The Red Wagon

Restaurant: The Red Wagon
Cuisine: Diner/Breakfast/Brunch
Last visited: July 10, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Commercial Drive/Grandview)
Address: 2296 East Hastings Street
Price Range:

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 3 (based on the items I had)
Service: 3
Ambiance: 2.5
Overall: 3
Additional comments:

  • Locally owned/operated
  • Neighbourhood favourite
  • Local favourite
  • Old fashioned diner ambiance
  • Modern “fancy” diner menu
  • Home made sauces
  • Free range eggs
  • Some ethically raised meats
  • Busy/line-ups
  • Very casual
  • Daily special
  • Monday 8am – 6pm
  • Tuesday to Friday 8am – 10pm
  • Saturday 9am – 4pm, 6pm – 10pm
  • Sunday 9am – 4pm

**Recommendations: Pulled Pork Pancakes WITH 2 fried eggs on top AND hollandaise sauce (extra), Pulled Pork Benny

The Red Wagon this, The Red Wagon that. Pulled Pork Pancakes this, Crispy Pork Belly that. I was hearing so much about The Red Wagon and their menu items that it was impossible for me to come in without high expectations. I even made plans to make two trips out here just so I could make a bigger dent in the menu. However I think my expectations were maybe set too high, and my revisit has somewhat dropped in urgency.

I give it that I only tried three things, which isn’t really a fair representation of a restaurant that offers a breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner menu. However I came here for Sunday brunch and ordered the house favourites and most popular dishes available on all their menus, but was left somewhat unfulfilled. Perhaps it was an off day because I didn’t find them as amazing as many reviews or experiences claimed.

If I fell upon The Red Wagon unexpectedly, then yes I would be impressed, especially since the style of the menu is so modern for a place that looks like a hole in the wall diner. It may look like a greasy spoon, but the offerings are somewhat “gourmet” although not pretentious.

It only opened early this year and has easily climbed its way to the top as one of Vancouver’s local favourites and neighbourhood gems. Perhaps it’s the informality of the experience tied in with the slightly “out of the norm” old fashioned diner food, but for me I found it good, but just more of an interesting option and find for the area.

I’m going to add that this area is definitely up and coming. It’s already filled with neighbourhood gems and local secrets like El Barrio, El Pulgarcito, Seri Malaysia, Le Do, Bo Laksa King, Moccia (deli), Schokolade Cafe, and then the newly opened Campagnola Roma. It’s going to be fun to see this area blossom, and to me it’s almost like the less “posh” Main Street. Main Street eateries aren’t really posh, but they do have a slightly more refined and trendy character compared to the eateries in this neighbourhood of Commercial, or East Vancouver.

On the table:

**Pulled Pork Pancakes 3.5/6 (6/6 for concept)

  • Jack Daniels maple syrup,Β 3 buttermilk pancakes layered with pulled porkΒ  $12.50
  • This is the house favourite. Deacon’s Corner was first to bring them to Vancouver, but The Red Wagon was second and they made them popular.
  • The concept, I love and that’s a 6/6! But now that the “pulled pork pancake hype” is over, then I can say that this can get better, and it does.
  • It’s a fair portion, but more meat and less cake please. Actually not even less pancake, but just more meat, especially for the price. It was presented clean, but at least have the pork out to the edges.
  • The pancakes were quite good, but the edges got a bit tough and dried out. It was moist, and decently tender, but could have been fluffier, softer and cakier. I like not having to use a knife to eat pancakes.
  • The pancakes were actually fried quite crispy on the surface ,which I liked though. Hm, now I’m thinking pulled pork French toast!
  • The pulled pork wasn’t quite juicy, but it wasn’t dry. It was just a bit less sauced, however that did keep from making the pancakes soggy.
  • The pork had a immediate and obvious Hickory barbeque sauce flavour and it had a good tang from vinegar and a nice spicy Chipotle kick.
  • The pork was nice and soft and more on the bold, savoury and tangy than sweet side, which is good because it was sitting in a lake of maple syrup.
  • The maple syrup tasted more like honey mixed with some maple syrup, and it was thick and heavier with the honey. It even had that gritty honey texture.
  • I could taste the Jack Daniels, but it wasn’t overpowering and well cooked out.
  • Overall they were good, and I really like the pulled pork here, but the pulled pork pancakes had more potential.
  • Personally I liked the Pulled Pork Pancakes at Hog Shack Cookhouse better – see here, and in a different category, but similar and possibly better than all of the above is the Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict at The Well – see here.
  • Follow Me Foodie Tasty Twist: I’m not sure if they’ll do this, but ask for 2 fried eggs to go on top of the pulled pork pancake, or poached eggs to go in between each layer of pulled pork and top it with hollandaise. That would be money.

