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Lucy's Eastside Diner - Main street's latest boho-pomo diner

Years ago, Main Street was alive with truck stop cafes/greasy spoons offering serviceable, basic food to working people in need of uncomplicated, inexpensive meals. Spring forward to the present and we've now got themed restaurants based on the idea of an old fashioned diner, furnishing a trip down someone else's memory lane, and providing greasy spoon simulacra for urbanites. Slickety Jim's was an early pioneer of this self-conscious retro ambience, but a fire did them in last year (although rumour has it that they're coming back to Main Street soonish). Filling in the gap at Main and 11th is the latest attempt to make the old new - Lucy's Diner. Compared to Slickety Jim's, which essentially suffocated you with eclectica, Lucy's restrains itself with a version of the 1950s as imagined by Ikea. The space is small, even cramped. Most of the seating is around the bar with a couple of tables in the front and a couple in the hallway in the back. I don't think anyone goes to a themed restaurant expecting to be blown away by the food and, unfortunately, Lucy's does very little to confront this preconception. All the trucker standards are there on on the menu - mac n cheese, fried chicken, tuna melt, all day breakfasts, burgers - and it has to be said that the pricing is fair enough for what's on offer, cheaper than you might expect, even. I had the everyday burger deal, which give you a burger, fries and a milkshake for $10. All the breakfast items, soups, sandwiches, entres - are less than $10. In fact, there's nothing on the menu over $10. Now, this can be a little deceiving once you start enhancing your order with add-ons and drinks, which seem disproportionately priced compared to the mains. A simple burger will cost a perfectly reasonable $6 but add in some bacon and cheese and you're now looking at $9.50. Pop and shakes go for $3 to $5 and old fashioned apple pie goes for $4.50 . Our waitress told us the place is running 24 hours a day (quite a rarity in Vancouver), and they have a full liquor licence, so it's possible that the food will be taking a back seat to the drinks and what we have here is a themed bar with food on the side. Judging by the burger and shake deal, there's nothing innovative going on here foodwise; I believe the intention is to give you exactly what you would expect to get had you travelled back in time and set foot in one of the original restaurants that Lucy's is based on. This is not great news for those familiar with culinary standards of the time. I was hoping for a modern twist, or some ingredient upgrades, but there's no evidence of this. I'd say it's worth a visit if you want to enter the meta-narrative of post-modern, old-school, historical revisionism. Or if you want a cheap burger at a place that won't ask you if you want fries with that.

- Paul

 
 
 
 
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  1. Great report on Lucy's Paul. I with you on the proliferation of simulacra here in town. I'm hoping to see some innovation over the horizon very soon.

    1. Terrific write-up Paul! That burger picture is soooo UNappetizing, it made me lol.

      1. for the ultra un-hip(like myself and proud of it) i think i figured out the "boho" part means but what might "pomo" mean?

        3 Replies
          1. re: grayelf

            thanks, even i should should have figured that one out

            1. re: grayelf

              If they were located in lower Lonsdale, they'd be Boho-Pomo in LoLo ......

              That burger looks ........... sad :-(

          2. I think the point here is that Lucy's is not actually a "diner" but it's a place doing an impersonation of a diner. With that comes expectations that the food will not actually be historically accurate since diners are traditionally associated with food that has neither style or substance. There's actually a real diner with real diner burgers a block away at Main and Broadway (Reno's) and no one gets excited about that. So, something else is going on here: At Lucy's, diner food is being served up to trendy urbanites in an atmosphere that guarantees that they won't actually be dining with the kind of people that traditionally go to diners - and they won't have to set foot in an actual diner to get the experience of going to a diner. It's a simulated experience and their culinary accuracy is no cause for celebration.

            21 Replies
            1. re: tangentdesign

              There's also Bert's, another classic diner two blocks south:

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/733517

              And Nice Cafe, on 8th across from Goh Ballet:

              http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/14/181266...

              1. re: LotusRapper

                Also - the Argo for some truly innovative diner food. They are reluctant to promote themselves as a "modern" diner though indeed they are.

                Of course...Lucy's is open 24/7 - which may come in handy one day.

