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Diner Days

Yearning for the time before breakfast meant a power shake and a $6 latte? Retrenching in the new economy? Settle in with the vinyl charms of a neighbourhood spot where everybody knows your name
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Sunshine Diner: A little hollandaise with your Benny? Hangover-curing plates draw the neighbours in; comfortable plush booths keep them at their impromptu workstations Shannon Mendes
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Yearning for the time before breakfast meant a power shake and a $6 latte? Retrenching in the new economy? Settle in with the vinyl charms of a neighbourhood spot where everybody knows your name

Stella Shurety, proprietor of The Diner on 10th Avenue, is a keeper of the faith. On the final block of prim shops before the University Endowment Lands, Pane e Formaggio sells apricot biscotti and Liberty Wine Merchants pushes high-end vino, but the Diner ("Ye-old-English-Restaurant," says the business card) has doled out the same gravy-dressed shepherd's pie and endless cups of sugary Joe for half a century.

The window displays a massive model of London's Tower Bridge (it belongs to the Royal Society of St. George). A vintage photo of Princess Elizabeth is nailed to the wall, a castoff from the old post office. Literally hundreds of other pictures, plus commemorative plates and informative tea towels from the mother country, compete for space on the pale blue walls. Stella, as she's known by the expat Brits and college kids who make the Diner their second home, looks up at the cluttered décor while topping off a coffee: "Well, it saves on wallpaper, anyway."

Stella never stops working, and won't stop haranguing her customers, either. "Some of them just come for the abuse, I'm sure," she jokes. Then she turns on a trio of young men and jabs a finger at the skinny guy's plate. "Eat that tomato. There's a good boy, then!" If someone asks a stupid question, he'll win a sharp "Twit!" from Stella, while her 50-something daughter, Jean, hollers "Duh!" and lugs an armload of dishes to the back.

Vancouver's diner scene has other authentic sites, as you'll see on these pages; but gentrification is gradually replacing our classics with Disneyfied versions. (Sophie's Cosmic Café in Kitsilano and even Granville Street's Templeton lack that crusty, bona fide aura.) The recession brings us back to the comfort of inexpensive carbs and bottomless coffee. While some of the city's high-end rooms are bedevilled by rumours of unpaid bills, unhappy suppliers, and imminent foreclosure, diners—serving up traditional fare at bargain prices—are thriving.

Stella's no-nonsense kitchen draws its method from England; nouveau diner offerings are conspicuously absent. (Good luck ordering fair-trade coffee or low-fat turkey sausage.) The recipes derive from the kitchens of the old P & O liners, where her brother worked as a cook. Everything is homemade, and certain stalwart items-steak-and-kidney pie, Yorkshire pudding, and the classic British breakfast fry-up-are plated with the assured, heart-attacks-don't-scare-me air that dishes accrue with decades of unperturbed rehearsal. "We are, by the grace of God, unique," says Stella. "It's all Brit food and Brit atmosphere-I nag them if they don't finish. Brits aren't afraid of ribbing you."

(Cont'd...)
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i always like fancy restaurants and fine dining. but when me and my girlfriend go out, we usually end up eating on a hot-dog stand, staring at the park and the stars..

but these venues on your site, would probably jolt my skin on considering, actually eating in a fancy restaurant. with all those great foods i only see on t-v. thanks!

by JSimon114 on Feb 3 2010 at 4:36 PM