Attending Elbow Room Cafe: The Musical made me realize that it has been too long since I’ve enjoyed brunch at the actual Elbow Room Cafe. It was a film festival weekend and that meant spending most of my time at the Vancity Theatre. It made perfect sense to take the time to walk down the street to experience the full “Patrick effect” over a hearty plate of well-cooked eggs.
The brunch buddies on this trip were several filmmaker friends, including a screenwriter from California. She was raving about her first visit to Vancouver; how clean and friendly it was, and how she could see herself staying. My response was to take her to the Cafe where you get your own coffee and water and if you are even slightly out of line owner Patrice (Patrick) Savoie will promptly put you back in it.
A table of five is not always easy to seat but the staff made a table work for us. The place is busy on a weekend. Expect to line-up, but once you get your seats you won’t be made to feel like you’re on a clock. We never once felt like we were expected to eat and leave quickly.
Patrick and his partner Bryan Searle have been together for over thirty years and spending time at the Elbow Room Cafe is like hanging out with them in their kitchen, if their kitchen included a waiting list and raucous tables having more fun than some might expect on a rainy day.
The menu is extensive and making up your mind can be tough. I should know, I was the worst at the table. The eggs were all served medium and that might be my only minor complaint. If asked, I always choose soft. Otherwise, the food was what you should get in a good diner; tasty and plentiful.
As a group, we seemed to focus on two sections on the menu list; the country style breakfasts and the Benedict dishes. The country style ordered was the #4: two large eggs, five strips of bacon, hash browns and toast. Your choices of bread include rye, multigrain, white, raisin, an “everything” bagel or an English muffin. Gluten free bread is also an option.
I had the Thelma Benny; sautéed spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, and avocado topped with camembert and feta cheese. The other Benny ordered at the table was the Brett Cullen; sautéed spinach, bacon, avocado, and blue cheese topped with hollandaise sauce. I added an order of hash browns with my meal. It’s been a while since I’ve eaten somewhere that served little square nuggets of potatoes as hash browns. I remember loving that type of hash brown as a kid and it made me feel like I was twelve all over again.
The rule of thumb at the Elbow Room is that if you don’t finish your plate, you’re expected to make a donation to A Loving Spoonful, an organization that provides free and nutritious meals to people living with HIV/AIDS. It wasn’t a hardship for any of us to finish our plates. As a matter of fact, we all left happy and full.
The Elbow Room Cafe is a special place in Vancouver. It’s not repeatable or replaceable because the atmosphere is as much, if not more, important than the food. Go for the experience. Leave with a satisfied and full belly. Just one caution though, there’s a lot of salt in the language but not on the food.
Movie Recommendation: In memory of my Benny, Thelma and Louise (1991), Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis go on a road trip that has reached iconic status… Just like the Elbow Room Cafe.