                1. re: fmed

                  And Deacon's Corner at Main & Alexander (ok we're outside the Main/Broadway area now), perhaps the most faithful of the bumper crop of new classic diners .....

                  1. re: fmed

                    The 24/7 bit is of great interest to night owls like myself, often in need of a 3 AM dinner. I'll likely check it out sometime soon (though for burgers, it looks like I'll stick with my usual restaurant and avoid this one).

                    1. re: peter.v

                      I don't need to anymore, thank God, but there was a time in my (student) life when 2am diner meals out were a real treat. Not talking about Denny's here, but places like Hamburger Mary's, Fresgo Inn were reliable spots to get kick-butt coffee and (cheap but better than fast-food) burgers & fries when you just need to fill that hole. Perhaps being 24-hr operation at Lucy's will revitalize the midnight-6am restaurant scene, one place at a time.

                      -----
                      Fresgo Inn Restaurant
                      10102 King George Hwy, Surrey, BC V3T2W4, CA

                      1. re: LotusRapper

                        Fresgo Inn: Nothing makes you feel better than a double chili cheese burger at 4 AM.

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                        Fresgo Inn Restaurant
                        10102 King George Hwy, Surrey, BC V3T2W4, CA

                        1. re: Cancuk

                          For us it was the insane mushroom burger... never saw it in the cold light of day, which is perhaps just as well.

                          1. re: grayelf

                            Mushroom burger for me too! You had to use a knife & fork to eat it, it was a mountain of mushrooms piled high on an open faced burger! Great memories!

                            1. re: ck1234

                              $5.50 IIRC for the 'shrooms burger platter :-)

                              1. re: LotusRapper

                                Whoa, LR, I don't remember that much detail from that time period, other than being hungry from dancing on the speakers at the LA ;-).

                          2. re: Cancuk

                            can't say fresgo inn had good food memories. but i remember the dessert display. well lighted turntable of caloric cakes and pies.
                            FI - it was what it was.

                            1. re: betterthanbourdain

                              While we're reminiscing about the 80s, let's not forget Doll and Penny's on Davie - comfort food served up by transvestites. Now that was a "theme" restaurant.

                              1. re: tangentdesign

                                I see your D&P and raise you a Hamburger Mary's (when it was good).

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  Beat me to it!

                                  Then there's Did's Pizza.

                                  1. re: fmed

                                    What the hell were those things on top of the pizzas there? They were like a 'za Timbit...

                                  2. re: grayelf

                                    I see your Hamburger Mary's and raise you The Elbow Room Cafe !

                                    -----
                                    Elbow Room Cafe
                                    , Vancouver, BC V5Y, CA

                                    1. re: LotusRapper

                                      When there really was no elbow room :-)

                          3. re: peter.v

                            peter.v, where's your "usual restaurant" for burgers?

                              1. re: grayelf

                                Hehe, I do have an infamous addiction to Refuel's burger. Different players in the burger game though from Lucy's.

                        2. re: LotusRapper

                          Hello, I have been watching shows like Diners Drive In and Dives, Top Chef, etc so this means am starting to be really picky about food. I dont know if this is a good thing, because basically you eat the stuff and live or dont eat it and die.

                          Was trying to find a review on a good hamburger joint in Vancouver, search for 1 hour and could not find anything that said HEY, THIS BURGER IS ABSOLUTELY THE BEST So, I live nearby Lucy's Diner and thought what the heck. (Read that Moderne Burger on Broadway was not that great on more occasions so decided to crap it) Anyhow, ordered a double cheese and bacon burger for the first time -- got it to go. Pulled out the burger about 15 mins later, first thing noticed was the texture in the bun and meat -- looked good, was surprised already because the pictures did not look very appetizing. Took a bite and said, hey, this is not bad.

                          I would make a few recommendations to tell them to make the burger fabulous:

                          meat - medium
                          toast the bun
                          some fried onions (there were non)
                          2 pickles instead of 1

                          BONGO - you got a great burger, make sure it is double or triple because patties are not that thick, but quality is good

                          Oh ya, the fries - they sucked after 15-20 minutes - very soggy - even though they tried real hard by making fresh cut fries, there is a trick they need to learn about making crisp fries - they need to research on the internet - but they can start by cooking them a little longer and HELLO!!!! do this and they will be awesome http://www.ehow.com/how_2198470_make-...

