I like to think that brunch is a made-up meal, solely for the purpose of having a lazy and leisurely weekend catch-up with friends. Along those lines, brunch is best enjoyed out, with no cooking or cleanup required, at a hip local spot that serves creative comfort food. Hip enough to warrant a line-up out the door, but not so much that it becomes fussy or pretentious. I know just the spot, in the outskirts of Gastown: Café Medina.
Café Medina is next door to Chambar (which I have yet to try!), and both are owned by the same husband/wife team, Nico and Karri Schuermans, as is the Dirty Apron deli and cooking school just down the street – talk about block domination! Café Medina is open for breakfast/brunch/lunch and Chambar for dinner.
Back to brunch. There’s something about the vibe at Café Medina. It’s definitely happening (prepare to wait 45 minutes on weekends), but it’s more than that. There’s a happy buzz in the air – a feel good sort of atmosphere that’s hard to pin down. The restaurant looks small, and it is. But there’s a fairly large “secret” back room. Or at least it feels like a secret when you’re being ushered back there through a random hallway, not knowing it existed. Great high ceilings in both rooms, and funky décor.
Ah yes, the food. The first time I was there I had the fricasse. The second time I had Les Boulettes (2 poached eggs, spicy Moroccan lamb and beef meatballs, cilantro, houmus, raita), which was good, but next time I’ll be having the fricasse again. Because it was that good: 2 fried eggs, braised short ribs, roasted potatoes, caramelized onions, arugula and smoked applewood cheddar – all served sizzling in your own cast iron pan. Braised short ribs for brunch, yes please! This seems to be their signature dish. By the way, I’m amused that serving food in cast iron pans is so trendy – I guess it’s a novel concept to most people… whereas for me, cast iron pans are the only kind I own :P
If you’re a fan of coffee, you must try their specialty latte (lavender, vanilla, spiced, or raspberry), or better yet their fantastic mocha (dark chocolate, milk chocolate lavender, white chocolate pistachio, or rosewater). Personally, I really enjoyed the chai.
This place isn’t cheap ($16 for the fricasse), the wait can be long, and the servers are slightly aloof. But for the delicious food and the uplifting vibe, the wait is definitely worth it. I bet you’ll be making plans to come back before you’ve even left.