Crisp Pork Belly – 3/6 (4/6 for eggs and home fries, 2/6 for pork belly)

  • Confit pork belly, two eggs, homefries, griddled tomatoes, salsa verde, hollandaise, toast $11.25
  • This is the other house favourite. It’s pork belly though, of course it’s the other house favourite.
  • I did a Father’s Day post called The Pork Belly, Bacon & Fatty Meat Series, and that included probably some of the best pork bellies I’ve had in the city.
  • Home Fries – I liked them! It was tender and creamy buttery chunks of Kennebec potatoes with crispy skins and they were well seasoned with salt and pepper. It would have been great if it was made into a hash or topped with some sour cream especially with the Mexican influence already.
  • I asked for one slice multigrain and one slice sourdough, which were both regular. The sourdough just seemed like white bread and the multi-grain didn’t have much seeds.
  • I was hoping for some fresh fruit or even some green on the plate besides a whole leaf of parsley as garnish. I’m not asking for anything fancy, but just some added freshness would be nice.

  • Considering this is brunch, it was a good amount of pork belly. Not too much, but just enough to satisfy your pork belly cravings.
  • Lots of people say this pork belly melts in your mouth, but mine was quite dry, really tough and chewy and almost like jerky. It was really hard to cut into.
  • I’m really sensitive to fatty and gelatinous textures, so when I have pork belly it has to melt in mouth mouth like creamy butter, and this one didn’t.
  • At one point I was pulling the white fat away from the meat because it was too chewy for me and it was stretching like gum.
  • The skin was crispy, but not as crunchy as Meat & Bread or Chinese style roasted sucking pig skin, but the flavour was nice with a hint ofΒ  what I think was 5 spice powder, so it even tastes a bit Chinese.
  • I must say that the Chinese master the whole “pork belly” thing, so if you’re looking for good pork belly, you must visit a Chinese butcher shop.
  • I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt that I had an “off day” pork belly, since everyone else doesn’t seem to have what I had.
  • I did love that it was served with a fresh house made spicy and tangy salsa verde and that helped balance any richness as well as giving it a good Latin flavour.
  • I prefer my pork belly to be like the one from Commune Cafe (Berkshire Pork Belly), Mochikas Peruvian Cafe (Chicharron), Guu with Garlic (Kakuni), or Tapenade Bistro (Pork Belly Confit). To see each one, click on the link.

My action shot for “The Egg Yolk Series” – 12 Eggs and where to get them post.

  • The eggs were perfectly poached and soft and almost silky smooth.
  • The hollandaise sauce was also very good and it was very lemony with a nice tang and well salted too. It wasn’t overly buttery and too creamy or indulgent, but it was well flavoured and smooth. Great hollandaise!

Daily Special – Beef Cheek Benny2.5/6

(**Please see comments – apparently this was “Homemade Country Style Pate Benny”, but they wrote it wrong on the menu. Knowing this, it’s a 3.5/6 as I still prefer my pate a bit less like a patty)

  • With Oyster Mushrooms & Grainy Dijon Hollandaise $12
  • The chalkboard read “beef cheek” and right away I knew I had to order whatever it was. Beef Cheek Benny… done!
  • Homefries – Again, I liked them! It was tender and creamy buttery chunks of Kennebec potatoes with crispy skins and they were well seasoned with salt and pepper. Simple, but good.
  • This is good if you don’t expect a “Beef Cheek Benny”… just keep reading.

Another action shot for “The Egg Yolk Series” – 12 Eggs and where to get them post.

