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Anchoress

ROUNDEL CAFE - Review

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Hi everyone; ‘long time no speakez vous’ (sic), to quote a friend of mine. I'm posting to review a restaurant in my neighbourhood, The Roundel Cafe at 2465 East Hastings Street (just east of Nanaimo, north side of the street).

Apparently the little hole-in-the-wall diner has been at that location for 40 years, but this family-owned restaurant recently passed to a new generation, and it’s been spiffy-ed up a bit and given a classic Commercial Drive-esque West Coast Breakfast Menu™.

I’ve been four times so far (yeah, I like the place). The owners live in the neighbourhood with their son (she is the head chef and menu developer, he works up front), and while they’re just open for brekky and lunch right now, they’re planning on adding a dinner menu and staying open in the evenings. Don’t know their exact open hours, but I think it’s from 8-5 or so daily.

The restaurant is small and still retains the diner feel, but it’s fairly comfortable and not pretentiously diner-y. About eight tables and 10 or so counter seats. They’re still working out the bugs and things get a bit hectic when it’s really busy, so do yourself and them a favour if you decide to visit them on the weekend, and go early or late.

Anyways, to the food.

First visit was a slice of home-made apple pie, which I asked for with a slice of cheddar. Both were delicious, and the coffee was great.

Second time, had the cream cheese, tomato and avocado benny. The eggs were delicious, they seem free range or organic (by the colour of the yolks); the hollandaise was good, hot, nice and lemony, among the best I’ve had in a restaurant; the cc, avo and tom were a nice (if conservative) combo, although the fact that they were all cold meant the eggs and muffin didn’t have a chance, really, even though the dish was served to me piping hot. When I order it again I’m going to ask them to heat the tomato under the broiler for a few seconds to take the chill off. Coffee was good.

Third and fourth times I had omelettes: the three cheese (I think it was cheddar, provolone and parmesan, although it might have been fontina instead of provolone), and then cheese and mushroom. The omelettes are nicely-done, fluffy, not greasy, and that teensy bit crispy in places on the outside. Loaded with fillings. Coffee a little stale, but I was there on off-hours. I'm sure they'd have made me a fresh pot if I'd asked.

Breakfasts are served with nice organic greens (dressed with good salad quality EVOO the first two times; I could smell it from a few feet away), and with EVOO and balsamic the third. Breakfasts (and burgers) also come with what’s described as roasted potatoes, but it’s actually potatoes and yams (so far). They’ve been here and there – the chefs seem to be still getting the hang of cooking and serving them in an appetizing yet healthy way. The first two servings seemed to have been baked in small pieces, and they were quite dry. The third time they’d maybe been boiled in chunks and then lightly fried, they were a bit nicer. But I ate ‘em all up! Yams are really good for you. This place is definitely NOT a greasy spoon, they seem to make an effort not to go overboard with the fat.

The omelettes come with toast; I’m not super-impressed with their bread so far. I don’t know if it’s home-made or store-bought, but IMO it would benefit from being better-toasted, and buttered while it’s hot. Nothing like getting a plate of cold toast with gobs of un-melted butter on it. But that’s a small criticism, I could barely fit the toast in me after the rest of the meal.

On my list to try are the French toast, carrot pistachio and blue cheese omelette, huevos rancheros, tofu scramble, and all three of the salads (which don’t have names and are too complex to describe). They are obviously being consciously vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, but not to the exclusion of meat eaters. They have a small burger, sandwich and tortilla wrap section, and besides the apple pie, I was served a kind of amuse bouche of bread pudding with nuggets of caramel (Halloween leftovers? I don’t care, it was yummy.)

Prices are very reasonable for the type and quantity of food, they have lots of kid-friendly stuff like boosters, high chairs and crayons, and as far as I can see (and hear) they take CCs and debit. No alcohol, but a large beverage selection. Kids menu too. Service is friendly and earnest.

I read about a year ago that my neighbourhood (Hastings-Sunrise) is the new Commercial Drive. This restaurant is maybe being a bit ambitious with their menu given their competition (meaning, the competition is mostly genuine greasy spoons with $2.99 breakfasts), but hopefully they’ll stick around and be at the vanguard of a new wave of coolness and healthy dining.

