It was happenstance that I bumped into a good friend outside Joe’s Grill yesterday, just an hour or so after they had opened up for their first day of business on the Drive. Having brunch at the new place seemed a natural.
Joe’s Grill already has three locations in Vancouver, on Denman, Davie, and Main. For their Commercial Drive location they have slotted into a space on the east side of the 900-block that has a less than illustrious history for restaurants; it has been vacant for 10 months since Nonna’s failed after just a few months of business following a previous 10 months of vacancy since the earlier failure of Adeline’s.
The interior of the space has been modified somewhat, making it much more appealing and open than it was before; it felt comfortable and welcoming. It still has the lovely patio, where we chose to eat on what was another fine summer’s day. Service was excellent: prompt, efficient, and courteous. That could be a challenge on a restaurant’s first day, but they managed it well.
The menu is standard breakfast and lunch fare. The Commercial Drive location hasn’t made it to their website yet, so I have linked to the menu on Davie Street. However, the Drive menu seemed shorter, with less choices. My friend had corned beef hash and scrambled eggs; his looked good and he declared himself satisfied with it. I had the classic eggs benny, my usual test for a diner. Mine came with country fried potatoes. The benny was fine — the egg cooked exactly to my specifications — but, as is usual in many breakfast joints, the hollandaise was a little bland, as if they forgot there was supposed to be lemon juice in it.
With coffee and tip, but without toast, my breakfast came to about $16. This is about the same as Zawa’s, the Euro Cafe, or the Tangent. The everloving and I usually spend about $20 for two breakfasts with toast and coffee at Skylight and their portions are bigger (as they are, too, at the Tangent for example). But it is a nice place and the patio is a real plus.
Joe’s Grill’s timing for their opening is both good and potentially bad. Good because the Skylight in the next block is closed for vacations for the next few weeks; I am certain that many of Skylight’s regulars, like me, will give the new place a try during that time. Potentially bad news is that the Bosa’s store next door to Joe’s will close in September when their rebuilt store on Victoria re-opens. Joe’s will lose the foot traffic that Bosa brings to that corner, and they will have to hope both that another restaurant chain doesn’t take the large space then available or that the double-wide vacancy doesn’t bring a sense of desolation.
My friend and I were the only customers when we arrived but by the time we left the place was quite busy. I wish them well!
On this day in 1969 I was in Yugoslavia working as a Third Assistant Director on a movie called “Kelly’s Heroes“. I was nineteen years old and having a wonderful time working with the likes of Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, Telly Salvalas, and a whole wild bunch of American actors. like Harry Dean Stanton and Dick Davalos.
We were living at the Petrovaradin Hotel in Novi Sad and most nights I joined the Americans in games of high stakes poker. We took over one of the small banquet rooms and several of the hotel staff were deputed to look after us with drinks and food. These games were a useful but expensive education for me; over a few weeks, I managed to lose several months’ worth of per diem expenses.
Our game on the 20th July 1969 coincided with the first manned landing on the moon and we arranged to have a black and white TV set up in the room so we could follow the action. I remember that, just as Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Eagle and on to the moon, we were in the middle of a game with a good-sized pot of American dollars piled in middle of the the table. We agreed to pause the game to watch the historic moment.
Several of us took the opportunity to stand and stretch for a moment. As I did so, I noticed that the American actors were glued to the TV screen intent on cheering their countrymen while the hotel staff ignored the TV and were all staring at the big pile of money, mouths agape.
It was an unforgettable night.