Fabulous bennies from a humble kitchen: Sunnyside Cafe

Every chef dreams of having a big, shiny kitchen outfitted with the best tools of the trade.  The reality of restaurant ownership doesn’t easily accommodate this dream, and those who follow it often fail.  Sometimes, the most wonderful food comes from the most unexpected places.  Sunnyside Cafe, located underneath Action Motorcycles in Esquimalt, is one of these places.

This place is small, and on this day – very busy.  There might be 20 seats inside between those tucked tightly together along the wall and bar stools by the window.  Another 10 are outside at small bistro tables.  All were taken on our arrival, but we soon snagged one outside on this crisp but sunny day.

The most notable lack of space, however, is in the kitchen.  I was shocked to see that there was no oven here.  No stove either, or even a cooktop.  In fact, the entire operation was taking place on 3 griddles placed side by side (you know, the T-fal type you probably have hanging around in your kitchen somewhere but rarely use), one burner (the plug-in kind popular with college dorms), a toaster oven, and microwave.  I couldn’t stop staring, fascinated, as the 2 chefs danced seamlessly and deftly around one another in that tiny strip of kitchen.  A pot sits atop the burner, constantly boiling, for poaching eggs.  One of the griddles is loaded with potatoes sauteing into hash browns, while another plays host to fried eggs as needed and the third had bacon and sausage crisping.  And out of this most humble of kitchens, many wonderful meals were being produced in quick fashion.

Sunnyside doesn’t offer an extensive menu or long hours.  They serve breakfast or brunch, 7 days a week, and sandwiches & paninis during the day.  We came for brunch, and found 2 types of breakfasts on offer: an inexpensive egg sandwich or wrap (with the option to jazz it up with all kinds of luxe toppings), and a good selection of Bennies.  I am a huge fan of Bennies, and had a hard time choosing between so many mouth-watering combinations, but decided to try their special that day: garlic sausage, mushrooms and carmelized onions.  My partner is not a big Bennie eater, but chose one with bacon, mushrooms and spinach. She also chose a side of hash browns, which we shared.

We figured on a bit of a wait with that crowd and kitchen, so we settled in with our Saltspring Island coffees to enjoy the morning.  But it wasn’t long before a server came by with our steaming hot plates, which were packed high with delicious food.   These bennies are really big!  Each round is inches high with toppings: mounds & mounds of mushrooms teetered on both of ours, and mine was stuffed full of chunks of seared sausage.  The eggs were absolutely perfectly poached:  firm whites which yielded creamy deep yellow yokes to my fork.  No small feat, and one area my breakfasts invariably fall short on.   And their hollandaise sauce (another area of regular disappointment) is simply divine.  It was light but creamy, and the best topping I have ever had on an egg.  My sentiments were echoed by my companion, who had never enjoyed any Bennie quite so much.  The potatoes were nicely seasoned and beautifully prepared, but wholly unnecessary next to those amazing egg concoctions.

An interesting crowd frequents this unusually placed diner.  We sat next to a large group of riders, shiny bikes parked alongside the curb behind them, who had clearly found the cafe upon visiting the shop upstairs.   A table or two were chatting familiarly with the staff made me think they were neighborhood regulars.  And several more like us, who had heard the food was great and had made the trip to check it out.  I suspect that last group is going to grow quickly, once people discover how great the food here is.  We will certainly be coming back.

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~ by Dee's Cheap Eats on October 15, 2010.

One Response to “Fabulous bennies from a humble kitchen: Sunnyside Cafe”

  1. sounds like a place we would like to patronize.

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