  • They poach perfect eggs here.
  • The hollandaise sauce was delicious and that was my favourite part to the benny. They gave a generous amount which is even better.
  • Their regular hollandaise was already good, but this one was made with whole grain Dijon mustard and that just brought it to another level.
  • It was creamy and savoury and had a nice kick of Dijon and the lemony tang from the original hollandaise sauce recipe wasn’t lost in the mix.
  • Good tang, good kick, and overall a solid Dijon hollandaise!

(**Please see comments – apparently this was “Homemade Country Style Pate Benny”, but they wrote it wrong on the menu. Knowing this, it’s a 3.5/6 as I still prefer my pate a bit less like a patty)

  • Yikes! This is where it went really wrong.Β 
  • I’m sorry, but it looked and tasted more like home made SPAM than beef cheek to me. Actually it probably would to anyone because that’s not what beef cheek looks like.
  • The beef cheek was I guess pureed with other meat fillers and it was so unexpected. I really thought it was home made SPAM.
  • On the other hand it didn’t taste bad. It had a nice savouriness and a lot of flavour and whole green peppercorns, but it’s just not beef cheek.
  • I found this to be a waste of beef cheek and perhaps it was aiming too high to bring beef cheek to a $12 menu item. On the other hand, it can be done; even if they shredded the beef cheek and put a thin layer of that over the baguette, I would have preferred that.
  • The layer of crispy Oyster mushrooms was very thin and almost unnoticed and I thought they were crispy onions until I tried one alone.
  • If they couldn’t meet the price point using Oyster mushrooms, then I think crispy onions would have been a better choice because at least they could be generous with those.
  • Given that the poached eggs are perfect, the hollandaise is delicious, and the pulled pork is solid, I’d just go for a Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict… or my Follow Me Foodie Tasty Twist: Pulled Pork Pancakes with poached eggs in between and Hollandaise drizzled on top.

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Complimentary gummy worms with the bill.

The Red Wagon on Urbanspoon

16 Comments

  • Bow says:

    Yikes, beef cheek made to look and taste like SPAM ? Not a fan of pulled pork pancakes it reminds me too much of a sandwich, and not a fan of sweet syrup, but that’s just my taste…well, the runny eggs are what you like, Mijune(me too). The Red Wagon couldn’t make an unctous, soft ” melt in your mouth” pork belly ? Perhaps they didn’t simmer it first for a while prior to browning it, in order to tenderize it. I think considering it’s lack of competition for diner food makes the Red Wagon so popular.,,there is a diner/sandwich shop in Chinatown in that new apt. complex across from the Chinese Cultural Centre that’s super busy because of the desire for Canadian food.

  • Raul says:

    I really liked The Red Wagon, but I came without any expectation. Also, most likely you DID drop in unexpectedly (and that’s good, isn’t it?). Many other restaurants probably recognize you, Mijune (many recognize ME), and I can tell you that at The Red Wagon nobody knew who I was. And that’s ok and even much better because it allows me to fly incognito and do the review without the restaurant owners or staff cranking up the good service because you’re Follow Me Foodie or Hummingbird604.

    That said, I never order pork belly or beef cheeks. Weird, I know πŸ™‚ but hey, you know I’m a weirdo.

  • BeefChowFun says:

    I’m surprised they didn’t infuse the maple syrup with Canadian club instead of Jack Daniels to go with a more Canadian theme.

  • Katy says:

    Thanks for the review, Mijune! I’ve been wanting to try this place since forever too because I keep on hearing about it and last time we drove by, there was a LONG line up.

  • John says:

    Don’t forget the East Village Bakery, it’s pretty new to the neighbourhood too.

  • Linda says:

    aww i think the worms are so cute!

    this place is pretty close to work and i contemplated about coming here on my way to bo laksa king but opted for something else instead – maybe i’ll head into there next time i’m in the area at lunch!

    i think the pulled pork at deacons is pretty decent but again, less saucy! for some reason the pancakes here look very drowned in syrup and i’m not really a fan of that – i actually like dipping my pancakes in a dish of syrup lol is that weird?

    the pork belly definitely looks super dry here – the crust looks ok but again, VERY dry.. i love that there’s salsa verde on the egg dish! i actually had that for dinner tonight, mostly inspired by the hick’s benny at bandidas πŸ™‚

  • Mijune says:

    @Bow – I’m not sure.. I really think I might have hit them on a bad day for that pork belly because I feel like I’m not only one that felt like it was jerky.. I’ve had my fair share of pork’s belly (as you would know)… and this was definitely tough. I think it’s still a unique diner, so I see the hype… but just focusing on the food… I found it good, but not great .

