Location: 1415 – 4th St S.W. (Beltline)
I’ve passed by Red’s Diner on two occasions, always seeing it packed full. The fact that it was packed is always a good sign, even if I don’t particularly like having to wait, at least I know the food is going to be good. Okay, maybe I don’t, but at least a large majority of people do. It’s true that everyone has different tastes and what may be good to one person is absolutely disgusting to another, but that was not true in this case. In this case, the number of patrons waiting for tables was equivalent to the quality of their food.
It was my first weekday off in a while and I had been dying to get out and have some fun with friends (well my sister and cousin, but who says they can’t also be my friends). We quickly agreed on brunch at Red’s though by the time we reached the place it was nearly noon. Originally I was going to try a mimosa, but I don’t do alcohol well and with the weather warming up, I decided that a milkshake might be better. It was a good decision. I got the vanilla milkshake (not what I would normally have gone with, normally would have gone with chocolate, but I was going to share with my sister, so we compromised since she doesn’t like chocolate and I don’t particularly like strawberry milkshakes). It was a rich sort of vanilla, maybe French Vanilla? I’m not completely sure, but it was very smooth, but not too thick or cold that I had difficulty drinking it. Oftentimes, I find milkshakes really hard to drink because they are so thick. That’s not a bad thing, but if and when I’m thirsty, it’s not such a good idea. My cousin had a regular coffee and my sister the pink grapefruit juice. The coffee was nothing special, a little watered down, but nothing horrible, though it did come in a quaint mug. The grapefruit juice appeared to be freshly squeezed, but the thing with grapefruits are that they can be bitter if the “casing” of the fruit is not removed, which was what happened.
In terms of mains we ordered the Caprese Benedict, Grilled Cheese with the soup of the day, and the braised short rib sandwich with fries. As I’ve mentioned in a previous review, Caprese salads have become somewhat of a weakness for me since my trip to Italy. Initially, I didn’t know what to expect of a Caprese Benedict because hollandaise sauce is typically quite rich and creamy, while balsamic vinegar can be quite tart. I just hoped the flavours wouldn’t clash and they didn’t. The balsamic was well reduced, was slightly tart, but had more of a sweet note on the palate that was enhanced by and enhanced the basil pesto. Of course it would not be a Caprese without tomato and smoked mozzarella, both which were excellent; the tomato wasn’t too wet and the mozzarella stringy (though it was hard to discern a smoked tasted with everything going on in the dish). The only complaint I had was that the poached egg was so small that I ate it in two bites and there was not enough egg for the whole English muffin. However, this does not mean that the portion size was by any means too small. In fact, I was unable to finish, but maybe that was due to the fact I also had a “giant” milkshake (it really wasn’t that giant). My dish came with a side of Red’s potatoes and some fresh fruit. They potatoes were pretty ordinary, but it appeared that my friend and sister thoroughly enjoyed them as they ate the majority of them. My cousin ordered the grilled cheese, which, instead of regular white bread or even whole wheat, was served on cheddar sourdough. For me, sourdough is a weird bread. In my mind, bread just shouldn’t be sour, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy it for what it is. I liked that Red’s decided to use a different type of bread than the usual to make their grilled cheese stand out a little more. The soup of the day turned out to be beef wonton. Yes, you read that correctly. Beef. Wonton. The soup base and vegetables were great, but it was better suited as a chicken noodle (I believe it was chicken stock that was used) instead of a wonton soup. Having grown up in a Chinese family making wontons, it felt odd to eat it for brunch, in a soup that accompanied a grilled cheese; it just felt a little out of place. Besides that, wonton fillings are usually more than just the meat, so it was like a giant meatball wrapped in a a wonton wrapper. My sister, who isn’t much of a breakfast/brunch food type of person, ordered the braised short rib sandwich. I remember my first experience with short rib in a Western restaurant. I had thought they would be like Korean short ribs like the ones from Korean BBQ, nope, definitely wrong. I tried describing to her as she looked at the menu, but didn’t do a good job, so she decided to try it anyways. When it came out, her reaction was the same as mine had been. But that was not the only surprise. The menu stated that there’d be coleslaw…it just didn’t specify where and she was surprised to find the coleslaw inside the sandwich and not side. My sister said, the only problem with the coleslaw being inside the sandwich was that the flavours got lost in the grand scheme of things. Nothing really needs to be said about the fries because they are like any other fries. They were not too salty, that’s all I can say about it.
The waitresses in this place are really friendly and makes you feel welcome immediately. Even the patrons are funny and welcoming. As we went in, a few guys were leaving. One of them said “Welcome.” And his friend added, “I would recommend the stuffed French toast.” As we were about to be seated, one called out and said, “Enjoy.” I couldn’t help but laugh; it’s nice to see the better side, the friendlier side of humanity than the dark, shit I have to deal with on a daily basis (not everyone who comes into my workplace is an asshole, just most of them). Like a lot of small pockets of the city, this diner is quaint and has a homey feel to it. There are still a few menu items I’d like to try out so I will definitely be coming back and I definitely recommend this place for a spot of breakfast, brunch, or whatever floats your boat. I would give it a rating of 4/5 because while it is not as good as Vendome, it’s good enough to keep coming back to.