You’ll find Zawa Restaurant at the north end of Commercial Drive just south of Venables. I think few people go that far up the road in search of breakfast or brunch, and that’s a shame (BBB note: there’s a fantastic coffee shop called Bump n Grind that’s worth seeking out by there). If you’re looking for an out-of-the-way spot where you won’t be rushed, and won’t have to wait in a line-up, then add Zawa Restaurant to your list of considerations.
Zawa advertises itself as a Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant that’s been serving the community since 1997 (BBB note: it was previously called Zestys). It’s got a big patio, and large number of beer and wine options on tap. It really does feel more like a pub than a restaurant, which means you shouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t terribly busy first thing in the morning. I’m sure its clientele aren’t 9:30AM brunch enthusiasts, like me. I’m also betting that once the summer hits, the patio is busy for cold drinks and easy conversation.
I went early on a Saturday for a production meeting regarding a new short film I hope to find financing for. We arrived just as the restaurant opened, and other than ourselves, there was only one other client. That suited us fine as we expected to be there for longer than the average bruncher and needed a larger booth to spread out our paperwork. Zawa definitely suited our needs.
The Breakfast Menu doesn’t represent the Middle East in any way that I could see, but it did represent a good selection of classic diner dishes. All the usual suspects are there; various bennies, omelettes, and the big classic eggs and meat breakfast.
My Brunch Buddy and Producing Partner had two eggs poached with hash browns and ham. The ham serving was more generous than I’ve seen at some places, but the eggs were in that peculiar oval shape created by those home steamer units. I can’t say I liked the look and it was clearly not the kind of place where you could ask for soft poaching. My friend had no complaints so, in the whole scheme of things, who am I to be picky?
Call me biased but I think I had the better of the two meals. I ordered the omelette with Harvest Grilled Vegetables (Yam, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions) and cheese. Because I had a calorie heavy night out the evening before, I asked for egg whites and the wait staff was happy to oblige. The vegetables were generously loaded in what resembled more of a roll of egg and vegetables than it did an omelette. I didn’t care. It tasted great! They didn’t skimp on anything and the hearty sweetness of yam really popped in your mouth. It exceeded my expectations, and I couldn’t have been happier with it.
The hash browns in both dishes were shredded and cooked on the flat top just the way I like them. My only complaint was that there could have been a better crisp on them. The coffee was strong and the service attentive and friendly. I watched several bennies go by as I was leaving the restaurant and again, the serving size was more than fair for the price on the menu.
If I was looking for a classic diner meal at a place where I could have a long conversation, this is the place I’d probably go to on The Drive. It’s got that neighbourly feel to it, the staff are friendly, and the food is what you expect diner food to be. If I was looking for something more creative then there’s lots of other options on the drive.
Zawa isn’t fancy, and the decor is decidedly out of step with the times (it’s dark and sparse), but it was everything I needed it to be on this day. And sometimes, that’s enough for a successful brunch out.
Movie Recommendation: The Quick and The Dead (1995); the best female driven Western made, until I make mine, of course.
920 Commercial Dr
Michelle Muldoon is a writer, filmmaker, and avid foodie. You can find her on twitter @chat2michelle.