I had heard The Red Wagon Cafe was one the restaurants Guy Fieri had visited a couple of months back while in Vancouver filming segments for Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. I was further intrigued when I saw that the Pulled Pork Pancakes from The Red Wagon Cafe were mentioned on Vancouver Magazine’s Best Things to Eat and Drink in Vancouver 2011 list. But since the online reviews for this place seemed to be really mixed, I wasn’t sure if this place would live up to the hype. I decided to go and check it out for brunch anyways while I was in town last month.
We arrived shortly after 10am on a brisk Saturday morning and the place was already bustling. Fortunately, it only took about 15 minutes for us to get a table and we were able to wait inside by the tiny entrance area as it was a chilly morning.
My friend ordered the Crisp Pork Belly ($11.25). This dish consisted of a thick rasher of pork belly confit, two eggs, homefries, griddled tomatoes and was topped salsa verde and hollandaise. It also came with a side of either brown or sourdough toast. My friend chose the sourdough toast. I had a taste of the pork belly confit and loved it! It was slightly crispy, well-seasoned, and flavourful. I’m sometimes hesitant to order pork belly as I don’t always like the preparation, especially those versions that taste really fatty and gelatinous. This preparation was perfect and didn’t taste that fatty at all. The tangy salsa verde also help to cut through the fat and balance it out as well. Initially, I thought the hollandaise might make the dish overly heavy but I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t the case. Overall, this dish was really tasty and I would order it on my next visit to The Red Wagon.
I ordered the Pulled Pork Pancakes ($12.50). The dish consisted of 3 buttermilk pancakes layered with pulled pork and was served in a pool of Jack Daniels maple syrup. For an extra $2, you have the option to add two eggs but I decided not to as this was already a lot of food. I really liked how fluffy and thick the buttermilk pancakes were. The pulled pork was flavourful and perfectly moist. A friend that had tried this dish previously mentioned to me that they thought the pulled pork was too dry. I didn’t think that was the case, at least not on this visit anyways. If the pulled pork was any more moist and saucy, I think it would have made the pancakes soggy. So I actually prefer that they were moist but not saucy. The maple syrup was good although I couldn’t taste much of the JD. If you like the salty-sweet combination, this is the dish to get. For me, this was the perfect amount of food although for the price, I thought the portion could have been a little bigger.
The decor in the place is very retro and unpretentious. I thought the mismatched plates were interesting and reminded me of some of the funky breakfast places I’ve visited in Portland, Oregon. As I was looking around the place, I even noticed the stencil on the wall that Guy Fieri leaves at the places that he’s visited for the Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives show.
Overall, I was pretty impressed with the food we tried at The Red Wagon on this visit. It seems like The Red Wagon is one of those places that people either love it or hate it. I’m one of those that belong in the former category, at least based on the food that I had on this visit. I would trek across town again for brunch as long as the wait is not too long and I don’t have to wait outside. Since the entrance area is pretty tight, there is very little standing room for waiting. I can’t imagine standing outside for an hour waiting in heavy rain or chilly temperatures. The food here may be pretty good but it is not that good for me to be willing to stand outside in the cold. If you are worried about long lineups or having to wait outside, I’d suggest you go very early on the weekends or go on a weekday instead.
The Red Wagon Cafe
2296 East Hastings Street