2095 West 4th Ave
Brunch is served from 8 am – 2:30 pm (Monday) and 8 am – 5 pm (Tuesday – Sunday).
Whether it’s smelling the overwhelming scent of mothballs and Limburger cheese permanently lingering in your grandmother’s house, having that first taste of Jack Daniels since you were 19 when you indulged a little too heavily in it and made a complete ass of yourself in front of your brand new university classmates, or when deciding where to go for weekend brunch, having that sense of familiarity and comfort is important. However, attempting to find your very own brunch version of ‘Cheers’ (hopefully without all of the under-the-surface seething animosity and tension) is no easy task, especially in a city with a seemingly endless supply of restaurants serving up the most important meal of the week. When you find that special place where you feel at home and can order three sides of bacon without getting judgemental looks from the server, cherish it and prepare for the real test of loyalty: knocking a syrup bottle off the table and sending it smashing to the floor and still feeling like the serving staff doesn’t want to kill you. Again, sorry about that, guys.
No, this particular trip was not my first one to the little diner on fourth with all the crazy crap all over the walls. Everyone from students looking to get the most bang for their brunch dollar to young families trying to please the picky, screaming banshees that they call “children,” can all be seen lining up against the side of the brightly painted and wonderfully tacky building on the corner of 4th and Arbutus on any given weekend. More often than not, you’ll be faced with a varying duration of a wait on the weekends, however, the presence of a line at 11:00 on a Monday morning caught me off guard. I usually make a point of going to my favourite hole-in-the-wall diner on weekday mornings, as the lack of waiting space indoors means that you’ll most likely be waiting outside in the near-freezing temperatures of this time of year. Whether it was because of a mid-level priority sporting event that happened in the city that previous weekend, or because people decided to turn use the watered-down Canadian black Friday weekend as an excuse to take four days instead of two, I no longer feel safe saying that going to Sophie’s on a weekday morning will save you the headache that comes along with a substantial wait in a small and crowded doorway.
Even though you’ll most likely be faced with somewhat of a wait regardless of the day that you choose to go to Sophie’s, the wait is never very long. Aside from the pretty substantial (by Vancouver brunch standards) amount of seating, this kitschy diner also has some of the most friendly, personable and fast service I’ve ever experienced. They’ve mastered keeping the balance of getting guests in, fed and out the door without making them feel even the slightest bit rushed. I’ve never waited more than fifteen minutes for my food to come out, and have never once had to flag anyone down for more coffee, water or for the bill, which is perfect for a server (like myself) who is unreasonably terrified of bothering other servers.
Sophie’s focuses on large portions of comfort food, and has one of the most thorough diner classics menu that I’ve stumbled across in the city. Even though it has a large selection of omelettes, pancakes and even a low-calorie breakfast section, there are only four types of bennies on the menu. However, since one of my favourite ones in the city just happens to be on there, I’m not going to complain too much. Sophie’s also has a daily breakfast special which, it just so happens, is usually a smoked salmon benny.
The child kickboard-sized plates that arrived at our table were the best indication that this was a place I was going to be frequenting for the duration of my time living in this city. The giant mound of hash browns was so substantial that I needed an extra side of hollandaise to accommodate them – the leftover juice from the benny was not going to be enough. The fact that Sophie’s has some of the best hollandaise I’ve ever had probably weighed over that decision as well.
Having your eggs poached soft is usually the standard, however every time I’ve been to Sophie’s I’ve been asked by the server if that is okay. I usually request them to be cooked medium, and they’ve come out perfect every single time. The english muffin was toasted perfectly (which is something that is becoming increasingly difficult to find) and held up against the runny egg yolks and the buttery hollandaise. Unlike bennies that I’ve had at other places, the benny at Sophie’s is surprisingly light and never leaves me with that lethargic I-think-I-may-die feeling that happens all too often after a brunch gorging. The only issue that I’ve ever had there is one to do with substitutions. After going to Sophie’s with a couple of my delightful vegetarian friends and having their requests for benny topping substitutions rejected, it was made clear that what is on the menu is what’s on the menu, which I understand but which I also find a little disappointing.
Whether I’m going out with my similar aged friends, seeing my middle-aged parents or taking my 68 year-old aunt out for brunch, I always end up back at Sophie’s. It’s a comfortable, friendly and universally pleasing diner with an unpretentious vibe and some killer breakfast food. The reasonable price keeps it within weekly or bi-weekly reach for someone who is living from pay cheque to pay cheque and the large amount of food that you get makes this go-to place of mine completely justifiable. Whether it’s early on a weekday or late on the weekend, it’s definitely worth the minimal wait. Everybody might not know your name, but they’ll sure as hell remember that you’re the jerk who like’s her eggs poached medium and who is single-handedly depleting their entire supply of glass syrup bottles.
Must-Try Dish: Belgian waffles with berries and whipped cream ($10.99).
Ideal Time to Brunch: Before 11 am or after 2:30 pm.