Waiting in line for 45 minutes for brunch at an out of the way (for a downtowner) diner can only mean one of two things: a) this place is a total score, or b) this place has been over hyped.
The Red Wagon Cafe is a quaint, no frills diner on the corner of Hastings and Garden Drive, one block West of Naniamo. Self described as "a neighbourhood joint", this place clearly caters to the low-key East Van crowd. The unpretentious, mom and pop decor make it a great option for a lazy afternoon, weekend brunch.
With pork belly clearly on my brain, I couldn't make up my mind between the Crisp Pork Belly Sandwich: with pickled vegetables, jalepeno, cilantro, and mayo on a baguette with chips ($10.50) or the Crisp Pork Belly Confit: pork belly, two eggs, homefries, griddled tomatoes, salsa verde, hollandaise and toast (11.25). Luckily for me I didn't have to use my Sunday afternoon brain to decide; the sandwich is only available during the week.
The two thick pieces of pork belly were melt-in-your-mouth buttery, crispy on the one side and deliciously fatty on the other. Both sat atop a half a roasted tomato that helped cut the richness of the pork belly between bites. The eggs were covered in a mildly spicy salsa verde and the home fried potatoes drizzled in a tiny bit hollandaise. Before going I had read a few reviews that found the potatoes bland. They were right, the potatoes did not have much flavour, but a little table salt fixed that quickly.
My trusted brunch partner, Adam, ordered the Pulled Pork Pancakes with Jack Daniels maple syrup ($12.50). While I personally find pancakes too heavy to make an entire meal out of, I could definitely see myself ordering these, perhaps to share, next time. The Jack Daniels gave these hardy pancakes a serious boozy edge while the pulled pork added a richness and toned down the starchiness of the thick, fluffy pancakes.
It wasn't until we were paying our bill that we noticed a handwritten sign on the wall above our table advertising $5 mimosas, caesars or Red Wagon (boozy) lemonade. I'll definitely be seeing a charge for a mimosa (or two) on my bill next time.
I have a particular fondness for hole-in-the-wall joints, and this place is no exception. The only thing that might deter me from going back was the long wait to get it. This might just be the perfect place to keep up your sleeve for a mid-week breakfast or lunch.