                          -----
                          Moderne Burger
                          2507W Broadway W, Vancouver, BC V6K2E9, CA

                      2. nothing better than a 24/7 resto serving costco bought groceries.

                        1. I'd heard of Lucy's and was kind of hoping for something along the lines of a 24 hour Deacons Corner...so my hopes were set pretty high.

                          I ordered a strawberry milkshake (very tasty, but also quite spendy at $6.50) and the Three Little Pigs (a sampler trio including bacon, chorizo, and ham bennys -- the traditional ham benny was the best of the bunch). My friend opted for the Black bean & Chickpea Veggie Burger with fries and a root beer (she said the burger was good, but not exceptional nor particularly unique, and it looked rather bland to me)
                          .
                          Admittedly, I'm happy to see another late-night eatery appear on the Vancouver foodie scene, but Lucy's is in desperate need of some inspiration -- both in flavour and visual presentation of the food.

                          My overall impression: This joint has potential, but it's not quite there yet. I hope that this can simply be attributed to growing pains.

                           
                           
                           
                          3 Replies
                          1. re: curlygirl13

                            Thanks for that, curlygirl13. Your experience and those photos confirm my impression of the place. "In need of inspiration" is right. Although it has been argued that the lacklustre food and uninspired presentation are signs that Lucy's is doing an incredibly accurate impression of a old school diner. See this press release posing as a restaurant review at scout mag.

                            http://scoutmagazine.ca/2010/10/01/24...

                            Most interesting is the discussion below the article where the author defends his fawning praise and recommends you go with "low expectations".

                            To quote the author (andrew morrison

                            )

                            "It’s diner fare. Not the organic, local and seasonal re-imaginings thereof, but cheap and greasy and fast and satisfying without pretense or over-reach. It is what it is, and I can’t help but like it so. Go with low expectations, as you would a proper old school diner, and enjoy them being well met."

                            So, In the end, Lucy's is a theme park ride and it's clearly not for anyone interested in food.

                            1. re: tangentdesign

                              Thanks for sharing the link, tangentdesign.

                              If people want true greasy spoon without the 50s Diner Chic decor, they should go to Bon's Off Broadway for their $2.95 Breakfasts -- now that's good, solid, greasy food that ain't fancy but tastes good. Then there's Deacon's Corner in the next price bracket up, another great diner option and again, it's actually good! Sadly neither are open 24/7 like Lucy's but they're so much better.

                              It seems to me that by saying that bland food is the earmark of accuracy when it comes to diner food, some people are making lazy, half-hearted excuses for mediocrity.

                              1. re: tangentdesign

                                Jethro's exceeding expectations, even on the west side:

                                http://www.straight.com/article-35037...

                                Excerpt:

                                "The cooking’s from scratch, yes, but it’s refreshingly free of organic, local, free-range snobbery. In Stuart’s opinion, there are already enough eateries that cater to that market. “The love is organic,” she says sweetly of Jethro’s. “Grub is what you get.”

                                This no-apologies, down-to-earth vibe was shared by the other server working with Stuart. When I asked her if the orange juice was fresh-squeezed, she smiled and quipped, “Tropicana squeezes it.”"

                            2. Finally an honest review of Lucy's. For some reason reviewers in the Straight and other publications are falling for this place or maybe they're falling for the press release put out by Lucy's.

                              I like the story behind it. The owner of the Whip opened it up and named the place after his daughter but everything Paul says is true.

                              I was disappointed in the food, the decor and the prices. There's no reason to here other then the fact it's open 24hrs. If you want a good breakfast there's other places on Main that do it better. If you want to adventure a little further away there's Sophie's Cosmic Cafe, The Templeton or Jethro's Fine Grub.

                              -----
                              Sophie's Cosmic Cafe
                              2095 4th Ave W, Vancouver, BC V6J1N3, CA