Jam Cafe is an Old Town Victoria transplant known for creativity, and portions big enough to feed your slow-pitch softball team. The line-up on a Friday proved that rustic and homey has just as big a place in Vancouver diner hearts as hipster and West Coast cool.
The Brunch Blog Boss (BBB) and I made plans to meet on a Friday because, and this is the truth, the idea of the weekend line scared us more than just a little. The place is busy, and I mean crazy busy. Jam Cafe is already an event brunch spot.
The first test of any homey brunch spot is the coffee and Jam Cafe doesn’t disappoint. It’s a good strong brew and not a hint of bitterness to be found; one of my personal beefs about a lot of coffee in this town. Refills were not offered as often as most diner cafes, then again, most diners aren’t this busy on Friday. We cut them some slack on this because, and this is another must for me, the service was genuinely friendly, and calm even in the face of the growing masses outside.
But you want to know about the food, so let’s get right to it. The plates are huge; “order for Fred Flintstone” huge. The Boss took home the extras for her Young Sir that couldn’t make it this day.
I had the Huevos Rancheros. The Jam version of this breakfast classic comprises of fried corn tortillas topped with tomatillo salsa, black beans, jalapeno sour cream, guacamole, smoked chorizo sausage, two basted eggs and house made corn bread. The sausage was my favourite part of the meal. It was peppery and had a nice bite to it. I didn’t notice the sour cream having jalapenos in it, but if you’re going to give me hot peppers, then I really want you to bring the heat and it wasn’t there for me. The beans were good and the cornbread was moist. All in all, it was a good dish, but there are some “buts” for me.
This was the first time I had tortillas fried for huevos rancheros, and I can’t say it was a hit. With the mound of cornbread, the fried tortillas made the dish even heavier than it needed to be. I found myself craving some form of vegetable; perhaps some fried onion and tomato to balance out all that starch would have helped. My second “but” is a big one. One of my eggs came to the table broken. The cook dropped the dollop of guacamole on the egg and sent it out with the yolk already spilled over my food. That, my brunch friends, is a major faux pas. That should never ever happen.
The BBB fared better with her Green Eggs and Ham; scrambled eggs, with spinach, pesto and goat cheese on a buttermilk biscuit with a slice of ham, served with hash browns. The scrambled eggs with the pesto, spinach and goat cheese were drop-dead delicious. The pesto was not over-powering and the eggs, thanks to the goat cheese, stayed moist. It was a treat to see real diner hash browns on the plate. Flat top grilled, the hash browns are cut like a spatula square with a nice even crust to smash into. The downside was they needed seasoning. We both tried them, and neither of us found even a hint of salt in them. The other downside; the biscuit was a little dry, but that’s forgivable when you get a healthy-sized serving of the namesake of the Cafe, their Jam. Unfortunately, the house made Jam they’re known for in Victoria is not what you get in Vancouver. They bring this jam in from a supplier. It isn’t house-made.
The plates around us all looked spectacular and the Strawberry Banana Waffle Board next to us was an artistic display of waffle enticement we both wanted to dive into. Don’t even get me started on the mountain of pancakes and pulled pork.
The size of the crowds at Jam Cafe makes me wonder if we caught them on a bad day. While it felt like the details of the dishes were missed in the desire to make the plate big, bold and beautiful, I have to wonder if the Cafe fell victim to too much expectation based on its buzz. I’m willing to give Jam Cafe a second chance, and I think you might want to give it your first.
Movie Recommendation: Get “Jammin” with Rockers (1978), a film set in Kingston, Jamaica, and what can arguably be called the greatest Reggae movie soundtrack of all time. It includes The Heptones, Inner Circle, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tosh.
556 Beatty Street
Open Daily 8am to 3pm