A local foodie had told me about Argo Cafe a couple of years back but I never got around to trying it despite my frequent trips to Vancouver. When I had heard last year that Argo Cafe was going to be featured on John Catucci’s You Gotta Eat Here show on Food Network, I kept my eyes peeled for the episode to air. When the segment on Argo Cafe finally aired last month, I was really intrigued by the duck confit with blueberry butter that they had featured on the show. That duck confit looked so yummy! Hence, I decided to check out it for lunch on my recent trip to Vancouver a couple of weeks ago.
Argo Cafe is a bona fide old-school diner that has been around since 1956. For the last eight plus years, the diner has been owned and run by a Chinese-French family team. The kitchen is run by Chef Denis Larouche while the front of the house is being run by his brother-in-law, Kirby Wong. This helps to explain both the Chinese and French influences on their menu. Argo Cafe is only open on weekdays from 7am to 4pm, with breakfast being served from 7am to 11am and their famous daily lunch specials being only available after 11am. In addition to their lunch specials, they also offer classic diner fare such as burgers, sandwiches, salads, and pasta.
The lunch specials at Argo Cafe change daily. This is both good and bad. It’s good in that you get the variety if you go often. But it’s bad because you won’t know if you favourite dish is going to be available that day until around 11am when they post the lunch specials. We took a chance anyways and headed there for lunch at 11am to beat the lunch crowd even though I wasn’t sure the duck confit was going to be available as the menu for that day had not been posted yet. Lucky for me, the duck confit was actually available that day.
All the lunch specials came with a choice of complimentary daily soup. My friend C chose the Carrot & Tomato Soup. The soup was tasty, although it was quite a bit spicier than we had expected. For her main, she chose the Potato Crusted Halibut with Veggies & Cream Sauce ($13.00). For those on a low carb diet, this would have been the perfect plate as there wasn’t a lot of starch besides the few potato shreds on the halibut. The steamed veggies were perfectly al dente. However, the halibut was sadly overcooked and really dry.
Both my foodie friend, Grayelf and I chose the Bacon & Turkey Borscht. The borscht, to my surprise, was more like a vegetable soup but with some beet chunks. It definitely tasted homemade. For our mains, both Grayelf and I had the Peppercorn Duck Confit with Mashed Potatoes & Veggies ($12.50). The Duck Confit was perfectly executed with the skin being crispy and the meat fork tender. Again, the steamed veggies were perfectly cooked. The mashed potatoes were creamy and flavourful. But the real star of the show was the spicy peppercorn sauce! If it was socially acceptable, I would’ve licked the plate clean. But alas, I used the mashed potatoes to sop up every last bit of the sauce instead. I couldn’t believe how tasty this dish was, especially considering the price. I would’ve easily paid more than twice as much at a fine dining establishment to have Duck Confit and there are no guarantees that it would even taste as good as this one from Argo Cafe. They definitely knocked this dish out of the park! I can’t wait to go back to have it again.
For dessert, Grayelf wanted to try the Creme Caramel ($4). The Creme Caramel was well-executed and very reasonably priced. It was the perfect way to end off such a great meal.
Overall, I was really impressed with our meal at Argo Cafe. It is literally fine dining but at diner prices. I was pleasantly surprised this place totally lives up to the hype. Though the dishes could be hit or miss depending on what you order, I totally loved the Duck Confit and would go back in a heartbeat to have it again.
1836 Ontario St