188 N Renfew Street (Gate 6)
604-216-5200 (race days) or 604-216-5273 (non-race days)
Brunch is served Saturday & Sunday from 10 am – 3:30 pm.
The concept of a meal and a show is one that has always been overlooked when it comes to weekend brunch. No, I’m not referring to the often outrageously entertaining spectacle of watching uncomfortable tables of obvious one-night-stands trying to be courteous to each other the next morning over waffles, but rather some kind of actual entertainment which accompanies your brunch and doesn’t bring on any second-hand embarrassment. Unfortunately, since there are no establishments in Vancouver where you can enjoy a jousting reenactment as you sip on your second caesar or where you can attempt to hide behind your stack of pancakes in order to avoid making eye contact with actors dressed up in skimpy cat suits as they begin to make their way off the stage to encourage a little audience participation, you’ve got one option when it comes to a outside-of-the-box brunch experience. The fact that this particular day at the races involved watching wiener dogs run in every direction on the track except towards the finish line meant that we really had no choice in the matter. Obnoxious derby hats were optional.
Offering up equestrian-based entertainment in Vancouver since 1889, Hastings Racecourse is open from April to November to meet all of your unhealthy gambling needs. Because the man sitting beside you in the popped collar velvet button-up and gold chain is most likely betting enough money on the races to pay your rent for the next four months, admission to see the races themselves is free of charge. Judging by the noticeably young and hip-to-death crowd, it’s clear that a day at the races has become popular amongst the frugal and financially-screwed over generation in this city. Overlooking the numerous food trucks, vendors and beer gardens at track level is Silks Buffet, a place to travel back in time to the ever aesthetically pleasing 90’s and to be in a room almost completely surrounded by people over the 70 gambling away their grandchild’s graduation gift money. I know what you’re thinking and, yes, it is as adorable and charming as it sounds.
At $22.45, the weekend buffet at the track isn’t an every-weekend kind of outing. However, it’s a small price to pay in order to feel bourgie and slightly sleazy at the same time, and when you combine those two seemingly opposing yet very complimentary characteristics over the opportunity to stuff yourself with as much food as you possibly can, you can’t go wrong. Although Silks is set up as a traditional buffet, you still need to be seated by a hostess and you have a server who is responsible for filling your coffee, serving other non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks and who you settle your tab with when you finally decide that three hours of hearing My Fair Lady references coming from your brunch companions is enough for one day. Keep in mind that coffee is included in the price of the buffet, but drinks like juice, pop and (obviously) alcoholic beverages are not. The operating system can be slightly irritating when it comes to settling your tab. Because the majority of people sit for so long, the tried-and-true methodical system of seating, quality checking, clearing plates and then bringing the cheque was non-existent. Be prepared for a lengthy ordeal of trying to find and flag down your server if you want to leave before all of the heats are over.
Bringing on a similar feeling to discovering a surprisingly decent breakfast buffet at your mid-level price range hotel, Silks covers all of the buffet bases. From a cheese table and fruit bar to a full dessert table and heating trays filled with non-traditional brunch options such as mini corn dogs and macaroni and cheese, it took very little effort for us to construct plates that looked like they were put together by a six year old. As far as traditional breakfast items went, they also had a decent selection. However, sandwiched in between a tray of slightly limp-looking waffles and a trough of bacon and sausage that screamed “just take the whole tray back to your table and save yourself some trips” was something that I had often fantasized about and had spent many hours planning out the logistics of – buffet-style eggs benny. Because it seemed like something too bold for anyone to attempt, I thought maybe my two week brunch drought had simply caused me to see some sort of beautiful mirage.
Thanks to a portion of the buffet that offered up largely southern options, it was also quite easy for us to build the most beige plate of food ever consumed at brunch. My brunch companion took the stack-as-much-stuff-on-the-plate-at-once-to-avoid-more-trips-because-walking-is-hard approach, which in hindsight was definitely the more intelligent plan of action. Never have I seen the lines between breakfast and lunch as blurred as I did that day and although some dishes, such as the macaroni and cheese, shone brighter than others overall most things were merely good. Just be sure to avoid the mini corn dogs which, let’s be honest, is a good piece of advice for everyday life as well.
Being the buffet amateur that I am, I went the conservative route on my first trip up to the feed trough and went with the traditional breakfast essentials that I knew my sleep-deprived and severely hollandaise-deprived body needed. The trend of everything being decent or just “good” continued. Fresh fruit? Good. Bacon? Good. Tiny little pancake hash browns that I’m pretty sure are the exact ones that I periodically buy in the frozen food section of my grocery store? Decent. However, that was where the feeling of basic satisfaction stopped, and it was stopped by the one thing on my plate that I went into expecting that it would let me down. Confirming my fears and convincing me that I was on the right track when thinking that a delicious eggs benny at a buffet was something of unicorn-status, the smoked salmon and red onion benny was cold, bland, gelatinous, overcooked and had a stale english muffin base that was more difficult to cut through than a ripe tomato with a knife that isn’t sold though a late night informercial. Normally, having such a disappointing benny experience would leave me, metaphorically and literally, with a bad taste in my mouth. However, having little to no expectations for both the buffet and the day at the races in general and being distracted by my three dollar bets and adorable wiener dogs pumping their little legs as hard as they could, there was no way that one simple blasphemous representation of my favourite meal was going to get me down.
If you’re looking to stray from your usual brunch routine, a day at Hastings Racecourse is a viable option as long as you don’t go in expecting more from it than it actually is. Although a day at the races is a pastime that largely caters to the middle aged and up crowd or to those with disposable income to burn and a slight gambling addiction, the crowd appears to be changing thanks to the draw of a free (if you choose it to be) event to attend in a city where it seems as though nothing is affordable. Silks caters to the crowd that it brings in, and offers up a decent buffet with decent options in a delightfully tacky and charming setting which will leave you absolutely stuffed for the rest of the day. When you combine that with a day of cackling with your friends over how every single horse you seem to pick manages to come in last place, and you’ve got a wonderful day which is more than worth the price of the meal.
Atmosphere & Service: