's two amazing sister restaurants,
long, narrow and arty, have dished out great, generous tapa-sized dishes for
the recession has touched the Bins as it has other restaurants, which for us
consumers is good news -- early in the week you might actually get a table
without a lengthy wait. Curl into a banquette with a long-lost chum, order from
the well-considered wine list, and tuck into novel beauties like airy,
tongue-tingling Navajo bread, “5 Spice Duck Confit” with sundried apricot
gastrique, or Kobe Beef Meatballs, dishes ranging in price from $4 to $16.
wines on the list are tasty New World offerings from B.C., California, South
America and Australia, $8-$11 a glass, $30-60 a bottle. This is a fab
late-night haunt, too -- the music is fine and the menu promises “Foodgasms till