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Friday, December 11, 2015

Bite-Size Review: Breakfast at John's Place

Less than 10 seconds after registering for the GoodLife Fitness Marathon in Victoria, British Columbia this past summer, my next Google search was for the best places to have breakfast in that city as the race would be over for me before 9 am. There were about five spots that I'd shortlisted but multiple sites and at least three acquaintances recommended John's Place so that pretty much sealed the deal for me.

Technically, the restaurant is open all day, but their breakfast is renowned in the city.  As I didn't think ahead to reserve a table, we had to wait 20 minutes for our table in the super packed restaurant but our time was pleasantly spent perusing the several hundred posters, flyers, signages and photos that are hung on every square inch of wall space.

The owner and professional chef John Cantin's colourful account of his diner's origins are documented here, but long story short, he's filled a lot of bellies with Bennies since he discarded his original plan to decamp in Tahiti back in 1984 for a life of some fun in the sun, and instead took up the lease to this Pandora Avenue space on this smallish Canadian island, scrounged up some funding from a good friend, and opened one of the best breakfast joints in this British Columbia capital.

The prices sure ain't on the low side but the dishes are good value for money as all the ingredients are fresh and the portions generous.  If the legions of yelp and TripAdvisor reviewers are to be believed even with a grain of Himalayan sea salt, then know that John's Eggs "Benny" Benedict has a special section in the extensive menu all to itself, as befitting its multiple inclusions in the "best of" Bennies lists.  The diner's Bennies run the gamut from The Classic with grilled Virginia ham (introduced back in 1984) all the way to the new kids on the block - The Yiddish Columbia (served on savoury potato pancakes and sliced Montreal smoked meat; CAD10.95 for half portion; 2014) and the Spanakopita (renamed and modified from its former Jimmy The Greek moniker) with spinach and feta cheese (CAD9.95 for half portion; 2015.)  Here's some of what we'd ordered for our breakfast that morning......

Behold The Classic Benny (CAD9.95 for the half portion.) All Bennies come with two free run poached eggs on a toasted sesame seed bagel, English muffin, Gluten Free bun or house made savoury corn bread and topped with the smoothest, gluten-free, made-with-real-butter hollandaise sauce I've ever tasted.  Served with a choice of seasoned home fries (my guilty pleasure,) fresh or grilled tomatoes, or fresh fruit.
My order of Yankee Corned Beef Hash (CAD13.95): Home style ground corned beef hash, grilled with potatoes, topped with two free run poached eggs and garnished with green onions. Served with a bagel (although one may choose the English muffin or toast instead.)
My dad's order of the fantastically named 222 Headache (CAD12.25): Belgian waffles made with regular yeast batter (it comes with a gluten-free option as well) and served with pancake syrup (maple syrup costs CAN1.25 extra - boo.) Comes with two free run scrambled eggs any style and two link sausages (other selections which he regretfully declined include grilled bacon, Chorizo, an Italian chicken sausage patty or grilled Virginian ham.)
My brother had the same 222 Headache order, but with two ginormous fluffy, housemade pancakes.

There was a section of the menu that was enticingly headlined Off the Wall Breakfasts which  featured such rock 'n roll selections such as Valdy's Frittata (CAD12.95) which is a fluffy, open faced, four (count 'em, FOUR) free run egg omelette with chorizo sausage, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, onions and feta cheese; and the Bat Out Of Hell Meatloaf N Eggs (CAD14.95) that's basically a Southwestern meatloaf made from ground beef and pork with mushroom Marsala gravy and two free run eggs cooked any style you like. Both these cholesterol-clogging dishes are served with toast or English muffin and your choice of seasoned home fries or fresh tomato or grilled tomatoes, or just to assuage your guilt a bit, fresh fruit.

Now this first time, we went all conservative with our orders based on our long held belief that if the chefs can't even get the basics right, there's no need to zero in on the more exotic fare.  But now that John's Place has met and exceeded all my brekkie expectations (by the way, the service was excellent, even more so considering the place was packed wall to wall, and we were scrunched up at our table with servers moving swiftly around us oftentimes with large plates and water glasses,) I might just give these Off The Walls a try the next time I'm on the island.  After, of course, another run to load up on the depleted carb and energy reserves.

723 Pandora Avenue
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
+1 250 389 0711
Reservations highly recommended.

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