Red Wagon Cafe: Retro-style all day brunch
I must have driven down this road hundreds of times and not once had I ever observed this inconspicuous restaurant located on the corner of East Hastings Street and Garden Drive, however the word on the street was that this was one place you want to try if you are looking for a unique culinary experience somewhere off the beaten track.
The Red Wagon Cafe is the brainchild of owner and Chef, Brad Miller, who has been serving all-day breakfast and lunch since he opened the restaurant in 2010 and since acquiring a liquor licence in 2011 now also serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Upon arriving at the restaurant it is easy to see why I had never noticed it, this retro-styled diner seemed like a relic from another era. Remaining true to the neighbourhood, there is no flashiness about The Red Wagon with the building blending in with others beside it. But this certainly hasn't diminished the crowds flocking to try Chef Miller's French-inspired diner dishes. Business is booming thanks to the innovative and quality food coming out of the kitchen and in part due to having been featured on The Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, a food-and-restaurant reality show hosted by Guy Fieri.
By the time we arrived there were already a number of people gathered outside waiting for a table, but we thought we would try our luck and see whether they had a table for two. Fortunately for us we were lucky enough to be seated right away, however if you are looking for a larger table it is common to wait 20-30 minutes on a weekend.
The Red Wagon Cafe located on East Hastings Street
As with the exterior of the building, the restaurant had a quintessential diner feel, basic tables and chairs, an old rusted Coca-Cola sign and chalkboard menus all provided character and charm to the space.
The indoor art deco
But let's not kid ourselves, the reason we were there after all was for the food. I had heard and read some great things about this place and two dishes in particular - the Pulled Pork Pancakes with Jack Daniels maple syrup and the Crisp Pork Belly Confit with two eggs, homefries and toast. So this is what we ordered for our first visit.
The Pulled Pork Pancakes which certainly looked the part, three thick fluffy buttermilk pancakes with two layers of pulled pork all finished with Jack Daniels maple syrup. Who would have thought such a combination could or would work, but it did. This is a dish sure to cure that Saturday night hangover but is probably too large for the average person to handle. My wife, even with my assistance, could not knock this one over, but we certainly did our best to try. The pork was succulent and packed with flavour thanks to the house rub and tangy BBQ sauce but amazingly the pancakes themselves were the star of the dish. Without hesitation this is one dish I recommend you try at least once.
The pulled pork pancakes with Jack Daniels maple syrup
If we thought the Pulled Pork Pancakes looked visually appealing, the Crispy Pork Belly Confit and eggs was even more impressive as you can see from the photo below. I love nothing more than eggs, toast and chunky homefries for breakfast and the addition of the pork belly I hoped would just take it to another level. I must admit though I was left a little disappointed with the pork belly as it lacked the crispiness that I was hoping for, instead leaving a slab of fatty tasting meat. That aside, the dish had great flavour thanks to the hollandaise sauce and the salsa verde and I still left feeling satisfied.
Crispy pork belly confit and eggs
Another highlight of the meal was the fantastic service provided by the wait staff. This crew is one well-oiled machine. Despite the packed restaurant and the crowds outside, orders were still quickly taken and drinks delivered in a timely manner and we only waited 15-20 minutes for our food.
The open-style kitchen at the Red Wagon
If it is Brad Miller's vision to marry French simplicity and ethical sourcing with a casual diner atmosphere bringing quality morning fare, The Red Wagon has achieved this. With a breakfast for two coming in just over $30 it is probably a bit too pricey to make this a weekend regular. However if you are looking for a unique dining experience and are keen to try dishes you will not find in any other Vancouver restaurant, let alone a diner, The Red Wagon is certainly worth a visit.
The Red Wagon Restaurant
2296 East Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC V5L 1V4
NOW SERVING DINNER!
8am to 6pm
Tuesday to Friday
8am to 9pm
9am to 4pm
4pm to 9pm
9am to 4pm