I am a fiend for brunch. Every weekend we brunch, sometimes twice. There's an enormous selection of brunch spots in Vancouver, many within walking distance of the house. Saturday morning it can sometimes be a major debate as to where we should order our eggs benny. To make things a bit easier for friends who want to brunch, and to illustrate the extensive nature of my brunch habit and preferences, I created a tally sheet of places we have brunched. If you click on the image it should open larger in a new window (or maybe this window).
I'll tell you a bit about the categories.
Coffee: Drip coffee doesn't do it for me, especially at brunch. I expect an espresso machine and a good one at that! Any place receiving less than three stars for coffee has offered me drip coffee, sometimes crappy drip coffee. Locus rules the coffee category, hands down. They only serve espresso coffee and refills are free!
Cream: I'll do the little plastic creamer cups if there's nothing else, but a few places bring a small jug of cream or milk instead. Those places rock. One or two stars denotes plastic creamers while a higher number of stars means they bring jugs of liquid and the Tomato Cafe even asks if you want cream or milk.
Menu: Before the food gets to you, the best menu offers a wide selection of interesting options, appealing to a variety of palates. Locus certainly meets the diversity quotient, but they don't offer many standards like a tried and true, old-style benedict. The Tomato Cafe has terrific, fresh ingredients but a very limited, boring menu, particularily for vegetarian options. C'mon guys, vegetarian food can be very creative! Additionally, some brunchers get annoyed at over-the-top kitschy menus forced upon them before their morning coffee reaches their brains. Slickety Jim's have an extremely annoying menu, according to those people. I'm not one of those people; I find it amusing. *shrug*
Food: The heart of the matter. I judge brunch restaurants by their holandaise sauce since it is a key decision for the house chef: do we make sauces from scratch or chump-out and buy a can of gloop? Barney's, The Tomato, and Crave have the best holandaise on this list. The Main, though short on menu options, has great food even if their holandaise leaves something to be desired. The Templeton has great, traditional fare, including milkshakes, while Locus offers baskets of freshly baked, delicious bread with tasty flavoured butters. Everyone has a poison!
Service: A grumpy or inattentive server can ruin brunch, so can an overly enthusiastic, grovelling server. The Elbow Room, famous for their grumpy, nasty staff (they pride themselves on this aspect), actually give fair service meaning timely, etc. Service at The Tomato has never been exemplary and they run the gamut from absent to grovelling described above. Locus wins points again because the owner/manager guy is always around, bussing tables, getting fresh coffees, checking that everything is alright.
Ambiance: All the above plus decor, layout and architecture pull together to create an ambiance. Locus and Slickety Jim's have wacky decor that you can ponder while you await your meal, if you haven't brought a newspaper. Crave changes hands pretty regularily but no one seems to want to replace the crap baseball photos on the walls. Crave and The Elbow Room definitely leave something to be desired in terms of ambiance, while The Main, The Templeton, and Caffe Barney pick up the slack.
Decibels: Four out of five people claims a degree of hearing loss, so why linger over brunch if you can't hear the witty banter of your tablemates? The Tomato, for all its bright colours and funky look, is Too Loud when it's busy - which is almost always. The Main is a bit quieter at brunch time and I have never had any trouble hearing the conversation while brunching there. The Elbow Room is not called The Elbow Room because you get a lot of it. When I have been there it's been packed to the gills and those meager inches separating one table from the next make it impossible to hold a conversation at lower than shouting level.
According to the tally sheet Locus wins hands down. In truth, I couldn't brunch there every week because the food is a bit wacky and a bit rich (not the expensive kind of 'rich'). I'm head over heels in love with the Huevos Rancheros at The Main, but their coffee is kind of crap. We visit The Tomato too often for my taste (because of the boring menu) but the food is tasty and fresh and the coffee is definitely decent. What can I say? I love to brunch!