The promise of a delicious brunch and well-garnished Caesar is the only reason we’ll peel ourselves out of bed before 11 a.m. on a weekend. A poorly heated Pillsbury Toaster Strudel that’s still frozen on the inside doesn’t quite provide us with the motivation required to seize the day.
Thankfully, for breakfast lovers in North Vancouver, Douce Diner genuinely loves filling the bellies of guests at the cozy, retro-inspired spot on Pemberton Avenue.
Upon walking through the door, once you’ve worked your way through the waitlist, it becomes obvious that you aren’t at any old chain restaurant. Instead, you’re in a neighbourhood diner that’s bursting with love, a result of the team’s hard work and enthusiasm.
Douce Diner’s vintage décor, which includes intricate pastel tiling and funky wallpaper, adds to its lively environment, and it is usually chock-full of guests who are happy to be there. The restaurant’s black-and-white chequered floor and old-school bar seating channels the ’50s—a simpler time, when TikTok celebrities didn’t exist.
The smells of freshly brewed coffee, housemade waffles, and savoury egg sandwiches spark hunger—and a little bit of drooling—among folks waiting patiently at their tables.
The nostalgic vibe of the diner and its menu packed with elevated traditional dishes was developed by owner and chef Dawn Doucette. Before opening the restaurant in 2019, her determination, experience, and passion for preparing meticulous dishes landed her a spot on the Food Network’s Top Chef Canada.
These days, Doucette can be found running dishes crafted with fresh ingredients straight from the diner’s kitchen to your table.
What we ate
Slightly hungover from a small holiday gathering the night before, we had every intention to order a meal that would really turn things around for us.
After ordering a chocolate handspun milkshake and a Caesar, it was time to choose our fighters. We put our faith in the avocado eggs Benny and an eggs Benny topped with butterflied sausage, both served with hash browns.
The diner’s signature hash browns—shredded and mixed with secret seasonings—are superior to those tasteless, square-shaped potato chunks that have been dunked in the deep fryer.
As for the eggs Benny, every variation prepared at Douce Diner comes on a fluffy buttermilk biscuit that’s made in-house, with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. You might never return to making Bennies in your own kitchen, as the diner’s tangy recipe will put your store-bought hollandaise dry mix to shame.
For the next 15 minutes, which felt like eternity, we experienced excitement every time a server walked toward our table with food in tow.
When they finally approached with our meals, we promptly coated the crispy hash browns in ketchup and Douce’s signature hot sauce. Then we dug in as if it was the last meal we’d ever eat, popping the bright yellow yolks of our soft-poached eggs before diving fork-first into the Benny.
As frequent Douce-goers who don’t care about the slightly uncomfortable food coma that often follows, we were clean-plate rangers.
Like most North Vancouver residents, we plan to slowly but surely eat our way through their entire menu.
Next week, we’ll explore the restaurant’s sweet side by ordering the in-house waffle layered with seasonal compote and housemade vanilla crème fraîche. We also find enticing the French toast made from thickly cut challah with lemon curd, mascarpone cream, seasonal fruit, and real maple syrup.
Because folks following a plant-based diet deserve a memorable brunch experience too, Douce Diner has an elevated take on the traditional avocado toast.
Vegans—and nonvegans—can gobble down a slice of fresh bread that’s slathered in plant-based mayonnaise and avocado, topped with Earth Island smoked vegan cheez, gem tomatoes, and sunflower sprouts.
As always, our visit to Douce Diner was everything we had hoped, with friendly staff, consistent quality, and an upbeat atmosphere, which goes a long way during these uncertain times.
We remained full until 6 p.m. that evening. As soon as the first hunger pang was felt, we ordered the restaurant’s pop-up fried-chicken dinner for pick-up, with potato salad, pickled zucchini slices, biscuits, and gravy.