Sometimes even restaurant columnists (well, this one, anyway) don’t do their homework. One Saturday afternoon, I had plans to meet Carla for sushi and browsing on 4th Street. Running a little late, I got a text from her that said “I’m outside (planned restaurant), and it’s undergoing renovations and closed. What’s up?” Not wanting to just randomly name off another restaurant that may or may not have been open, we agreed to hold off on deciding where to eat until we met up.
Once we did, we wandered south until Carla lamented that not only were we now late for lunch, but she hadn’t eaten breakfast (and she loves breakfast). Immediately I thought we should try Red’s Diner, as I haven’t been since it’s opened this year. I was hoping the later time would mean there might not be the lines that are typical of diners this town, and I was right.
Inside, it’s a modern, less-kitschy take on a traditional diner, which could be said for their menu, too. While they don’t leave out any of the traditional items, they add some others, and spin a few. For instance, there’s omelettes, pancakes, and waffles, but also a vegan tofu scramble and a red quinoa breakfast. For lunch, they offer burgers (again, there’s a vegan option), poutine, and things of that nature.
In another twist on a traditional diner, Red’s gives you the option to spike your milkshake (the Jack Daniels one sounds interesting). Also on their “hair of the dog” menu are a couple of different beers, and Baileys and coffee.
For her meal, Carla picked one of the three varieties of eggs benedict, the 4th Street, with spinach, artichoke and tomatoes. Though she realized after ordering that she didn’t specify how she wanted her egg cooked, it came exactly how she wanted it, soft and runny. Though there was no detectable hollandaise on the benny, it didn’t suffer, and Carla declared it “buttery good”. The accompanying potatoes (which came with my dish as well), weren’t advertised as hashbrowns so I didn’t mind that they weren’t shredded. Though I liked that they were quite light and not greasy, they were bland and desperately needed seasoning.
I picked one of the two varieties of scrambled egg wraps, the Rancheros, which had the eggs, black beans, jalapenos, green onions, and jack cheese rolled in a flour tortilla. Though there was nothing wrong with the wrap, it lacked flavour except when you bit into a jalapeno, or used some of the accompanying salsa, which was quite spicy as well. I’d ordered a side of guacamole to go with, and though it was nice and creamy, again the taste just didn’t pop.
Since we’d walked all that way looking for a restaurant, we decided to have ‘breakfast dessert’, as our server referred to it, and split the oatmeal brûlée. Another spin on a breakfast tradition, it’s oatmeal formed into a cake (for lack of a better word), with the slightest dusting of cinnamon over the top, served in a bath of milk. Though the oatmeal had good texture, again, it was bland. Calling it ‘dessert’ of any kind was a mistake, as there was almost zero sweetness to the dish. If there had been, it would have helped a lot.
Overall, our experience at Red’s was fine. We didn’t have to wait in a line, which is a rarity for a diner in this town. The service is pleasant, and though the portions aren’t huge, neither are the prices, with items topping out at $16. They’re trying to do an updated take on a diner, with some healthier options. If that’s not your speed, the milkshake just might be.
On the ratings scale:
3 out of 5 Stars
Red’s Diner (no website)
1415 4 Street SW