Golden Plates 2023: Red Wagon elevates classic greasy spoon

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      By Brittany Tiplady

      There’s a reason why the Red Wagon has been an East Vancouver brunch staple for nearly 13 years.

      “Classics remain classics,” says general manager Hugh Mongey.

      Until recently, the Red Wagon lived on the corner of Hastings and Garden Street in a ’50s-era-decorated diner complete with checkered floors and red tabletops. In 2020, owner and chef Brad Miller moved the restaurant a whole block west, to Hastings and Lakewood.

      Mongey adds, “What Brad started there was incredible and to be part of that was amazing, and this is still that. And that’s been a lovely challenge—to help bring things forward where I can, but also hold onto that established neighbourhood joint that Brad created.”

      Petra Richli

      The Red Wagon is cherished for its homestyle, French-inspired diner cooking that has even Guy Fieri coming back for more. Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives first visited the spot in 2012 and returned in 2016, bringing international recognition to Miller and his team. And it’s snagged the top spot in this year’s Golden Plates Awards for Best Restaurant to Cure a Hangover.

      “We try to do everything from scratch that we can,” Miller says. “I think you’re getting your bang for your buck. I think we’re doing substantial plates for decent prices. It’s warm. It’s welcoming, it’s comfort food. I’m not trying to scare anybody off and we’re not trying to cheat.”

      Whether you’re seeking out some epic hangover grub or dropping in for a more civilized occasion, there’s a lot to love on the Red Wagon brunch menu. Specials rotate daily, but the revered fluffy, golden, succulent pulled pork pancakes with a side of Jack Daniel’s maple syrup are among the dishes that have put Red Wagon on the must-visit map. As for other hangover breakfast all-stars, Miller and Mongey recommend the ambitious Super Trucker Breakfast plate and the BBQ brisket.

      Pair those options with a caesar, mimosa, or a quaffable Red Wagon “breakfast beer” lager by Powell Street Brewery, and you’re golden.

      Petra Richli

      To close out our interview, I had to ask: given the precarious nature of the food industry, especially in an impossibly expensive city like Vancouver, how has Red Wagon not only endured, but achieved beloved icon status?

      “Well,” Miller says with a laugh, “we continue to have the same integrity that we always have. We’re still doing food the same way, I do not cut corners. Obviously, things get tweaked, but we’ve tried to do the same thing that we’ve been doing for all these years. And that keeps people coming back.”

      Mongey adds, “It’s our customers that got us through the dark days of the last couple years. It’s largely due to them that the lights are still on and we’re still pumping out pancakes.” 

      The Red Wagon is located at 2128 East Hastings Street.

      Check out the rest of our Golden Plates 2023 coverage here