Tag Archives: diner

Le Gros Jambon

Late July finds us in Montreal once again for Just for Laughs, the hugely popular ,and largest, comedy festival in the world. Friday night had us take in Ron White and one of our faves, Mike Birbiglia, two immensely different comedy styles, making for a very entertaining evening. Saturday, is packed with Greg Proops, the self-styled “smartest man in the world”, Mark Maron and the very edgy Jim Norton at midnight. Because our day and a half whirlwind tour is so packed with comedy, we have little time to have a leisurely meal in one of Montreal’s many high end establishments. We are on an eat and run schedule. We also are spending most down time at the bar in the Hyatt, where you are more likely than not to run into the talent, comedy giants who are happy to say hi. These are the superstars of the comedy world, hanging with each other, busting each other’s balls and without entourage to keep the plebs away, so we grab a cocktail, blog and people watch.

We get a rare morning to sleep in Saturday with no furry assault alarm clock. After a leisurely start to the day we head off to Rue Notre Dame to a little real-deal diner, Le Gros Jambon.

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We arrive just before the late morning rush and grab stools at the open kitchen/short order station. Waitstaff is friendly and serves us in lightly accented English. Indeed most of the customers appear to be English speaking.

The diner is narrow and offers diner stool seating only. Gold flecked formica bar tops, Route 66 wall paper, creamy yellow and mint green walls, license plates, a lack of A/C and a respectable amount of built up “patina” give the resto an authentic aura. But Le Gros Jambon is not a throwback. The menu and the soundtrack are updated and modern.

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We get settled in with menus and coffees and OJ. I spy chicken and waffles on the menu and am tempted. We are headed on a two week road trip to the Southern USA in a month where they invented this culinary giant that has been making it’s way north. And so with that in mind I go with the interesting option, Mushroom Toast, which I have never seen anywhere on any menu. Rob, it seems, cannot wait it out and succumbs to the chicken and waffles.

From our vantage point we watch the cook dip fresh chicken and drop it in the pressure fryer. Meanwhile a second cook manning the flat top is doing the dance with several patrons orders. He then dunks Texas toast in a creamy mixture, I assume is mushrooms, and fries it like French toast. In a saucier pan he cooks the finishing sauce, which smells heavenly like a classic mushroom, cream and white wine concoction.

The Mushroom Toast arrives plated on a pig shaped dish. The bread is nicely done and topped with a perfect runny egg, a good amount of smoked meat and then topped with the creamy, delicious sauce. On the side is a hash brown, a loose, home made potato patty, crisp and dark from the flat top. A small container of what can only be canned Libby’s beans also graces the plate. I don’t mind that the beans aren’t home made. They are lightly sweet and go perfectly with the toast. Would have liked more beans. This could be a happily vegetarian meal without the smoked meat. Sorry no pic…I screwed it up :(.

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Rob’s chicken and waffles came with the same beans and hash brown, a large, round, crisp, chewy waffle topped with a leg and breast of freshly fried chicken and doused in a grainy mustard maple syrup. The chicken was surface-of-the-sun hot as it was right out of the pressure fryer. Giving it a little time to cool, beans and hash browns were sampled, and photos were taken. The chicken was perfect with the sauce providing a sweet and vinegary bite.

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With contented tummies we pay the bill as the diner begins to get quite crowded and a little bit too hot. Pro tip: turn on that oscillating fan. Off to enjoy our second day at Just for Laughs.

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Diner Deluxe: Breakfast

A quiet unassuming downtown Calgary Street reveals a gem of a breakfast spot. Diner Deluxe has been featured on You Gotta Eat Here, Canada’s kinda sorta Triple D wanna be.

Deluxe 001The diner hosts an ice cream parlour/bakery as you enter. We are here for breakfast so we move on through to a dining room on the other side. Deluxe features authentic items from diners of yesteryear. Salt and pepper cellars, coffee mugs, vinyl chairs and formica-topped. chrome bound tables are mix and match. There are a few kitschy items around such as a rotary phone, lamps, an old toy car or two, artful and not overdone.

Deluxe 003Deluxe’s menu, right out of the 1960’s with just the right amount of creative updating, reminds me a bit of Cafe Zuzu in the Valley Ho resort in Phoenix, Arizona. A good read, this menu. Takes us a few minutes to make an informed decision. Our waitress, in sneakers and pedal pushers, could only be more genuine on roller skates. She delivers a good cup of coffee and takes our orders. Crispy fried potato pancake for me, and meatloaf hash for Rob. I make several substitutions with which she happily notes, “No Problem”.

