Monday, May 21, 2007

Lucky Diner

This one even surprises me. I mean, I expected to like this place before I even got there, just because I knew that it is one of Sean Heather's establishments, and I can tell the man has taste in food, style (someone who really appreciates the Gastown neighbourhood) and lures quality staff just from having gone to Salt. But a diner in Yaletown? For a girl who loves going to old dingy Chinese-run "authentic" diners that still have 70's glassware hanging around and duct tape on their vinyl booths, isn't this place going to feel overpriced, ingenuine, and snooty? The answer? Not at all. I loved it. I loved it so much, I had to go back just to make sure it wasn't the Jim Beam bourbon milkshake (which I loved too) that was making me bourbon goggle the place. I ate at this place three times in the span of a week and a half (partly because I almost lost my new camera there). Something about the place makes you feel as if whatever you are eating is the best in its class. I found myself wondering "are these the best onion rings I've ever had?" and that's a hell of a lot of fun when you find yourself thinking that thought for just the garnish! There were a few lovely batter-covered onion rings stacked on top of the steak dinner I ordered on a return visit. They just go ahead and call their Reuben "The Best Dang Reuben Sandwich" which is what I ordered on my first visit. With a side dish, it was only $11, which I thought was really reasonable since the time I bought some of Mike Vitow's corned beef at Granville Island, the smallest chunk I could get was $10, which made about a sandwich and a half. So upon seeing the prices, I was pretty happy and feeling like I was going to get good value, which was a nice surprise in Yaletown. I wasn't even expecting the $11 to include a side dish. For my side dish, I chose the green salad since I figured ordering fries on top of ordering a fat reuben and a bourbon milkshake must break some sort of law of decency somewhere. I'm all for indulgence, but sometimes you've got to set some sort of limit. The dressing on the salad was nicely balanced - something that I think I must be a bit sensitive to these days, as a lot of times, I feel like dressings are too sour. And on top of that, have you ever received an "amuse bouche" in a diner? The charming and attractive waiter brought me a lovely bowl of their tomato cumin soup. Very yummy. Um, I mean the soup, of course...

Anyhow, this restaurant is really suited to my taste lately. High quality food in a completely casual and comfy environment. I wouldn't be able to find a speck of snootiness in that establishment if I had a magical snoot-detecting magnifying glass. Okay, that was an awkward phrase. Let me elaborate. That steak dinner I mentioned with the great onion ring garnish? It also had for its veggie sides: golden beets, braised fennel, and swiss chard! I've had this theory about the key to setting up a really successful restaurant is to set yourself up to exceed people's expectations, and this place is perfect for that. Make it a diner so that people are just expecting typical fare, and then blow their socks off with the ultimate versions of those classic comfort foods. The steak dinner also came with buttermilk smashed potatoes, and the meat was tender and not overcooked (which I'm also a bit sensitive about, having recently had a medium rare order come to me totally brown at a chain restaurant). So I got this great main dish that would hold its own in a finer dining establishment, yet I felt totally comfortable sitting in the room with my grungy work cargo pants. The perfect comfort food restaurant. The slogan? "Come sad, leave happy." The burger I had one night was really thick and beefy, on a great housemade roll, and it had a wonderfully agressively horseradishy sauce on it. (I think it takes some balls to put a sauce like that on a standard item like a burger, and have the confidence that people will like it). I had the fries with that one and found myself playing with the thought "are these the best fries I've ever had?"

And just now, as I'm typing this post (a redo of a post I worked on earlier but lost during my recent computer death), I just did a search for the link to their online menu again, and found the news on Urban Diner that the place is closing! Just when I found my perfect "neighbourhood" restaurant. They even get their coffee from the place I like getting my coffee from - JJ Bean. Oh well, all good things must come to an end I suppose. I just wished I had found it earlier. I really wanted to make my way through the entire menu. I especially wanted to try the mac and cheese, and potato salad. Looks like I'll be trying to make my way back before the place closes, if it hasn't already. Perhaps someone will take over, for a third time (it was originally Diner before Lucky Diner, and I didn't have any interest in visiting then). Anyhow, it may not have been appreciated by the masses, but I certainly was a fan.

5 comments:

Archivarian (An Archival & Library Mistress) said...

I just discovered your blog and many thanks for posting all these foodie related items! I had heard about the Lucky Diner and am sorry to hear that it is closing before I had a chance to try it out. The thing about living in Vancouver is that there are so many places you can eat at, but few that you'd need to go back and sample the rest of their menu.

Dumpling_Girl said...

Just an update - I called and they are definitely closed.

Archivarian (An Archival & Library Mistress) said...

Major bummer. My friends and I were going to grab a bite to eat before heading out for dessert & drinks at Mosaic tonight. Guess we'll have to try something else.

Dumpling_Girl said...

Thanks for your comments, archivarian! I think I would have been able to deal with the closing better if it hadn't been so sudden, heh. I was planning a last trip there the night I called. Ended up going to the Irish Heather (another Sean Heather place) instead and had a lovely shandy (a light coloured beer mixed with lemonade), pint of prawns, and meatloaf with fries and veggies. Hope you found somewhere fun to eat. Mosaic once impressed me when we still had the Taste of the Nation event at the Hyatt several years back. Their pastries and sweets at their booth were very striking. What a great idea - drinks and desserts there. I should do that sometime.

Archivarian (An Archival & Library Mistress) said...

I must tell you that I ended up going to Ebisu on Tuesday. Yum yum! We had the oysters (fresh & motoyaki), gyoza, karaage (lots of tender morsels), saba inferno, golden scallops (neat presentation), agedeshi tofu w/ spicy squid, a roll (sumo or samurai). Drinks were a bit watered down (but cocktails under $6 and martinis under $8, what can you expect). Thanks for the tips!

BTW, mosaic's chocolate cake is meant to be shared by many b/c a little goes a long way - moist, fudgy & rich! We also had their garlic fries, a cheese plate and I had a gimlet (really sour). Left the party very happy