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Sep 29, 2010 11:31 AM

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. The original comment has been removed
            1. 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.

              1. re: tangentdesign

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


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


                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.

                          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

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

                      2. The original comment has been removed