Details:

The Roundel Cafe

2465 East Hastings Street (just east of Nanaimo, north side of the street)

604-253-2522

Parking? How would I know? I live practically across the street

CC yes, debit probably

$

No alcohol, no patio

Open for breakfast and lunch

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Yeah I hope to see you there, Deborah. And I realised after I posted that I didn't give a general impression of the food. I think part of the reason is because it's kind of hard to categorise. When I say it's a bit Commercial Drive-y, I mean more Wazzuubee (sp?) than Cafe Deux Soleil. It's not quite West Coast Casual (although it's close), but it's definitely not hippie food (not casting aspersions on CDS). The menu items I didn't go into (like the salads, burgers etc) are quite original-sounding, with fresh and dried fruits, nuts and seeds, and interesting-sounding cheeses. But I haven't tried them yet, so I can't describe them. :-) Most of the entrees are between $7 and $9.

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Thanks for the heads up Anchoress - I was in the neigbourhood and really enjoyed my breakfast. The sides included sweet caramelly yams mixed into their home fries - very good. JJBean house coffee, nice side salads with all entrees.

Its a great neighbourhood joint - friendly ethusiastic service, and cooking that has a slight twist - without getting ahead of itself. Hatch (RIP) on Main St could have taken a cues from Roundel.

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Any idea what time they open for breakfast? It sounds like a good stop after dropping my son off at school.


Joie Alvaro Kent

"I like rice. Rice is great if you're hungry and want 2,000 of something." ~ Mitch Hedberg

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@canucklehead: I'm so glad you liked it! The folks there seem super nice, I really hope they make a go of it.

@mooshmouse: They're open 9-5 weekdays, 8-5 sat & sun. And service is very fast when they aren't swamped. :-)

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Well this is my new spot, but I've only ever had breakfasts until today. I had a craving for creamy soup and salad, and luckily they had cream of spinach soup, and I tried their salad of mixed greens with almonds, feta, and dates.

I really couldn't find fault with the salad if I were paid to, although it's not a terribly original combo. I think what makes it seem so great is that all the ingredients are high quality. The salad was really big, meal size, the greens were a bit fresher than they are sometimes at brekky. The almonds were very fresh, I'm picky about nuts. The best thing about the dates was that there weren't too many of them, but they were tender and not too sticky. The feta was really top quality, soft, creamy. The salad had red onion and shredded carrot, and it came with the dressing on the side in a cute little container (I got my meal to go). Just olive oil and vinegar, it was sweet like balsamic but it didn't look like it. I added some salt and pepper at home.

The soup was good too. I am not an expert on spinach soup, but I'm picky about cream soups. I like them either very lightly spiced or not at all, and very fine texture. This passed on both counts. The salad came with two pieces of toast, all in all it was a huge meal.

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Anchoress, thanks for the tip. We are also in the neighborhood (kind of), and stopped in yesterday at 9:30. Fairly empty, so we grabbed a booth - and then watched as every single other table was occupied over the next 10 minutes. Anyway, I like the spot a lot. It is diner-ish, but modernized. I am a diner person (Joe's Grill in Kits was my old spot - though that is definitely more greasy spoon than Roundel), so this place appeals to me much more than a place like Seb's (which has great concepts with house made bread and preserves, and wild game on the menu - but seems to then fall short on execution). Roundel's menu is not too ambitious, but they can execute it. And the service is good too - though for a while there was only the one "older"* lady there running each table, till reinforcements showed up. She did an admirable job though.

I had a split benny - ham and avocado / tomato - nice house made Hollandaise, not too lemony at all. Can you believe the non-meat one was the better benny? True. Also, God bless them, they had decent drip coffee. You're right, I don't think the bread is house made, but it is okay (wife had 2 eggs over easy with sausages (which turned out to be slices of kielbasa fried - nice touch)). Will have to try lunch soon as I am dying for a 4-scoop shake.

*And she is by no means old!

PS - I should mention that at full tilt, there was some shimmy as the machine tried to keep up with the demand, so I'm a bit reluctant to "Gulletize" them. But if one can manage to show up at a not too busy time, one should be fine.


