Open now for about a month, Sarah and I figured Urban Diner was the perfect place to meet for a hardy breakfast on Grey Cup Sunday. Walking in, we found the restaurant buzzing with activity and our fellow diner already waiting in the queue. After signing my vehicle into their log book (parking is limited in the area), we took our place along the wall and gazed around the freshly renovated space.
Once belonging to the classic Italian restaurant Fiore, which operated for almost 20 years, Urban Diner took over the space in the fall; adding a second restaurant to compliment the already popular and established downtown location. Operated by Cyrilles Koppert and Lisa Dungale, the diner’s tag line is Honest Fare with a Gourmet Twist… The Urban Diner embraces a philosophy of having a menu with just enough items to have something for everyone, while at the same time focusing on those dishes we do best.
No Denny’s 8 page breakfast menu full of everything under the sun…sounds good to me! After a decent little wait, we were taken to a comfy booth along the wall, giving us a view of the entire room. Having a direct sight line to the specials board, I couldn’t help but gasp for air when I noticed that 1 litre of freshly squeezed Orange Juice was $25! That is some gourmet squeezing. As we waited for our coffee to be brewed and delivered, I noticed a gentleman filming the crowd. As he wandered around getting different angles with his tripod mount DSLR, I started to wonder if they were filming a commercial on this day.
With the coffee warming our hands and mind, we placed our orders and proceeded to wait. And wait. And wait. After a few rounds of coffee, and 3, count ‘em 3, thank you for patience comments from our server, we were staring down breakfast. Sarah went with the Traditional Eggs Benedict – Back Bacon, Home-made Hollandaise – served with grilled French bread & diner potatoes. I went with Diner Hash – Corned Beef, Potatoes, Caramelized Onions, Hollandaise, and Poached Eggs – served with toast. Our guest ordered the Huevos – Our Twist with Vegetarian Chili, Scrambled Eggs, Cheddar, Sun-dried Tomato Tortilla with Sour Cream, Sweet Chili Sauce Served on the Side – served with diner potatoes.
The eggs benedict arrived on French bread (traditional how?), with perfectly poached eggs and a delicious slice of back bacon. The huevos looked good and seemed to provide our dining partner with a tasty, albeit heavy, breakfast. Sarah and our guest ordered Hollandaise on the side, and it was pretty obvious the sauce had broken as it was separating out in the bowl.
My diner hash arrived in a little skillet, and came topped with a slice of toast. The beef was bland, but after breaking my poached eggs (note-I wasn’t asked about my preference), adding salt and pepper, this was a safe greasy diner breakfast. I think it could have used a kick of hot sauce to really make it shine. The rye bread, which was more like warm bread than toast, came so loaded with butter that it was acting more like a sponge than anything else. The best part of this dish, and maybe the best part of everyone’s, was the diner potatoes. The cubes of perfectly cooked tots covered the gauntlet from slightly crispy to really crispy. Seasoned to perfection, I almost think we would have traded our mains in for bowls of potatoes.
While the service was slower than I would have liked for breakfast, the safe diner menu and good company helped me get over this hurdle. The bland meat and butter soaked bread were the two low points of the meal, while the poached eggs and crispy potatoes took top marks. It may not take over the same crowd from Fiore, but Urban Diner will surely be a welcomed addition to Garneau and will quickly develop clientele of its own.