White Spot - North Road

Probably everyone in BC knows White Spot; it is, as they say, a veritable institution. However, one can’t miss that over the past 10 or so years, the chain has undergone a transformation from a diner/family style joint à la Denny’s to a casual fine-dining aspirant. And I’m sure you’ve all seen the commercials with John Bishop, Rob Feenie and Umberto Menghi, right? It appears they are forever injecting their menu with new international cuisines (like Indian, Italian & Thai). Despite this, I’ve tended to stick with what I feel they do best: burgers, breakfasts and comfort food, because if I wanted to eat a rice bowl or stir fry, I would go to a real Asian restaurant, you know?

On Sunday we went for a walk around our neighbourhood and along the Brunette River, saw blackberries which were starting to wither, and met a few dogs and cyclists along the way. Afterwards, we decided to head out to one of our (formerly) regular breakfast spots, White Spot. A few years ago this location on North Road was renovated to a more upscale décor, with a fireplace, water feature and reupholstered booths. They’ve added cool B&W historical White Spot pictures in the waiting area, and the restaurant walls are decorated with very attractive colour photos of the BC landscape. Of course, there are a number of flat screen TVs as well. I also like this location because it is one of the restaurants that still has Drive-In service with car hops (!).

I have a soft spot for White Spot, even though I prefer other places for breakfasts and casual food. It has such a great history that I really, really want to like it. This particular location is very close to our home, so we’ve been there many times--but most of the experiences have been average at best. Not having grown up with Triple O Sauce (I partially grew up in Thailand and as a kid our family never went out to restaurants), I don’t see the appeal of it; to me the sauce is just some runny mayo that gets all over your hands (I know, I know, blasphemy!).

But on to the breakfast. I had coffee, the first cup of which was surprisingly smooth and without the Starbucks burnt taste that is so ubiquitous these days (the second cup was quite bitter/burnt though). I like how they give you a saucer of creamers in a little dish—it’s a lot more convenient than asking the busy server. Shane ordered Earl Grey tea, which came in a small, white ceramic teapot. One good thing about White Spot is that they serve one of my favourite teas, Mighty Leaf, which is really good loose leaf tea in silk-like biodegradable pouches. The tea bag is large enough so the leaves can properly unfurl and develop flavour. I only order it in restaurants though, because I can’t quite stomach the 15 dollar price tag for a box of it at the store.

I ordered “Nat’s Fabulous French Breakfast” ($9.99), which is 2 eggs, 2 bacon slices, 2 sausages, hash brown, 2 slices of French Toast cut diagonally in half. It arrived on a large white plate. The dish also came with a small vessel of warmed syrup (a nice touch), and the French toast was topped with icing sugar and a generous mound of butter that resembled a tiny scoop of ice cream. For what it’s worth, I did remove the mound of butter right away, before it melted further into the porous fried bread, and do further damage to my arteries. Now let’s examine the components:

· Eggs – they were ordered medium, but they turned out to be quite runny. Generally I like over easy eggs, but I really don’t like egg yolk touching the French toast, which kind of doesn’t make sense because the bread had been already dipped in egg in the first place….

· Bacon – were they there? They were cooked fine, but they were on the thin side, and about 3 inches long.

· Sausage – ok, so this the reason we stopped coming to White Spot for breakfast. White Spot used to have fabulous sausages: thick, flavourful, and quality meat, but a few months ago we were there for breakfast and apparently they changed suppliers and we had a horrible experience of having multiple burnt, undelicious sausages (multiple because we asked for non-burnt sausages and they gave us more black sausages—apparently they didn’t have any that weren’t blackened to a carbon-y crisp because they were still learning how to cook it). Have the sausages improved? Kind of. They weren’t too burnt. They were edible. But they were still dense, hard, dry, and chewy.

· Hash browns – these were actually okay. I don’t love shredded hash browns in general, but these were cooked well, with brown crispy bits and softer bits.

Now on to the best thing White Spot has on its menu, in my opinion: French Toast. The golden brown slices were perfectly cooked and arrived hot on the plate. I don’t know if they just use plain white bread, but it had a great dry-yet-moist texture, and the French Toast has a beautiful eggy, buttery flavour. We make French Toast at home and it doesn’t taste like this, let me tell you.

Shane had their ‘Classic Eggs Benedict’ ($9.49), which is classic indeed: Canadian bacon, poached eggs and hollandaise. Not a fan of the shredded hashbrown, he opted for the fruit salad. The benny was very good; the hollandaise sauce had a good consistency and had a nice balance of richness, lemon, and salt. The only weird thing about the dish was that one egg was poached medium, and one soft (no, the server didn’t ask how Shane wanted the eggs). The fruit salad consisted of pineapple, orange, cantaloupe, honeydew, grapes. It was merely okay.

We enjoyed the breakfast, though it wasn’t too special. Fantastic French Toast aside, there are better and cheaper breakfast places out there. I’m still disappointed about their change in sausage supplier. Sigh.

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