Edited by BCinBC (log)

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@BCinBC: Oh yay, I'm so glad you enjoyed it! That tom, avo & cc benny is a spot hitter, I find. I wouldn't be too worried about gulletising them, they have been doing very brisk business over the past few months, so they're getting used to it. Maybe they were having a staffing issue, usually they have two or even three servers on during peak hours. And that gal, she's a good server, and has great taste in lipstick. ;-) *hoping to look that good at her age*

I should also mention that I tried one of the other items on the menu that had been on my list, the carrot, pistachio and blue cheese omelette, and found it not up to expectations. The flavours were great, but the textures, not so much. I've discovered that I'm not so keen on doing a lot of chewing when I eat an omelette, it seems anathema.

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Anchoress, thanks for the tip.  We are also in the neighborhood (kind of), and stopped in yesterday at 9:30.  Fairly empty, so we grabbed a booth - and then watched as every single other table was occupied over the next 10 minutes.  Anyway, I like the spot a lot.  It is diner-ish, but modernized.  I am a diner person (Joe's Grill in Kits was my old spot - though that is definitely more greasy spoon than Roundel), so this place appeals to me much more than a place like Seb's (which has great concepts with house made bread and preserves, and wild game on the menu - but seems to then fall short on execution).  Roundel's menu is not too ambitious, but they can execute it.  And the service is good too - though for a while there was only the one "older"* lady there running each table, till reinforcements showed up.  She did an admirable job though.

I had a split benny - ham and avocado / tomato - nice house made Hollandaise, not too lemony at all.  Can you believe the non-meat one was the better benny?  True.  Also, God bless them, they had decent drip coffee.  You're right, I don't think the bread is house made, but it is okay (wife had 2 eggs over easy with sausages (which turned out to be slices of kielbasa fried - nice touch)).  Will have to try lunch soon as I am dying for a 4-scoop shake.

*And she is by no means old!

PS - I should mention that at full tilt, there was some shimmy as the machine tried to keep up with the demand, so I'm a bit reluctant to "Gulletize" them.  But if one can manage to show up at a not too busy time, one should be fine.

Love this place! The shakes are delish too! The "lady" has had quite the varied experiences, they have served her well. Quite interesting chatting with her about the places she's worked at previously through the years. :cool:


"If cookin' with tabasco makes me white trash, I don't wanna be recycled."

courtesy of jsolomon

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Another update on my fave neighbourhood diner... they did get their liquor license, and they're now open Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 10pm or later.

I asked if they had a dinner menu printed, and unfortunately they didn't, but right now it's a few of the most popular items from their lunch menu. They have beer on tap (didn't get the brand name, sorry), they have a few liqueurs, and I saw wine carafes but no bottles, so I don't have names. It looks to me as though they're building up their inventory of booze slowly, which seems like a good idea to me.

I've talked to the owners several times, and they seem to be so, so smart about the way they're going about this new business of theirs - cautious, but with a strong emphasis on quality and consistency. I can say that, having dined there regularly for a year, consistency is probably their strongest selling point - and it's interesting because that's the thing that's often weakest with new restaurants (or should I say new restaurant owners).

Business seems to be good - there's frequently a lineup when I visit.

Hours are slightly different now - they close at 3 or 4 Sunday to Wednesday, then stay open til 10 the other days as I said. Open at 9am Mon-Fri, 8am Sat and Sun.

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I've tried Roundel Cafe a couple of times now, and although the food was ok I will never go back. I don't think I've ever had such terrible service; the server was downright hostile.


The belly rules the mind.

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I've tried Roundel Cafe a couple of times now, and although the food was ok I will never go back. I don't think I've ever had such terrible service; the server was downright hostile.

I agree with Sonja.

Enough said.


slowfood/slowwine

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I've tried Roundel Cafe a couple of times now, and although the food was ok I will never go back. I don't think I've ever had such terrible service; the server was downright hostile.

I agree with Sonja.

Enough said.

I've been a few times and its been generally good - except during the summer - get an air conditioner please! Too bad about the crappy server - that's the kind of thing that would drive me away for good.

Still - its nice to see a neighbourhood independent make a go of things.

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