My crispy pancake is a ginormous potato rosti, crispy as advertised and tasty, topped with a dollop of sour cream, fresh green onion and the over medium egg I added. The generous portion of very good “Canadian” bacon, salty and lightly sweet, substituted for the chicken or chorizo sausage choices on the menu, nicely rounds out my breakfast. Fried Roma tomatoes are offered as a vegetarian substitute to the meat on this menu item. I request them as well. This was my only misstep. The tomatoes are lightly grilled and would have benefited from a long, slow pan fry to blister the skins and caramelize the sugars.

Deluxe 006Rob’s sublime, red pepper jelly topped slice of moist, well seasoned meatloaf is so good, he only offers me one bite.  The generous slice, accompanied by a skillet of potato/spinach hash is excellent on all counts.

Deluxe 005We are off on a short road trip to Banff today to see what we missed due to our late arrival via train last Tuesday. A quick trip to the Ladies transports you to 1966. Cut glass mirrors, powder blue commode and sink and an Alfred Hitchcock movie poster leaves you smiling on your way out.

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RT6: to Providence, RI

This morning is our last morning in Boston. We are moving on to Providence, RI.  Before we go we are going to have breakfast at Mike’s City Diner, a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives-featured joint. We once again luck into parking out front but have to hunt down American change for the meter. Boston still resides in the dark ages regarding meter technology.

Mike’s is clean and homey. A classic no frills or kitsch diner. Black and white and checks. Comfy, padded, armless chairs and tables. No banquettes. Banquette seating takes away some of the versatility a place has to seat parties of different sizes. The busy kitchen is visible from the seating area. The restaurant’s various and many accolades are posted everywhere. President Clinton has been by.

Rob goes out to feed the meter and I peruse the menu. A very good breakfast menu. Good variety. Our server delivers excellent coffee and a humongous glass of grapefruit juice. Rob gets back to the table and we place our orders. I’m getting the Mike’s Special – ham carved off the bone, two eggs over medium, grits, toast – coffee included. Rob wants Mike’s Famous Pilgrim Sandwhich – turkey, stuffing and cranberries only to be told they don’t serve it until eleven. “I know – we suck!” says our waitress…lol. He settles for a Southender omelette stuffed with corned beef hash and cheese with home fries and rye toast.

Breakfast arrives quickly and piping hot. My eggs are perfect but the grits while creamy, are unseasoned. I add butter and salt but they really need to be cooked with LOTS of salt. So I would pass on them. My ham is plentiful and very tasty, sliced thin and grilled on the flat top for a little carmelization. It’s not over-salty. Perfect. The toast is decent, white and buttered. I ask for jam and she delivers really good homemade strawberry. “It’s all we have, except for packets of grape jelly” she says. It is wonderful.

Rob’s omelette is huge. The eggs are perfect and buttery good and hash inside is amazing, with large chunks of meat mixed with potato, while the cheddar flavour ties it all together. A very well made omelette. Mike’s home fries are very good as well. Some of the best we’ve had. They seem to be simply spiced with seasoned salt. Delicious.

Well fed, we hit the road for Rhode Island. Providence is a quick, forested, one-hour drive from Boston. We are there in a blink pretty much. We settle into the hotel and set out to explore the Brown’s University area which is kinda dead. We grab a beer, watch some Olympics, argue about whether the women’s beach volleyball uniforms are discriminatory as the men are not in skimpy suits and then head back to the Downcity Arts area where we are staying and explore a bit more. Providence seems a bit dead today. It’s 90 degree out. Is everybody at the beach? Inside? Not returned for school yet? The Hotel Providence where we are staying is old and beautiful, but the surrounding area is a bit sketchy. There is a mission two doors away and the only other people in the street appear to be homeless. Nobody is begging though. Weird vibe. Something just seems a little off.

For dinner tonight we choose the Providence Oyster House. Tomorrow we head inland so we want to have a last go at fresh seafood. The Oyster bar is half full with people celebrating the end of their work day. This area of town, Federal Hill is busier but not bustling on a Friday night. There’s live music somewhere and the night is pleasant.

After handing the car off to the valet, we are quickly seated. The restaurant is dim, with lots of wood accents, paper covers the white table cloths, and the kitchen is open. Nice atmosphere for a slow meal and good wine.

Good rustic bread is brought to the table accompanied by a very nice dipping oil with a hint of chili. We decide to try some local oysters along with some of our favorites, Umami from Rhode Island, Pepperell Cove, Maine, and Malagash from PEI. Since we are having oysters we go with beer instead of wine for the evening. The oysters arrive on ice with cocktail sauce and a very nice migniotte. We slurp them down. Fresh and briny. I did get shells in three of the twelve. This should NEVER happen. Especially when you have the words Oyster Bar in your name. One again we’re reminded how absolutely spoiled we are by the Whalesbone in Ottawa.

For mains we both order the lobster mac and cheese at $30 a pop. Fabulous! (say with jazz hands). Perfectly cooked penne sauteed in a decadent white cheddar cheese cream sauce, very lightly truffled, with thin, tender-crisp asparagus pieces, the meat of a whole lobster covered in buttery ritz cracker crumbs, and finished under a salamander. Scrumptious. Tomorrow we leave lobster land. It has been a treat.

This pic does NOT do their lobster mac justice. It was very dark and this has been heavily corrected.

Diner: Louis’ Restaurant

Louis’: home of my favorite Canadian-style pie. You know, the kind with the thick bready crust, good tomato sauce, a classic combo with green peppers, mushrooms and peperoni – chewy with cheese. A great Saturday use to include bowling at MacArthur lanes and pizza at Louis’. Late nights after Rob’s band played often included a stop at Louis’ which was hopping like it was noon even in the wee hours despite not having a liquor license. Family owned Louis’ has been a Vanier institution for 52 years. Our waitress, gravelly-voiced and sweetie-calling, has been there 34 years.

Louis’ serves breakfast, so we head over to check it out this fine, scorching Saturday. The place is full with regulars being questioned by another gravelly-voiced sister, “Where have you been?”, “Where is your husband this morning?”, “Have a great birthday!” We grab a table in the window,  one of very few available at 10:30. Our server asks us if we need menus. We do as this is our first time for breakfast. Coffee – decent – and bottled minute maid OJ arrive, I order the breakfast special, $5.10, and Rob orders a western omelette and we wait.

Decorated in classic-diner, orange vinyl booths and formica, Louis’ walls are charmingly plastered with unframed photos of family and I presume regulars, kid’s artwork and local hockey club paraphernalia, cementing its neighbourhood-fixture status. A small confectionery is attached to the restaurant. Lottery tickets and Advil are sold at the cash. Dessert cases are filled with mile-high cream pies. On the way in and out you can waste a quarter on the love meter. If you score “kinky” you get a free pack of gum.

Breakfast arrives. Two eggs cooked perfectly. bacon – for me – very crisp (Rob notes that no one ever asks you how you want your bacon. I like mine a little less crispy but not limp), home-fried potatoes cooked on the flat top with fried onions, very good, white toast (brown available and rye as well – no extra charge). No jam is offered or on the table. Minor peeve. The plate is adorned with a nice sweet orange wedge and a lame slice of tomato. I would take issue with this except that breakfast at Louis’ is very cheap and I don’t appear to be charged much for this.

Rob’s western omelet, cooked on the flat top is well made, but seemingly lacking green pepper. They’re famously a pizza place, so clearly they have green peppers on hand.

Breakfast at Louis’ overall is quite good. The price is right and the service is exactly what you want in a diner – efficient and friendly. Like family is serving you. Being there was a nice reminder that we have to go back from some of that late-night pie.


Louis' Restaurant and Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

 

Diners: Hamie’s

Hamie’s Diner on Beechwood Ave is the third attempt in our series to find great, irony-free diners. Hamie’ s lacks the homemade, family-run charm of our previous finds but makes up for it with simple, classic diner fare and friendly wait staff that make you feel at home immediately. The diner is medium sized, seats about 60, and is pleasantly busy with an audible but not overwhelming din on this sunny Sunday morning in early July. Vinyl booths are smallish but counter stools and a few cafe tables offer alternatives.

Street parking is easy to find this particular morning. We head inside take a window seat. Our fellow diners are clearly locals, not tourists. Hamie’s is a neighbourhood joint. Our waitress, pleasant and efficient, welcomes us and gets us coffee and juice. Juice comes in a bottle. Coffee is thin and not to my liking, but I am hardly a connoisseur. Don’t go by me, I’m a Timmie’s girl.  We peruse the menu of diner breakfast classics for the most part, and I will forgive the gender friendly Lumberjack/Jill selections and Atkin’s specials. We both order the Lumberjack breakfast which includes two pancakes, home fries, toast, bacon, ham or sausage and two eggs. Mine is coming with bacon and white toast, Rob’s with sausage and rye toast. The rye toast is $1.00 extra and jam for the toast is 25 cents. I don’t care about the money but this nickle-and-diming leaves a negative impression. Add 25 cents to to the cost of all your menu items and put jam on the table. After placing our orders I noticed a small sign that said cash only. This belongs on the front door.

Our food arrives very quickly. Eggs are perfect, pancakes are rich and fluffy – this means they have a kickass short order cook back there. Our toast is well- buttered – I forego jam because it annoys me to ask and since the eggs are a perfect over medium I’ll use it to soak up yolk. My bacon is good but could be a little crisper for my taste. Rob’s good quality breakfast links are split open and fried on the flat top which makes them especially tasty. The home fries, pan-fried not deep fried, are very good. No throw away garnishes on the plate which pleases me. On the whole, breakfast was very good and we would return if we were in the area. $26.20 plus tip.

Hamie's Diner on Urbanspoon