    @Raul – lol aww Raul! You’re not a weirdo! Everyone has their own taste and palate. πŸ™‚ Yes I did drop in without announcement, which I always do unless it’s a media-related food event or invitation.

    Yes definitely when I refer to expectations I’m referring to expectations of the food and certainly not the service. I’m like you.. “treat me like everyone else” :)… also it sounds like you’re more recognized than me Mr. hummingbird604! I actually have no idea if anyone ever knows or not, but I just assume they don’t lol

    @BeefChowFun – interesting idea!… but Bourbon or Jack Daniels seems most appealing to me for the recipe. i would try the Canadian Club thing tough.

    @Katy – no problem! Try 10:30am! That’s before the line up starts usually πŸ˜‰

    @John – right!! I still have to check that place out! Thank you John for the reminder!

    @Linda – Let me know what you think of their lunch! Nope I like dipping my pancakes too… the bottom pancake on this does get a little soggy.

    See the pork belly does look dry right? I don’t get it… everyone says it’s super moist… I hope I just had an “off day”.

    yes serving salsa verde is a very Mexican/Tex-Mex thing and it’s all over the States, and getting popular here!

  • Porkypork says:

    I was in that day they had the beef cheek special and I thought it looked different then what cheeks usually look like. Half way through the meal my server apologized and said that she had written the wrong special and that it was a homemade country stlye pate Benny. I still liked it. Just thought it was different. I actually love there pancakes here. I live in kits and frequent the joint. I think they do a nice breakfast.

  • Mijune says:

    @Porkpork – wow! That makes SO much more sense!! Thank you for clarifying that up! For beef cheeks it was… not right, yet I still liked the flavour of it too! I agree with you, the breakfast is good, but personally it just wouldn’t be my first few choices for brunch. thank you for leaving your comment.. it totally helps! I have edited the post appropriately.

  • Louise Allen says:

    Loved the Pulled Pork Pancakes and the Crisp Pork Belly, Ken did too and so did DDD’s!

  • Mijune says:

    @Louise Allen – Great! My pork belly was dry, but I feel like I’m the only one that had a dry one… I’ll have to try again! πŸ™‚

  • Chef M says:

    Well after emailing days ahead and asking if they could accommodate a table of 8-10 I was told YES they could but no reservations.
    No problem I have waited for food before and try and support local as often as I can. Well we showed up at 10:30 today and there was a line up. NO Problem gave our name and waited our turn (OVER an Hour) as numerous tables turned over, a few groups of 6 a number of smaller groups . 2 groups of 4 that showed up after us and got seated first, only to have a staff member come out and tell us the could give our group 2 tables but they were on opposite sides of the restaurant because they had just seated people.
    Why wouldn’t you hold back one of the smaller tables and instead of seating us apart seat the other groups in these locations.
    BUT she said if we wanted to wait another 30-45 minutes we could get a seat.
    Food maybe good . I’ll never know because customer service is HUGE for me and I will NOT go back after this.

  • Not sure if you’ve been back, but they have huge line ups outside nowadays. I went a year ago and sort of had the same review as you. I wonder if they’ve changed their menu or chef: my curiosity is peaked!

    My fav is Roundel Cafe just up the street.

  • Mijune says:

    @Tara – really?! I would definitely try it again! I really think I had an “off day”. I think it’s the same owner/chef, but I’d be more than open to try again! Ohhh Roundel Cafe has been on my list, what do you recommend?

  • LotusRapper says:

    Went to RW last weekend. We had the smoked shortrib/brie sandwich, the pulled pork sandwich, side salad and grilled cheese/smokey tomato soup combo for Jr. All was heavenly. Service was attentive and friendly. Love the “decor” and the vintage Chinese-Cdn diner tablewear πŸ˜€ Didn’t have the guts (literally) for the pulled pork/pancakes …… there’s always next time.

    Chatted with our nice waitress a bit. Ever since Signore Fieri visited, lineups have increased yet again. But we were there on a Saturday night around 6:30pm and we didn’t have to wait for a table.

    Will definitely return πŸ™‚

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