We drove from Halifax to St. John’s in a hazy 24-hour trip that included a Gravol-induced coma on the overnight ferry, making awesome time zipping along the Trans Canada, and arriving in the city the night before a massive spring blizzard. Good times all around.
We did manage to make it out to brunch both mornings; Saturday, trudging through snow up to our mid-calves (luckily I brought my snow boots) just around the corner to the Hungry Heart Café, and Sunday, when roads were ploughed and driveable, down to the much-recommended Bagel Café.
Two very different experiences, but both exceeding my expectations. Let’s start with Saturday…
The location may have been what spurred our trip to the Hungry Heart Café, but the food, service and cause are more than enough to bring us back.
It turns out the café is part of a Stella Burry Community Services program. It’s mission is to assist adults in job training so that careers in food services and the culinary arts will be more accessible to them. Along with that, 100 per cent of the restaurant’s profits go back into career training and meal assistance programs.
When we arrived there was absolutely no one there and the blizzard outside was still raging. Over the course of our brunch, luckily, a couple more tables came in.
I ordered the salmon cakes served with potato hash, and my sister the Jaeger Toast (named after executive chef Kathy Jaeger).
The café first scored major points with my sis because she just started a gluten-free lifestyle. All of the bread products at the café were available in gluten-free versions, and the menu was completely labeled as to what was available.
The Jaeger Toast, on gluten-free herb focaccia, had cured ham, swiss cheese, sliced tomato and a fried egg on top. The potato mash was an incredible surprise: a non-deep-fried potato and sweet potato mixture, complemented by other vegetables like peppers and asparagus. Healthy deliciousness!
My plate included THREE salmon cakes, topped with a modest amount of Jaeger’s own hollandaise – made with low-fat Greek yogurt. I also got the hash. I took home a cake-and-a-half, along with some leftover potatoes. Coffee was good, and refills were free.
We left stuffed, after resisting a lengthy and very tempting dessert menu.
Sunday morning I completely cancelled out my healthy brunch by indulging in the Newfoundland Benedict at the Bagel Café on Duckworth.
I had several people recommend the Bagel Café, and was a bit surprised when I walked up to it, reading the signs out front touting its all-day breakfast. It looked like a joint. A cool joint. I walked inside and I was right – it was just about the coolest breakfast joint I’d ever been in. Sorry for no interior shots. It was kitschy to the MAX – in the best way possible. Service was beyond friendly, and quick. Coffee came in cozy, big black mugs, and the entire place had the vibe like you were hanging out in a friend’s kitchen. Most of the tables were pretty private.
I’m not sure how I made my decision on what to order – the menu pretty much has every breakfast option in existence. I was hovering over a bagel sandwich when all of a sudden I saw this (pictured above): the Newfoundland Benedict. That’s two fishcakes topped with poached eggs, smoked salmon and smothered in hollandaise. Served with the biggest portion of home fries I’ve ever seen.
It’s no wonder with up-sell options on the menu like “poutine your home fries.”
This is where hungry people eat breakfast. They’re using poutine as a verb now.
I also noticed on the back of the drinks menu, an appetizer/drink called the Lobster Claw Caesar. This is a caesar made with lobster broth, and served with a giant meaty lobster claw on the side. I’m comin’ back for that one.
Stay tuned for four more weeks of #stjohnsfood.
(Also pictured, fish and chips at The Duke of Duckworth)